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In the Way of Awareness – Inside the mind of a current student

Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings – all in the same relationship.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

This poem to me is a description of the process of awareness that I started in a more intense way at the Innsbruck Peace Studies program. It was a series of deaths and rebirths of my ‚self‘ and through these experiences I was able to recognize some of my behavioral patterns. During this process I have learned about the sources which enabled me to deal with the bitter experiences that life brings along with it. This brought along a state of pain. It came to light and I chased it away. I have gotten to know my shadows and at the same time I learned to embrace them in order to be able to withstand many endings and many many beginnings with a reborn passion.

I want to provide you with some information on how this has happened. A semester of the MA Program in Peace Studies starts with an online phase that lasts three months before we jump into the adventure of the presence phase for the following two months. First, we use the online platform to introduce ourselves and then to welcome new and old people to the group.

We then are required to write a paper every two weeks. For this, first and second-termers receive a word that they use as the key source to guide their research. Third-termers use the space to begin formulating their thesis proposal. In my second term, summer 2016, the word that I received was ‘courage.’ Since I am a graphic designer I decided to illustrate the word as I perceive it before writing. I imagined myself as the main character of the image. The hearts I drew were a representation of the etymological root of the concept courage in Spanish. The result was an image of a ‚peaceful warrior‘, holding a heart in order to spread love and courage.

Before continuing, I need to establish that for me in this context the ‚peaceful warrior‘ is a representation of the ‚elicitive conflict worker‘. An elicitive conflict worker, is a person that possess three main skills: awareness (of the ‚self‘, of their ‚own fantasies‘ and of ‚the environment‘), balance between compassion and self-protection and lastly,congruent communication. All these skills can lead to positive effects in any conflicting system in order to re-establish the dynamic equilibrium of the system. To me, this ‚peaceful warrior‘ that I drew was a representation of myself. A ‚self‘ that is now in the transformative process of comprehension.

My second term is over now. I am currently beginning the online phase of my third term which means that I am using the virtual space for starting my thesis proposal. I am in a transitional and analytical phase at this moment. I feel that all the experiences of my second term did not provide me with a definite explanation on the concept of courage, but rather an infinite one. I see this as an opportunity to clarify my inner knowledge and personal relation with the word. A part of it has become a guideline for my thesis journey.

My mind is full of the nearly new acquired experience and through them I can now realize the strength and power that I am an owner of. The authentic relation that I have with my feelings is manifest by acting only in accordance to the rules of my heart.

If I go back in time and rethink all that has happened I can say that my first and second terms were full of encouraging experiences. I literally jumped into the cold water of the Innsbruck River four times and was pushed to my limits during the field training with the Austrian Armed Forces. What I realize now after my second term is that I define myself as a ‚wounded healer’. A wounded healer is an archetype that goes beyond superficial descriptions suggesting an in-depth exploration of the true meaning of the healing experience; transcending personal suffering and willingness to accept vulnerability while cultivating the ability to view it as growing and developing evolution, as explained by Mariom Conti-O’Hare in her 2002 text The Nurse as Wounded Healer From Trauma to Transcendence: Theoretical Perspectives. I have consciously healed myself in the past after passing through a horrible and traumatizing experience in my youth. After analyzing this experience during my peace studies terms I consider it to be the key point to understand where courage changes things in my life in order to be transformed.

I have gotten to know my shadows and at the same time I learned to embrace them in order to be able to withstand many endings and many many beginnings with a reborn passion.

As I said, I have had difficulties in the past and by having the dare to delve into them, through remembering / retelling / rewriting those moments I have found a source to heal myself.
I have overcome my fears. I have had to face my vulnerabilities and I have challenged myself. Somehow difficult experiences have helped me to develop my courageous heart. At this point it feels like it took great courage and internal strength to retrace my challenging past history in order to transform it into self-knowledge, self-realization and wisdom. I consider that by retelling this personal story to others, it might perhaps inspire others and provide a path of recognition of the power of awareness. For myself too, by being aware of this, I know I can develop passion and strength.

By attempting to understand what ‘courage’ means to me during my second term I started a journey in which I discovered that I am a woman and that my divine femininity is an important part of my body, my mind, and my soul. I now comprehend how often I worked in the service of others along the path of my life. I feel that I can unfold my life story and at the same time channel my spiritual wisdom after having worked with my emotional and passionate darkness.

For me, ‘The Peaceful-Warrior’ and ‘The Wounded-Healer’ are two archetypes that are not mutually exclusive or conflicting with each other. They are rather supporting one another. As I see it, in order to heal, you must know how it feels to be wounded and to be grateful for those wounds. So for me where the healer ends, the warrior begins. Where the warrior ends the healer begins.

What I sense now is that I am a wounded survivor who loves to tell others what a beautiful blessing life is at the end when everything passes. I can say this path of awareness together with the experiences I have had in the MA program of Peace Studies have not only given me those insights but have also given me many beautiful friends who encourage me to continue believing in the path of peace.