Freedom was a very gradual process, beginning with the birth of my youngest child. I was introduced to Louise Hay, Susan Jeffers, Deepak Chopra and spiritual healing. After years of reading and attending workshops I realised I had much knowledge but no freedom. Not one bit of what I had read or understood was evident in my life.

Freedom is generally found in the crisis of our lives and not in our happy moments. My experience was no different. It was 1994, I had done everything I knew to make my family happy, but the reality was totally different. In despair, I sat and cried out to God “What more do you expect from me? I have reached a pit so low. Please show me another way”.

A workshop by Paddy McMahon, author of The Grand Design was a major turning point. He gave me a book by Carlos Valles called Mastering Sadhana, his experience of Anthony de Mello, an Indian Jesuit who taught Awareness. I wanted more, so I read the actual book Awareness compiled after Anthony de Mello’s death. I felt I had been told personally to go dig inside myself. It was there I would find the programmes and the conditioning that prevented me from experiencing happiness. What shocked me was the truth that I was unconsciously passing on these dysfunctional programmes to my children like a family legacy.

In a subsequent reading Paddy told me that one day I would write a book on Awareness and teach it in an experiential way, but first I had work to do. He described a forest and told me that I would need to make a clearing so that my children would be free to live their potential. I did not fully understand his message then but I do now. I had to clear the patterns that had enslaved me and the generations before me. If I did not choose to do this I would make my children’s’ lives more difficult.

With the enthusiasm of a convert I tried to share my experience with everyone. As time went by it became clear I was boring everyone, especially my husband. He had absolutely no interest and this was my challenge. I knew there would be consequences for my going forward. Was I ready to take the risk? I needed to honour his right to stay with the familiar but to respect the truth of what I was seeing and keep searching. As Anthony de Mello said in his book Awareness?” Please feel free to live your life as you see fit, but allow me the right to live mine as I see fit”. I did not wish to continue my life as a doormat and he desired I return to that “loving” familiar me. I couldn’t continue, especially when I saw my children show signs of dysfunctional patterns. Separation followed. I was living with a stranger and communication totally broke down. He returned to his familiar way of dealing with life – silence, more than likely he thought that I would come back to my senses like I always did.

The ultimate test came shortly before we separated. I was diagnosed with unhealthy cancerous cells that needed immediate attention. My fear brought up my need for security, however staying with someone who had become a stranger to you because of fear would not have honoured my soul feelings. I needed to trust and to live a life in truth no matter what the consequences. That was January 1996.

With each day and each difficulty, I asked the question “What am I learning about myself here, what can I do differently, where is my fear, what and who am I reacting to?

Expect an answer when you ask for clarity, I was given a perfect example. I needed to buy school uniforms and books for the children. I had this behaviour that caused problems for me. If I was faced with any resistance to a request for help I would immediately back off. My response to rejection was “I would scrub floors sooner than ask you again, silently in my head”. The consequence for me is that I frequently was over responsible and the burden was increasing.

I went to the bank to secure an overdraft. I was successful and proceeded into town to buy the books and uniforms. On the way home, I decided to treat the family to a lovely meal. I piled food I normally could not afford into the shopping trolley. When all the food was bagged I gave the laser card to the assistant. It was not accepted. I was horrified. I had to leave everything behind me and walk away. That night, when I got over my devastation, I looked for the lesson. I saw it immediately.

The next day I went to the children’s father and asked for half of what it cost to educate them. Though I was met with resistance I persisted. On Monday, I went to the bank to find out what had happened. The Manager apologised profusely. Not only did I have the overdraft facility but my husband had put in the maintenance money late again.

I recognised my pattern and his. I was not about to repeat that one again.

This is Awareness as a lived experience, as you become more aware of your contribution to your unhappiness, you drop limiting beliefs and patterns.

Awareness in teaching

I returned to Primary school teaching. I had been running my own little Preschool for years and I needed to return to a more viable means of supporting my family. This was a phenomenal test in awareness. The school was in a disadvantaged area and my initial experience pushed me to the pin of my collar to survive. All the acts of my loving kindness did nothing to stop the mayhem of their dysfunctional behaviours. They threw it back at me. There is new terminology for children with out of control behaviours in the classroom -They are not available to learn-.

Their behaviours led me to the greatest soul search of all. They pushed me to confront my issues with authority, my childhood experience in education and my addiction to be a kind and loving teacher. They taught me how to discern between what is loving them and what is allowing them slide out of their responsibility. They showed me the times I created more drama in the classroom by my reactions. I learned that when I over reacted they could blame me, they didn’t need to acknowledge their part and so the mayhem continued.

It was through awareness of myself that I could separate the behaviour from the child and so open the way for a different kind of teaching. As I continued in this way, I let go my fear around them and they let go their fear around me. The result was the teaching experience I had always desired.

One little boy was exceptionally challenging. He had the capacity to block all teaching. I kept him in during recess- his worst nightmare as his only passion was football. For the first ten minutes, he called me all the names he could think of, generally ending with “yer handicapped, yisser all the same. blem me for everting”. Eventually, he came over and said, “I went back to me auld ways, didn’t I Mam”. That realisation meant I could teach until the next episode. The length of time between bouts of unrest increased over the year.

Teaching through awareness meant that my stress level decreased and it became a joyful experience.



Awareness in India

In 1999, I saw that P. J Francis S.J. Director of The Sadhana Institute, founded by Anthony de Mello S.J. was giving a retreat at Chrysalis Centre, Donard, Co. Wicklow. I thought that someone with a name like Patrick Francis aka Paddy McMahon should be good. This was another turning point. It was during a discussion with Francis that he saw I was bringing Awareness into everyday life. This, he said was vital to this work and he encouraged me to teach. He had this conversation with Anthony de Mello before his untimely death in 1987. Many people experience awareness at an intellectual level but few experience it in daily living. He urged me to share my experience by giving workshops and retreats. I began teaching in 2,000.

In 2002, Francis asked if I would co-facilitate with him and we would call our work together Chetana. Chetana, is Sanskrit for Awareness, our work would be the balance between East and West, male and female and between someone who had reared a family and a religious life.

It followed that I began to teach at the Sadhana Institute in 2003. It was a wonderful experience.

I took time out from giving retreats to concentrate on writing my book TAKING FLIGHT- THE CAGED BIRD, One woman’s story of a life awakening. By Liz Valloor. Publisher Ballpoint Press.

Copies are available in Dubray Bookstores, Avoca Handweavers, Maguires - The Hill of Tara, Glenstal Abbey and can be ordered through Eason’s. It is also available on Kindle.

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