Amanda May Harris is a Respectful Relationships Facilitator & the owner of Creating Space, Art & Soul Studio. Amanda has lived in Barriere for the past 18 years and is married to her husband Chris with whom she has a set of 14 year old twins, Andrew and Taylor.
My first interaction with the Happyness Center was through the First Responders Recovery Program, which my aunt Edith had told me about. I work a lot with children and families in our community and multiple non-profit organizations. At the time Edith told me about the program, I was at a crossroads personally and professionally. I was having a hard time being myself, I was tired and fed up with what seemed like every little thing and I struggled to be thankful and grateful even though I had great reason to be.
Through attending the program, I learned... [continues below]
that I am not as super human as I had made myself out to be all these years. It surprised me to learn that I was not nearly as tough or unfazed by life’s knocks as I had been presenting myself and that my ability to connect and communicate was being increasingly challenged. I learned that when you fill up a backpack full of your problems and go packing it around every day, it eventually wears you out. Sometimes the backpack even explodes all over the place. I learned a lot of hard lessons about myself, but in a loving way. I managed to attend classes and slowly started to unpack my backpack all in an amazing twelve weeks at the Happyness Centre. I’m still finding things pop up into my bag here and there, but when they do, I am able to take them out and sit with them rather than cramming them back down there for “later”.
The whole experience was the most significant part of my journey so far. I already had an idea of what was ailing me, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it, or even acknowledge it. I had been walking with that backpack for about fifteen years, so I was well aware and ready for something to finally give. I have not always been great at talking to people about my problems, or crying about them for that matter, so I found the hardest and most enjoyable part of the journey was coming in to a circle of complete stranger friends and for Kleenex boxes to be slid across the room with little head nods of encouragement telling me to keep going, keep sitting, keep working at it.
The most significant concept I learned and I am still working on
is the breath work - my breathing exercises. It really hit home what Kent said on his first day about the heart-centered breathing. I recognized a lot of the same issues in myself and have found it to be something so simple that I always revert back to when I feel like things are creeping up.
Since participating in the program, I have started looking at, and doing a great deal, differently. Before the program, I was just going through the motions, but after I began to actually see truth in all these different situations that I had been in a hundred times before. Some things just casually began to slip away, but some of them I learned to take a stand in and finally set some boundaries where they should have been set in the first place. The freedom in these areas led me to freedom in so many different areas of my life. I went a little nuts and cut all my hair off and started taking online classes. I feel like now that I can sit weekly and empty out my bag, and when I do there’s not as much clutter as there used to be; like when it was every month that I was cleaning it out, Let alone the 15 years I dragged it around.
I finished up a pretty major course this summer, and am now our schools Respectful Relationships Facilitator. Throughout the course work, which deals with a lot of tough issues, I had to again, open myself up and journal essays about things that were quite personal, and after ripping my heart out, I had to learn how to present this material to the high school kids.
Before the program, I was scared to sit in a room of 12 people and talk about the tough stuff. Now I have 4 classes of 25-30 kids every Friday and I can do it with much less fear. Sometimes the whole thing makes my head spin, it’s been a real trip!
I would recommend this program to anyone and everyone. This program mixes healthy lifestyle choice and change with loving kindness, RUNClub with meditation, yoga and heart-centered breathing. It is something that more people need help with, and access to because it changes lives - it changed mine.