Mary’s Training and Background
My vocation has led me to experience many close professional relationships with care providers and families as an integral participant in the context of daily routines across environments throughout lifespans. In 1984, I began spending hours weaving layers and colors into patterns on large wooden floor looms late into the evenings, practicing with one hand to learn task analysis in Occupational Therapy techniques class. While fully engaged in an activity, it’s essence metamorphosed and blossomed into the art and science of my life’s work. With expansion of my current practice and life experiences, I’ve gained opportunities to see and learn more from families many years after we’ve completed the work of our tapestry. This has allowed these children who at one time needed Occupational Therapy to grow and come back to share how they gained skills and developed confidence as a result of our therapeutic relationship. I realize that I have provided something else beyond the “child and therapist encounter” and much more than any current mainstream definitions of “medically and/or educationally relevant” services.
What I see most vividly is how my own biography and story of my own children are the threads of what I’ve chosen to practice as a parent each day. The opportunity to apply personal experiences from my own life has emerged as my greatest teacher and a constant barometer of all the colorful “evidence beyond measured tests or review of data” while my own life unfolds in specific ways. The story of my life and my vocation are two parts of myself which seem inseparable, as they should be in the best of circumstances and have inspired me to retell and share stories in a narrative style, piqued by my interest in the case studies of Oliver Sacks and of Sacks’ mentor, Alexander Luria. I long to preserve the wholeness of each story as they do in their narrative style, providing a rich and inclusive picture of each individual’s experience of life and each type neurological condition, in a fusion of, what’s referred to as, mind, brain, and behavior. In keeping this perspective, my practice has become a way of life I share, exemplified by the rhythms, routines and relationships I build, promoting healthy development each day within my family and in my community. My own children and grandchildren are now the established quality “control group” for many of the practical recommendations I offer my clients to improve occupational performance.
Balancing a professional career in private practice and weaving lifestyle choices into everything I do has enhanced my own wellbeing and life experiences. With deep gratitude and humble respect for all the variations within the complex human condition and many different cultural, religious and/or individual preferences, I’ve chosen to engage in a collaborative co ~ creative orientation with liveliness. Together, we carefully establish small doable changes and goals that are measurable and functional to share as our own “golden moments” of learning while in a dynamic process. As we practice we are continuously relating to the evidence of change experienced together while imagining each other’s stories unfolding into the future. As a life-long learner, this process has become a recapitulation of my own development with many layers of unfolding and deepening in my work alongside hundreds of children, families and individuals. As I participate in the ongoing challenge of providing evidence in my process, I reap all the benefits supporting my professional development along-with my personal experiences. I’m discovering everything has meaning and purpose from the very beginning of life. I can now say that I am a living example of a human being who practices with this wisdom and experience each and every day of my life!
I hope everyone I work with will have the same opportunity to explore learning at these depths within their own bodies using all of their senses to apply to their own unique life by design. Everyone has a story to unfold and we can all bring new learning from our own scientific research methods into practice rather than learning to administer the “test” and obtain measured “results.” I see the continuum of normal development (especially for those who are in a state of dis ease) as a change processes. I know how change becomes an opportunity since it has re defined me and helped form my understanding of purposeful, meaningful occupational performance. My commitment had to come from a deep desire within and because of this I know that it is lasting. I also know how to relate my growth to an objective physical and sensory activity in order to build connection to life, alongside others within each environment where I am performing my desired task.
I believe the more natural and greater the instinctual desire, a person will feel drawn into new, lasting and meaningful relationships. It reminds me of watching my granddaughter stand up for the first time to take her first step towards me. I gave her a simple model through my own openness and uprightness. Her body simply took on the task because she felt her relationship with me as she investigated the bottoms of her feet and her eyes focused on mine. I was perfectly still and reflective (in awe) of her inspired learning. Why do we take apart and try to “teach” step by step these natural tasks to children? The answer comes to mind as I recall the voice and embrace of a 12- year- old boy (who has Down’s Syndrome and no diagnostic label) I met in my travels to a third world country. I understand the benefit of him being in his beloved community alongside his family, standing up on his own each day while singing traditional songs handed down from his elders as they lift rocks together to build a new road to reach their new church!
I vividly recall one of many lessons I learned in nature when I was 9 years old. I found myself stuck in the high branches of a tree and it was getting dark outside. I had climbed upwards to meet the exhilarating experience of my own true nature with a strong desire to go as far as I could alone. Then my body “froze” from fear and I could not climb back down. I lost my ability to motor plan completely! The dark cool evening breeze made me shudder as silent, salty tears fell across my face. I leaned against the strong, rough bark and sat in the notch of the tree’s belly like a small bird inside a nest fluffing my feathers to stay warm and relaxing my whole body. I stared up at the stars and in the distance, I heard the crunching sound of footsteps. A soft low sweet sound reached the treetops. I felt the familiar vibration and heard the sound of my father’s low voice humming and I remembered his smell and his touch I had known since I was a baby. It penetrated my whole body in the same way children will feel when they discover how to connect with all their senses to learn to motor plan a complex new activity. I climbed down from the tree smoothly and easily like a blind person using only the gifts of other worldly sensibilities and skipped past my father to reach home to my family. I sensed that no one said a word to suggest they were worried or scared I was never coming home! I simply joined them and I sat down at my place set at the dinner table. I felt confident using my own senses and I could feel everything more clearly and sharply in my body guiding me to return back home again. Each time we connect fully to study our bodies and senses we know how to return home again to fullness, to find our true selves, expressing our unique gifts.
I had a dream recently, as so often happens when I am processing deeply to express myself a new way. I felt a re patterning in my body as if it were a moving experience similar to a film negative re printing inside me and every cell was shifting to form a whole new picture. It felt like I was connecting to pathways in my body. Of course, it’s difficult to explain in words what this dream felt like, exactly. My sense is that it’s the expression of the unknown which could become a new gift as I remain with its awakening and perhaps it could be the key to unlock all the answers I’m seeking. I discover when I release the pressures of facing obstacles they all but disappear and there’s a map I can sense ~ although not with my usual senses!
Using a narrative story as a research process has changed how I practice and work with children and families. I’m discovering how all the evidence I experience already matches the results of the activity or the results of the standardized test as I’m preparing within my own body using all my senses. I feel how this happens through the measured evidence I’m collecting as I “tune in” and I’m recording with my body. I’m living transparently inside of this process to help others understand change and transitions practiced through my work in my life. I know how it feels to be processing and integrating even in my sleep! I’m able to help others measure and read changes in their own bodies with their senses because of my research as my own case study to learn how to remain fully connected in a joy filled-life processes. I hope you will be open to embrace this type of study as a “true test” of your own unfolding “practice that begins with oneself ” in a process of change re-connecting us to our highest human potential.
I love the fulfillment my work brings me and I’m grateful to be well positioned in my field of expertise. I’m becoming very aware of a sense that subtlety aligns to an integrity I’ve come to cherish amongst my loyal colleagues, friends and family who have taught me brilliantly in my pursuit toward mastery. I’m relieved my work is no longer as much about professional identity as it is about the mysterious, unique process of learning, unfolding and connecting my gifts with universal other worldly experiences. I’m responding to questions now in a new way as I refine my process to measure change truthfully. My research allows me to understand stories and learn from the personal evidence I gather throughout my life. I’m choosing to share the gift of my uniquely re-designed self-study and ongoing professional appraisal to help others become aware that there is a reason and a purpose we become who we are ~ beyond the final outcomes!
Thank you for the opportunity to serve with you – Mary Blake