Aya Ono arrived in Melbourne in 2004 as a university student from Japan. Aya now teaches in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University and has also co-founded Peace Palette, a peace-building organization in South Sudan, with her friend and colleague, David Nyuol Vincent.
Aya participated in a Life Matters Workshop in November 2019 and five months on from the workshop, she reflects on the impact the Life Matters program has had on her life.
‘Attending the workshop was one of the best things I’ve done in my life! As soon as the workshop ended I felt its impact on my inner strength. I knew I was a different person; some of my friends even told me I was glowing! It was a moment of rebirth. Since the LM workshop, I have for the first time felt truly complete each day, in a way I had never felt before, and I know that this is my authentic self.
‘The LM workshop provides a “safe space” where we can share our personal stories. It is an amazing feeling to know that you are in a space where you are being heard but not judged. We all carry our own stories from our past and in many instance bury them because we easily conclude that they are not worthy of sharing with others. At the same time, in today’s fast-paced digital era we are constantly judged, critiqued and forced to seek validation and you are left wondering “When can you ever feel truly adequate just the way you are?” Yes, continuous improvement is important and we are always encouraged to change ourselves to be a better person, but how many cycles of “change” do we need to go through to be who we want to be? The LM workshop is probably one of the few platforms available that allows you to be who you are and helps you choose your own path of who you want to become.
Sharing my story
‘During the workshop, we were assigned a “family group” where facilitators gently encouraged us to share our personal narratives. The night of sharing personal stories was the most frightening. At first, I did not know which of my personal stories, that I had buried for many decades , I should pick to share. These were stories that I no longer thought were of importance as I believed no one cared in anyway about what I had been through. As the story telling progressed, I heard a member of my “family group” courageously share a very personal story, with tears in his eyes, and most importantly I saw how everyone listened to him quietly and united with him in spirit. I cried for the pain he shared and also for discovering that I was wrong to assume that nobody cared about “my story”. This motivated me to share a story from my childhood, that I had probably kept buried for nearly 30 years. It was liberating to finally talk about it. It was also reassuring to know that there are people who genuinely care and are willing to listen to my story, a story that I thought was unworthy of being heard.
‘Sharing our personal stories helps us to forgive and embrace our past and the thing that caused us the hurt. Opening up to our past hurts, if we are able to face it, enables us to feel a deep sense of accomplishment at the end of the process. A feeling of inadequacy, caused by something in our past, is probably a pandemic as frightening as COVID-19 as it erodes us from deep within. Discussing our past hurt is the best possible way to stay positive on our journey of empowerment; accept who we are and nurture our agency to become who we want to be. To me, this was one of the most unique highlights of the LM workshop.
‘I witnessed a genuine unity among all the participants at the workshop. I believe this was possible because all of us were strangers to each other. If we were friends or acquaintances in the “family group”, we probably would not have been able to open up as much as we had done. As a group of strangers we expected nothing from each other, and this enabled us to create a space in a way that nourishes each of us. Since the workshop all of us in my family group have been catching up on a fortnightly basis and have now moved to online catch ups with the current pandemic rules. I am so grateful that we still maintain our bond and unity. This moment of sharing that I was gifted continues to bring me joy every single day.
Life after Life Matters
‘As time passes after the workshop and normal routines fall back into place, the battle to remain true to myself continues. I have been through moments where I have questioned my worth and lost the momentum I had gained at the workshop. At such moments I fall back to my “family group” for support.
‘We all have question; “how do we continue to feel genuinely adequate and fulfilled?” “How do we maintain authentic conversations when not everyone is like our family group?” “What if our partners, family and friends do not appreciate authentic conversations like we do in the LM workshop?”.
‘These are questions that we have and are seeking answers for. We may not have all the answers but one thing we know for sure is that we are not alone on this journey and that is indeed comforting.’
To learn more about Life Matters and find out about future workshops please see here