Finding my home in my heart: Tomo Takaku
I was born in Japan and came to New Zealand in year 2000 after spending 14 years in London. I work as a therapist and live with my husband Bruce and our son Nathan.
My childhood was very structured. I went to a strict private school that was rigid and demanding. My years in school were a reflection of Japanese society as a whole. One side of the Japanese culture is harmony, cooperation and togetherness. But the other side of the culture is extreme conformity, which inhibits individuality. Like others in Japan I was expected to follow the “majority”.
Actions that make any new influence in the society are not appreciated and asking challenging questions were not welcomed. There is a saying in Japan “The nail that sticks out will be bashed down”.
It was so hard for me because my spirit/heart always seeks freedom to express how I feel and what I believe. I was told to be quiet. That made me feel unaccepted, isolated, insignificant, powerless and controlled. Also as women are often excluded in a male dominated society I felt inferior to others. I learned I had to work hard to care for others before looking after myself.
Instead of constantly being expected by everyone else to live in certain ways, to speak and behave the way they wanted, I wanted to have my own experiences in life, outside of Japan.
When I got an opportunity to work abroad at first in London, I thought it would free me from these feelings of conformity and inferiority.
But it didn’t.
The London experience
Ironically, I didn't become any happier in western culture because I still carried my culture with me, subconsciously. I never felt relaxed or free while I was trying so hard to become strong and independent, and to achieve higher status.
So I started searching once more for true freedom by taking all sorts of personal development courses such as meditation, yoga, shamanism and reiki. That new inner journey took me to a course in the US where I met my future kiwi husband.
The Christchurch experience
When I came to Christchurch I found New Zealanders are more relaxed, open and friendly. The country is so beautiful to live. However, the beginning of my life in NZ wasn’t easy. I was going to start my own retail business. Then despite previous diagnosis of infertility, I became pregnant. What a delightful surprise! However I was very sick during my pregnancy. My doctor advised that I might lose my baby or my own life because of complications. I was admitted to the Christchurch Women’s Hospital emergency facility three months early. Blood transfusion was on standby all the time. Fortunately our son Nathan was born one month early by caesarian, but he was strong enough to survive. I was OK too. As a baby he was often unwell and I was completely exhausted by caring for him.
All happened not long after my arrival in NZ, I didn’t have my own family or close friends to get some help or support. You can imagine how vulnerable I felt being a first time mother in foreign environment.
I spoke Japanese mostly for my son to be bilingual during those early years in NZ. If you don’t use any foreign language much it gets rusty very quickly. My English ability declined terribly.
After Nathan turned five, I signed up for a Pascha Therapy training course. Breathe, relax and feel. These three steps are the key for this therapy. I learned to turn to my heart and to know my intuition, my inner knowing and wisdom. My English vocabulary expanded so much while I was training.
During this course, I became aware of my old habit and patterns such as always seeking acknowledgement or approval from others. These were strong parts of the culture I grew up with. But now I was learning that I can be my own best friend.
Today I listen to my heart and express myself without hesitation. I don’t need anyone else’s permission to feel good about myself. I don’t have to become someone else’s expectation. I can be who I truly am.
Also I learned it’s so important to ask for help or support from others when needed. We can’t live by ourselves anywhere. Most New Zealanders are very willing to give a helping hand to people who are in need.
Now with experiences of my own journey, I support people, especially women and migrants as a therapist.
For so many years my life was externally focused; my mind dominated every thought and action. But the mind is limited! So limited; and conditioned by culture, family, tradition... The heart, or soul energy, however is so much bigger than the physical body. So the heart is where I found my freedom.
What I am finding now is that cultural challenges exist not only when you move into a different culture from where you grew up, but everywhere cultures and traditions exist. We need to learn what is good and right for ourselves beyond any cultures or traditions. I feel grateful that my life has led me down this path, and to a place where I can help others.