About Our Beginnings
The original inspiration for intentional presence started with a surprising experience Rhonda Mattern had at the age of sixteen while singing in her high school choir. She tells her story here.
Intentional presence was also inspired by heartbreak: the pain of a troubled family that didn't have access to good emotional support.
Sisters Diney and Rhonda a few months before Diney's death.
Brother Dave and Cousin Jayma at Diney's deathbed.
Rhonda holding brother Dave's hand the day before he died.
At the age of sixteen, I was so depressed that I sometimes contemplated suicide. During that time my father often veered unpredictably between affection and violent abuse, just as his father had when he was a child. Watching my dad hurt my younger brother and sister and muse about ending his own life was painful to endure.
One day, while singing in my high school choir,
I suddenly found myself floating above the choir looking down at my body below. As this happened, I experienced a kind of ecstasy: I was suddenly filled with deep peace and felt appreciation for everyone and everything, even my painful life circumstances. But what struck me most about this experience was that I was able to shift from complete depression to a peaceful, expansive state in a matter of seconds. I didn't know that human beings could do that! Suddenly I wanted to learn how to experience that again more than I'd ever wanted anything in my entire life.
From that day on, I was determined to find a way to get back to that peaceful, expansive, connected state of consciousness, a state that I now call presence. To make that dream a reality, I spent decades studying spiritual practices and trying different kinds of psychotherapy, energy healing, and physical healing methods. Although those methods had helped others, and taught me many valuable things, they didn't end my suffering. I still struggled with depression, low-self worth, and troubled intimate relationships.
As I pieced together things that worked from different spiritual and psychological methods and began to study neuroscience, I started to see that each method I studied contained a valuable piece of the whole. The practitioners I had worked with thought their methods were complete, but each offered an ear, a leg or a trunk: none contained the whole elephant.
The more knowledge and practices I integrated from these different methods, the more my life changed: my depression eased, my relationships improved, and I was able to pursue my dreams with greater confidence. Some of the most helpful methods I'd discovered had been hard to find: things like Focusing, Hakomi, and Nonviolent Communication. Most helping professionals weren't trained in these methods, and the general public had little access to the helpful information and techniques that they offered. It made me sad that such good work and such helpful discoveries remained unknown to both helping professionals and those in desperate need of their help.
It frustrated and saddened me that my brother and sister didn't have the money or education to benefit from the things I'd discovered; many of these methods were presented in technical language that my siblings would have never understood. Further, the trainings I pursued in these methods cost tens of thousands of dollars, which my brother and sister could never have afforded. How devastating that with such good practices available, both of them spent years locked away in psychiatric institutions, with mind-numbing drugs as the treatment of choice. Sadly, both died early deaths directly related to their emotional challenges.
Paradoxically, my family's suffering was perhaps my greatest gift. Their struggles inspired me to embrace an almost impossible dream: creating affordable, accessible self-awareness education and emotional support for everyday people. One of my biggest dreams is to collaborate with other human change and growth practitioners to establish self-awareness as a basic subject in K-12 and adult education as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Read more about my dream.
Contribute to making my dream a reality.