Born in Taiwan and raised in the United States, I (JJL) have a liminal role in society as an Asian American. Upon arrival to this country, my family was encouraged to discard my Chinese given name, Ren, and replace it with an American one. Immigrants who are eager to assimilate frequently choose names for their children from the host country (Gerhards & Hans, 2009; Sue & Telles, 2007), so I became Jack. Acculturation to US society was important to my parents, and my learning of traditional Chinese practices was scant, such as learning to prepare meals. Although I recall my mother's practice of the Buddhist tradition, participation in unique rituals that reflected Chinese culture was rare. I was never formally instructed in Buddhist practices, such as meditation or other mind-body-spirit practices. My witness of my mother's practices was odd to me as a child; I recall thinking that her practice was unique to her generation, but mine was different. This divide reinforced a foundation for the cutoff I experienced from my cultural heritage.
The public education I received in US schools further disconnected me from my cultural roots, such as practicing US rituals (e.g., the Pledge of Allegiance) and the lack of awareness or support of Chinese culture (e.g., use of chopsticks). The value of the US culture appeared high, whereas the Chinese culture remained silent and, therefore, nonexistent. These experiences led me to question any indigenous knowledges learned from my family.
Engaging in martial arts study as a young adult served as a significant remembering process. My martial arts teacher was predominantly Chinese and helped me to embrace my racial-ethnic and cultural roots through this mind-body-spirit practice, which included meditation. The values I learned through marital arts reconnected me with the values I learned from my parents and their ethnic roots—respect for oneself and others, discipline, honesty, sensitivity, compassion, and solidarity and connectedness of the family system. This re-membering experience supported a strong sense of cultural identity and served as the personal foundation for the social work practice and the IMBS modalities I would later explore.
In contrast to my co-author's journey, during my more than 10-year career as a clinical social worker, I have experienced a supportive environment that nurtured development of a thick and rich story of my identity as an IMBS practitioner and holistic educator. As a first-year MSW intern at an inpatient substance addictions program, my supervisor supported me in using the meditative practices that I had learned during my earlier martial arts training when facilitating clinical treatment groups. We discovered that these practices were helpful in group facilitation and supported clients in managing stress and reducing cravings to substances. Although my supervisor was not trained in meditation, he was open to my use of this practice. During my second-year MSW internship in a hospital behavioral health unit, I observed a senior-level clinician use mindfulness practices with his treatment group. Encouraged by my observations, I enrolled in workshops to learn how to integrate mindfulness practices in my clinical work.
Subsequently employed as a psychiatric social worker by the hospital where I completed my second MSW internship, I attended mindfulness workshops with senior staff and cofacilitated treatment groups with them using these techniques. A senior staff member introduced me to Family Constellations, a phenomenological practice that facilitates healing intergenerational wounds within a family or social system (Cohen, 2006), and encouraged me to attend workshops to learn this modality. Family Constellations addressed the intergenerational, energetic influences on healing, such as historical traumas, that my previous clinical training did not include. My supervisor enthusiastically supported these professional development activities. Senior staff and I conducted mindfulness and Family Constellations training for other therapists at the hospital.
Beyond my experience as a staff member providing services at this hospital, a close mentor encouraged me to invest in my spiritual development by inviting open discussion of spiritual issues as part of analyzing cases during supervisory sessions. In this context, she also discussed her own spiritual development as relevant to concrete tools in her clinical practice. We discussed practice theory, interventions, research, spirituality, and spiritual principles as part of an integrated whole.
My role as a social work educator in a higher education setting began in 2011 as doctoral student instructing MSW students. I quickly understood that mindful awareness and recognition of the energy fields in which interactions are taking place are as necessary in the classroom as in the clinical context. Using techniques and principles from my mindfulness practice became essential to creating a productive learning environment. In my recent role as instructor with MSW students, holistic engagement was a natural outgrowth of my years of personal practice, clinical teaching, and clinical work involving Family Constellations facilitation and mindfulness practice. Engaging in codesigning the IMBS course discussed in this chapter felt like the next logical step in my professional development. As a doctoral student, I have experienced overwhelming support for my interests in IMBS teaching, research, and practice. Recognizing my co-author's experience, I am particularly grateful for this support. My doctoral experiences have strengthened the narrative of my preferred identity as a holistic social work educator.