Theresa “Tree” Walsh is a Community Engaged Arts Facilitator and Teacher who uses dance, education and other arts based practices, to help create a space for people to explore themselves through questions and issues that are meaningful for them. Her big picture plan is to build an arts based personal growth and development centre called myTREEHOUSEvision which would help youth learn lead and mentor each other, create collaborative compositions together, and learn a variety of other arts based practice skills.
She has worked in many contexts such as summer camps, schools, community centres, community events, etc across North America in order to try to make the world a better place in whatever way she can.
The world isn’t flat, the sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth and there are many things we believe now that are like those beliefs were to people who believed them in the past – Tree is out to help the world, herself included, to discover and evolve these limiting beliefs so we can save ourselves from self-destruction!
What events led up to you deciding to take back your life?
I was living in my home city of Toronto, and only living my dream in the summers at a camp in New Hampshire US as the Dance and Fitness Program Director. Life was great in the summers, where I felt like for the first time ever I got to be my true self, and finally felt ok to be me. I got to dance with kids, work with my staff to help them learn and grow as teachers and leaders, and be the kind of person I really wanted to be… then I would go out into the rest of the year, struggling to enjoy life and to really feel fulfilled or living my passion.
Was there a significant event or moment that made you realize you needed to make a change? What was it?
There I was, unhappy again in a job that I was trying to make a good fit, when it wasn’t. I felt like I needed to go back to camp that summer to escape my displeasing non-camp circumstances, and a mentor of mine challenged me to think twice. She shared that she thought I was going back to camp as a safe place out of comfort, but not necessarily for the best reasons. She suggested that I consider not going back intentionally to create what I loved about camp in the rest of my whole life. In that moment I felt incredibly defensive and reactive to that thought. The idea of not going back scared me more than anything, but I knew because of the strength of my reaction, she was probably onto something. Through my re-evaluation process, I decided to forge my own path outside of camp, and take what I loved about camp and build it in my whole life – and so I did.
Was there a first step of action when you decided to take back your life? What was it?
Camp was the first to know that I would not be going back that summer, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Then I worked on figuring out exactly what it was I loved about camp so much so I could identify the key characteristics of how to create those things all the time and began searching for co-collaborators.
In June 2012 I attended a Dance Walk (dancing and walking together with others on the streets in public) that Erica Ross and Vivek Patel from Toronto had organized, inspired by a craze started by NYC NBC reporter Ben Aaron. Although it was exactly what I wanted, I was so scared to join this event that I probably would have bailed on it had I not promised they could use my boom box. Due to the fact that they relied on me for the tunes, instead of bailing, I put on a crazy colourful outfit and strutted my stuff with them on the streets of Toronto! I felt ignited in a way I hadn’t outside of camp like EVER! After experiencing the AWESOMENESS of this I decided to run at least monthly dance walks throughout the summer to keep the love alive! In the next few days however I learned that Ben Aaron was travelling to Toronto to cover another story so I set out on a QUEST to meet him and dance walk with him!
On June 6/12, ironically the exact day I would have gone back to camp had I gone that summer, we did just that – Dance Walked with Ben Aaron! From here my love for dance events that get people dancing with you took off! That spring-boarded into SO many other things that helped me to take my life back and pursue my passion outside of just the summer months at camp.
Since you took back your life, how have things changed for you?
I learned that I had a knack for getting people dancing and allowing them to let go of inhibitions which has set me on a whole other dance teaching/leading career of team building through dance, dance walks, theGROOVE dance facilitation and so much more! Now I lead literally hundreds of people in fun dance parties in a number of venues: camps, events, 5k races and marathons, schools, community centres, dance protests etc. I am now able to be an example for others as to how they can also follow their dreams and live their passions AND get paid to do what I love which feels SO great!
I have also learned that often, or rather more like always, in order to take next steps and to grow, you have to let go of one thing to make room for another and experience the pain of loss and growth that comes along with that. I learned this lesson so well that more recently when I decided to make a big change to pursue another passion of mine, that I was able to call myself out on it instead of someone else needing to do it and made the change myself following my mentors example.
What would you say to anyone who finds themselves in the situation you were in?
Question everything! If you feel attached to something in the outside world in order to be ok (i.e. a job, a partner, a circumstance etc) you probably are! If you don’t figure that out, and re-evaluate what you really want outside of that attachment, there is only so far that the comfort of the external attachment can take you, until it stops working and you will have to face yourself anyway. Also read the Alchemist repeatedly and journal! Work with people into goal setting and talk openly about your dreams and big picture visions so they can call you on your BS when you’re selling yourself out of your dreams!
What does ‘Fully Alive’ mean to you?
To be experiencing the magnificence of life. To constantly pursue more joy, more vulnerability, more humility and gratefulness. To aspire to be as ruthlessly honest with yourself and others as you can be. To feel deeply and to become a gracefully ‘in-rapport’ dance partner with yourself so you can work together with your emotions to create the things you want in your life, rather than destroy them. To jump in and sing and laugh and cry – To love unconditionally and open your radiant heart to the world expecting nothing in return.
Favourite Inspirational Quote
“The primary goal of real education is not to deliver facts but to guide students to the truths that will allow them to take responsibility for their lives.” John Taylor Gatto
In order to build this emotional strength you have to take risks and be willing to fail and be uncomfortable! I am learning this more and more each day and have a LONG way to go to build my emotional strength strong enough to build the dreams I have!
Connect with Theresa
Take Back Your Life Month
Last year, I declared May 16th ‘Take Back Your Life’ Day, because that’s the day that I took back my life from that evil beast, Cancer. It’s so important to me that this year I’m declaring the whole month of May ‘Take Back Your Life’. Every Tuesday and Friday this month, be inspired by stories of everyday people who have transformed their lives. These are people who converted a moment of struggle into a moment of strength and revolution! (Read more here.) Check back here to read their stories & share your own on social media! #TakeBackYourLife