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Camp Courage Canada – The Sound of One Voice

Meet our Canadian Courage & Renewal Facilitators

At the height of the glorious colours of a Canadian autumn, October 24-26, 2014, a group of Canadian Courage & Renewal facilitators and friends gathered near Toronto, on the traditional lands of the Mississauga Anishinaabe people, on the banks of the Credit River, for the playfully named first “Camp Courage Canada.”

We began by each introducing ourselves with a Canadian Third Thing (a poem, a song, a piece of art, a story) that connected to our sense of place, our sense of identity in the Canadian context and our connection to Courage & Renewal work. It was a lush interweaving that celebrated our diversity, and stitched us together across our wide geography.

Canada-BonvoyageWe came from six of our ten provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Our circle included five men and ten women, people from the LGBTQ community, educators, clergy, youth workers, folks from the non-profit sector, and independent consultants. We are artists, dancers, musicians (guitar, ukulele and mandolin), dreamers and planners.

Many of us in the circle have heartfelt engagement with Aboriginal people and communities in Canada, and yet, there are no First Nations people in our circle. This becomes a question for us, as we imagine circles that honour, include and welcome all. Also, we don’t yet have facilitators for whom French is their mother-tongue, which is unfortunate in a country that is officially bilingual. We also hope to have facilitators someday in Quebec and New Brunswick with the capacity to facilitate en français.

We were gathering just days after an incident of horror in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, where a gunman shot an honour guard at a War Memorial and then entered the Parliament Buildings and shot several people, before being shot himself. Recalling this horrible incident in circle gave us cause to reflect on our sense of identity as a nation of peace that has recently struggled with our growing role as participant in wars and injustice.

We held the paradox of calls to courage and calls to peace—the sense of a graphic loss of innocence and a need to maintain a hopeful vision of generosity, care and compassion. It was an important time to be together as Canadians practicing Courage & Renewal.

In the retreat, we named the importance of discussing and welcoming less visible diversity, addressing issues of class, disability and mental health, as well as the full expression of human spirituality, being clear that no language of the spirit has privilege. As Canadians we still have a way to go as we seek to live into the sense of wonder and promise that comes when we practice radical hospitality and honour a spirit of welcome in Circles of Trust.

Gathering in a Canadian forum, we enjoyed many conversations about expressions of courage and people of integrity from our own national story: Louis Riel, Nellie McClung, Elijah Harper, Viola Desmond, Chief Dan George.

Many facilitators brought music from Canadian artists: music by Harry Manx, The Wailin’ Jennys, Sarah Harmer, Loreena McKennit, Connie Kaldor, Gordon Lightfoot, Raffi, The Canadian Brass, and Hey Rosetta, to name but a few. (Go on a Google search, if you want to expand your awareness of Canadian singer-songwriters!)

The video below is from a Manitoba Group called The Wailin’ Jennys, a song about voice and agency, the power of ‘one’ and the transformative power of ‘becoming one’! Enjoy.

DianneBakerWe ended our retreat standing joyfully in the wind on the cliff above the Credit River, celebrating our unity and our uniqueness in a spontaneous kicking and throwing of orange, brown, red and yellow fall leaves, blessed by letting loose and reclaiming our Canadian voice.

Dianne Baker is Courage & Renewal facilitator and a counseling therapist and consultant in Manitoba, Canada. In her agency work as a therapist for adults with disabilities, connecting individuals with the wisdom of their inner teacher is rich and enlivening work.  Dianne is excited about helping the Courage network grow in Canada. Touching and honouring the earth as a spiritual discipline, she is a gardener, canoeist and scuba diver.

Learn more about or contact our Canadian facilitators here.

It Takes Courage to Improve the Health of 100 Million Lives

The goal: 100 Million Healthier Lives by 2020
What’s needed: Courage and Collaboration

Join the Guiding Coalition for Health

The Guiding Coalition for Health is welcoming new members. Learn more here and join the discussion on Twitter at #Coalition4Health.

Join an Information Call
November 14 at 11:30am-12:30pm ET. Want to learn more about the 100 Million Healthier Lives initiative? Enrollment is free. Join to share ideas and ask your questions.

Listen to WIHI Audio Program
Tune in to WIHI’s radio show on November 20 from 2-3pm ET. Learn more about the initiative and celebrate the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

For the latest news, go to:

NOVEMBER 24TH is the last opportunity to register here as a founding partner of 100 Million Healthier Lives! This is also the place to submit your brief initial action plan, which helps us learn more about you.


Physics defines “escape velocity” as the speed at which an object needs to be traveling to break free of a planet’s or moon’s gravity. Members of a new multi-sector coalition want to break free of the status quo and create a culture of health and wellbeing.

This new coalition intends to break free of the gravitational pull of mismatched and sometimes perverse incentives, political gridlock, and fragmented systems that have driven an over-reliance on health care fixes over proactive investments in health within communities.

In October, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) convened over 200 leaders from patient groups, grassroots community organizations, community health, public health, academia, business, finance, government, and healthcare for “Escape Velocity to a Culture of Health,” a working meeting to create the Guiding Coalition for Health and begin to co-design initial steps. (See previous blog.)

The Center for Courage & Renewal is one of some 30 founding partners of this coalition that is committed to learning together how to best support community efforts to improve the health of 100 million people globally over the next five years.

With me at the October meeting were Courage & Renewal Facilitators Pamela Seigle and Estrus Tucker. Estrus and I are each co-leading a workgroup for the Coalition.

“We need a quantum leap toward the creation of health across the country,” said Maureen Bisognano. president and CEO of IHI, “We must align organizations and sectors to achieve something far greater together than any one group could ever achieve alone – a monumental shift toward health, as we’ve never seen before.”

To achieve an unprecedented goal for health and wellbeing, we know will take new ways of working together. Our success will depend on the relationships we build, and the processes that support a broad and open collaboration.

What I’ve seen in our work with leaders from across all sectors is that when people are in an environment where they feel safe to listen deeply to their inner wisdom, to connect with their own wholeness, and to listen and learn from each other, they most often locate the courage to reach beyond existing constraints.

At the Center for Courage & Renewal, we’ve learned that the most powerful source of societal change begins with creating conditions that honor the identity and integrity of each person, invite each of us to show up fully, and, together, to create deep relational trust. The trust we need in the Guiding Coalition is the kind that can hold tension and help us engage in meaningful, honest dialogue with both courage and kindness.

For the Escape Velocity meeting, the leadership team of the Coalition developed Guiding Principles, both for our collaborative way of working and to support our relationships. We invited ourselves to name the touchstones that would serve our being fully present and adapted many from the core Courage & Renewal touchstones.

By agreeing to these guiding principles, our hope is to continually create conditions that honor each other and what we each bring to the coalition, and allow us to have the open and honest conversations that will help us do this good work.

Here are some of the relational Guiding Principles to which the 100 Million Healthier Lives Guiding Coalition has agreed for our work together and with the people we serve to support our forming trustworthy relationships, as we begin to share our stories and use our collective wisdom to co-create a widespread culture of health and well-being.

  1. Be present as fully as possible. Speak our truth from our hearts and minds.
  2. Listen generously to each other’s truths. Trust that we all hold a piece of the puzzle and we need each other’s pieces to understand the whole picture.
  3. Embrace differences and be open to learning from each other.
  4. When the going gets rough, suspend judgment and get curious. Be quick to forgive and ask open questions to understand.
  5. Honor each other’s learning and resourcefulness. Trust we each will learn and contribute in our own way, that there is no need to “fix” each other.
  6. Make space to pause and reflect to deepen our thinking.
  7. Be willing to have meaningful conflict to create unprecedented goals and solutions. When needed, seek council for help with conflicts.
  8. Allow our ideas to be developed further by others.
  9. Seek common ground. When we can’t fully agree, we commit to a unified decision and to see what happens from a humble posture of learning. If we have made the wrong turn, we will discover it together and turn the right way together.
  10. Accept that we will sometimes fail, but will learn together and move forward.
  11. Help each other to have the confidence to spread our wings, be creative, and take on new roles.
  12. Balance our yearning for change with patience for the process of change and growth.
  13. Make the way we work together an example of what’s possible.

Dr. Hanna ShermanHanna B. Sherman, MD is the Program Director of Health and Health Care for the Center for Courage & Renewal/ In her role, Hanna works with leaders and organizations in health and health care nationally and internationally to develop safe and trustworthy spaces for personal and professional growth, positive change, and life-giving choices. Organizations Hanna has worked with include Mayo Clinic Florida, Mission Health System, and Cambridge Health Alliance.



Let’s Talk about the Inner Life of the Rebel

When we heard that Parker Palmer was going to be on stage with Courtney Martin at PopTech 2014, in a conversation hosted by OnBeing’s Krista Tippett, we really wished we could be there. The theme of this year’s event is Rebellion and it sounds right up our alley:

“The spirit of rebellion is at the heart of some of the greatest advances in science, technology, medicine, business, design, art and more. Rebellion is about leadership, courage and the instincts to grow, adapt and persevere.”

Lucky for us, PopTech is generously allowing us to be there virtually with videos available online.

Here’s the full video of the talk with Parker, Courtney and Krista, plus the audience questions, which ended in a standing ovation. Grab a coffee and enjoy their 90-minute conversation about what it means to be a rebel by being true yourself, why powerful people must take a pause to reflect, and the importance of community in social movements.

You can also follow Parker and Courtney via their regular columns at the OnBeing website.

Resilience for the Rough Road

Resilience for the Rough RoadWe all go though times when the roads of our life feel a bit rough. It takes courage to go down a road you’ve never been down before. Unknowns await around the bend, out of sight.

It takes perseverance to keep going when you’re unsure exactly what’s coming up next. It also takes a wise kind of courage to slow down.

What do you do when you see signs of a “Rough Road” ahead?

What signs do you get from within?

If you name the road Rough, how might that change the way you proceed?

You have choices. You can continue, but slower. You can stop for a moment, regroup. You can get out your map and double-check that you’re on the right road (and you can always turn around if you’re not).

“Rough Road” doesn’t mean don’t go there. It just means take care. It’s a reminder to pay closer attention to obstacles, look out for potholes, and slow down around curves. Welcome the wisdom of those who put up the sign to say, “been there, done that, take care, and continue.”

Plug that information into your internal GPS and let yourself be guided by trust in the signs, trust in the road, trust in yourself, and trust that the road will take you somewhere worth going.

Warm regards,

Terry Chadsey
Executive Director

P.S. You can build resilience for the rough road by attending a Courage & Renewal program.

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African Youth Leaders Explore Difference, Creativity, and Self-Awareness through Poetry


On August 10th, young leaders from eight East African schools set out to engage in dialogue across religious, ethnic and gender differences at a camp called The African Youth Leadership Experience (AYLE) 2014. The goals of AYLE were: to develop life skills in self-awareness and self care, appreciate and learn from difference, learn how to handle conflict, and develop creativity, leadership, community action and social entrepreneurship skills.

Andrew Nalani, a student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, designed and directed the ten- day camp in collaboration with a local NGO in Uganda and Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE). Below, Andrew reflects on how attending a Courage to Lead retreat earlier this year helped him direct this project.

Three days before the participants arrived for camp, I sat in the quiet of my bedroom, wondering what I had thrown myself into. For two years I’d been designing a youth project to promote peace and understanding, and it was finally taking shape. It’s paradoxical how I was filled with enthusiasm when designing the camp, and now three days before opening I was saturated with fear and self-doubt. “I don’t know if this will work. “What if no youth shows up?” “Who do I think I am, this young, to pull this off?” It was this last question, “Who am I anyway?” that ushered me to the threshold I feared to step over—my own personal place of leadership.

I recalled words I’d heard Sheila Belanger, a nature quest guide on the west coast, say: “Deep hospitality is first and foremost an inward process.” Before I could extend deep hospitality to the youths who’d show up to camp in three days, I had to welcome those parts of me—my fear and my capability—as ushers towards the threshold of my own personal place of leadership.

poemsgavelanguageI began to name my benefactors, those people who have recognized, named and affirmed the gifts that I bring to community. Remembering my benefactors evoked a sense of gratitude within me and reconnected me to the benevolent, courageous and creative parts of my being. I also glanced over the notes I’d kept from a clearness committee for which I was a focus person during a Courage to Lead retreat in February. In that instance, I knew I was held in the same delicate way as I was during the clearness committee process at the retreat.

Memory leads us home to community, and at home, we find courage to be our very best selves. To nurture this courage, I ruminated on David Whyte’s poetry, and two particular poems, Henry Nouwen’s “Work Around Your Abyss” and David Wagoner’s “Lost” in Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead. These poems helped me give language to what I felt strongly within, but struggled to name. What I could not name is what I feared because it was unknown.

I had never been in a place with this much responsibility, for twenty-nine youths from different backgrounds, and staff members who were older than me. I feared especially how this new stage in my life would change me because my interest in youth empowerment is linked to some of my own critical experiences growing up—my ‘abyss’. Nouwen reminded me, I must not be completely absorbed by the pain in my abyss that I “fail to pay attention to the wound I want to heal.”

Poetry inspired in me the courage to swim through the ocean of uncertainty, and offered me a space safe for me to develop the capacity to remain present to my own transformations.

Upon arrival, the twenty-nine students spent time creating community norms and agreements that would support them all in achieving the general camp goals, but also their personal goals and intentions. One of the agreements, “Wisdom is in the questions,” supported the community in asking questions and learning across differences. Another agreement: “To fail is okay,” set the stage for participants to take creative risks without fear of failure.

For the rest of camp, the students participated in experiential activities and workshops designed to achieve the camp goals. Some of the activities included: challenge course, public speaking, transforming inner dialogue to allow growth, intercultural encounter, and conflict transformation. Participants also had a chance to develop their creativity through theater improvisation, community singing, visual arts, crocheting, break dance, and of course, poetry.


On day four, gender day, the males and females had separate programming focused on examining cultural gender prescriptions and the celebrations and challenges of each identity. The women read and reflected on Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” Each of them wrote a poem in response to their reflection on Angelou’s poem, and compiled what they’d written into a collage. They shared this collage of poems with the men at the end of the day.

One participant noted, “I have grown into a person who appreciates herself as a phenomenal lady, and also how to solve conflicts in a beneficial way.” Their enlivened, assertive and reflective presence testified to the new place of power each of them had stepped into for the day, ushered into this place by the grace and healing power of poetry.


At the end of every day at camp, following dinner, the whole community slowed in pace, gathered to hear a poem read by a fellow participant or staff. We then spent fifteen minutes in silent (quiet time) reflection about its message, or about the events of the day. Afterwards they’d share their reflections in groups of six. We opened our first quiet time with Marianne Williamson’s “Our Greatest Fear,” which ushered the community to another threshold of truly showing up in our gifts and saying yes to the discomfort of risk-taking.

couragedoesntfindus“I am courageous enough to influence my friends and peers for positive change because I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone during AYLE,” one young person mentioned later during camp. I learn from this young person that courage doesn’t simply find us, rather courage is inspired as we wholeheartedly engage with the unknown that scares us, trusting the creative risk we are capable of when supported in a safe community.

Now a little over two months post the AYLE camp, I look back and see not only the participants’ growth, but also my very own. I emerge out of the experience aware that there seldom are easy answers to leadership. The journey is on going and each step in this great unknown calls for courage. For me, reading and writing poetry inspires that courage and provides replenishment along the journey. As an AYLE participant put it, “AYLE is a caring mother, which makes young leaders grow with courage.”

I am grateful to my benefactors, and to all whose words have fed my spirit, and to the communities that have mothered me into a deeper, more authentic, and more courageous place of personal leadership.andrewnalani

Andrew Nalani is from Kampala, Uganda and currently a junior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. He is majoring in religion, and hopes to design an independent study in transformative learning. He is also the student director for the office of religious and spiritual life at the school’s Tucker Foundation. Outside of class, Andrew has volunteered in the area of youth empowerment for the past 3 years.

Pilgrim’s Purpose: Finding Strength and Trust on the Camino Finisterra

val-elcamino1“…even before you sat down with them,
broke bread and drank wine,
wiped the wind-tears from your eyes:
pilgrim they called you again. Pilgrim.”
—David Whyte, from Camino [1]

I was drawn to pilgrimages partly out of a deep desire to slow down and partly for a reason I could barely understand or articulate. More than a vacation, I was searching for real healing. I was deeply conditioned after graduate school and law school to ‘make good’, to ‘be somebody’, and the drive that propelled me was simultaneously numbing and exhausting.

I lived for decades with the primary tension of wanting and needing to ‘make a living’ and knowing that life was so much more.  I wanted to travel without a destination or agenda, to allow the fullness of time to unfold, to be lost in the small, ordinary moments, to break bread with strangers and to have that be enough.

I wanted to walk the pilgrim’s path, to allow the uncertainty of the road – the bad weather, the getting lost – to strip me of the illusion of control and shatter my small, meager self. Gradually, traveling called me to look deeply at myself, at my gritty individuality, my selfishness, and at the status and resources I worked hard to acquire.

travel documentsThis spring, I embarked on a sacred journey to explore the little known pilgrimage route from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterra, Spain, following the magnificent coastline of Galicia. Dating back as far as the 9th century, pilgrims have walked the Camino Finisterra to both Muxía and Finisterra as the final stretch of The Way of St. James, El Camino.

The ancient wisdom of India counsels that every journey consists of eleven directions. Between the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west lie the four intermediate directions: northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest. The direction above and below makes ten directions. The eleventh direction is inward, the journey into one’s inner self, the heart center. This inward journey is, of course, lifelong trip.

It is said that El Camino is measured not in miles but in the spirit in which you travel. Discovering the truth of this statement was one of many life lessons on the Camino Finisterra.

Day after day I walk along, arriving just before nightfall to the refugios, pilgrim hostels. I was dirty, my clothes were grungy, and my boots were caked with mud. I was tired of wrapping my feet with Vasoline, moleskin, and lambswool. My left hiking boot was torn to shreds by walking through muck and mud over my ankle and was literally being held together with duck tape.

Valerie's tattered pilgrim shoesI was sick of arriving at the refugios only to find the only bed available is the top of five stacked to the ceiling, the mattress ripped and filthy. I stand waiting in line to use the shower, which is caked with grime and smelly, the walls splattered with dead flies. And I sleep with one eye open clutching my rucksack for fear of having my passport stolen, not letting my boots, as disgusting as they were, out of my sight. I’m beginning to feel like a homeless person, like the poverty-stricken girl of my childhood. Packing and unpacking my sparse belongings and eating day-old food buried in the bottom of my rucksack left me feeling destitute.

I could walk away from all of this, pull out my American Express card and find the nearest Sheraton. ‘Cut and run’ has been my strategy for decades, ‘leave before you get left’.

The next day over breakfast, I stopped to chat with a bunkmate, Cheryl, a quietly confident former school teacher from Dearborn, Michigan. Cheryl said she was on her way back home, having walked nearly one thousand miles on El Camino. She began the walk after her cancer diagnosis.

“At first, it was really hard. I actually had to take a three-week break. I didn’t have the stamina and was hospitalized here in Spain. I was determined to live, and just decided I would start walking, and I did.” Cheryl paused, and I could feel her quiet determination and courage.

“The Camino taught me that I have a purpose, and that purpose starts with looking within myself for the source of strength and trust.”

Later that day as I walked along the Camino thinking of Cheryl, I faced the ‘cut and run’ impulse, and blessed it. I realized that my purpose in walking the Camino was to discover the eleventh direction, and not just to ‘find myself,’ but to be at home within myself, which required less movement outwardly and more movement inwardly.

[1] Whyte, David. Pilgrim. Langley, Washington: Many Rivers Press, 2012.


Valerie BrownJoin Valerie Brown for the pilgrimage El Camino, Spain, which departs in September 2015. Please contact her for more information about dates and pricing.

Also check out upcoming Courage & Renewal retreats that Valerie is facilitating:

Journey Toward Wholeness 4-Part Retreat Series
(Oct. 31, 2014 through July 19, 2015 near Philadelphia, PA)

Open Heart, Peaceful Mind: A Retreat for Rest & Reflection
(Dec. 28, 2014 – January 1, 2015 near Philadelphia, PA)

Journey Toward Wholeness 2-Part Retreat Series
(March 26-29 and Nov. 5-8, 2015 in Deerfield, MA)

Courage to Lead for Young United Methodist Ministers: A 6-Month Leadership Intensive for Faith Leaders to Renew, Reflect and Reconnect
(May 5-8 and Nov. 17-20, 2015 near Milwaukee, WI)

Journey Toward Wholeness 2-Part Retreat Series
(May 18-24 and Oct. 5-11, 2015 at Ghost Ranch in NM)

Holistic Decision-Making – It’s Not Just for Doctors

Decision-making is something that you can do with either your limited mind and ego, or by letting the choices percolate through your body, emotions, mind, heart, creative self-expression, intuition, spirituality, as well as through the dimensions of context and time – until a decision becomes clear with input from your total Self. Decisions made this way may ‘freak out’ your ego, but they can be truly transformative.”

Rehumanizing Medicine. Pre-order at Amazon.That advice comes from a new book by Dr. David Kopacz, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. This is a book for people who are willing to change at a personal level in order to be better doctors and clinicians. Download this PDF to read the Table of Contents, Foreword and Introduction.

While Kopacz wrote this book mainly for medical professionals, we found it to be full of great insight and practices for anyone wishing to stay true to themselves in challenging times – in life and work. In that spirit, here is an excerpt – an exercise in “whole-self decision making.”

Making Decisions with Your Whole Self Exercise

We often think of decisions as something that we make with our logical, rational mind. Those of us who have gone through medical education have become decision-making machines, and have memorized and internalized algorithms and flow charts.

However, most important decisions are made with more than just the mind.

We can tap into nine different avenues of experience for greater self-awareness: body, emotions, mind, heart, creativity, intuition, spirit, context and time. Each dimension provides unique information that can be integrated for holistic decision-making.

This exercise presents an integrated way to make decisions. You don’t have to be a medical professional to try out this approach:

  1. Focus on a question you have about a particular decision in your life. Write the question on a piece of paper, or simply hold the question in your awareness. You can now work through each dimension to explore it from different perspectives.
  1. Start with the spiritual dimension. Allow yourself to feel into the ‘big picture’ level of meaning and purpose regarding the decision. How do different aspects of the decision lead to different possibilities for who you are as a person in the world? How might the decision affect your personal mission, goal and values in life?
  1. Next, move to the level of intuition. Do not work or push your brain to think. Let different aspects of the decision come together and separate. Decision-making at this level is almost like watching a kaleidoscope make different patterns before your eyes, as you daydream about what the patterns look like.
  1. Now move to the level of creative self-expression. Do not worry about practicalities or limitations at this point; just focus on what you are drawn to create in your life and with your life. What are the projects you have always dreamed of? Does this decision move you closer to your dreams? At this level, you are more actively engaged, as if you are influencing the way that the kaleidoscope pieces are coming together.
  1. The next level is your heart. Take a deep breath and feel into the center of your chest. Notice the changes in your heart as you examine different aspects of the decision. It may be a great decision, but if your heart is not fully in it, it will be a chore rather than a joy. See if you can notice a feeling of your heart opening or closing when you work with the decision.
  1. Now you can move to your mind and intellect. Your intellect is great at focusing the information from the other dimensions into a concrete plan. Maybe you are dreaming about being an astronaut. That may be very unlikely to happen, but you can ask yourself if there are any alternatives that capture the essence of being an astronaut. Maybe you could learn scuba diving – a more realistic way to explore another realm. Once you have this attainable dream, you can use your mind to think, develop a plan, organize and reality-test your dreams.
  1. After your intellect has shaped the input from the other dimensions, how do you feel, emotionally, about all of your options? Are you excited about the intellect’s proposal, or has it taken all the fun and adventure out of it? Feel back and forth through different aspects of the decision.
  1. Finally, you arrive at the dimension of physical reality. There are a few more steps before implementing your decision. You can use body awareness as another tool in making decisions. As you explore different aspects of the decision, what do you notice in your body? Are there butterflies in your stomach from excitement or anxiety? Do you have a headache, or feel dizzy or tired? Are you having a feeling of panic? Do you feel more alive? Does your body feel more solid and connected? Take notice of how your body responds to your decisions. Using body sensations can be challenging. Your body might be panicking over a decision about which the rest of your Self is very excited, but which calls for a lot of change at the physical level. Not all anxiety is bad or to be avoided. Sometimes the best decision for you is the one you are most anxious about. If you are patient with your bodily feelings, you will notice that you will pass through different waves of sensation and it may take a while to get to how you really feel deep within your Self.
  1. From the physical dimension, expand your awareness to consider your context. How does the context of your physical environment and your social situation provide new information about your decision? If you are moving forward with a change, how can you mobilize resources and support?
  1. Now, consider the temporal dimension. Can you implement the decision right now? Will it take years of planning because it is a long-term goal, like becoming a doctor? Are there many steps that you will have to negotiate and organize over a period of time? How does the decision fit into the timeline of your life?
  1. Now that you have gathered information from these nine different dimensions, the work of integrating them begins. You could do this in different ways, maybe just by an overall gestalt feeling, or by a vote from each dimension. At one level, you may feel incredibly excited. In another dimension, you may be terrified. How do you work with both of these contradictory feelings? That is the work of integration.

The process of integrating information from different dimensions into a holistic decision is a skill you develop over time. It is the same process that goes on at all levels, whether you are engaged in personal growth and the pursuit of self-knowledge, working with an individual client, developing your practice, or working for social change to transform the culture of medicine. This holistic work of examining, valuing and balancing different kinds of information is the work of transformation.

DKopacz300Excerpted with permission. Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine, by David R. Kopacz, MD. Chapter 10, Holistic Decision-Making (Ayni Books, Winchester, UK, 2014). This book launches November 28.

This book launches on November 28. You can pre-order at Amazon:

Looking for your own professional development? See upcoming Courage & Renewal programs and retreats for Health Care Professionals.

To Change Teacher Attitudes, Change School Climates

“School was a stressful place and it affected me physically and mentally,” said David LaBrie, a French and Spanish public high school teacher. This was at a time when morale at Lin-Wood High School couldn’t have been worse. Colleagues were bitter, cynical and unhappy. You could feel the distrust in the air.

“I tended to stay in my classroom and avoid interaction with my peers. I feared for my job. I assumed the worst when an administrator would ask, ‘Have you got a minute?'”

littleprince-businessman2When Courage to Teach was first presented to Lin-Wood faculty, David barely paid attention and did not sign up to participate. He remembers, “I passed it off as another worthless activity that we were forced to sit through when ‘I [was] busy with matters of consequence,’ just like the businessman in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel, The Little Prince.”

But after the first retreat led by facilitators Jean Haley and Anne Riley, another teacher, Heather Krill, urged David to reconsider. He joined the rest of the two-year series.

Courage to Teach transformed David into a more confident, content, and caring teacher.

“The Courage to Teach retreats were a safe place to reflect on why we became teachers in the first place,” said David. “My stress level has dropped and I have become happier overall. The skills I acquired have vastly improved my daily interactions with students, faculty, administration, friends and family.”

davidlabrie-cropThe experience helped David reconnect with his own identity as a teacher as well as with his fellow teachers. He said, “The touchstones allowed for genuine discussion and reflection in a safe, supportive and confidential atmosphere. Through the process, I learned to listen deeply to another person with without prejudgment, without waiting to jump in with my own thoughts. I respect that what they want to say is important to them.”

Heather also noticed that David was changed. “David didn’t buy into it right away, but now he’s the one who, if I start to get a little punchy at faculty meetings, will just touch my elbow and gently ask, ‘What would Anne say?’ He reminds me to be open.”

The long-lasting effects of Anne and Jean’s Courage to Teach are felt all throughout Lin-Wood High School. The atmosphere is more harmonious than ever before. Relational trust in the classroom and a deepened sense of community has moved their educational mission forward.

David said, “The students reflect the behavior of the teachers who participated in Courage to Teach. Student-teacher confrontations are rare. This overall atmospheric change has made for a supportive learning environment, which in turn has resulted in greater student success.”

In 2013, Lin-Wood High School was named Best Small High School in New Hampshire by U.S. News and World Report. Data collected by Antioch University New England showed an overall increase in student achievement and staff morale.

What is good teaching?

teachingisanart“Teaching is an art form,” David replied earnestly. “You need to have a passion for your subject and for children. You need to be healthy in mind, body and spirit. You need to recognize that each student is an individual with their own specific needs, problems and aspirations. You hold your expectations high and watch the students ‘rise to them.’ You have to compartmentalize all of the administrative-political ‘noise’ and teach from your heart. If you do that, it won’t matter what the newest flavor-of-the-month educational directive is—you and your students will learn and grow.”

RESEARCH REPORT: pdf Courage to Teach in New Hampshire: A Ten-Year Retrospective (2014). Courage & Renewal facilitators Jean Haley and Anne Riley report on a decade of Courage to Teach, studied in collaboration with Antioch University’s Tomey Center of Business Management’s and underwritten by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Curious about Courage to Teach programs?
Learn more and sign up for an upcoming retreat!


Love is the Most Powerful Weapon

Hip-hop artist Prince Ea sits in the rubble of a home in St. Louis and tells us “the world is coming to an end.” He paints a picture that could end with despair, but inspires us instead with a wholehearted challenge:

Instead of trying to change others, we can change ourselves.
We can change our hearts…

Once we truly LOVE we will meet
anger with sympathy
hatred with compassion
cruelty with kindness.

Love is the most powerful weapon on the face of the earth.

Robert Kennedy once said that
few will have the greatness to bend history
but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.
And in the total of all those acts
will be written the history of a generation.
So yes, the world is coming to an end
and the path towards a new beginning starts within you.

When it feels like the world is coming to an end, or you’re facing the end of an era in your life, what would shift if you thought of that end as a beginning? A beginning that starts within you?

It takes courage to love, to “change our hearts,” as he says.
It takes courage to say something should end and to do something about it.
It takes courage to “change a small portion of events.”
It takes courage to start the change within you.

Take courage.

Warm regards,

Terry Chadsey
Executive Director

P.S. You can discover your own courage by attending a Courage & Renewal program.


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A Better Way to Talk About Difference


Sherry Watt was looking for a way to navigate difficult dialogue around cultural difference, topics like race and religion that can start dangerous fires. “I needed a way to approach these contentious issues in the classroom without being consumed by it,” she said.

Courage & Renewal gave Sherry a framework for changing the classroom into a space where students could think about their differences together instead of against each other. “The Courage work helped me see that I don’t need to make something happen; instead I create a container and hold a space for people to explore a difficult topic.”

Sherry Watt7-12-12 photoAs an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at the University of Iowa, Sherry teaches the next generation of educational leaders—graduate students who will go on to serve in the roles of administrators and student affairs practitioners in higher education institutions. Sherry’s courses on multiculturalism equip students with powerful strategies to engage difference in learning settings and beyond.

In Courage & Renewal, ‘Third Things’ are a device, such as a poem, song, or story, that inspire us to reflect on our personal experiences through the lens of universal themes. It occurred to Sherry that something like racial inequality could be a Third Thing through which students view themselves.

Instead of setting up an adversarial relationship between people of color and white people, she could invite everyone to tell the truth as they experience it and learn from others’ truths. With careful facilitation, such dialogue might build toward a collective understanding of what it means to live in a racialized society, how we can make that change.

“Or in the case of my students,” Sherry said, “How can they go into the world and create environments that nurture college students?”

When difficult dialogues aren’t conducted well, there’s a lot of guilt and shaming, Sherry points out. Controversy and marginalization dominate the conversation.

“This has the greatest impact on the people who are part of marginalized groups, but it affects all people, including those of privilege, who interact within the institution.”

And in the world at large, when people feel like they don’t have a voice, we see cultural clashes like what has happened in the protests over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

“Using the Circle of Trust Touchstones, I introduce a kinder, gentler way of engaging around something that’s very ugly,” Sherry said.

In the case where a young man’s life is lost like in Ferguson, there is little consolation.

“These topics feel very personal to students. They want to target each other, or they want to target me. When I introduce the Courage principles, it shifts that target. It helps us find more productive and less volatile ways of engaging. It facilitates a sense of being in it together.”

For example, Sherry recalls this past semester when religion was a source of polarization in her classroom. There were many students who were passionate about their beliefs and others who felt oppressed. Before diving into another dispute, Sherry put the Touchstones on the table and lightly refreshed them.

  1. Give and receive welcome.
  2. Be present as fully as possible.
  3. What is offered in a circle is by invitation, not demand.
  4. Speak your truth in ways that respect other people’s truths.
  5. No fixing, saving, advising or correcting each other.
  6. Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions.
  7. When the going gets rough, turn to wonder.
  8. Attend to your own inner teach.
  9. Trust and learn from the silence.
  10. Observe deep confidentiality.
  11. Know that it’s possible to leave with whatever you need and that the seeds planted here can keep growing in the days ahead.

A student opened the conversation. She said she was sorry that her religion—something she loved so much—had hurt so many people.

“It was a beautiful moment where she wasn’t taking responsibility for her whole religion, but just expressing her sorrow. And the other students noted how expressing her sorrow opened up a space for them to heal a little bit of the hurt they had experienced,” said Sherry.

“There are so many different ways to apply the Courage work,” Sherry said. “It has value for transforming how people engage around tough topics—not just race and religion, but other tough issues as well. It has the potential to help people think together. It creates space that supports their authentic self-development.”


Sherry Watt has been a Courage & Renewal facilitator since 2007 and has worked at a number of higher education institutions. Sherry finds her calling in designing and leading educational experiences that involve strategies to engage participants in dialogue that is meaningful, passionate, and self-awakening. Read more about Circles of Trust in Higher Education Multicultural Initiatives. Contact Sherry Watt.