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The World Needs More Kindness. Here’s How You Can Help.

Strength in Kind Leadership

When my daughter was 15 years old she had to give a brief speech in front of a congregation as part of a “coming of age” ceremony for the youth group. Josie was a wisp of a girl and she did not like the spotlight, which had always been an odd paradox. She had been a competitive gymnast for 10 years and performed well under pressure. But a church sanctuary is not a gymnasium. And speaking in public can be worse than attempting a back tuck on a balance beam.

I confess as a mother that I forget her talk, but I remember quite well what Mr. Narjarian, the group co-leader, had to say about her. “Don’t let her quiet nature or size deceive you, this young woman could someday lead a small country.”  On the way back home she asked, “Why a small country?”

Soft Skills as Essential Skills

It’s always been curious to me, as a psychologist, that we refer to a certain set of qualities and abilities as “soft skills” or “prosocial behaviors.” These tend to include: compassion, collaborative play, cooperation, emotional regulation, kindness, mindfulness, sharing, helping, perspective taking, and impulse control. These prosocial skills and behaviors are associated with positive emotions, such as empathy, love, pride, joy, as well as qualities of presence—calm, cheerful, determined, eager, focused, grateful, funny, friendly, inspired, relatable, thoughtful, warm, and wholehearted. Exactly the qualities most people want to see in strong leaders.

Yet, “soft” is not exactly good for branding in leadership. And we are suffering the consequences of this blind spot. Now is a good time to reimagine leadership. Fortunately, there are signs that successful leaders are those people who have cultivated enduring soft skills. Importantly, they create caring cultures.

Tapping Your Compassion Instinct

Our biological instinct for kindness comes together with our social conditioning to inform how we engage in the world. We have a deep instinct to care. Humans have evolved not just to survive but to thrive. There is a lesser-known aspect of the theory of human evolution: sympathy. Stronger than self-interest or self-protection, sympathy is a reflexive social instinct. It developed from our need to care for vulnerable babies, who require years of nurturing. This made us a super-caregiving species, which—from one generation to the next—rewired and refined our nervous systems. Compassion and kindness are so much a part of the human blueprint that they are “embedded into the folds of our brains,” as the researcher and academic Dacher Keltner puts it. We are wired to care.

How a person expresses this exceptional capacity depends on unique life experiences, because the reality is that aggression and competition are part of our evolutionary legacy too. So is fear. Lucky for us, we can influence our hardwiring. It begins with an awareness of your kind nature, and it is expressed in a commitment to exercise “soft skills.”

Triggering Positive Emotions

One of the biggest challenges in today’s world is stress. Many of us spend the majority of our time working—and the workplace can be a crucible for discontent. Organizational cultures that value performance and outcomes over other human factors result in disengaged employees and low morale. Chronic stress develops when the body doesn’t have time to rest and readjust. You feel worn down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experts explain that the stress response and its attending negative emotions narrow your focus to immediate action. You can become small-minded and mean without even realizing it, as you snap at people, become overly or undeservedly critical, and in general share your negative outlook.

On the other hand, positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson tells us that positive emotions “broaden and build” your inner resources over time, so they serve you well, especially in hard times. They trigger the body’s self-soothing system, and you feel safer and calmer. You become able to rest, restore, and revise your mindset toward expansiveness, generosity, love, and kindness.

Making Room for What Feels Uncomfortable

But it’s not always easy to maintain an upbeat attitude or feel optimistic when it seems like there is one crisis after the next. We’ve buried our intuitive and natural capacity for connection and caring underneath a superficial but tenacious drive for ratings and rankings. “As we become more obsessed with succeeding, or at least surviving, in that world, we lose touch with our souls and disappear in our roles,” wrote Parker J. Palmer in A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life.

The Kindness Cure, Tara Cousineau’s new book, comes out this February 2018.

Part of leadership is learning to develop a “window of tolerance.” This means being able to acknowledge the uncomfortable sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise in response to hyper-competitive and performance-oriented pressure. Rather than avoiding the discomfort, or judging our inner reactions harshly, we allow room for clarity, understanding and self-compassion. We can seek support, too. This allows for the cultivation of resilience in the face of difficulty. It requires having honest conversations with others. Researcher Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “To reignite creativity, innovation and learning, leaders must rehumanize education and work.” This require courageous leadership and having a process for engaged feedback.

Trending Toward Kind Leadership

The good news is that a paradigm shift is occurring in organizations that elevate the essentiality of “soft skills” from preschools to Fortune 50 companies. Rasmus Hougaard is the founder of The Potential Project and has culled data that shines a glaring light on a global leadership crisis. In spite of $46 billion that is spent on leadership training annually, there is much suffering in organizations. Only 13% of the global workforce is engaged and 82% of employees think their leaders aren’t doing a good job. In one study, 35% of employees would forgo a pay raise to see a leader fired.

Hougaard has assembled the results of The Mind of the Leader project with Harvard Business Review based on surveys with 35,000 managers and interviews with 250 CEOs from all over the world. The upshot? Leadership development has it backwards. Managers and executives are incessantly drilled in how to drive the bottom line with an intense focus on external factors to the exclusion of other essential skills.

Moreover, people in positions of power tend to interrupt others, fail to clean up after themselves, and ignore the experiences of others. If leaders don’t have ability to manage themselves first, he contends, they are missing an integral quality in leadership. They are missing the prosocial skills described above. Hougaard describes the top 3 key qualities of an impactful leader:

  • Mindfulness vs. Distraction. Leaders who are present know how to pay attention and stay focused.
  • Selflessness vs. Self-interest.  Leaders who learn to get out of their own way are better able take into account the perspectives and experiences of others and they hold an expanded view of company goals, mission and culture.
  • Compassion vs. Corruption. Compassionate leaders are not weak pushovers but are strong, purposeful, and caring. “Wise compassion” is a sweet spot where intelligence and compassion overlap.

He likens the failure in leadership to building the roof of a house before the foundation. Quoting from one of the CEOs interviewed, Hougaard summarizes the current state of leadership in one line: “Leadership is unlearning management and relearning being a human being.”

I think of my daughter up there on a church podium, so nervous yet earnest. She had already intuitively understood what no business school could teach her about leadership: a presence of heart. The key for Josie, and all of us, is to remember what it means to be a human being—no matter how small or large her country may turn out to be.

Tara Cousineau, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, meditation teacher, well-being researcher, and social entrepreneur. She has received numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovative Research program and is affiliated with the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at Cambridge Health Alliance in Somerville, MA. Learn more about her new book, THE KINDNESS CURE (February 2018, New Harbinger Press).

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Valarie Kaur Wants Us to Reclaim Love as a Revolutionary Act. But How?

If you don’t know who Valarie Kaur is, you absolutely should. Kaur is a civil rights activist, lawyer, award-winning filmmaker, faith leader, and educator. She is also the founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, an organization that “produces stories, tools, curricula, conferences, films, and mass mobilizations rooted in the ethic of love.” Originally hailing from Clovis, California, where her family settled as Sikh farmers in 1913, Kaur was first mobilized after the murder of a family friend in a hate crime following 9/11. She has since become a prominent Sikh American voice and community leader. Take a look at her recent talk at TEDWomen 2017, where she urges us to reclaim love as revolutionary act.

Parker J. Palmer will join Kaur onstage for a dialogue at Revolutionary Love Conference 2018, a conference taking place from April 6-8 in New York City. For more information, click here.

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Where Does Joy Fit In to Courage?

We’re claiming 2018 as a year of courage. As our new book, The Courage Way, arrives in the world this week, may it expand your sense of courage and possibility.

We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.

~Ranier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

A researcher named Monica Worline introduced me to this image of Kitty Tatch and her companion, dancing on a small outcropping of rock that juts over a crevasse in Yosemite National Park. In their long dresses and tall hats, circa 1895, they playfully pose, feet thrown high into the air, hands clasped together over their heads. Somewhere below, photographer George Fiske captures their vulnerability and daring. So tiny and energetic against a sea of rugged terrain, they exude vitality and freedom, as if dancing on the brink of social change itself.

Courage, is almost always discussed in relation to fear. Where, in our understanding of courage, do we make sense of such soaring joy?

What moments of love, play, and being your whole self have called forth a joyful kind of courage?

What cliff edge might you be dancing on these days? Who are your companions?

As February unfolds, this month of the heart, remember that courage comes from the French word coeur (heart) and also from the Latin fortitudo (fortitude). Courage comes from strength of heart. What will fortify your heart this month?

Shelly FrancisWith gratitude and courage,

Shelly L. Francis
Marketing & Communications Director
and author of The Courage Way

P.S. Courage & Renewal programs offer places and practices to fortify your courage, connecting you with other people in authentic ways.

Today’s blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment e-newsletter. If you’re not a subscriber yet, sign up so you don’t miss anything!


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Finding Direction and Purpose in Times of Transition

I discovered the Center for Courage & Renewal through a couple of odd coincidences. My own 40-year reunion class of Carleton College, 2016, had sent out Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak. While I read the book and was intrigued and interested, it was really a second nudge—or coincidence or sign—that gave me the push to come to the Courage & Renewal Academy for Leaders.

I was reading “Table for Two,” a study by the Management Assistance Group of founders who stay in their organizations in different roles after they step down from leading their organizations. That was the process I had been undergoing myself.  In the “Table for Two” study, there is a tantalizing footnote about Parker Palmer’s work to develop “Clearness Committees” and how helpful these committees could be in answering a “focus person’s” deep personal questions about how to manage one’s life direction and live with integrity and balance.

I decided a “clearness committee” was exactly what I needed to launch the next phase of my professional life. I was 62 years old. I wanted to make the most of the 10 to 20 years of leadership that I hoped I still had left. I was quite confused as to how best to achieve an integrated life that was filled with meaning and purpose but still allowed me balance and joy. In fact, I didn’t trust myself at all to be able to manage my own professional transition into the new role.

You see, I’m a lawyer and a workaholic. I’m a person who takes on the world and leaves little time for myself. I did not know that some of my lack of balance would subtly start to change in November 2016, a most cataclysmic time for me personally and for our nation.

The leadership academy retreat I signed up for happened to start two days after the Presidential election. Like many of the other people who came to that particular retreat, I arrived in a state of shock and fear. How could I navigate the totally new landscape in this new political reality?

The Courage & Renewal Academy for Leaders proved to be the perfect solution to the internal crisis and the national crisis we all were facing, but it was an unexpected one. And the Leadership Academy, surprisingly, set me on a clear path forward out of the many conflicting tensions I felt, and still feel.

$400 Early Bird discount if registered by Feb. 1!
2018 Academy for Leaders in PA

Retreat 1: Apr. 12-15, 2018
Monthly Calls: May – Oct.
Retreat 2: Nov. 1-4, 2018

The Academy does not work by magic. Nor does it work by navel gazing. It brings the basic principles of Parker Palmer’s life work, principles in his book A Hidden Wholeness, to concrete individual application in the here and now. And the results in my case, while hardly complete, were both gradual and revolutionary.

At the retreat itself, I was so overwhelmed with fear about the future that I had to opt out of being the focus person.  What I found, however, is that by opting out of that role, I gained a stronger ability to listen and ask honest, open questions. This in turn has caused a subtle, sometimes-imperceptible change in my approach to working with others in a community. The Center’s teaching of the practice of listening and trying to frame open and honest questions is transformative by itself.

It was during the session on Paradox at the first retreat, however, that I had a flash of insight that I have spoken about to many other people since. It was in that session that I saw clearly that there were great possibilities for action in the world that I was in a unique and privileged position to start to lead.

For many years, I had been working with people on both the right and the left in child welfare reform cases, including in the Supreme Court.  I had lived through and navigated tensions—call them mine fields—between right and left approaches to the child welfare system, constantly struggling with how to make our issues understood by the larger community.

(At Camreta Argument outside the Supreme Court.)

In addition to working in this space of tension, my own family was a space of deep right/left polarity. Since I stood in the middle between these poles, I realized suddenly that I was in a position to actually try to do something to bridge what Parker Palmer calls the “tragic gap.”

Besides, what else did I have to do?   I had been looking for direction and purpose. I believed that the only way out of the terrible conflicts our country was experiencing was to start bipartisan dialogue. The flash of insight during the session on Paradox gave me an immediate sense of purpose and answers. It moved me to actual courage and renewal all at once.

I decided that my own calling was to start a bipartisan child welfare reform dialogue.  I saw that I had the ability and the courage to do this very hard thing, and my self-reflection and resources from Center helped me manage a host of obstacles in my path, mostly of my own making. I began a process that has gelled into a new organization, United Family Advocates. This process led, eventually to a new professional home for me that will allow me to achieve the goal I had going into the retreat: creating meaning and purpose, balanced with joy and a clearer role for my own self in the process of working to change the world for the better.

Since November 2016, I have experienced a time of great personal challenge and change, but through it, the sense of reflection and alignment of purposes and self has given me help beyond measure. I cannot recommend the Courage & Renewal Academy for Leaders strongly enough.

Diane L. Redleaf has been a nationally-respected child and family civil rights advocate for nearly 40-year-long legal career. The founder of the Family Defense Center in Chicago in 2005 and now the Legal Director at the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, Diane has led litigation, legislative and policies projects on behalf of families in the child welfare system, creating many innovative programs and establishing constitutional protections for hundreds of thousands of families in America. Diane enjoys writing (and is working on her first book, They Took the Kids Last Night, to be published in 2018) music, comedy, theater, and walks in nature with her family and friends. Learn more here.

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The Inner Life of Boys and Men

My father turned eighty-three last April. Having had a stroke six years prior, he’d been in steady physical decline, progressing more rapidly within the year leading to his birthday. I’d notice him walk a little slower and his ability to communicate was slipping from his grasp. He could only speak in simple terms and by evening grew weary of formulating words. His handwriting shaky, he would ask me to address envelopes for him. Much time was spent in his chair in front of the television and he’d frequently drift to sleep during the day.

While visiting my dad over his birthday, I went to one of the parks along the St. Lawrence River, a man’s meticulous movements caught my eye. The metal detector in his hand swept across brown grass searching for coins, keys, or other trinkets lost through winter. His rhythmic sweeping would occasionally register static in his headphones and using a kind of garden knife he’d unearth the metallic material: items both mundane and profound. I was riveted by his methodical persistence, he seemed to me in meditation. Watching him, I considered The Inner Lives of Boys and Men, a Circle of Trust I was preparing to co-lead for Courage & Renewal facilitators the following month. I wondered if this man’s work was his socially acceptable way to be immersed in a contemplative life.

Pause, Unplug and Explore Your Life’s Big Questions
Courage to Lead for Young Leaders & Activists

Applications Due Feb 16

Next retreat begins
May 3-5, 2018
in Nova Scotia, Canada

In my twenties, I lived in Northern Ontario, a very rural and hardscrabble part of Canada. I grew to know a man who worked at a failing uranium mine scheduled to close, leaving him searching for employment in a very depressed area. He partially sustained his family
of seven through hunting. Though he loved the act of tracking deer and moose beneath the rustle of autumn foliage, he hated to kill. I’ve since met other hunters who have expressed a similar disdain for killing. Hunting has become an excuse for their inner life’s longing, to be immersed in the solitude of nature.

A First Responder has described to me that he “puts on an iron skin” to protect himself from the horrors of what he might encounter in his job. In his field, there is little tolerance for showing one’s emotional self, and he’ll often forget to remove this armor after work.

I recall silent car rides with my father and how rare it would be that we’d have a conversation deeper than weather reports. Perhaps we both lacked the skills and vulnerability to communicate authentically with each other. In the rare moments where we did dive a little deeper, the few words he’d offer were often profound.

How are men finding ways to tap into the solitude and community necessary for them to have a rich inner life? How are they finding courageous ways to express their true and full emotional selves in spite of the enormous social pressures and toxic masculinity, that still say this is not okay? Vulnerability, fragility, and a rich inner life are
not words often associated with the culture of men and boys.

During The Inner Lives of Boys and Men, many in the circle shared deeply about their own experiences as men, or the men and boys in their lives. As we explored the Script of Masculinity—those social expectations that define what it means to be a man—we recognized the complexity of masculinity in the 21st century: there is not just one way to be a man, rather a plethora of masculinities and ways that men show up in the world.

Despite a slow cultural shift towards a more compassionate and healthy masculinity, there is an entrenched story that continues to show itself too frequently in ways that are damaging, painful, and literally death dealing. As this archaic embodiment of masculinity hangs on, it denies emotions, except for anger and humour. It encourages violence and aggression as a means to solve problems and it discourages the skills necessary to allow boys and men to share their vulnerabilities with others. In Canada, four out of five deaths by suicide are committed by men, approximately 3,000 a year, or the equivalent of seven Boeing 777s crashing.

Parker J. Palmer writes, “Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our own suffering. Sometimes we visit violence upon others, as if causing them pain would mitigate our own.” It is often this separation of men and boys from their inner lives, that brings suffering to them, their partners, their families, and the communities that surround them.

Though it is common for men to gather, they are not often provided with opportunities, permission, or the skills to connect meaningfully and explore their inner lives. In creating Circles of Trust for men and boys, we create spaces for bravery, where sharing one’s inner truth is witnessed with compassion by other males. These rare moments in a man’s life are opportunities for emotional release, without judgment, and a chance to listen deeply to their own and each other’s pain and joy.

What I have witnessed is that men and boys, starved of genuine connections, have a voracious appetite for these explorations and to be seen in their wholeness. I have frequently heard from men, of all ages, that a circle like this was the first time they’d been able to share their story as men, with other men. These opportunities to share true
self, require courage, trust and fortitude. Unfortunately, men and boys connecting authentically with themselves and each other is still counter cultural.

My father died this past summer. The day we made the decision to move him to the palliative care unit, I found him in a rare moment of mental clarity. Looking deeply into his eyes and summoning my own courage, I told him what was happening, and that soon he would die. He’d completely lost his speech by now and so only raised his eyebrows in response.

Numerous men who worked in the plant he managed for thirty years, showed up at his deathbed and the funeral, and easily shared what a tremendous mentor he’d been in their lives. Still, other men expressed that for a son to lose his father was the greatest loss. Though I was at odds with many of my father’s traditional expressions of masculinity, he was my first and most consistent male role model. As a young man in my twenties, when I journeyed to search for and uncover my own inner life, without fail my father would pick me up or drop me at airports, train stations and bus depots. In these moments of
departure or arrival, he would always hug me and tell me he loved me.

Brian Braganza is a Courage & Renewal Facilitator and experiential educator specializing in vocational counselling,  masculinity, and youth engagement. He supports a wide diversity of youth and young adults to live into their vocational call and have meaningful roles and voices in their communities. Brian delivers experiential programs for men and boys, which builds their abilities to connect authentically and live into their wholeness. He co-designed T.O.N.E., Therapy Outside Normal Environments, a unique men’s therapeutic project. Brian lives in a straw-bale home he built on an old farm near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and is also a wilderness traveler, poet and songwriter.



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How will you measure your courage this year?

How will you measure this year in your life?

In the truths you discover? How about love? Or courage?

Let’s make this a whole year of courage — and then some!


It takes 10,000 hours, they say,
to become a virtuoso.
10,000 hours of scales,
of drills, of stretching
toward the details of a dream.
10,000 hours of honing
the muscles to their
finest fibers, until mastery
becomes a native language,
engraved below thinking,
instinctive as your own
heart’s rhythm.
10,000 hours.
Which explains why my hand
finds yours so perfectly,
interlacing so exactly,
even in sleep.

Lynn Ungar, from “Bread and Other Miracles

We’re human beings ’round the clock, 525,600 minutes a year. The “Seasons of Love” song and this poem feel like blessings for the new year. It’s as if they say, “May it be possible to speak our heart’s language, even in our sleep. May we trust in ourselves and each other to love well, despite all that’s hard.”

Who and what can you count on this year?

What really counts in your life?

How might you count on your courage?

This year, we invite you to explore ideas and practices that can fortify and sustain you for your wholehearted work in the world. On February 6th we will launch our new book, The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity. Stay tuned and get ready to kick off your own conversations about things that matter — like courage, true self, trust, and community.

Warmest regards,


Shelly Francis
Marketing & Communications Director
and author of The Courage Way

Courage & Renewal programs are a place to learn practices that connect you to your inner wisdom and to other people, fortifying your heart for real life and leadership.

mail iconToday’s blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment e-newsletter. If you’re not a subscriber yet, sign up so you don’t miss anything!


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Finding Tempo Giusto

I’m what you would call a typical morning person. My energy peaks before noon. For night-owls, this behavior is a total mystery. I’m equally in awe of those who are able to have intellectual conversations after 9 o’clock pm. I prefer watching the sun rise. Ideas flow easily pre-dawn, and I treasure the spaciousness of uninterrupted time when most people are still sleeping.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a new trend: my body is wanting more rest. The sun is rising later too. At first, I resisted this idea. I’m a morning person after all! I need that time for sipping coffee and puttering to begin my day. I feel rushed without it. When I open my eyes, the message is clear. Go back to sleep. I feel a tension, as I also hear: There’s so much to do! The end of the year is coming!  Holidays are here! You’re wasting time.

The universe delivered an unexpected gift this week in the form of an email from a past workshop participant. Dr. Paul Richards, the Superintendent of the American School of Dubai wrote, “What’s next? We are intrigued by the concept of tempo giusto, that everything has its optimal speed (fast, moderate, or slow). What should be slow about schooling? We believe: thinking, learning, feedback, planning, visioning, reading and writing.” Wow!  I love this idea!

Not only is tempo giusto a musical term meaning ‘exact time’ but also an expression that rolls easily off the tongue in Italian. Of course, the Italians have a phrase that defines optimal time. In Italy, most of the country takes a break in the middle of the day to eat and rest. Slowing down is part of the culture. Children return home from school mid-day to have lunch with their families. People pause. A tempo giusto.

Paul’s email had me wondering. Is there a natural rhythm to all things? Are humans the only species that place artificial constraints on time, interrupting a natural flow? Aside from sleeping longer, what is my body telling me about pacing? I know I’d like to pass quickly through pain and anxiety. I’d prefer for my daughter’s temper tantrums to run their course without lingering. On the other hand, could we please slow things down when she is writing a letter to the tooth fairy?

In our dominant culture, I feel a quickening upon us. I expect instant feedback to social media posts. I send and receive emails at all times of day, even on the weekends. I’m actually eating at my desk right now, as I write this.

Certainly, there are things that remind me of my own time if I’m open to seeing them. Geese flying overhead. Reading a poem. Listening to a babbling brook. These are not static acts, they all involve movement and they all have their own pace. Otherwise, the goose would cease to be in formation, the poem wouldn’t be understood, and the river would either overflow or dry up.

As we approach the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, I’m paying attention to time. I’m sleeping in with a little less guilt, and I’m gaining awareness that while busy-ness has become a badge of honor in our society, I can still look to the goose, the poem, and the brook, for gentle reminders of my own tempo giusto.

Tara Reynolds – aside from being an early riser – finds joy in being near the ocean, walking in the woods during a snowstorm, and snuggling under the covers while reading books with her daughter, Nadia. She is a Courage & Renewal Facilitator and a Co-Founder of WholeHeart

Consider exploring your own inner knowing and timing: January 25-28, 2018 for a Circle of Trust Retreat: Rekindling the Light Within with Tara and Holly.  

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The Courage to Be Vulnerable Comes from Community

When I first applied to attend the Courage to Lead for Young Leaders and Activists retreat, I had also just learned that I was selected from thousands of applicants to speak at TedX Toronto 2017.  Although I was passionate and knowledgable about my topic, I was a bit nervous. The Young Leaders retreat gave me new Courage and clarity to show up fully—not just on stage but in my work since.

Courage to Lead for Young Leaders and Activists was a life-changing retreat for me. There I was able to see in the facilitators the type of leader I wanted to become.  They led our group with such grace and humility that I felt safe and engaged from the moment I attended the first session.

This retreat allowed me to connect with other young leaders across North America as we embarked on a meaningful, intentional, spiritual journey together.  We will forever have a bond with one another.

Pause, Unplug and Explore Your Life’s Big Questions
Courage to Lead for Young Leaders & Activists

Applications Due Feb 16

Next retreat begins
May 3-5, 2018
in Nova Scotia, Canada

Connecting to my inner teacher was something I only read about until this retreat.  At the Courage to Lead retreat I was able to connect to the depths of my soul which allowed me to get some much need clarity on what lies ahead in my future.

If you are someone looking to connect with others and yourself on a deeper level I highly recommend this retreat. Change your lens, change your life.

Nastassia Subban has been an elementary and secondary school teacher with the Toronto District School Board for 11 years, teaching Contemporary Studies, Physical Education, and History. Recently, she has been seconded to the Faculty of Education at York University, where she is currently a Course Director for teacher candidates. With a passion for social justice, education, and equity, Subban was selected to be a curriculum writer and reviewer for Africentric pilot curriculums for Ontario Secondary School courses. Moreover, she was a founding member of the non-profit organization, Educators for Social Change, which ran a successful young female mentorship program for students across the GTA. Subban’s years of experience working as a teacher, along with her passion for helping and guiding others, inspires her to explore the untouched topic on teaching and vulnerability. She spoke at TedX Toronto 2017.

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What grounds you in hope?

Unknowingly, we plow the dust of stars,
blown about us by the wind, and drink the
universe in a glass of rain.
~Ihab Hassan

I’ve always found Solstice times to be deeply grounding. Something about placing ourselves in the larger universe of ongoing cycles of change and renewal helps me put my own life and challenges in perspective.

For some the days are growing longer and for others shorter; for those who are ready to let go of the doldrums of winter there is the promise of new life and for those at the height of summer there is the reminder that there is also beauty in darkness. I find it fascinating that something so predictable can still feel miraculous.

At a recent conference I attended I heard this sage comment: “Both faith and fear require belief in something you can’t see: pick one.”

When I get lost in the daily reminders of hate, ignorance, violence and greed, the fear takes hold. Grounding myself in the universe’s deep assurance of renewal and rebirth liberates me to see the kindness in everyday acts, the persistence of resistance against divisions, the inspiration of creativity in many forms.

We are but a speck of dust in time and place, and yet each of us contains the majesty and miracle of life itself.
What grounds you in hope at this time of year?

In faith and in courage,

Terasa Cooley
Executive Director

P.S. Courage & Renewal programs offer places and practices that help us show up with courage in hard times.

mail iconToday’s blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment e-newsletter. If you’re not a subscriber yet, sign up so you don’t miss anything!


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Coming Soon to Bookstores Near You!

I’m excited to announce that our next book from the Center for Courage & Renewal is being printed now and shipping to bookstores in a few weeks! The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity is a guide to leadership that shows how to access and draw upon courage in all that you do.

How do we equip and sustain ourselves to adapt and thrive in a world that feels so volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous? Having more courage might seem like an obvious answer, but it’s not always clear how to find and sustain the kind of courage you need on any given day.

Based on interviews with more than 120 people, The Courage Way illustrates how leaders have overcome personal and professional challenges and strengthened their organizations by applying the principles and practices of Courage & Renewal.

Check out the special website we created to spread the word about our new book. We will be adding reader resources, stories, and downloads.

Be Part of Our “Street Team!

  1. Get a sneak peek and share the sample chapter, including the Foreword by Parker J. Palmer.
  2. Share your favorite book quotes on social media.
  3.  Pre-order the book or ask your favorite local bookstore to stock it.

The book’s launch date is Tuesday, February 6th!  Stay tuned for more news as the date approaches.


To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.
—Rollo May

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