May 14, 2013
If I was a work of art… This prompt inspired a young poet who has since inspired us and perhaps will encourage you, too!
If I was a work of art
I would be a picture of the wind
The wind, sort of light blue,
really hard and strong.
I would be blowing away
blowing toward love.
When people see the picture
they would know
I was going the right direction
instead of the wrong one.
Thorndyke Elementary After School Program
Writes of Passage Poetry Class with Vicky Edmonds
We invite you to share this poem and questions with someone:
- If you were a work of art, what would you be?
- As with all poems, the words are so wise. How does knowing the poet was in 3rd grade affect you?
- What would your inner 9-year old say to you today?
Where is this young poet now, a decade older?
In 2003 Anthony participated in an after-school poetry writing class taught by Vicky Edmonds. Vicky brought Anthony to a 2003 Gathering of Courage to Teach participants in Seattle with other young poets to share his poem and it continues to be used by teachers and Courage & Renewal facilitators who were in that room that day.
We were so curious about how this wise young soul is doing a decade later, we tracked him down. Anthony is now a freshman on an athletic scholarship to Trinity Lutheran College and studying to be an athletic trainer. Though he hasn’t written another poem, he has excelled as a track and field athlete, winning awards in long jump in particular. When he signed on to Trinity’s team, his coach Matt Koenigs told reporters “To find this combination of character, work ethic and athletic ability in someone is not common – Anthony fits so well with the vision I have for what we are building. I could not have asked for a better person in our first jumper.” And now, a year later, Koenigs tells us “He's been fantastic to have on the team--he brings a great work ethic and a wonderful attitude with him to practice every day.”
We asked Anthony where he finds his courage and strength.
“My dad’s a big motivation in my life. With everything I’m doing, he helps me and gives me the strength to do things. Without him I wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
We never know how our contact with others ripples out into the world over many years. Even for a nine year old.
Thank you, Anthony!
Today's post was a mirror of our Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.
by David Kopacz (May 9, 2013)
I recently attended the conference/retreat “Integrity in Health Care: The Courage to Lead in a Changing Landscape.” I arrived there in the usual state for me, tired, stressed and struggling to balance all of my clinical and administrative responsibilities with the rest of my life.
I work as a psychiatrist and as Clinical Director at an inpatient/residential psychiatric rehabilitation program with a population of treatment-resistant clients and a staff group that is going through union action. I took on the job hoping that I could bring a holistic approach to foster recovery and rehabilitation for clients and well-being for the staff, but I am not sure how successful I have been with either the clients or the staff. Many days feel like a constant barrage of worries and concerns about clients, staff and a never-ending stream of emails.
What I found at the conference was not any easy answer or magic solution to my daily worries. What I did find was a chance to reflect on my own situation with a group of supportive facilitators and participants. Having this time and space allowed me to connect more deeply to myself as well as to connect with other health professionals struggling with similar demands. As a result of the conference I felt more hopeful, less alone and that I had more inner and outer resources to bring to my daily work.
I think one of the most damaging aspects of our work in health care is the despair that comes from trying to do good work in systems that, directly or indirectly, seem to inhibit good work. We thus have systems in which everyone is working hard, yet no one feels good about the work that they are doing.
The conference was structured around Parker Palmer’s “Five Habits of the Heart,” from his book Healing the Heart of Democracy. These habits are: understanding we are all in this together; an appreciation of the value of “otherness;” the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways; a sense of personal voice and agency; and the capacity to create community.
For me this boiled down to developing a sense of internal connection and cohesion while also developing connection to others and building community. This led me to reflect that if we can hold the inevitable tensions between individual and community in life-giving ways, the personal growth and well-being of the individual can contribute to the complexity and health of the community.
The idea of embracing tension rather than trying to eliminate it got me thinking of the tension in my own work and life. If I can shift my perspective toward daily stress and tension as a life-giving energy for work instead of as a drain and impediment to my work, perhaps I can more skillfully support the growth of a therapeutic community at the rehabilitation center where I work. The concept of a therapeutic community is that no one individual has responsibility for solving the problems that arise in the community, rather the work is done in open discussion between all members of the community.
Palmer’s habits of the heart serve as an excellent guide for this kind of work by valuing the individual and the community and by seeing the tension as a source of life energy. To me, this was the most useful concept from the conference, that stress and tension can be re-framed and used for positive work.
This concept of holding tension between opposites, rather than trying to have one opposite (e.g., hope) overpower the other opposite (e.g., despair) allows for a complex and systemic approach to complex and systemic problems. The idea of tension being life-giving rather than something to get rid of reminds me of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung's approach to the problem of opposites, that there is a “unifying third” that unites the opposites into a higher order of meaning.
We can look at integrity as the “unifying third” that comes from holding the reality of despair about contemporary health care and the need and fact of hope. In practice, integrity is generated from embracing the despair and the hope in contemporary health care.
Where does this hope come from? I found hope when I looked into the eyes of the facilitators and participants at the conference. I found it when I looked into myself. Hope is there, it is a living thing. It is just that there is also so much despair that it is easy to lose sight of hope. Hope is intrinsic to the very idea of health care. We all went into this field because we felt that something hopeful could be done in the world.
I'd like to return to this idea of tension being “life-giving.” The image that came to me was of the poles of a magnet. Electromagnetic lines of force emanate in complex and systemic ways around the negative and positive poles of the magnet. These electromagnetic fields create energy that can be used for work. Cancellation of either the negative or positive pole leads to a collapse of the energy and an inability to do work.
To move from the metaphor back to our discussion of hope and despair, it is quite apparent that if despair eclipses hope no work can be done. (I will leave the opposite statement of what happens when hope eclipses despair to the metaphysicians, as this does not appear to be an immediate risk in health care.) If this metaphor holds, we can shift our attitudes toward the reality of despair and let go of our desire to eliminate it. Instead, we can view it as a powerful generator of energy and work when it is in a tension-filled relationship with hope.
We do not need any help to find sources of despair to feed this life-giving tension. However, we do need to periodically renew our sources of hope. Luckily these can be found when we pause in life and look within and look to others who are doing hopeful work. One great place to pause is at an “Integrity in Health Care” retreat.
This conference was not a passive, one-way exchange of information from the facilitators to the participants. We had ample time for personal reflection and small and large group work. The facilitators were compassionate and skillful in stimulating discussion and reflection to promote individual and group work. The other participants were inspirational in their personal honesty, their humanitarian drive to alleviate suffering and the creative ways that they were doing clinical and administrative work.
I remember one small group where we discussed how we can facilitate individual and group reflection in busy health care environments. We spoke about mindfulness and poetry as ways to accomplish this. This discussion was very helpful for me and I take away a particular commitment to have more poetry in my life as I find it ignites a dimension in me that I often push on the back burner. As the poet and translator of sacred texts, Juan Mascaró, writes:
“The appreciation of a poem is an act of creation whereby we go towards the greater life that created the poem. An expansion of life.”
There is another tension in health care between the poetry of medicine and the science of medicine. We work in a time when the science (and the business) of medicine often obscure the poetic value in our work. Mascaró further writes that:
“There is inner observation and experiment and outer observation and experiment. From the first comes poetry and spiritual vision and all human values; from the second science and technology.”
What I take away from this conference is an enhanced ability to hold this tension between inner and outer observation and experiment, which allows human values and science to co-exist in the delivery of health care. Practically, this means I have a renewed sense of self-connection, a stronger sense of community and more hope from the work that others are doing in health care. With a handful of poems and a heart-full of hope, I return to my daily life and work.
David Kopacz is a psychiatrist who is currently in a place of life-giving tension between his job as Clinical Director at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre in Auckland, New Zealand and his family's upcoming move to Seattle, Washington. His blog beingfullyhuman.com focuses on living an integrated life and his website davidkopacz.com displays his poetry, photography, painting and writing as well as information on his soon to be released book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice and the Culture of Medicine, due out in the second half of 2013.
by Carrie Newcomer (May 7, 2013)
Three times this winter I walked my old dog, Sophie, to the veil between this world and the next. But each time we stood at the threshold, she lifted her graying head, looked at the thing, and thought better of it. She peered into the mystery and decided to walk back to her memory foam bed and daily walks to the creek and meadow just beyond the barn.
It has been a hard winter for an old dog, the cold and ache of the season settling into her tired bones. For sixteen years, which is nearly 592 in dog years, she has placed her forehead against my chest, pressing it to the warmth and sturdiness of my sternum in quiet communion.
With each near death excursion my heart has felt the wailings of loss. Each time I said goodbye and told her it was all right to let go. Each time I have assured her that she’d done everything a good dog could possibly do in one life. But each time she has said, “Oh God of meadows and woods and good dogs, grant me one more walk in the green, one more good sniffing of the meadow, one more pressing of my forehead in wordless love.” And each time the God of meadows and woods and good dogs has heard and answered with a kindly, “Yes, this time.”
I’ve learned a lot from this old friend, who without embarrassment or shame has asked me three times to walk with her to the edge of eternity, and then walk back. She takes help and does not feel she is unworthy or ashamed of receiving what is given in love. She has no ledger sheet of give and take. How hard it is for me to ask for help, even when I sorely need it. I worry about imposing. I wonder if I’m putting too much on that side of the accounts. In my darkest days, I have even feared I did not deserve such generosities. She lets me help. She allows me to feel useful and present with her, which enlarges my life and enlarges my spirit. This is a reminder to me that giving and receiving are not two sides of a coin, but rather interlocking pieces of a complete and whole heart.
She is grateful, and when her ability to run and swim left her, she was happy to walk, and then walk slower. She does not grieve what she does not have. She loves what is directly in front of her. She does not miss the show worrying whether or not she has the best seat. How many times did I hold tight long beyond the time to let go? How many times have mistakenly equated what I have with who I am? The life of a dog is now. A dog is grateful for what is, which I am finding to be the soundest kind of wisdom and very good theology.
In the taking of these three journeys, I have observed in myself an increasing inner calm and quietness of spirit. Our first trip to the doorway was filled with the buzzing white noise of grief. The second trip was very much the same. The third trip I started to hear something beyond the buzzing, a clear space, as quiet and smooth as still water. At first I thought I might be becoming numb.
How much white noise can a person sustain until the ears must be covered? But this calm is not about me closing down, but rather, opening up to her last gift to me. I have passed through the white noise of loss and the human desire to grasp and hold on to her. I have watched her go to the river, dip in a toe and walk back – but not because she was afraid of what was to come, or a sense of feeling entitled to more. She walked back simply because it was not yet time.
In the fullness of time we will all cross the river, and life gives us no guarantees to when or how this will happen. But this old friend has shown me how to sit in the sun, how to take one more walk in the green, enjoy one more good sniffing of the meadow. She has shown me how to love the now and be grateful for what is, and catch a glimpse of the shining brightness of daily things, which can only be seen in the awareness of limited time.
And finally, as this day closes as gently as she closes her eyes, she shows me the quiet place where I can press my own weary head into the welcoming sternum of something made wholly of Light.
TELL US: What have you learned from your animal companions?
One of our longtime friends and supporters, singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer has been collaborating for several years with Parker J. Palmer to create an evening concert and day-long retreat experience. Both events are designed to encourage a new kind of political conversation—one that bridges our divides and helps restore civic community. Their next event is July 27 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa - click here for details. Download a general flyer. Learn more about Carrie's music and work: www.carrienewcomer.com.
Part Two: Guest blog by Brian Braganza (April 2013), Nova Scotia
Brian is in our 2013 Courage & Renewal Facilitator Preparation program
Students becoming certified in Sustainability Leadership connect two concepts to help them find and sustain their own passion.
I recently completed the facilitation of a three-weekend Sustainability Leadership Certificate (SLC) program with 2nd to 4th year students in Dalhousie University's College of Sustainability (by the way, they are at the other end of the young adult spectrum to the first group I described in the earlier post—the SLC students are self motivated, passionate about social/environmental change, active and very literate).
During the module I presented the Courage & Renewal concept of the Tragic Gap. Using my recent hike in the Grand Canyon as a metaphor (the Greatest of Gaps on the continent!) I shared the Tragic Gap from a sustainability perspective: (1) the Harsh Reality is the Unsustainability story of peak oil, runaway climate change, social and community disconnections, and economic decline (etc.); and (2) a Real Life Possibility as the Sustainability story of alternative energy, fossil fuel alternatives, peaceful and engaged community building, and alternative economic systems (etc.).
Within Sustainability literature there are five competencies associated this kind of leadership for change work. One of my colleagues, who I'm facilitating with (and a great systems thinker), was able to link all five competencies into my Tragic Gap/Grand Canyon story! So we used the Tragic Gap AND the competences to synthesize the three modules and the training tools we have provided. It was very awesome how it all came together.
These students suffer from a bombardment of too much “Harsh Reality” and when we met them in October a number of them were already burned out, depressed and felt hopeless. The Tragic Gap was a key moment for a number of students in letting go of the need to tackle all the problems of the Harsh Reality head on, and rather, hold the tension in between and maintain their positive vision. Through this program and its appreciative-action focused approach, they have developed a renewed sense of purpose and mission and are able to see what’s possible.
Listen to Parker Palmer on The Tragic Gap:
Also see news article done for the Dalhousie news service about the SLC program.
Part One: Guest blog by Brian Braganza (April 2013), Nova Scotia. Brian is in our 2013 Courage & Renewal Facilitator Preparation program
At this past February’s Facilitator’s preparation program I put forward the question whether the poems and more linguistic approaches used in Courage & Renewal programs would work with less literate and lower educated populations. Robert Frost helped answer the question.
I am in the midst of working with a group of six young adults on a 10-week employment readiness program. Clients with the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, these 20-25 year olds have multiple barriers to employment and are on social assistance. Some have not completed high- school, some have social anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health and health issues. They are socially isolated, and all of the men are major online gamers. There is a single parent, a transgendered individual, and two are homeless youth living in a supported facility, not in the care of their parents.
And they're all AWESOME! I love them and they are keeping me on my toes. We are using video cameras and archiving heritage skills as a service-learning project for the museum in my town. The purpose is to engage them and provide them with a meaningful work experience and transferable skills—and it's working! Their confidence and ability to interact with others has grown tremendously.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The week after I returned from the Facilitator’s preparation, during some informal time, one young person mentioned The Road Not Taken (he was referring to an episode of a TV show called Fringe). Of course, not having a TV, I responded with "Hey! That's a poem by Robert Frost!" And another participant said, “Robert Frost is my favorite poet.” And then the first person said “Wha? I was talking about the first episode of Fringe.”
So, seizing the opportunity and ignoring the TV reference, I said, “Hey, maybe I'll bring in that poem tomorrow!” Of course the second fellow said “Great! Yeah!” and to me it sounded like more voices chiming in, but likely that was in my hopeful head.
The next morning I printed copies and found a YouTube version of Robert Frost reading The Road Not Taken, so I brought that in, too. They were somewhat stunned at first when I handed the poem around. I got some nose-wrinkles from a few (like “what's this shit”) and one said—“Oh something to kill the time”, and the one who liked Robert Frost, excited, said “Great!” I then played the YouTube clip of Robert Frost and made a joke, “He must be 100 because he sure sounds like that on the clip,” and they laughed, and I knew I had them hooked!
The day before we had four people come in who are working in fields that have some interest to these young people: A graphic designer/sign maker; a chef, a social worker and an office administrator. They shared their experiences with their fields and also some tips on career planning. Some of their key messages in their discussions with the participants were: “You will have many jobs before you land on your career and then you may change that, too”. One actually said “Find the right path, you'll be a better person and do a better service” (a true Courage message!). Also, “take calculated risks” and “do what you enjoy” has become a running gag in our group because all the guests and artisans they’ve met have shared the same notion (more Courage messages!).
Because we had debriefed the visit the previous day and I had a flip chart list of these key messages we heard, I showed them the list and asked “What key messages did you hear that are also in this poem?” And they made some marvelous connections! I then asked, “What stands out for you from the poem? Are there any lines that grab you?” And they had a couple of suggestions! The whole exchange maybe lasted five minutes (given their attention spans). And it was so awesome!
Later in the morning I had two other guests come in for a similar career-path related exchange, and after they left we debriefed again. Some of their insight was “Every job I had has prepared me for the next job" as in Frost’s “way leads on to way.” So I played the poem again! I think my group thought I was a little cracked. But I also think they like me and we've built a relationship over five weeks so I can bring in random things and they humor me. We now joke about having Robert Frost come as one of the guests who visited us!
See Brian’s video story of the young adult employment project:
Stay tuned for Part Two in our next blog post.
by Chip Wood (April 25, 2013)
One great thing about A Year at Mission Hill’s latest video, Chapter 7: Behind the Scenes, is that we actually get to see the honest struggles involved in creating a school where “everyone working together can create a strong learning environment that encourages respect and empathy.” While this is the shared goal we have continually observed at Mission Hill in both the adult and student community, this doesn’t make, as the narrator notes, “the issues children are dealing with simply disappear.”
As a student intern remarks, “There are things going on behind the scenes that I don’t see,” referring to the issues many students may be bringing to school from home or are dealing with in their social interactions in school because of learning differences or behavioral challenges.
We hear and see in this clip that adults at Mission Hill keep their doors open and minds open, knowing that they need and can draw on help and support from each other in empowering ways that cut across job descriptions. Every adult in the community is valued just as every child.
Anthony Bryk and colleagues, in their groundbreaking book, Trust in Schools, and subsequent research, identify the ingredients shared at Mission Hill as “relational trust” -- a mix of respect, competence, personal regard for others and integrity.
At Courage and Renewal we are applying these relational trust principles, along with our Circle of Trust® approach, with schools. Our Leading Together pilot program seeks to more fully address the range of needs in the adult community, knowing the positive impact this can have on student growth and academic outcomes.
Our Leading Together video below provides a glimpse into the first year of this pilot effort that is bringing principals and teacher leaders from ten schools into a shared professional development experience of reflective practice and empowered action. We welcome your comments and inquiries. Click to learn more about Leading Together: Building Adult Community in Schools program.
Lurching forward like a toddler learning to walk—this is how I experience life transitions. It doesn’t feel graceful or balanced and I’m acutely aware of my vulnerability as I lean into each next step. I lurch my way through big things like having a baby or deciding where to plant our family after grad school as well as more quotidian things like offering a new service through Bird in Hand (mini-retreats!), contending with a neighborhood conflict, or managing my own fatigue in the face of a long to do list and a short night’s sleep.
This weekend I left our three little ones and Richie and headed to a gorgeous retreat center on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle hosted by Courage and Renewal. I was deeply restored by the company of wise guides (including Parker Palmer, a favorite author and wisdom teacher) as well as thoughtful peers.
(Photo: Up on a canopy tower. It was wild– so tall it swayed in the wind like a tree top.)
We read poetry, we walked and talked in the woods, we ate ridiculously good food from the onsite garden (and everything was gluten free!) and we talked about the deep stuff of life: how to find the courage to rise up within ourselves and inhabit our own most beautiful and authentic life. Together we explored how to serve and to love in the multiple roles represented — as educators, ministers, social entrepreneurs, community organizers, foundation directors, writers and artists– and how to continually nourish ourselves as we stand in the “tragic gap” between the present moment and the world as we yearn for it to be.
I left the island with a full heart and a new metaphor from Mark Nepo to describe the art of facing change (which is really the art of living– given that change is a constant):
Salmon have much to teach us about the art of facing things. In swimming up waterfalls, these remarkable creatures seem to defy gravity. It is an amazing thing to behold. A closer look reveals a wisdom for all beings who want to thrive.
What the salmon somehow know is how to turn their underside—from center to tail – into the powerful current coming at them, which hits them squarely and the impact then launches them out and further up the waterfall; to which their reaction is, again, to turn their underside back into the powerful current that, of course, again hits them squarely; and this successive impact launches them further out and up the waterfall. Their leaning into what they face bounces them further and further along their unlikely journey. (From The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (2000))
Now my people are not fish people. I was reared in a city which rises like cotton stalks from blackland prairie– the historic land of the longhorns– and a climate often dry and hot. Maybe that is why this description struck me with its freshness.
Honestly it is a bit of a revelation to even claim some of my choices as courageous. I tend to look at myself through a pretty critical pair of glasses (which has to do with my enneagram number but critical self-gazing is a practice many of us share regardless of personality type). When wearing these specs I see myself take a step in a new direction and I’m too busy wishing it had looked like a ballet leap to commend myself for the lurch.
But upon further examination I can see the courage flowing under the surface in such moments. Below the static of anxious thoughts in my head, a squeeze in my heart or tightness in the gut—which seems to be how my body holds the tension of change—I do sense a deeper energy propelling me forward when I honor my core desires and soul truth about the work and life which is called out of me.
I’m no ichthyologist but I imagine it wouldn’t really work if the salmon faced the current with their scaly back– the part of their anatomy more suited to deal with the harshness of a wider world. Somehow it’s the collision between the power inherent in the stream and tender fish belly which propels them onward.
So too in my life I observe this paradox: when I am willing to be vulnerable to the beauty and suffering embedded in the moments of my days and to do the work of positioning myself well amidst these tensions, I experience a holy encounter with the unfiltered power of life. This feels simultaneously like a smack to the core and a leap toward home. And then I regain my senses, hone in again on the direction I am called, and position myself for another blow.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
If not fun exactly this salmon metaphor strikes me as true. And while it can be hard to see the courage within our own lives I definitely see courage flowing through the lives of the people I work with. I see it in the carefully crafted family vows of a couple willing to risk love again in a second marriage and claiming a space to honor and include their children in the wedding service. I see it as coaching clients name a dream for a new career which more fully matches their deeper self and take steps in that direction. I see courage in parents who are striving to cultivate their children’s sense of mystery and wonder and reaching for an honest answer to their kids’ profound questions even as they themselves don’t have it all figured out. As Nepo explains: “In order not to be swept away by what the days bring, we, too, must find a way to lean into the forces that hit us so squarely. The salmon offer us a way to face truth without shutting down. They show us how leaning into our experiences, though we don’t like the hit, moves us on.”
Now its not all lounging around and waiting for life to smack you. Salmon tap into a deep inner wisdom and as I understand it work pretty hard to swim the wrong way up the stream to their hatching waters. But when the going gets really rough, when the ascent is impossible to the naked eye, that’s when they rely on the energy of the current rather than their own volition.
What experiences are you leaning into in the stream of your life?
Are you able to identify and align yourself with this deeper energy of courage?
Courtney Pinkerton is a holistic educator, writer and retreat leader living in the Dallas area. Courtney’s work focuses on the intersections of spirituality with green living and social engagement. She can be reached through her website www.courtneypinkerton.com.
Does your life fit like a glove? Today we offer this beautiful photo and a few questions to ponder. We hope this moment of Courage & Renewal brightens your day.
Outside the retreat-center kitchen hung dozens of garden work gloves. Some were small, bright, and colorful and others hefty, well-worn, and gray. All of them had been put to good use over time and towards a common purpose. They all hung there -- hung in there -- together.
At Courage & Renewal, we use "third things" -- images, stories, poems, music, objects -- as metaphors for reflection. At a recent retreat in New York facilitated by Eric Baylin and Ann Myers, this display of gloves became an impromptu third thing about community.
Come with us on a mini-retreat for a moment. Print out this image or zoom in on it here. Write about it, if you'd like. Then share the photo with someone and have a conversation.
- What do you see in this photograph?
- What do these work gloves say to you about your life today, where you are or where you'd like to be?
- Where does your life fit like a glove? Where does it not?
Share your reflections at Facebook page or here on this blog!
Today's post was a mirror of our Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.
Would you like to experience one of our signature retreats like the one where this "third thing" originated? Learn more about our "Journey Toward an Undivided Life" retreats - click here.
Or click the date to get more details:
- May 8-10 Reisertown, MD (near Baltimore)
- July 11-13 Minneapolis, MN
- Aug 14-16 Bainbridge, WA (near Seattle)
- Sept 19-21 Paris, Ontario (near Toronto)
- Oct 17-19 in Estes Park, CO
If you are exploring becoming a Courage & Renewal facilitator, you'll need to have attended at least one of our retreats. Read more about the Facilitator Preparation process - click here.
by Terry Chadsey (April 10, 2013)
What is the cost of not cultivating our own integrity? Some say this is "touchy feely," or "it would be nice if we had the time and resources," or "it is really not about the important stuff." Nothing could be further from what I know is true. The cost can ripple out into the world in devastating ways as the Center's board member Courtney E. Martin illustrates in her op-ed at Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta cheating scandal and Lance Armstrong: How to avoid 'ethical slip':
The Atlanta educators charged with cheating and cyclist Lance Armstrong both fell prey to 'ethical slip' – when little by little, each adjusted his or her own internal compass to point the way of the growing crowd. Self-reflection and friendship can help prevent us from losing our true north.
The nation is reeling from news that 35 teachers, principals, and other education leaders in Atlanta have been charged with being part of a cheating ring – altering and fabricating test sheets and inflating test scores. Continue reading...
Listen to Courtney E. Martin's related interview April 9 on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Listeners are asked to weigh in on "When has your own moral compass slipped from true north?" Click the player below:
Guest blog by Jodi Rouah (April 3, 2013)
A non-incarcerated student from the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program shares from a semester-end speech about how Parker J. Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness turned her life around.
I am what the program calls an “outside” student. It is a rare opportunity, to be able to enter into a prison and engage with the individuals behind these walls in the way the Inside-Out program has allowed us to do. (Read earlier blog written by a prison inmate.)
The Inside-Out program asks its participants to learn with our whole selves and to welcome transformation. The program has had a powerful response because it emphasizes learning together through collaboration, dialogue, and engagement with others but also within ourselves.
Before the program started we were all made aware of the logistics for participating in the class. First names only, no identifying information shared, and contact prohibited between inside and outside students beyond the classroom. Simple enough, I figured.
As an outside student my purpose was not to study my inside classmates, nor was I there to counsel, teach or advise. This was a little harder for me to grasp because my lovely ego believed that I give some of the best advice a girl can give.
I’m sure the people in my life would tell you that my voice can be pretty strong at times. In fact, I’m sure some of my classmates would tell you that it can be pretty intense, too. However, discovering this about myself has been one of my most valuable lessons I will walk away from this experience learning.
One of our first class readings was by an author named Parker Palmer and his book A Hidden Wholeness. The chapter is “Deep Speaks to Deep, Leaning to Speak and Listen.” I genuinely believe that this class reading literally turned my life inside out.
You know when people tell you that it always gets worse before it gets better? Well, did I ever learn that through the last few weeks. I struggled with this reading at first, and now that I look back at my experience, I would say that I struggled in my first few weeks of class as well.
The chapter refers to speaking one’s own truth and listening receptively to the truth of others, all within a circle of trust, which I might add is quite fitting considering all of our classes take place sitting in a circle formation. The chapter kept screaming at me, or at least it felt like it was, to listen to my own inner teacher, to hear her voice. But about what, I thought?
I received my answer a few weeks later. We were participating in a lively discussion about finding innovative ways to eliminate violence against women. Alliances, conflicts, agreements and disagreements flourished in all different directions, but it got intense and emotional very quickly. I left class that night shaken by my experience. I felt like I was on fire about the issues discussed. Now don’t get me wrong, I was not traumatized. I was doing exactly what I believe I needed to be doing, listening to my inner teacher and trying to hear her voice.
I spent the next couple of days trying to figure out why I was struggling with the events that unfolded in that evening’s class. I went to our teacher the following week, and Shoshana pointed out that I am a very process-oriented person. She agreed that the events of that evening’s class were emotional, yes, but that others appeared to be okay. It was clear that I had to figure out why I was not. I agreed, although frustrated with myself, and walked away believing that with time my inner teacher would tell me what she wanted me to learn.
The creative pedagogy of the Inside-Out program allowed me to examine the composed and readable version of myself that I have constructed and carried around for years. My inner teacher has taught me that I fight very hard to be seen and heard. In recent years I have taken this to an extreme due to some of my oppressive life experiences. Throughout the years, people have made a lot of assumption about me, and I wanted to challenge and prove people wrong.
According to what I understood from Parker Palmer’s book, I was using my speech instrumentally rather expressively, and this extended beyond the walls of Grand Valley Institute. This is how I had been communicating my whole life.
I had been speaking with a goal of trying to influence people with my speech, unconsciously of course, but nonetheless doing exactly what I was asked not to do within this program: counsel, teach, or advise.
Since learning this about myself I have been trying to speak expressively, of my own truth, rather than trying to influence others.
I have even tried to speak less in class or with family and friends. Not because I want to make a point or have people notice a difference in me, but because I want to honor my inner teacher and let her know that I am attending to her voice.From here, I will always try to speak from my soul rather than from my ego. I believe I have genuinely learned what it means to speak from the center of my own being to the centre of the circle and I doubt that I would have learned that anywhere else but here.
In the past few minutes I have shared with you my very personal journey through this class experience, but please don’t forget that there are 18 other students who have been on this journey with me and who have had their own transformations as a result of the Inside-Out program, continuing to move beyond the walls that separate us.
Jodi Rouah lives in Mississauga, Ontario and is completing a Masters of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University. She was part of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program at Grand Valley Institute for Women, in a class named Diversity, Marginalization and Oppression.
Announcing our newest program, Courage & Retrieval® and our first offering, Courage to Heel®.
Our canine companions live with so much heart & soul, dedicated to their jobs of making the world a better place through their presence. Yet even dogs need time to paws and reflect on the meaning and purpose of their own life -- to retrieve the wisdom of their true selves. With keen ears to listen deeply to their canine souls, dogs will enjoy the companionship they find in the newest Circle of Trust.
by Eric Baylin (March 28, 2013)
“The arts are necessary in our schools and in our lives
not as mere entertainment or afterthought but as
essential means to give tangible form to our experience,
visible demonstration to the felt quality of life.
They deserve center stage.”
“Enter the arts center stage,” says the narrator at the opening of the video.
It is evident in these few short clips from the Mission Hill School that the arts are central to the lives and learning of these students. A school that offers the arts a full seat in a child’s education is one that truly understands and respects the multi-dimensional requirements for a child’s emotional, intellectual, and expressive growth.
Children come alive through the arts. When words fall short of naming a feeling or experience, it’s time then to dance, or sing or pick up a brush.
As an art educator for over 40 years in both public and private schools, I have seen on a day-to-day basis how engaging with the arts offers students a range of ways to “speak” and to develop a “voice”. Every child —everyone, in fact—needs a voice to give shape to his or her inner world and to establish a rightful and confident place among peers. Apart from verbal language, the arts provide a different and powerful set of languages that provide multiple opportunities for developing one’s voice.
I’ve seen it time and time again. A quiet high school girl, who gets lost in the social shuffle of adolescence, discovers her capacity to make powerful images through the lens of a camera. Suddenly she speaks through pictures; others sit up and listen, recognizing her in a new way. A young man boiling inside with teenage angst finds in sculpture a way to give shape to his turmoil, where words could never fully capture the range and color of his inner life. And another young fellow, a soccer player whose sunny disposition wins him a wide circle of friends, discovers that modern dance is the art form that allows him to speak in a different way and that brings him great joy.
Too often in education we see the arts first to go when budgets are tight. Yet there is more and more evidence that the arts not only support emotional growth but bolster intellectual development as well. Some would say that a flexible imagination is as necessary to progress in science as it is to the arts. To see a school like Mission Hill embrace the arts on center stage is truly heartening. They’ve gotten it right.
And what about adults? What’s important in the education of children is likewise important in the re-education of adults.
When I work with adults, I often hear about the damage that was done when the arts were offered too narrowly or not at all, when sparks that might have flourished if fanned with some encouragement, instead were left to settle under the ashes of insecurity or efforts judged too harshly.
The good news is that those sparks can always be re-kindled.
There is a very real parallel to the kind of work that we do in Courage & Renewal and to a vital approach in arts education. In Courage & Renewal programs and retreats we carefully create the safe conditions for renewal of the soul. Through poetry and metaphor the hidden part of us is more inclined to step forward and “tell it slant” as Emily Dickinson would say, to approach inner matters of great import more obliquely than head-on. In the same way the processes of art, working with images, movement and sound may provide different avenues for the truth to make its way into sunlight.
And the guarded soul wants nothing more than to emerge as the artist in some shape or form. With safe space and some gentle coaxing the sparks can re-ignite.
The arts are necessary in our schools and in our lives not as mere entertainment or afterthought but as essential means to give tangible form to our experience, visible demonstration to the felt quality of life. They deserve center stage.
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