How to build communities of hope and connection

Dear friends,

I just listened to a recent TED podcast highlighting author Johann Hari. Hari has written extensively on addiction and depression. His latest book, Lost Connections, focuses on the various treatments in our culture for depression. While there are organic/physical reasons some people are prone to depression, Hari believes that there are other factors at work in our culture that are creating deep suffering: Loneliness/lack of close friendships, disconnection from the natural world, loss of agency and purpose in the workplace or life context. Rather than viewing depression as something to be treated and resolved through medication and/or traditional therapy, Hari wonders about the wisdom we are being alerted to when depression pays us a visit.

What if we took his concepts and worked proactively with them by forming opportunities for people to connect and talk about what really matters to them in life? This is what is happening naturally at Golden Thread through life coaching and at The Creative Nest through creativity workshops. This week-end there were two opportunities—one for women and one for children/parents—here at the studio. Five women came to explore Process Painting; children came for an Open Art Studio experience. I love watching everyone make connections with their own creativity and with one another! Now I am envisioning other ways to form small groups/communities that might focus on certain topics: single parenting; preparing for retirement; living with depression; adapting to change/life transition. Let me know your ideas so that we can build community together and provide even a small measure of care and support for one another.

Keep creating and trusting your golden thread!

Hannah

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Recall your resilience

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How often do you face into a new challenge or dilemma saying to yourself, ‘I just don’t know if I can do this!’ Perhaps a job or relationship has ended prematurely. Or you have been given the challenge of learning new skills at work. Maybe you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness or you’ve lost a significant person in your life. Facing into a geographic relocation is always a challenge! Whatever it is—whether loss or gain—it has the potential to stop you in your tracks and wonder whether you have the energy, the hutzpah, the capacity to deal with it.

Whenever I come to these points in my own life, it helps to breathe. Envision your golden thread of life: Notice its beauty, strength, color, and resilience!

Then get out your journal or computer and begin to record other times in your life when you felt overwhelmed by something coming your way and yet you met the challenge.

The older I get, the longer my list grows. And it reads something like this:

Survived growing up with three brothers. Learned negotiating skills.

Geographically relocated 27 times in my life!

Made a successful mid-life career change from teaching to ordained ministry.

Saw my first husband through cancer and a heart attack.

Negotiated my way through a divorce and became a single mother.

Survived as the third woman ordained in the Diocese of Central Pa in 1994.

Happily remarried and became a step mother.

Served as a Chaplain at Ground Zero. My life changed.

Moved through the illness and death of my oldest brother.

Grieved the loss of my mother a few years later.

Served various Episcopal churches/diocesan staffs for 25 years.

With each church/diocesan call, I transitioned to a new geographic location. Loss of friends and communities I loved; starting over again with every move.

Welcomed daughter-in-laws and grandchildren into our family.

Successfully retired and started my own small business.

Managing any transition in life takes energy, support and courage. You DO HAVE what it takes or you wouldn’t even be reading this blog! So take stock of your golden thread and the resilience you can already own by following this life’s path.

Hannah

Nest Building, May 2019

This year I failed to take down our Christmas wreath on time. The usual punctuality of neighbors observing various themes of the year didn’t drive me into action as it often does. So while other people moved on to Valentine decor and then to Easter/spring colors, our Christmas wreath with a bold red ribbon remained firmly intact. Perhaps it signaled to neighbors that we were still waiting for Christmas or perhaps Christmas was so eventful that we were still floating on air.

Neither of those is true. The truth is that I became preoccupied with other things in life and simply forgot to remove the wreath.

i love how things work out because of, not in spite of, our neglect.

Before I knew it, spring was dancing around the edges and birds were checking out safe places to build their nests. A testy sparrow began flying directly between the hanging edges of the giant red ribbon on our wreath, scoping out the nest-worthiness of the balsam hideaway. My husband and I watched from the living room as two sparrows darted in and out of the wreath carrying twigs, leaves and other small grasses to their destination point.

We became more careful as we used the front door. I spoke to the mail carrier to call his attention to this small miracle. He was delighted to be in on the secret. I think he walked up the porch stairs more gently after that and certainly began to place, not drop, our mail into the metal box.

In mid April, I glanced sideways to make sure the parent birds weren’t home before pulling back the red curtain ever so slightly to review their progress. Lo and behold there were five small, blue eggs!

I knew at that moment that even if neighbors put pressure on us to discard the wreath, I would not bend to such action. This was now a matter of life or death. The wreath had become a nest; it was going to harbor new life. So what if it looked like we were out of step with the seasons.

In another few weeks, I took a peek and noticed little eyes looking directly back at me. Fledglings! They had hatched. The parents flew in and out, delivering worms and other goodies to their newly arrived brood.

We left town for ten days. When we got home, we immediately checked to see if the fledglings were still in the nest and they were. I got one final picture of them; they flew the coop the next day before we were ready to see them go. We were surprised and then thrilled that they had the courage to go for it! Hannah

Consider this poem by Kim Stafford called ‘Nest Filled’:

Use your whirling wings to find the right tree.

Use your pert eye to choose the level limb.

Use your nimble feet to cherish the hospitable fork.

Use your fearless beak to gather twigs, leaves,

grass and thistledown to weave your basket-house

open to the wuthering sky.

Use your body to be the tent over tender pebbles,

lopsided moons. then wait—warm, alert, still

through wind and rain, hawk-shadow, owl night.

Use your life to make life, spending all you have

on what comes after. And if you are human, a true

citizen, full awake, then learn from the sparrow

how to build a house, a village, a nation. Use instinct

to find the right place. Use thought to know the right

time. Use wisdom to design the right action.

In the era of stormy weather, build your

sturdy nest, and fill it with the future.

—Kim Stafford

The wreath nest, out of season but still very much with purpose. April, 2019

The wreath nest, out of season but still very much with purpose. April, 2019

The fledglings hatched and a few weeks later they wee ready for flight! May, 2019

The fledglings hatched and a few weeks later they wee ready for flight! May, 2019

November 17, 2018 On Listening

This time of year marks the season 14 years ago when I woke up deaf in one ear. Totally deaf. I tried to walk normally but could not. My balance was completely off. Vertigo, which I had never experienced before, had taken over as a new companion and it was awful.

The long and short of this episode is that I regained hearing sometime in January. it seems that this condition comes and goes based on my level of stress. Ah. The body is so wise.

During the interim time of being off balance, I had to make adjustments as to how I moved through the world. Getting up, sitting down, walking very slowly, using walls or tables or chairs for balance if needed. It was so very odd. I gained enormous appreciation for people who live with vertigo every day.

Because I truly could not maintain my work schedule, I had more time to think and pray about the message my body was telling me. All I had to do was listen.

Sometimes a creative project helps me make sense of my world so I playfully dialogued with my deaf ear and wrote a ‘Little Ear Book’ in response to having listened to her (my ear). She shared with me her struggle to continue to listen while there was so much movement and stress in my life. In fact, she admitted that more of my body wanted to go on strike, but she vowed to catch my attention. And she did! I loved the book so much that I had my girlfriends read it and write their own messages of encouragement. Just like a (y)ear book!

At the time I went deaf, I was serving on a diocesan staff in NYC, running a mission (small church) 60 miles north of NYC, running retreats and workshops throughout metropolitan NY and managing a household 30 miles north of the city. Clearly my little ear was telling me it was time to make a change.

So I met with the bishop and asked if I could reconfigure my position so I would be traveling less. The answer was “No.” I told him that I would be starting a national search that would enable me to return to parish ministry and reclaim a clear center once again.

My husband was so supportive. I ended up being called to a parish in Western MA that was ready for a new phase of growth and formation. I continued the practice of listening and whenever I felt at all dizzy, recalibrated my pace.

Deep listening is a rare commodity in our culture right now. People are too busy, on the move, overcommitted. One of the things I love most about being a life coach is having the free space just to listen to another human being. People’s lives, their experiences of joy and sorrow, successes and obstacles continue to fill me with awe and respect.

How could you begin to listen more deeply—

to yourself

to others

to someone you love but have not had the time for recently…

Take 5 minutes a day to start. Today.

Peace.

Hannah

March 13, 2018

People often ask me about my own process of following the golden thread.  Most recently, I share about the last year of an internal process that led to leaving a career in ministry.  This process was one of  discernment to find the intersection of what Frederich Buechner refers to as one's deep gladness and the world's deep hunger.  This was the meeting place, the sweet spot, the origin of call from the Holy One, the golden thread of authenticity and 'rightness' that I sought.  

I cleared out space in my very busy life to be quiet each day, even if it was only for 15 minutes.  I journaled at least three pages a day.  I paid attention to the people, books, events, quotes and dreams that came my way.  I exercised through walking, swimming or pilates.  I made a commitment to engage creativity in some form each day, whether it was through cooking, painting, taking pictures with my iphone or cutting out images in magazines that caught my attention.  In other words, I accessed the right side of my brain (non analytical side) as much as possible in order to rest my thinking and allow curiosity to emerge and gain traction.

There were three quotes that captured my heart for reasons I wasn't sure of but wrote them down anyway and kept them in a place to look at each day.  The first is from poet Mary Oliver, given to me by my friend, Laura Simoes:

'The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.'

I came across the second message while reading Sabbath by Wayne Muller:

'The world aches for the generosity of well-rested people.' 

And the third message is a quote I received in the mail on the materials for the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA (SSJE) on being a companion to others on a spiritual journey:

'When life is hard, what we need most is not always what we want.  What we want is for life to be easy.  What we want is for someone or something to come along and make it all go away.  But what we need is tenderness.  What we need is a companion for the journey.'

These thoughts resonated deeply with me.  I lived with them, painted them, took them on hikes and into the swimming pool.  

Slowly a new vision took hold and I realized I was following my golden thread--true and strong, vibrant and golden.  The inner desires begged for outward changes in my personal and professional lives.  

With the help of wise companions on the way, including my husband and sons and 'Women at the Well,' I made the decision to retire from full-time work and dedicate my life, energy and gifts to life coaching, creativity, retreat design/facilitation and spiritual direction--as I choose.  My days are filled with spaciousness and ample rest.  I now have the ability to respond to the world from a place of feeling well-rested and alive in ways I could not possibility imagine.

Perhaps you think that I have a measure of courage that you lack in order to have made this big choice in my life.  I doubt it!  I believe that each of us has access to unlimited wisdom and resilience--a golden thread--that is right there in front of us, waiting.

Whatever your next step is to find your true path, take it--whatever it is and however simple or nominal it seems to you.  I'm here if you want to talk about it or share a comment about your path.  All are welcome!

Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Thread Story

The golden thread story,

 

We are each born with an energetic potential—a light within, a passion and zest for life, a spark of the holy that yearns to grow brighter and stronger as we mature.  People use different names for this gift given at birth.  I’ve come to recognize and name it as a golden thread.  This is the basis for my life coaching and consultation:  to support people in the process of discovering their own golden threads that are strong, resilient, beautiful, authentic and trustworthy. 

When life is going well for us, it is easy to follow the golden thread of our life journey.  But let’s face it—most of us have had to face challenges or obstacles in life that obscure that guide of hope and brilliance.   We lose sight of the golden thread.  We drop it.  Our worries and anxieties cover it over like layers of dust.  Sometimes the golden thread just seems to be beyond our reach. 

I assure you, it is still there because it is yours!  Life coaching is a process of helping you discover it, grab hold of it, dust it off and reclaim the power and strength of your golden thread of life.

 

So why work with me as a life coach?

First, I live what I believe.  I’ve had my share of challenges and obstacles in life just like anyone else:  The death of two brothers, a divorce, loss of custody of my sons, five major transitions in my professional career requiring relocation, a husband’s diagnosis of cancer, my own diagnosis of osteoporosis, and my elderly father’s life with Alzheimer’s.  I am no stranger to grief, worry, anxiety and despair.

Second, my life was transformed through the experience of working with a life coach/mentor (IPEC), Stephanie Marisca.  I learned about Stephanie from a friend who had just been trained as a life coach (IPEC) and she suggested that I contact her for possible coaching. 

At the time, I was working in a job where stress and overwork were beginning to impact my health.  I could not figure out how to get out from under the constant pressure of leadership in a large organization.  You may know what that feels like, right?  There was no way I could see or even imagine that my golden thread was waiting for me under the weight of responsibilities. 

My life coach helped me to pause to breathe, to listen.  She encouraged me to name and honor my deepest values and then to align my life choices with them.  She reconnected me to my golden thread, the holy direction of my life-- and I am forever grateful. 

Stephanie and I worked together for some months and one day I mentioned to her that I liked this coaching stuff, thought I might be a good coach.  The rest is history!  I enrolled in the IPEC training program and, as a life coach myself, have never regretted the decision.  My life purpose emerged from my own process and experience. 

So here I am in my mid 60’s filled with excitement and hope:  a life coach and an artist, a mother and wife, a grandmother and Episcopal priest—newly retired and ready to follow my own golden thread and weave the fabric of this season of life.

The people I now coach are from all walks of life.  They are ready for transformation through life coaching.  The circle of people I work with right now ranges in age from 21 to 70.  All of them are motivated to rediscover or polish up their golden threads, to find new life energy that will become part of the unique design of their lives. 

 

Join the circle of people whose lives are being strengthened and transformed through Golden Thread Coaching!