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Cultivating ‘Soul Force’ in a fragmented world – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,  Martin Luther King, Jr. takes a passionate stand for equality, freedom, and democracy.  He was able to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time. While acknowledging the cruelty and injustice of racial inequality, he was also able to invite a sane and loving road back to wholeness.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.

 “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. … we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

So, what is ‘soul force’, and how do you get it?

As we mark this historic day, it may be helpful to see the connection between  King’s wise words spoken 57 years ago, words that electrified the country and the emerging holistic worldview.

“For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom…We cannot walk alone…We cannot turn back.”

I think the power of his speech lies in its ability to resonate a deeper vulnerable truth of love and belonging. The nature of reality appears to be interconnected, not separate.  We need each other and we belong together because we are one household, nobody is less or more important than another.

Martin Luther King Jr. was able to reach beyond anger and egoic mind structures to offer a vision of what was possible. Like concentration camp survivor, psychiatrist, and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” – Viktor Frankl wrote that he gave up the notion of being rescued from the horrors of daily life but he knew that giving in to his fear and rage would eat him alive and the Nazi’s truly would’ve taken over his soul. Instead, he chose to see what was possible and spent his days offering comfort to other camp members.  He took agency of his reality. Maybe that is ‘soul force’.

On 60 Minutes last night, there was a segment about the political unrest in the country and the question was asked. ‘Who are we?’  It may be worth starting with the question,’ Who do we think we are?’

King’s ‘soul force’ was felt that day in 1963 and still resonates. People’s hearts lifted with a sense of possibility, connection, and love. That was his dream and it feels like the collective couldn’t be further from that right now.

Mindfulness practice helps us look within and see our  ‘soul force’ and the fragmentation that blocks it.

Having the courage to mindfully see the way we show up in our own lives and lovingly heal our own wounds begins to melt the illusion of separation so we can learn to meet our intolerance and resistance with something more helpful, loving, and creative.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves.”  –Viktor Frankl

This week, we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King. In reflecting on his writings and speeches, do you have one that speaks to you at this time? What is your perspective on the ‘soul force’  and how can it show up in your life? Let us know in the comments below. 

Kim Ruggiero, MA

Blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero.

Kimberly Ruggiero is a long time meditator. She works as a transformational coach and artist. She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI –  every Tuesday evening online –  https://learn.edu/events/

 

Image source:

Caption reads, “[Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd.], 8/28/1963” Original black and white negative by Rowland Scherman. Taken August 28th, 1963, Washington D.C, United States (The National Archives and Records Administration). Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd. U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. ca. 1953-ca. 1978. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/542015

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Part 2 Mindfulness Reset: Being more mindful in the New Year

Of all the 2021 New Year’s resolutions, being more mindful is probably high on many people’s lists. We all want the world to stop spinning and find peace in our own skin.  As Michael Franti  said, “It’s never too late to start the day over.” 

We tend to think mind wandering is due to the onslaught of technology and the stresses of external events. However, neuroscience has shown that the tendency to distraction is not due to something out there, but is an integral part of our wiring. Over the next few blog posts, we will explore the unhelpful tendencies of the mind or what the Buddha called the ‘monkey mind’.

Just this morning, I was on a quiet walk near the water and found myself zoning out to thoughts about an email I forgot to send and how forgetful I have been lately, as well as other signs of aging that I’m experiencing. By the time I realized I had exited the moment I was almost home.

Rather than a New Year’s resolution to be mindful, I suggest setting an intention to deliberately upgrade the brain’s software system. By simply bringing more curiosity and heart-centered kindness to all rigidity and resistance, a softening and rewiring happens in the hardware of the brain. The prefrontal cortex grows new connections, where equanimity can begin to calm the duality of the limbic/default brain.

Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert conducted a study of ‘stimulus-independent thought” (mind wandering) and found that we are distracted almost 50 percent of our waking hours and we don’t notice it because it happens in the default network of the brain.

In their research conclusion, published 2010, Science 330, 923, they write:

“A human mind is a wandering mind

and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

The ability to think about what is not happening

is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Mindfulness apps and classes are flooding the internet and after the challenges of 2020, it makes sense that we want to fix the problem of distraction but it can be confusing to know how to actually do that. John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center at UMass Medical Center says “an attitude of non-striving is essential for mindfulness”. I recently read someone promoting another mindfulness class with the slogan, ‘Join Us as We Strive for Mindfulness’.

Mindfulness is not a fad or a trend.

Taking a class or downloading an app to learn techniques can be helpful, but if there’s a goal or expectation that ‘doing’ mindfulness will fix something, then it may end up like all the resolutions that are forgotten by Valentine’s Day.

There is no place to get to or goal to be achieved. It is the simple yet profound realization that we are not our thoughts but the one who is aware of the thinking. With practice, we can learn to place attention wherever we like.

For example, mind wandering can sometimes be very helpful. When I write a story or create a new painting, letting my mind make fresh connections is often an important part of the creative process. You may have the experience of trying hard to solve a problem and then having the Aha! moment in the shower…as soon as you stop directly thinking about it. With a little mindfulness, ‘stimulus-independent thought’ can be intentional and beneficial. But when unconscious, thinking can crowd out life experiences and result in rumination and unhealthy behaviors.

The problem isn’t the thinking. Thoughts are important ways we create, invent, express, and learn. The challenge is asking the mind to willingly notice the distraction and tolerate the discomfort of not following every thought.

Conditioned to strive and push forward, it takes practice to tolerate the discomfort of not striving and to give the space between thought and opportunity to arise so we can discover what is actually happening instead of listening to thoughts about what is happening.

Mindfulness doesn’t deal with the content of experience (what happens), it works more with the velocity and depth (how deeply and authentically, we experience what happens).

Space for processing opens possibilities for different approaches to problems and a sense of life being lived through you instead of to you. Breaking the shell of the protective ego softens our rigidity to let real life in. Wholeness and authenticity begin to replace the false self.

In, The Book of Awakening, philosopher and poet, Mark Nepo writes, This is the ongoing purpose of full attention: to find a thousand ways to be pierced into wholeness.”

If your New Year Resolution includes living life more mindful, may we recommend the following tips for a Reset?

 

Tips for A Mindfulness Reset: 

-Invite stillness and notice what is happening inside and out. If there is resistance, meet it with self-compassion.

-If you find your mind wandering, bring attention to breathing in and out through the heart.

-When stressed, try surrendering to the living moment. Meet the situation with a ‘don’t know’ mind. (Like the Taoist farmer, ask yourself, “Is this good or bad? Who knows?”)

-Remind yourself that there is no past or future. Life only happens in this moment, and you can start the day (or your life) right now.

 

Feel free to offer any comments or share ways you reset yourself when feeling contracted. I also invite you to attend my virtual Mindfulness Meditation class every Tuesday evening, you can find more information here: https://learn.edu/events/

“Be crumbled.

So wild flowers will come up where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.

Try something different.

Surrender.”    -Rumi

Kim Ruggiero, MA

Blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero.

Kimberly Ruggiero is a long time meditator. She works as a transformational coach and artist. She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI –  every Tuesday evening online –  https://learn.edu/events/

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Mindfulness Reset Part 1: Time to Share and Serve. 

Mindfulness Reset:

Mindfulness apps and classes are flooding the internet and after the challenges of 2020, it makes sense that we want to fix the problem of distraction but it can be confusing to know how to actually do that. John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center at UMass Medical Center says “an attitude of non-striving is essential for mindfulness”, I recently read someone promoting another mindfulness class with the slogan, ‘Join Us as We Strive for Mindfulness’.

Taking a class or downloading an app to learn techniques can be helpful, but if there’s a goal or an expectation that ‘doing’ mindfulness will fix something, then it may end up like all the resolutions that are forgotten by Valentine’s Day.

Mindfulness is not a fad or a trend. There is no place to get to or goal to be achieved. It is the simple yet profound realization that we are not our thoughts but the one who is aware of the thinking. With practice, we can learn to place attention wherever we like.

As we leave the chaos of 2020, it may be a good time to gather our community and have a conversation about what happened and how we have been affected individually and as a whole. After a year of upheaval, many are searching for healing and a deeper sense of meaning. It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s words, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

The thing many people love the most about the Graduate Institute, besides the cutting-edge areas of study is the sense of belonging. We don’t view each other exclusively as students, administrators, or faculty as much as instruments in a piece of music that expands far beyond the sum of our parts. It feels like those who touch the school in any capacity never really leave, their hearts linger and they manifest differently in the world, resonating with a broader range of notes and new clarity about the gift of being alive. They also know how to share that with others.

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” –Marianne Williamson

We invite you to take a moment to pause and create a mindfulness practice for yourself. We also love seeing your comments as you share your perspectives below.

As we know from the study of integrative health and healing, people begin to heal when they can express themselves honestly and feel deeply heard by a non-judgmental community.

How are you making sense of the new normal?

What inspiring or creative insights have arisen while dealing with the pandemic, as well as the political and social upheavals?

How has your time with TGI affected the way you navigated the past year?

What are some ways we can all serve the greater community?

“As we forgive what happened in the past, we prepare for miracles in the future.” –Marianne Williamson

If you would like to see more tips for a Mindfulness Reset – you may enjoy the next blog as I share tips for a Reset in Part 2: https://learn.edu/new-year-resolution/

If you like to read my previous blog on forgiveness and surrender – you may enjoy this blog: https://learn.edu/forgiveness-grace-thanksgiving/

Kim Ruggiero, MA

Blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero.

Kimberly Ruggiero is a long time meditator. She works as a transformational coach and artist. She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI –  every Tuesday evening online –  https://learn.edu/events/

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We all need tools to help us return to peace instead of remaining in fear and anxiety.  

Tools to Help Us Return to Peace and let go of Anxiety  

By:  Henry Grayson, Ph.D.

We have so much that we are dealing with in this world today. There is so much stress, fear, and concern. Yes, all the stress weakens our immune system. We all need tools to help us return to peace instead of remaining in fear and anxiety.

We need tools to help us with this. One I find very helpful is to stimulate on the thymus gland for placing the hand flat on the upper chest. Then, begin to rub it soothingly in a clockwise direction, looking on from the outside.

Then say to yourself, “I deeply love and accept myself, even though I have been feeling a lot of anxiety about all that is going on in this world. I deeply love and accept myself and I choose to let that anxiety go.”

Then take a couple of slow deep breaths and say: “And I deeply love and accept myself, as I choose to let all that anxiety go…. fully and completely, as I let that anxiety go.”

Continue the deep breathing and continue to make this statement. Each time, you are letting more of the anxiety go, knowing that keeping it will not help in any way. Let the anxiety go, breathe it out slowly and fully, “I am letting go of the anxiety and bringing in peace into my mind and my body.”

Dr. Henry Grayson

Dr. Henry Grayson is an expert of the mind/body/spirit psychology: He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University and a 4-year post-doctoral certificate in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. He has studied neuropsychology, quantum physics, and Eastern and Western spiritual philosophies.

Dr. Grayson is the author of several books and an esteemed colleague and faculty member of The Graduate Institute where he teaches energy psychology for the Integrative Health & Healing program.

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The Power of Forgiveness and Gratitude

Could Forgiveness be a gift and a passage to Grace?

When asked to write an article about forgiveness, I felt hesitant. With so much contention in the world how can anyone willingly surrender their strong position and forgive?

I consider forgiveness to be a superpower, right up there with gratitude. It’s recognizing there is a state of grace beyond suffering, no matter the situation.  They are both evolved qualities that require a certain capacity to hold strong negative feelings in a larger perspective.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  –Martin Luther King Jr.

Anger and fear are normal, intelligent emotions signaling that a boundary has been crossed. Something needs our attention. When a human being feels betrayed, diminished, abused, oppressed or exploited, instinct is to fight back, run away or dissociate. If the hurt isn’t processed and resolved, seeking revenge, ruminative thinking and resentments often follow. Blinded by emotion and thoughts, we have difficulty seeing that we are hurting ourselves by embodying that painful emotion and resonating that energy inside our bodies and to others.

 “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  –Buddha

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain writes, “Our brains are like Velcro for bad experience and Teflon for the good.” When hurt, our tendency is to want to hurt back. Forgiveness requires the we stay present with all of our reactivity. It requires that we meet the moment with an open heart and feel what we feel. if we can’t then we stay open and gentle with that, too.

Holding onto anger may offer a temporary feeling of justice, (as anyone knows whose ever held a grudge) but it doesn’t make the hurt go away; there’s often an energy that remains below the surface, growing and expanding the feelings of separation. Unforgiveness feeds the ego that wants to be right. It can also be a powerful energy that fuels destructive action. Unforgiveness, when it is unconscious, is not bad, it simply keeps the suffering growing and expanding, bringing us more of what we don’t want.

Rather than trying to get to a state of forgiveness or gratitude, I think it’s enough to just be present for what’s happening right now. Presence is staying and participating with our experiences in each moment; giving non-judgmental, open-hearted attention to what’s within, whether it’s forgiveness or non-forgiveness. Softening the resistance to a situation or person we have difficulty forgiving can be triggering, so a big dose of patience and gentleness helps. It doesn’t mean becoming a doormat or staying in an abusive relationship. It means making decisions from a place of love not fear.

 

forgiveness

Practicing presence helps build the neuropathway of wisdom; making us better able to respond with equanimity. Meeting non-forgiveness with self-compassion and self-acceptance begins the process of healing and wise action and raises our vibrational energy. The body moves from fight/flight to homeostasis.

 

Forgiveness, like gratitude, comes from a non-dual mind that recognizes we are one. It arises when we include other perspectives; when we are able to shift from a mind that is certain–it’s either right or wrong, to one that is open and willing to observe the nuances of a given situation—I can see why it could be right from another perspective.

 

Presence, like forgiveness, has a quality of receptivity and wonder. It sees and accepts what is, without the reactivity. We discover that what we resist persists, and so we learn how to drop the resistance and stay with the moment.

Anger is palpable in the world right now and many are blaming whole groups of people (politicians, white men, the wealthy, the poor, immigrants, the police, protesters, people who won’t protest, people handing out money, people taking money). Angry energy resonates in the collective and we all tend to blame each other. Recently, anger has been directed at me for not wearing a mask and also for wearing one in the same day.  

 This unconscious behavior isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s our wiring. We can’t see what we are doing because the decider (ego-limbic system) shuts down the prefrontal cortex (newest part of the evolving brain).  The reactive reptilian brain of our ancestors is wired for tigers and, for the most part, it’s worked fine for thousands of years.  But we are realizing that the old mind isn’t working.

We are at a moment of potential global awakening. With meditation practice, a non-dual mind emerges and the prefrontal cortex learns how to stay online; we can notice the reactivity of the limbic system sooner. There really isn’t a tiger, it just feels like one.

World problems aren’t getting solved by the old mind of right and wrong thinking. Racism, sexism, partisan politics, and economic inequality are still here and thriving.

“We cannot solve problems with the same mind that created them.” –Einstein

The new mind is one that has a capacity for nonduality. It knows how to cultivate presence and invite forgiveness and gratitude, not as a strategic quid pro quo, but because it’s our true state. Nonduality can recognize the dual as part of itself; not a bad part, just part of our wiring. Awakening is a natural unfolding of universal intelligence and the implicate order of an evolving self-organizing system.  

The non-dual mind can engage the prefrontal cortex and open space so the different, limitless energy of our universal heart and mind can emerge. A non-dual mind can express the need for reparation without blame or criticism because it sees the nature of our interdependence and accepts the reality of both, human darkness and light.

For example, the dual mind might say, “I am angry at you. You are wrong.”  With awareness, the non-dual mind might say, “Anger is arising, let me investigate what this is about.” Personalizing the situation isn’t necessary, just an ability to be with anger and respond from our wisest self.

Nelson Mandala embodied the power of forgiveness. Anger did not rule his actions. He once said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

We don’t have to wallpaper over unforgiveness with fake forgiveness. I suggest we come to recognize our capacity for presence with whatever is; to begin to intimately know and process anger and unforgiveness so we can finally move on from duality.

There’s a fragile, mysterious and beautiful interconnectedness of all things– the good, bad and the ugly. Forgiveness is not something we do, it is an energy that arises from the awakened consciousness.

Eventually, we realize that the world is our household and our capacity for forgiveness and gratitude, and the wise action that emerges, has the power to stop the war against ourselves and the planet. 

“Your heart is the light of this world. Don’t cover it with your mind.”  –Mooji

 

Blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero: Kimberly Ruggiero: Kim received a BS in Chemistry and MA in Consciousness Studies. She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI. She is also a professional coach and fine artist.

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The Healing Power of Stones

Since I first began Fifth Element Beads, my aesthetic goal has been to design jewelry made from my hand made clay beads and accented with simple beautiful stones. At first I selected stones based on their visual appeal. But, soon I found out that customers were more interested in metaphysical properties of stones. One friend, a recovering alcoholic, requested amethyst, also known as the “sobriety stone”. Another friend was looking for onyx as a traditional 7th anniversary gift and because she also knew onyx can transform negative energy into positive energy. When I realized how important it was to my customers to choose their stones mindfully and with deep intention, it was time for me to embark on yet another educational journey – this time to gain a deeper understanding of stones.

My first stop in learning about the metaphysical properties of stones was Brian Robertshaw – my bead guru. Brian is the owner of Beadniks in Brattleboro, VT and an extremely knowledgeable bead historian. My first question for Brian was “How did human beings begin attributing metaphysical properties to various stones?”. I was astounded to find out that the connection between specific stones and their metaphysical properties can be traced so far back in history that it is near impossible to discover their origin.

One thing that I learned through the MALT program at TGI is the incredible power of human intention. We may not, at this moment in time, have scientific data that proves rose quartz can bring love into your life. However, over several centuries and across many different cultures, humans have attached a powerful and universal intention of love to this particular stone. That is what I believe accounts for the magic I see happen when a customer puts on a rose accented bracelet and carries on that universal and timeless intention of love.

As some of us get ready to begin a new school year, why not go into it with some powerful intentions and stones to support those intentions? Here is a brief guide on just a few stones (pictured) and their metaphysical properties:

1 HOWLITE is very common and naturally is a white opaque and chalky stone with beautiful gray and black marbling. Because of howlite’s ability to hold color, it is often dyed a teal blue and called “Chinese Turquoise”. Howlite is a calming stone that can help with stress and anxiety.

2 CORAL , along with shells, was one of the earliest materials used to create beads. Coral can naturally occur in a range of orange and reds but is often enhanced to brighten its color when used in jewelry. Coral brings peace and facilitates intuition.

3 TIGEREYE is found all over the world and has been used by people in various cultures for centuries because of both its beauty and its metaphysical properties. It is a shiny brown stone with marbling in golds, yellows, and reds. It was named tigereye due to its visual resemblance to the actual eye of a tiger. This stone is great to have to overcome obstacles, take action and access one’s own power. I have also had customers who use this stone to help them get through tough mercury retrograde periods.

4 CARNELIAN is a personal favorite. Carnelian is a translucent stone that comes in a range of oranges. It has beautiful color naturally without any enhancement. Carnelian is the stone of true creative expression. I have heard that the pop star, Adele, will not step on stage to perform without carnelian on her person.

5 ROSE QUARTZ is all about love. Even if you know very little about stones, you might know that rose quartz is associated with love and has been since as far back as historians can trace. Quartz, in general, is known as “the all purpose stone”. Any kind of quartz is good to have and there are several types. However, if you are looking to bring more love into your life, rose quartz is the stone to have.

6 LAVA ROCK is a good stone to utilize when you are feeling a need to connect more with nature. Lava rock helps us become more rooted to the earth. Additionally, lava rock is a porous stone that is ideal for holding essential oils which makes it a very popular stone for beads.

7 LEPIDOLITE is a lesser known stone but is actually quite common. Lepidolite is known as the stone of transition. It often helps us to overcome emotional troubles that tend to accompany times of significant transition.

Ingrid Baron is the owner of FifthElementBeads.com

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WOT Colleagues Publish First Volume of Creative Writing Series on Amazon.com

What does it mean to “Live the Writer’s Life”?

To find out, ten strangers formed a writing cohort, came up with an audacious plan to write and publish and book together, and created “Where the Words Await…Walking the Writer’s Path”.

In this first-ever collection of writings by colleagues from TGI’s Writing and Oral Traditions Program, ten authors gather their best fiction and non-fiction pieces and add insights and musings about the writer’s craft. They formed Ten Scribblers Press, an independent publishing company, to distribute their work before a world-wide readership on the Amazon.com platform. This book is Volume One in The Graduate Institute Creative Writer’s Series.

According to Publishing Center Director Robin Moore, “This is much more than a student project. Instead of waiting for the gatekeepers of the mainstream publishing industry to smile on them and accept or reject their work, these writers formed their own publishing company and launched their own literary ship under the flag of Ten Scribblers Press. They are not alone. They have joined thousands of emerging writers who make up the rowdy ranks of the Indie Publishing Movement, a bold departure from traditional publishing which is changing the literary landscape of contemporary American culture.”

where the words awaitWhat is this book all about?

Consider these words from the Introduction:

“The structure of Where the Words Await… might remind you of a multi-author, modern version of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales: a bunch of ragtag folks meet at the beginning of their spiritual pilgrimage and decide to have a storytelling contest on the way. In the space of the story, each pilgrim shares not only the best story they’ve got, but a little about what drives and challenges them on their writing journey. There may be some conversation between the storytellers and the stories; but, for the most part, each story stands on its own and carries its own significance. In order to allow for this kind of conversation, the book is divided into sections by author. Each chapter features a piece of poetry, fiction, memoir, or essay alongside a small offering from its author that contemplates what unsettles or inspires them in regard to writing. The authors’ voices mix with those of their pieces, and all of these weave together to create a larger narrative about the creative process.

“We intend that Where the Words Await… will engage future generations of continuing or aspiring writers in seeing that, though the writing process is messy and difficult, it is ultimately rewarding and accessible to all willing to grapple with its darker parts. This collection invites readers to find and successfully live their version of a writer’s life: not by telling them what to do, but by letting them live the experiences of other writers trying to find a “way into” writing. Your path will not look exactly like any of those presented in these pages—nor should it. Even so, we have found in our own writing community that it can be helpful to hear many opinions and ideas about what the best avenue is to writing and becoming an author.

“This book could be a small part of you discovering what works for you: or, even better, what doesn’t. Either way, we hope this book wakes you up to your own truth. We invite you to dip into the Quick Start Guide we have included at the end of this book as a way of jump-starting your own writing process. We have come to believe, in co-creating this book, that the writing process is a series of small awakenings. Like walking a labyrinth, our paths lead us deep into the center of own writing practices and beliefs, only to send us back to the outer rings again. It is easy for us to lose our confidence during those times, but equally possible to gain insights that enable us to break through barriers and conquer self-doubt.

“This book is proof that having an encouraging community of creators behind us is key to unlocking powerful narratives and writing through resistance. After all, the writers featured in this volume had enormous help and support from one another, as provided by the structure of our M.A. Program at The Graduate Institute.”

Members of the Writing and Oral Traditions Cohort

This book was created by members of the Writing and Oral Traditions Cohort 19-01:
Paul David Adkins, Pamela Briddle, Kyla DeRisi, Larry DiBernardo, Caren Goodhue, Sarah Gretzky, Cheryl Riello, Ann Sullivan, Tess Torrey and Rick Hribko.

To read learn more about this book and about The Graduate Institute Publishing Center, visit www.learn.edu/publishing

Always wanted to write and publish a book?

We are now calling for manuscripts created by cohorts and individual authors. Thanks to TGI’s affiliation with Amazon, we can now offer first-time authors an affordable and user-friendly approach to publishing.

The resources of the Publishing Center are available free of charge to any TGI graduate, current colleague and faculty member. To find out how The Center can assist you in bringing your writing dreams to fruition, contact TGI Publishing Center Director Robin Moore via email: moore@learn.edu

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The Invention of Grandparents: Exploring the Origins of Multi-Generational Storytelling

Igniting the Imagination

It began with fire.

Our distant human-like ancestors mastered the primal technology of fire-making more than a million years ago. Even when we were a nomadic people on the African plains, fire gave us a gathering place against the dark of night. Fire gave us a sense of comfort and safety. The flames were our best defense against the threat of animals bigger and stronger than us. We could cook food, aiding us in developing our big brains.

Fire became a technology that helped us shaped the landscape and a tool for regulating the rhythm of dark and light in our lives. We clustered around the glowing embers under the star-sprinkled sky. Uncounted eons slipped by.

By 100,000 years ago, our species, Homo Sapiens, was able to think in symbols and create the first artwork: Ritual burial and decorated objects of bone and stone and antler. We crawled deep into caves and painted our animal dreams on the rough stone walls. We communicated with gestures, facial expressions and body language.

By 40,000 years ago, thanks to an evolutionary re-wiring of the brain, the gift of spoken language allowed us to think in abstract symbols and to convey vibrant images to another person through the spoken word. Image-ination was born.

The Grandmother Hypothesis

But we had a problem. There were few elders. Average life expectancy was barely 30. Many of us died in childbirth or perished from the rigors of living in the open. For our species, thirty is the magic number, because that is the age when a woman could conceivably have a daughter who could then have a child, making the elder woman a grandmother. For most, this never happened. A few of us managed to live to be 70 years old. But this was such a rare occurrence that it had no significant impact on the culture.

Then, due to improved living conditions, something happened that changed the fabric of human life forever: We saw the emergence of a new strata of society that had never existed before. Some researchers call this amazing demographic shift “The Grandmother Hypothesis”.

Anthropologists Dr. James Adovasio and Dr. Olga Soffer tell the fascinating story in their ground-breaking book, The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory.

They write,

“In the late Paleolithic about 30,000 years ago, about the same time as the Creative Revolution in Europe, there was a sudden four-fold increase in the number of adults old enough to be grandparents. Rachel Caspari of the University of Michigan and Sang-Hee Lee of the University of California at Riverside have identified a sudden leap in the number of people surviving to older age by studying the rates of molar wear. The sudden increase in the number of surviving elders contributed importantly to population expansion and cultural innovations and may have contributed to an early version of the recent information explosion, with older people’s long memories serving as living repositories of useful information.”

Family groups who were able to add grandmothers and grandfathers to their circle gained an enormous advantage. This extra set of hands, knowledgeable and skilled in the details of daily living, freed parents to focus on the tasks of gathering resources needed for the survival of the family while offering childcare for those old enough to leave their mother’s breast.

For the first time, a significant number of individuals were living long enough (and had enough useful experience) to bundle their accumulated wisdom and knowledge into a compact, durable package: the spoken story. Before the advent of the written word, the vast weight of cultural knowledge, memory and insight was carried forward through the generations by the oral tradition.

We are Wired for Story

As we sat around the fire at night, our grandmothers and grandfathers encoded the legacy of our culture into stories so compelling that these tales would certainly be repeated and passed along to the next generation. The cosmology and spiritual life of the people was anchored by these stories. Cultural information that did not make it into a story might very well perish with the individual; whatever was embedded in our stories had a far better chance of enduring to nurture the next generation.

In the brain, cells that fire together wire together. Our love of stories was forged by the sound of the grandparents’ voice, whispering into our young ears on those primordial nights by the fireside.

But that is not the end of the story. The invention of grandparents proved to be one of our most successful societal innovations. In modern times, grand parenting remains a mainstay of family life. Because life expectancy has steadily increased, there are more grandparents than ever. Back when the U.S. was founded, average life expectancy was 35. (We had only gained a scant 5 years since Paleolithic times!) By the turn of the century, it jumped to 47. Today it is 78.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Civil War times, the number of U.S. adults over the age of 65 was 3 percent of the national population. Today it is 15 percent. By 2050, the Census Bureau predicts the number will climb to 22 percent. Here’s an interesting factoid: In the next four years, for the first time in human history, the number of people over the age of 65 will exceed the number of children under the age of 5.

The Age of Grandparents

We are living in The Age of Grandparents (and great-grandparents). Soon many of us will be slipping into the ancestral role of the elder storyteller, if we have not already. Despite the many advances in information technology, the majority of teaching, learning and human bonding still takes place in the form of spoken language. Even as the many blessings of the written, broadcast and digital world surrounding us with their versions of modern-day storytelling, a part of us still longs to sit by the fire and hear the voices of The Old Ones, speaking to us in The Language of the Dream.

If this makes sense to you, you might ask:

“How do we modern-day storytellers add to this ancestral river of images, flowing from the human tongue to the waiting ear?”

The answer is astonishing in its power and simplicity:

All we need to remember is the most important question any human can ask another.

We ask: “Would you like to hear a story?”

If the listener agrees, the ancient contract is signed and the human journey continues…

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Reaping the Whirlwind, Unmasking the Writer

Sentence by Sentence

When Our Editing and Writing Instructor Jane Lincoln Taylor handed out a single sheet of white-lined paper and a colored pencil on Saturday morning, I wasn’t prepared for the whirlwind that occurred.

I was immediately reminded of the story Dovie Thomason shared at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival 2018. After the weekend with her and the other storytellers I wrote: “In contrast, Dovie Thomason’s personal story spins a web rooted deep that grounded her words and her audience in a story whirlwind. Stepping on the stage with confidence and drawing us in deeper and deeper until we were wrapped up tight in her story web. I felt I was running in the whirlwind right alongside her as she tangled her words and actions with the wind moving in toward her. The story wrapped the audience like a blanket affecting every inch of their beings leaving us light headed and dizzy after we dropped out of our story whirlwind with Dovie Thomason.”

Amazing how Jane was able to generate the sensation of a whirlwind in me again. This time I didn’t get swooped up into the fast-paced spinning funnel of story, but instead that of editing. Pops of words alongside proofreader marks and pencils combined with ideas all swirled around me sentence by ever changing sentence. Whirlwinds are an incredible weather phenomenon that Dovie attached to her experience as a child and put it into story, but this weekend with Jane words split these phenomena into two spinning funnels of story and writing that entertains, teaches, and heals.

So, the author is consumed with the world spinning around and the one within. Hence that is where the editor secretly steps in; doesn’t change just guides. Jane Lincoln Taylor took what use to be a very harsh, controlling, and dominating figure in my mind of an editor and transformed it into a secret friend and mentor who only wants to bring the best out in you and your work.

Back to that one sheet of paper and the activities we were asked to write on that piece of white lined paper were just extremely straight forward, but informative. First, Jane asked us to write 3-5 things that were great about my writing. I took this very literally and banged out five descriptive statements about what I found great in and about my writing. I hesitated here and there since I let ego burst in but I was able to complete the list. Second, she asked what I thought my real gift as a writer was, what I have to offer, and what I want to offer?

Without hesitation, the following sentences flowed with ease onto the blue lines of the paper. Healing is there, no matter what the trauma is that derailed you. A pen, pencil, or keyboard can take you on an amazing healing journey as a book can take you to another time and place. Reading this statement allowed in class and rereading it again now as I write comforts me in the fact that I am on the right path. I may have been derailed here and there, but I have gotten back up and am forging on.

The third and final question was given these goals that I have and if I had an editor what are the sticking points that I’d want to work on? The pen took on a life of its own. The negatives came so easy. I was jotting down one skill after the other that the author in me needed to work on. Crazy how fast I could find all the flaws in abilities as a writer. It was amazing to me how quickly that list grew and with any hesitation. Scary.

A Hands-On Approach

Throughout the weekend, editing took over. It was quite educational. Hearing that I could become a better editor of my own work was intriguing to me. By a hands-on approach to the editing of our own pieces and the different editing styles she exposed us to this weekend allowed me to begin weaving and intertwining all the skills and learning into “My Living the Writer’s Life Journal” I’ve been composing each weekend I’m in class.

By the end of the weekend with this talented editor, I found that the weekend of writing both positive and negative attributes started morphing into just attributes without the strength of a (+) or (-) sign attached to it. This was so freeing for me both as a person and a writer. Another layer uncovered. Another mask taken off.

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Is Depression All in Your Head?

Is depression all in your head? The new holistic theory of neuroplasticity and neuroinflammation and mood disorders. By Dr. Artemis MorrisIn the 1950s the monoamine (amine) hypothesis of depression and the subsequent dawn of antidepressant medications that work by affecting neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, changed the way depression was being treated. The two main classes of psychiatric medication discovered in the 1950s were monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) that worked by boosting brain levels of monoamines (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) in the brain. The original research discovering these medications was due to a study in which patients treated for high blood pressure with reserpine, which blocks the monoamine transporter, developed depression.1 In the 1980s, the pharmaceutical industry created Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), then serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) which were found to be less toxic, but not more effective than the older classes of antidepressants. The newer classes of drugs for depression are being called “me-too” drugs, such as Pristic and Lexapro, because the mechanism of action is not that different from the previous classes of medication in terms of effectiveness and risk. The most recent types of drugs being developed by the pharmaceutical industry are drugs that combine antipsychotic drugs like Abilify and Seroquel together. There are drugs targeting new parts of the brain and neurotransmitters in the brain, such as the glutamate and in particular NMDA receptors, such as ketamine, but these are still experimental and do not address the cause of neurotransmitter imbalance.2

The effectiveness of antidepressants has been called into question since their advent because research is showing that antidepressant medication is not effective in one third of patients.2 An analysis by Robert DeRubeis, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, found that “Patients with severe depression benefit most from antidepressant medications while those with less-severe symptoms see little or no benefits.”2 Antidepressant medication that focuses on just the neurotransmitters has also been shown to come with enormous risks compared to its benefits in some cases. Dr. Peter Breggin, MD, a psychiatrist, has provided detailed analysis and testimony on cases that scientifically show a causal relationship between antidepressant medication and its effects on suicide, violence, mania and other hidden risks of taking psychiatric medication without the use of therapy.3

The problem with this myopic theory of depression based solely on “neurotransmitters imbalances” is that depression may actually be caused by a complex interaction of dysfunctional inflammatory processes, oxidative stress, neurodegeneration, and altered neuroplasticity, rather than just neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. This theory was uncovered, in part, by the observation that patients with chronic inflammation are more likely to have depression, while patients diagnosed with depression show increased levels of circulating cytokines markers that are involved in inflammation.4 It has been found that activation of the brain immune cells, called microglia cells that produce cytokines, were more active in people who committed suicide, showing a crucial role for neuroinflammation in the pathogensis of depression.4

This new theory of depression that puts neurotransmitter-altering pharmaceutical medications into a larger context, is called neuroplasticity. In neuroplasticity, the brain’s complex processing and expression of emotions affected by neurotransmitter transmission is a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole pie.

Neuroplasticity may help to explain why antidepressant medication is not effective in approximately one-third of the people that use them and why these medications may not be effective in some people long term. Neuroplasticity recognizes that the brain can learn, change, and be affected by a host of factors that tie it into the rest of the body and how we interact with our environment. In neuroplasticity, the HPA axis, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration, the gut-brain connection and microbiome, and epigenetic changes and influences are included in the web of cause and effect. An Integrative, holistic approach to medicine addresses all of these factors.

In this new theory of depression, neuroinflammation is the mediator of the changes that lead to neurotransmitter imbalances and ultimately changes in mood and behavior characterized by depression. There is a two-way street of chronic disease and depression in that people with chronic disease are more likely to suffer from depression and people with depression are more likely to suffer from chronic disease. In the neuroinflammation theory, there is mounting evidence that depression is caused by a breakdown of several pathways, including the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the glutamatergic system, and monoaminergic neurotransmission, and is mediated by the Inflammatory cytokines affecting the brain.5 In particular, then, microglia and astrocytes’ interaction with the central nervous system’s (CNSs) immune system provides a more comprehensive explanation, and possible treatment for depression.5

While it is still standard conventional practice in psychiatry to prescribe antidepressant medication, there are a host of other factors to consider when addressing this debilitating disease. Furthermore, alternatives that may be just as effective as antidepressants are worth exploring with an integrative medical practitioner. Davidson and colleagues in the multicentre Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group compared the safety and efficacy of daily doses of 900–1500 mg hypericum with 50–100 mg of the antidepressant sertraline, or placebo. The 8-week, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group study enrolled 340 outpatients diagnosed with major depression (DSM-IV criteria). In this study St Johns wort extract was just as effective as Sertraline with fewer side-effects with an effectiveness of approximately 24% for St Johns wort and 32% for Sertraline compared to placebo.6

Exercise is also another treatment strategy that was found to be just as effective as the antidepressant medication Sertraline in patients with coronary artery disease with additional benefits in cardiovascular function.7 100 patients with coronary heart disease and elevated depressive symptoms were randomized to 4 months of aerobic exercise (3 times/week), sertraline (50–200 mg/day), or placebo for 16 weeks and were also monitored for cardiovascular biomarkers (heart rate variability, endothelial function, baroreflex sensitivity, inflammation, and platelet function.7 All groups showed improvement on Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores with exercise and sertraline being equally effective at reducing depressive symptoms and exercise showing greater improvements in heart rate variability compared with sertraline.7

In light of the new holistic paradigm of neuroplasticity in depression, it is worth considering the risks, safety, and true benefits of antidepressant medication for patients and applying a therapeutic order to its treatment that addresses more than just the neurotransmitter symptom imbalances. In this new scientific paradigm, a holistic approach that addresses the causes of depression and the factors involved in its pathogenesis, such as, inflammation, the gut-brain connection, the microbiome, viruses, bacteria and chronic disease factors may provide a more effective and less dangerous approach to this harrowing disease.

References: 1. Goldberg et al. 2014. Revisiting the Monoamine Hypothesis of Depression: A New Perspective. Perspectives in Medicinal Chemistry. 6: 1–8. 2. doi: 10.4137/PMC.S11375. 3. https://psychcentral.com/lib/depression-new-medications-on-the-horizon/ 4. Jennifer, C. D. (2010, Jan 06). Effectiveness of antidepressants varies widely. Wall Street Journal Retrieved from https://libproxy.bridgeport.edu/login?url=https://search-proquestcom.libproxy.bridgeport.edu/docview/399071216?accountid=26484 3. https://breggin.com 4. Brites, C, Fernandes, A. 2015. Neuroinflammation and Depression: Microglial activation, extracellular microvesicles, and microRNA dysregulation. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. 9:476. Doi:10.33891/fncal.2015.0046. 5. Jo, WK, Zhang, Y, Emrich, HM, Dietrich, D. 2015. Glia in the cytokine-mediated onset of depression: Fine tuning the immune response. Frontiers in neuroscience:9:268. https://doi.org/ 10.3389/fncel.2015.00268 6. Shelton, RC, Keller, MD, Gelenberg, A., et. al. 2002. Effectiveness of St John’s wort on major depression: A Randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 287: 1807–14. 7. Blumenthal, et. Al. Exercise and pharmacological treatment of depression symptoms in patients with coronary heart disease. 2012. J Am Coll Cardiol. 60: 1053–63. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.jacc.2012.04.040

Dr. Artemis Morris will be co-presenting with Dr. Michael Lovich to health care practitioners on the neuroinflammation theory and depression in Farmington, CT on Sunday, October 14 8:30 am - 12 pm.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-dont-miss-learning-seminar-for-clinicians-the-two-way-streetof-gut-brain-health-in-chronic-tickets-50286085034

Dr. Artemis Morris is a Naturopathic Physician, Licensed Acupuncturist, professor of nutrition, researcher, author, and public speaker. Artemis is the academic director of the Integrative Health and Healing Program at The Graduate Institute (www.learn.edu) and professor of nutrition at The Human Nutrition Institute at University of Bridgeport, where she also taught nutrition for the Naturopathic Medical School. She completed her Naturopathic Doctorate and Masters in Acupuncture at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Artemis is the medical director and founder of Artemis Wellness Center, LLC an integrative wellness center that focuses on women’s health and wellness. Artemis has served as the director of the natural health center at Masonic Healthcare Center in Wallingford, the largest geriatric healthcare center in CT where she did research on acupuncture and pain management. Dr. Artemis has been researching the Mediterranean Diet and plants of Crete since 2005 and lectures at medical conferences on The Mediterranean diet and other natural health topics. Dr. Artemis Morris co-authored the book, The Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies, with Molly Rossiter. Her practice philosophy is inspired by the quote from Paracelsus that states, "The art of healing comes from nature and not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature with an open mind." www.artemiswellnesscenter.com & www.drartemis.com

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