21 June, 2017 12:58

When the war in our mind ends, peace emerges.

When we co-founded Emotional CPR (eCPR), I put my very best thinking into the project as a way of embodying how I envisioned relationships and how every person could learn how to support another person through an emotional crisis. eCPR has evolved over the years and so have I. I have a new insight and an invitation I would like to share.

First, however, I want to briefly review the features of dialogue which are essential to embody if one is to practice eCPR. These features, more elaborated, are in the eCPR workbook. In dialogue: 1) We use our authentic voice, meaning we speak from our heart, our vital center; 2) We listen from a neutral place free from preconceived notions and any resistance, and use curious inquiry to listen for meaning beneath the words; 3a) We practice deeply respecting each person and look forthe richness of their life experience, which feeds their vital center, and know they have something to teach us; 3b) Wesee the value in thoughts and behaviors different from our own; 4) We share our voice so others may understand, and suspend our beliefs as dialogue is neither debate nor an effort to convince anyone of anything; 5) We allow ourselves to feel another person’s emotions and their experience, and share ours to encourage an emotional dialogue; and 6) We understand that we are all equal and every person has something to offer, leaving status, power and privilege outside of the dialogue.

I am on a panel presentation June 22, 2017 (http://bit.ly/2rVYkgE), which has inspired me to ariculate my new learning beyond recovery and outside the ‘mental health’ education-and-advocacy bubble. The title of my presentation is Intentional Wellness, Nurturing the Soul and Conscious Self-Evolution,

A significant part of my intentional wellness journey has been learning to believe completely in myself. This includes, among other beliefs, being grounded in the wisdom and the discoveries of my life’s journey. To that end, I think of the caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly.

The caterpillar tries to kill what it perceives as “foreign” cells invading the chrysalis, but it can’t. The caterpillar does not know that these foreign entities are the imaginal cells through which the caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly.

Do we as humans have imaginal cells? Do I have a destiny that I am not yet aware of?

The newest chapter in my journey of liberation is nurturing the soul. I am breaking open and letting go of attachments—including old, habitual ways of thinking—so that new learning and wisdom can emerge. All I need to do is go into stillness to find answers or the direction I will walk. I am learning that I make shifts not through my thoughts but through my feelings, my body, my intuition. I am experiencing expanded awareness, which I don’t yet have words to explain. This process, however, allows inner knowing to emerge and opens possibilities for cooperative relationships and creating the emerging future—together.

I have found that as a result of deeply embodying the practice of dialogue with others, our hearts and minds fuse and there is a deepening awareness of the light of our consciousness, which evolves us forward. The grace lifts us to transcend our cultural conditioning.

I have also found that a commitment to my liberation journey means that I recognize that the extent to which I get emotionally hooked on what someone is expressing reflects the extent to which I am not free—that my thinking is stuck on a particular belief or ideology that I have not thoroughly examined and let go. In other words, it is a blind spot—a good indicator of where I have some internal cleaning up to do.

The more deeply I listen, the more I connect to myself and to others and gain a larger understanding of our shared journey. The invitation for everyone is to transcend our social conditioning and see other ways of thinking and being in the world as valid and good—and that means that more possibilities open up. Our heart and mind expand; our perceptual barriers dissolve. We see life more clearly. We co-create a new paradigm, a new way of thinking and being with one another, and we open up to a deeper source of creative intelligence. In this fertile ground of openness, we think more clearly and therefore can more effectively co-create the communities we want. In my mind, that is a peaceful, cooperative society.

Like the caterpillar, the script of my conscious self-evolution is coded within me. To read it I place my attention on the highest frequency of my being and bring my Whole Self into harmony with that frequency. I strive to live my life in such a way that I both lift myself and lift others. My own experiential evolution is the energy that evokes others and flows through me with the fire of the force of life itself. I can feel the metamorphosis taking place (Barbara Marx Hubbard, 2011).

This sounds great but what does it mean more concretely?

I will use eCPR as an example of the process. When two people go together into the deep, dark and vulnerable space led by the person in emotional crisis but with a supporter who embodies the dialogue process mentioned above, a new way of perceiving the unfolding situation or process emerges. New insights and resources are revealed which allows not only a resolution of the crisis but inherently creates an opening for the person, who now perceives reality more clearly, to make changes in her life in order to live more aligned with her deepest values and intentions. When we get underneath what we have been taught to believe about ourselves and our relationship to the world we tap into a deeper level of creative intelligence which in turn allows us to think clearer and behave in ways that move us in the direction of the life we are creating.

One does not need to go through a crisis to find a new way of perceiving challenges and finding innovative solutions. Leading edge work is being done using a model developed by the Presencing Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which proposes a framework and methodology for understanding and practicing a learning cycle. They state that most learning methodologies focus on learning form the past while they focus on learning from the future as it emerges. In order to do this one must suspend the voices of judgment, cynicism and fear and connect with a sense of appreciation and wonder, opening up a new space of exploration and inquiry. They have a specific protocol for this process which they use to facilitate over 25,000 participants from 161 countries on an experiential learning journey. The phases of the protocol are used by groups of people working on solving a wide variety of community problems.

My intention is to create a group to work on federal mental health policy issues but that is not really part of this blog!

In closing, I submit that a new style of leadership is spreading. It will engage and energize people through taping into innate wisdom, integrity and transparency with high levels of trust and positive energy and embodying mindful listening and other emerging practices. This is a very exciting opportunity to co-create the future together; it is a big invitation.

The more deeply I let go of attachments and explore the unlimited potential of the human mind/body/spirit the more I see peace emerging on the horizon. I am so grateful to be alive today and to be part of this unfolding process.

25 May, 2017 01:33

The Power of One

There are so many Certified Peer Specialists and advocates working to change the mental “illness” system and to support people who have challenges in living the ‘status quo’ life style. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the power of one advocate who inspires me to be a better and more intelligent person – and a more compassionate human being. Her name is Carmella Kudybac. She wrote a powerfully moving blog “I am Not the Next Headline in Tragedy”, May 18, 2017, https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/05/not-next-headline-tragedy/

Carmella is fiercely passionate about human rights and living with dignity in an inclusive community. I am so inspired by this first blog I have ever read of hers. I don’t know if she has written others but I am moved to share some of the main points she eloquently made.

1) The system society has created to help those who are labeled often unawarely causes us great harm, humilitation and makes our difficulty in living even more difficult. Carmela states, “I explained to my team of medical professionals that the psychosis does not subside (with medication), but instead becomes more private. Because I am too tranquilized to physically acknowledge my inner beliefs, voices and persecution, medical professionals subjectively observe me to be more “normal”, and less “disturbed” to witness”. She continues, “Since I am an avid dancer and horseback rider, these side effects are extremely disturbing. Even activities of daily living such as going up and down the stairs with a load of laundry become too painful to endure with the extra weight on my feet. The sedation also limits what I can do in my life. When I last needed 17 hours of sleep each day, I was unable to hold down a job at 10 hours a week, a job that I had maintained at 20 hours a week for the previous 8 years. This was crushing to my self esteem”.

2) That said, the system – and lets not sugar coat it – may be a very dangerous, trauma-inducing and soul-killing place. Carmela states, “I may be psychotic, and I may have upsets, but I realize that I am anything but safe”.

3) Changing the system and society for that matter means we need to stand firmly in our integrity and be courageous. Carmela stated, “While I am aware that I will most likely lose this trial by jury, I intend to take a stand for mental diversity and my right to coexist with others in mainstream reality without being medicated”. She won her historic court case.

4) Be clear about the support we need and/or specific next steps we suggest. Carmella brilliantly stated how we “… can join my fight by doing any of the following” and listed some suggestions. Beautifully model for us!!!

5) One stone can send ripples far and have an impact much greater than the thrower knows. The power of one can lift many higher. Carmela lifts me higher. I will always stand by her and support her. She has taught me a lot in the few years I have known her; we have actually agreed to be in a co-learning relationship. I just left her a phone message telling her among other things that I hope she continues to write blogs.

Thank you Carmella for showing us the power of one.

Lauren’s Emotional CPR March-April Training Calendar: An Invitation to Compassion, Peace and Awakening

Lauren’s Emotional CPR March-April Training Calendar: An Invitation to Compassion, Peace and Awakening

It has been seven years since we began doing eCPR certification trainings. We have dozens of trainers spread around the world. An even higher number of apprentices and facilitators receive individual mentoring on their way to becoming trainers.

eCPR becomes a way of life.

Many people hunger for innovative approaches to support other people through emotional crisis or distress. We know that crisis and distress are not synonymous and that the term ‘crisis’ is a judgement. What one might judge to be a crisis may not at all be defined as such by the person experiencing the emotional state. When we created eCPR, however, it was actually designed to support people through very tumultuous emotional experience, so crisis seemed like the best word to use at the time.

We have come a long way from those days and now know that when eCPR is really understood and the knowledge and skills are applied to every day life – it becomes a way of life. That is what people from all over the world tell us. Their relationships are better because communication is clearer – both receptive and expressive as well as verbal and non-verbal language flows bi-directionally and more lovingly.

Introductory Workshops
We have found that an effective way to introduce eCPR to a new community or constituency is to conduct a workshop which typically varies in length from 90 minutes to a half-day. Workshops have been done with a few people to over 200 people and serve as a way to give people a taste of eCPR – it is a brief introduction.

Often when I find myself in a city where eCPR has not previously been introduced, I offer a free workshop. This is the case in Nevada County, CA on my schedule below.

Sometimes I offer a free workshop in a city where eCPR does have a foothold but I have free time and am able to offer one, as is the case in Oakland, CA, and Seattle, WA, also on the schedule below.

If enough people are interested in a workshop and they contact us, I am happy to deliver. If there is no previously arranged space, we will secure one. We are creative and resourceful. This on-the-fly organic style workshop is perhaps unique to me and the particular March-April 2017 schedule. Typically workshops are scheduled way in advance and advertised. I am open to adventure so I am putting the invitation out to offer these workshops without pre-arranging all the bells and whistles, so to speak.

Certification Training
Trainings are typically financed in two ways, either an entity is bringing us in and has paid for the training or a self-pay method where individual registrations cover all costs and anyone can sign-up. The only self-pay training on my schedule (below) is Portland, OR. All certification trainings and some workshops are listed on the eCPR website. When a training is open to others, a contact person is listed on the eCPR “upcoming trainings” webpage.

eCPR is an embodied practice. That is to say that when one begins to really understand the relational process – a giving and receiving process – and how to listen with the eyes, ears and heart then our essence, our entire being, including our body becomes a tool of healing, compassion and understanding. And at the core, that is how we support people through emotional distress. Anyone can do it if they take the time to learn and are open to the process. It is essential to get out of the head and into the body, particularly into the heart and experience our inherent wisdom and inner knowing. Often we need to re-learn how to listen to our authentic voice within because our culture does not encourage this type of genuine humanness.

eCPR training teams are organized and assembled by the team coordinator and each one is unique. I decided to share my calendar because it is unusual to have one person coordinate and co-facilitate five certification trainings in less than 6 weeks. I wanted to let our cadre of trainers know what I was up to and then thought why not let other people know as well. I am very pleased to see the growth of eCPR; writing this blog is a way to celebrate how far we have come.

Lauren’s eCPR training schedule March & April 2017

All trainings are 2-day eCPR Certifications unless other stated. All training are done with additional members of the training teams

March 9-10, Seattle, WA

March 13, is available for a FREE workshop, Seattle, WA | Contact Lauren

March 15-16, Redmond, WA

March 22-23, Portland, OR | Register Now

March 27 workshop, tentative date, Nevada County, CA | Contact Lauren

April 6-7, Oakland, CA

April 10-11 Oakland, CA

April 12- is available for a FREE workshop in Oakland, CA | Contact Lauren

Emotional CPR Explained
Emotional CPR (eCPR) is a dynamic public health educational training that teaches people to support others through an emotional crisis by Connecting (C)- listening with our eyes, ears, and heart to feel the person’s presence; emPowering (P)- accepting the uncertainty of not knowing what is best, but open to collaborative exploration; and Revitalizing (R)- exploring our vital center – our truth, our authentic self and our genuine voice.

eCPR is recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and CARF, the largest behavioral healthcare accreditation body in the world, and others. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations referred to eCPR as a “peace-making” process.

Other eCPR training team members include: Reid Smithdeal, Fawn Preston, Kozi Arrington, Dina Tyler, Heather Riemer & Rachel Harris

For information about free workshops (as noted in the cities, above, contact Lauren,laurenspiro1)

For general information seeEmotional-CPR.org

Lauren Spiro’s eCPR training schedule March & April 2017

Lauren Spiro’s eCPR training schedule March & April 2017

All trainings are 2-day eCPR Certifications unless other stated. All training are done with additional members of the training teams

March 9-10, Seattle, WA,

March 13, is available for a FREE workshop, Seattle, WA

March 15-16, Redmond, WA

March 22-23, Portland, OR

March 27 workshop, tentative date, Nevada County Behavioral Health, CA

April 6-7, Oakland, CA

April 10-11 Oakland, CA

April 12- is available for a FREE workshop in Oakland, CA

Emotional CPR (eCPR) is a dynamic public health educational training that teaches people to support others through an emotional crisis by Connecting (C)- listening with our eyes, ears, and heart to feel the person’s presence; empowering (P)- accepting the uncertainty of not knowing what is best, but open to collaborative exploration and Revitalizing (R)- exploring our vital center – our truth, our authentic self and our genuine voice.

eCPR is recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and CARF, the largest behavioral healthcare accreditation body in the world, and others. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations referred to eCPR as a “peace-making” process.

Lauren Spiro’svision of social justice and mental health liberation fuels her work of community building, developing our individual and collective capacity for feeling deeply connected, appreciating the vast creative intelligence of the human mind and creating pathways so everyone may come home. Diagnosed and institutionalized with chronic schizophrenia as a teenager, she has emerged as a visionary thinker, artist, and consultant dedicated to embodying inner peace to create global peace. She has an M.A. in Clinical/Community Psychology, has been featured on national media, co-founded Emotional CPR and two non-profit mental health corporations, is the former director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (Laurenspiro1

Other eCPR training team members include: Reid Smithdeal, Fawn Preston, Kozi Arrington, Dina Tyler, Heather Riemer & Rachel Harris

For information about free workshops (as noted in the cities, above, contact Lauren, laurenspiro1)

For general information see www.emotional-cpr.org

Relaxation Practices Like Yoga and Meditation Can Reduce the Need for Medical Care by 43%

​Yo g a T h e r a p y Today | Winter 2016

By Kristine Kaoverii Weber and Brett Sculthorp

Link to full article:​


Excerpts complied by Lauren Spiro

The MGH Benson-Henry Institute recently released a cohort study1 showing that relaxation practices like yoga postures, breathing practices, and meditation can reduce the need for medical care by 43%. A February 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 cited yoga as one of the most commonly utilized complementary and integrative medicines in America.

While a growing number of researchers and federal agencies like the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledge the medical benefits of these practices, the question of how to integrate yoga into the healthcare system remains largely unaddressed by these agencies.

Launched in 2007 by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a nonprofit

focused on testing new models of care, best practices, and effective innovations,

The Triple Aim intends to optimize health system performance by serving three

goals: improving the health of populations, reducing costs, and improving patient

experience of care.

The Triple Aim is now widely looked to as a framework for creating better healthcare,

partly because it was adopted into the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Yoga is accessible, adaptable, low risk, low cost, and has a broad and growing research base. It has the potential to be integrated into any number of services—for example, a mental health outpatient program at a community mental health center, a weight loss program in a health department, and an employee wellness program at a hospital.

The biopsychosocialspiritual model is considered the gold standard for understanding and treating many diseases.

When human beings are perceived as multilayered and intrinsic to their environments, the viewpoint of the causes of disease begins to shift, as do the approaches to disease treatment and prevention. Health is seen not as a purely biological or personal phenomenon; it is the result of an intricate web of interrelated factors, behaviors, patterns, and interactions. For yoga therapists, it may seem obvious that the benefits of yoga permeate all layers of this model, and research has demonstrated that yoga has numerous structural, physiological, mental health, and social benefits. What may be less obvious to yoga therapists, however, is that these benefits can be scaled to population health through, for example, integrated care strategies that merge mental health and primary care services. If the well-known benefits of yoga—such as improved parasympathetic nervous system function and psychoemotional benefits—are scaled to the community level, we will start to see shifts in population health outcomes. Tremendus potential benefits to society could be realized by approaching yoga therapy through a population health lens.

Health Professional Education

Understanding health through the biopsychosocialspiritual model opens the possi-

bility of a broader agenda for health professional education. How do healthcare professionals need to be educated in order to better understand and address the complex web of health-related factors? How can CIM providers build bridges in thinking and collaboration across what has become a landscape of highly specialized and disciplinary areas of healthcare?

The National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education has a role in coordinating and documenting new education models, practice competencies, and initiatives across the United States. It has adopted an interdisciplinary mindset and is open to new ideas and new areas of professional engagement. This center and similar organizations can be nodes for CIM integration, where yoga therapy trainers can become a part of implementing whole health pedagogies.

Yoga Therapy Can Reduce Costs

The United States will spend about $10,000 per person on healthcare in 2015 ($3.2 trillion in total), yet our outcomes look more like those of a developing country. Much of the expense can be attributed to (1) high administrative costs (one quarter of all costs); (2) high costs of medications, durable medical equipment, and salaries; and (3) the relatively higher rate of interventions compared to other industrialized countries.

Yoga therapy services, however, can be delivered in ways that are not top heavy in staff or administration, that do not require any expensive equipment, and with minimal interventions that involve props to help with asana practice. When yoga therapy is provided in groups, direct costs (therapist’s fee, equipment, overhead, etc.) are low. From a lifestyle medicine or prevention perspective, these costs become almost negligible. Yoga-based lifestyle change can reverse heart disease and positively impact other chronic illnesses. Many of these illnesses (as well as chronic pain and addiction challenges) respond well to lifestyle therapy, which is starting to be considered best practice in some areas of medicine.

Yoga is unique in providing interventions across the four domains of public

health—treatment, recovery, prevention, and health promotion. The time for yoga

to become a part of the healthcare system is here. The yoga therapy community

should partner with healthcare leaders to initiate both top-down policy-level advoca-

cy and initiatives and bottom-up local-level integrative models. Yoga professionals

can facilitate this shift by becoming more engaged in a broader range of health

and research institutions and by conducting their own small-scale research, as

well as by training the healthcare work-force in the value of including yoga therapy in an integrated healthcare system.

Amerika 2017: Hello Civil Rights Violations and Blatent Sexism in the U.S. Senate

Yesterday Senator Elizabeth Warren, as part of her job, went to the floor of the United States Senate to debate whether Jeff Sessions should be confirmed as the US Attorney General. She quoted from Senator Ted Kennedy’s statement made in the Judiciary Committee from 1986 when Senator Sessions was being considered to be a federal judge. Sessions was ultimately blocked from a federal judgeship. Senator Sessions back then was a United States Attorney who had brought a prosecution against civil rights workers for helping elderly black citizens vote. After reading Senators Kennedy’s statement, Senator Elizabeth Warren began to read from a letter written by Coretta Scott King to the US Senate. She wrote the following about Jeff Sessions – “US Attorney Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens”. At that point Mitch McConnell accused Warren of impugning Sessions on the Senate floor — a violation of Senate rule 19 and she was forced to sit down and stop debating. She was shut up and not permitted to speak on the senate floor until after the vote on Mr. Session’s appointment.

Later that day Senator Elizabeth Warren stepped outside the room and read from the letter Coretta Scott King wrote which stated: “Jeff Sessions accomplished with a federal prosecution what the local sheriff’s accomplished 20 years ago with clubs and cattle prods…many elderly blacks were visited multiple times by the FBI who then hauled them over 180 miles by buss to a grand jury in Mobile when they could more easily have testified at a grand jury 20 miles away in Selma”. Senator Warren said, “ Those are actions. Those are facts” and “The conclusion Coretta Scott King drew was based on his record”. Correta Scott King wrote, “I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect not only on the Judicial system in Alabama but on the progress we have made everywhere towards fulfilling my husbands dreams that he envisioned over 20 years ago”. Senator Warren said “the letter is an important 1986 document that moved a Republican controlled senate to say no to confirming him as a federal court judge”.

Later the same day some Senate democrats read from the same letter Senator Elizabeth Warren read from and they submitted it for the record and they were not cited by Rule 19

Jeff Sessions is now being considered for U.S. Attorney General. How are you suppose to criticize him? Is this selective enforcement of Rule 19?

Senator Elizabeth Warren states there are 2 questions:

1) Can the Attorney General be trusted to stand up strongly on behalf of everyone, not just those he agrees with but everyone.

2) Does he have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the President of the United States

when the President orders an illegal and unconstitutional order?

What Correta Scott King said is directly relevant to the first of these questions.

Elizabeth Warren added "It is a powerful and moving letter, and it speaks to a moment in history in the 1960s, a moment in history in the 1980s, and a moment in history right now in 2017”.

Living by Our Principles Creates Safety

I am reminded that embodying inner peace to create global peace means embodying that I love Trump. I have compassion for his fears, his vision, his tenacity and his desire to be a great president and to make the world a better place. We know that the best of intentions does not mean the best of outcomes. Hitler knew he had great intentions; he was passionate about making the world a better place. I hope we all know the results of his ‘good intentions’. Fortunately most of the world did not agree with Hitler’s intentions. An estimated 60 million people were killed in World War II. What have we learned about ourselves and our society as a result of war? What have we learned about justice, inclusion, thinking well of all people, cooperation, community building?

I think my work is to reach out to all people – particularly those with perspectives different from myself – that I find to be unjust and unwise.. It also means that I use my best thinking to build community, to bring people together in dialogue and deeper conversations so that we may actually, together, build stronger communities and a better world.

Today I look to two leaders for knowledge around this topic: Barack Obama and Otto Scharmer of MIT.

Will we be a country that believes in fairness and justice and operates with an open mind and an open heart or will we be a country that believes that lives in fear and sees life as fundamentally unjust and so we close our heart and our mind and brace ourselves in a false illusion of safety?

Below, is the first public statement from the former president Obama since Trump signed executive order on the travel ban.

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy – not just during an election but every day.

Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organized and have their voices heard by their elected officials Is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign-policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the president fundamentally disagree with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

Below is a very important article about leaning into the future, which was a class that Otto Scharmer taught this semester with 20,000+ students from around the world.

On the Making of Trump—The Blind Spot That Created Him – and Otto Scharmer, Co-founder u.lab, Senior Lecturer, MIT; Thousand Talents Program Professor, Tsinghua University


TODAY 11-13-16 5pm ET Free Virtual Listening Circle – Just For Women

Dear Sisters,

Join us for a Free Virtual Listening Circle – Just For Women

Date: Sunday, November 13, 2016 at:

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Pacific

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm Mountain

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm Central

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm Eastern

Connection Information:

Join from computer: https://zoom.us/j/9076209232

Or Telephone: Dial: +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll) or +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll)

Meeting ID: 907 620 9232

Brief Description: Our society is undergoing a major shift and part of that is evidenced by the result of the 2016 presidential election. As we move towards uncertain times it is useful for us as women to come together virtually in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental and respectful space to share our feelings and our thinking. Everyone will have an opportunity to speak from the heart and be heard. Our intention is to feel re-connected and hopeful and that our time together serves as part of a healing process and a knowing that we are not alone. Co-hosted by Rita Cronise & Lauren Spiro

Purpose and Guidelines for our Virtual Listening Circle: Our virtual listening circle is a sacred space to support you to feel safe and trust that you can share deeply. What would support you to feel safe?

Our Virtual Listening Circle is a way of being together and thinking together in a safe, non-judgmental space. It is an invitation to:

* Be aware of our feelings and reveal our deepest truth.

* Honor the thoughts, feelings and experiences of other people while keeping our heart and mind open.

* Respect as an active (not passive) process of understanding that we are surrounded by teachers, meaning we can learn from others.

* Understand that everyone’s perspective is equally valued and honored; there is no right and wrong.

* Co-create a heart-to-heart connection built on respect and trust

* Explore equality. Outside the circle we may experience people having different levels of power (based on social status or position) but in our circle everyone is equal and has something to offer.

I Will Not Abandon You

My tipping point came last week after learning about the killing of 3 police officers in New Orleans, which had followed very shortly after the murder of five police officers in Dallas. Now we are killing the people that society has set up to keep us ‘safe’! I felt a deep and ancient fear and anxiety rumbling within. I wondered if others felt this tremblement de terre – this inner earthquake.

My heart aches from the pain inflicted on others, as well as experienced by the individuals who acted out their fear in a murderous rampage. In some ways I should not be surprised by the desperate​ calls for help by those who are lost, confused and outraged. And our culture, sadly, through the media, technology and the greed for profits and an illusionary moment of recognition, validation or ‘fame’ makes access to weapons they can tote around irrationally easy. We are all responsible to be the change we want to see.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My inner earthquake was part of a shift in my own consciousness and a shift that I believe is part of our collective human consciousness. In my grieving for the loss of humanity in my communities and in our world I am being called to do more.

I can and must do better to reach out and be part of re-building the village.

I called a co-conspirator, Iden Campbell McCollum, with whom I have worked before on community building projects. We announced and have been carrying out free Listening To Orlando gatherings via teleconference. These have been a powerful source of connection, strength and inspiration for everyone on the calls. I feel closer to Iden then ever. We have created two safe, virtual spaces (one for the LGBTQI constituency and another for allies to LGBTQI) where we can get un-numb from the tragedies du jour and especially from the glaringly targeted murder of 49 mostly Latino LGBTQI. Does it matter to me that I live 2.5 hours from Orlando? Maybe. More importantly, my close connections with Iden and an array of oppressed constituencies – including some of my own identities, has inspired me. Feel globally, think rationally, act locally.

The other action I jut took as a privileged white woman was to go to my first NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Colored People) community meeting. It started off well with prayers for unity in a standing room only space of over 300 people. Then a gentleman 15 feet from me had what appeared to be a heart attack. All the attention in the room shifted to him. He was unconscious and not breathing. It seemed like a long time until he was revived by police officers, followed by the EMTs. He was wheeled away on a stretcher with gratitude and applause. There was a palpable regaining of our breath in the room and a reminder of the life and death nature of this meeting. The bottom line was that the predominantly African-American community where the meeting took place was understandably outraged at their mistreatment by law enforcement officers, policies and procedures. And I witnessed a good white woman who happens to be the chief of police acting out her racism. And I will not be silent. I will not collude with her racism and with the institutionalized mistreatment of human beings. For me mental health advocacy encompasses ending all forms of oppression, of people hurting people. Any act to end any form of oppression is an act to end all forms of oppression and it is an essential part of the struggle to transform society.

I will not abandon the chief.

I have learned from my mistakes because people had the integrity and the courage to correct me – to point out my oppressive attitude, comments or actions. I have had some experience, as well, of correcting the oppressive attitudes and actions of others. Now it is time for me to step out of my comfort zone in a bigger way. It is more important then ever to not abandon each other, but rather to lift each other. I will not abandon the chief of police. I will offer to be her ally – and respectfully support her to see how her actions and words created a barrier to community building. First, I will take the time to be clear in my thinking and my analysis of the dynamics that transpired. This way I will be able to genuine, and relaxedly reach for her humanity.

I will thank her for the strengths she brought to the meeting. She started her presentation to the audience speaking from her heart. She shared her family lineage as a 4th generation police officer and why she became a cop. Her visits to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and the civil rights museum in Tennessee where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated helped fuel her commitment to human and civil rights and to be an agent of change in the new era of ‘community policing.’ Beautiful.

I plan to ask her if she noticed a point when the energy in the room shifted. I saw it and wonder what she observed. I saw the audience grow increasingly impatient, humiliated and insulted. Community members were not asked about their ideas for solutions. They were told how they should come to two different monthly law enforcement focused meetings and make improvements to police policies and procedures. They were encouraged to submit an application to become a police officer – how wonderful it is to police your neighborhood where you have established relationships.

Oh my!! White privilege and power reared its ugly head.

In my humble opinion the audience was not treated with dignity and respect and was not asked to be an equal partner in exploring solutions. This is not rocket science. Community building which includes changing attitudes is the hardest work I have ever done. To be done well I think it takes such a profound desire for change and learning that one needs to be willing to be unrecognizable to ones self. The process is rich with personal complexities, curious inquiry and forgiveness of self and others. I put a lot of my time and resource into being honest with who I am, my motivations, my blind side, and being in a space of genuine compassion so I can sensitively, respectfully engage in dialogue with people who look and/or act different from myself.

It is important both for me as a person interrupting oppression, and for the person acting in oppressive ways, to be allowed to share our thinking and feelings and understand that we will all make mistakes in this process and that we will get better at it.

Please share your insights and lessons learned from community building so we can all be lifted higher.

* * * * *


The purpose of these tele-gatherings are to get un-numb by giving people a space to have a voice, speak from their heart, be heard, validated and respected. The gatherings also provide a safe and compassionate space which serves as a contradiction to the hardness of the world we live in.

“Orlando reminded me just how vulnerable we remain as a community. With all of our recent accomplishments, we are still openly vulnerable to those who want to do us harm. May we stay strong, united, and vigilant.” — Iden ​Campbell McCollum

“Forty-nine individuals were celebrating the beauty of their lives when they were brutally murdered. Their deaths are a call for truth, reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, and the development of inclusive next steps that advance the safety and respect for everyone that are so desperately needed in our communities today.” — Lauren Spiro

Call (Toll #) 712-432-0375, PIN 1029243#


August 2 & 9, 2016 (Tuesdays) from 10:30am – 12pm ET

Join as many times as you would like.

Co-facilitators: Iden ​Campbell McCollum and Lauren Spiro


July 30, 2016 (Saturday) from 10:30am – 12pm ET

August 11, 2016 (Thursday) from 8:00pm – 9:30pm ET

Co-facilitators: Lauren Spiro and Rita Cronise

“The person you love has a lot of suffering and has not had a chance to be listened to.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

​Principled and Loving Support: The Greatest Gift We Can Give


Though this story is true and still unfolding the name of my friend, “Dakota,” or “D,” is fictitious.

D called a few days ago and said “I am calling you because I sent you a letter and a package. I wanted to talk to you before you got them because by the time you get them I will be dead.” This was said in a calm but hesitatingly thoughtful voice. A voice that is certain of what needs to be said but is not easily spoken. I have known D for many years. And separate from that I am familiar with this tone and the emotion behind it. I hope everyone is familiar with that tone — that ask for help.

I asked what was going on. D had attempted suicide a few days ago and remained in the hospital due to medical complications from the suicide attempt. I listened. I told D how much I cared and was ready to come and get D if that was what D wanted and D could live in my guest bedroom for as long as D wanted. D would think about it.

It’s been a few days since I made that offer to D – an offer I have never before made to anyone. I have clarified for myself the intent of my offer. I will soon share my intent with D, and writing this now is my effort to clarify my intentions:

I am not so interested in putting a band-aid on your wound, although I do believe a band-aid can help you get to tomorrow — and maybe the week after or the month after. I have seen too much suffering in my life — Your suffering and the suffering of countless others. I am learning that suffering is a cycle that only ends when you decide to end it. Just to be crystal clear, I speak of ending suffering, not of ending your life.

I decided that I want to do what I can to end your suffering because I intend to live my life without regrets. That means I want to show you how much I care and love you, and want to know that you have the big life you want and deserve – and you need to fight or struggle a little bit more to “know” that you already have it. I want to help you see it.

What this means to me – and this is a negotiation, I am not dictating, I am clarifying as best I can what I think makes sense at this point in time — I want you to get your things in order so that you can move into my home for as long as you need. Our work will take – my guess – at least 2 months, maybe more.

I want us to practice meditation daily – the power of which is something we are both familiar with. Perhaps, more important than meditation is learning to see beyond the illusion that we are taught to think of as the life we are living. We are taught, from our earliest age, so many hard lessons. We are not the sum of the hurtful, oppressive lessons sprinkled with a little fun and some successes. We are, as an international women’s liberation leader once told a group of us at a workshop, “basket cases with some strengths.” So you, the reader, don’t misunderstand I will translate that by saying – We (every human being) are deeply wounded but have tremendous capacity.

My inside work for the past 26 years has been to get underneath what I was taught and to see who I was born to be. My birthright is still being revealed to me and discovered by me. It’s an unfolding process. I was reminded of this process and what it means to me right now while walking on the beach this morning – just a couple hours ago. I was thinking of D and the work that lay before us if D agrees to come and live with me. I became aware that something else, deeper, was transpiring within my life. I listened more closely to my heart. I have learned that when I stop the chatter in my head (sometimes referred to as thinking) a deeper message is typically revealed.

My mind turned to today’s date: 7-3-16. The numbers added together equal 26. As silly as it may sound I have found that often when I have a deeper message trying to be realized and I look at the date – it is related to something profound from my past. I instantly knew what the 26th meant. The only regret I have in my almost 60 years of living is what I said to my father. On May 26,1971 I told my father who was in the deepest stage of a coma what the neurosurgeons said was the best we could hope for if he survived. I was 14 and had not yet learned the grace of holding hope for another. Two days later my father passed and the world as I knew it ended.

I don’t want any more regrets in my life and I don’t want D to continue suffering. And I don’t want to feel like I didn’t do enough, like I didn’t show my love and respect of D enough. The offer to D is to work equally with me and this work is not easy. It is, however, the most important work I have ever done. To explore and do emotional release work around these intentions:

1. To reconnect with our birthright – however we uniquely define it. Who were you born to be?

2. To understand and heal from the impact of the hurt, trauma and oppressive messages we were taught about ourselves and about our place in the world. What happened to you and how did you internalize those messages? How do those messages (or lessons learned) impact your relationships and your life today? How do you want your life to look? How can you get there? What practices support your healing, your liberation?

3. To find liberation – freedom from ego and from the dramatizing of unhealed hurts that pervade the dense dimension of life on this planet (e.g., the violence, destruction of the environment, war, suffering, etc). What would your liberation look like? What would your liberation feel like? If you could be anyone you wanted and do anything you wanted – what would that be?

4. To embody inner peace and co-create global peace. I know that is important work for you and it is for me. How sweet the journey is. Know that you are never alone and that separation is an illusion. We are all deeply connected whether we know it or not. What affects one affects all no matter how subtle.

The instant I sat down at my desk after my walk on the beach – and one minute before beginning to write this piece I decided to text D. I pushed 3 letters on my cell phone when a text from D arrived, “Good Morning” and a few other medical pleasantries. While I wrote the piece, above, we exchanged some texts which with D’s permission I have copied below.

LS: I started texting you when your text popped up. I’ve been thinking a lot about you.
Please do not attempt to end your life until you’ve given life a complete chance to blossom.
I understand dark. I’ve been through plenty of them but I assure you the light at the end of the tunnel is more extraordinary than you imagine.

So let’s talk when you feel ready. No urgency, no hurry. Life unfolds perfectly.
There is a deep reason why I invited you to come and live with me. And at the right time we will talk about that.
D: the last three nights have been hard. making it through the dark night alone. I am thankful you have remained in my life even when I have run away.
LS: I am always here for you. Please let that into your bones
D: I have, it’s just hard to accept and feel worthy.
LS: I believe a major part – Perhaps the most important lesson – you need to learn is that you matter, you are and always have been worthy. And you don’t have to do anything in particular in your life to be worthy and to matter.

You can drive a bus for the rest of your life and be just as worthy and matter just as much to me.

When I needed to clean toilets at the women’s homeless shelter which I ran it helped me to learn this lesson.

We have much work to do – you and I together and we have all the time we need to do it
D: Thank you.

I am preparing for discharge. Going home with a catheter.
LS: The instant your text came through the sky opened up. It is pouring!!!!

Happy Discharge

D: it thundered and lightening last night here!

LS: I love thunder, lightening. Such enormous power being shared, demonstrated

D loved the blog. I told D I had one more point to add and that I would send it to D before sending the blog to be posted.

The point I want to add is: Please let us know who the main support people are at this crisis point in time.

When you (anyone) survive a suicide attempt and you tell me (or anyone) – “This is confidential” please share at least one or two key names of those who know about the current crisis situation. This is vitally important, thoughtful and caring for those of us ‘in the trenches’ with you so we are able to share our experiences and put our best thinking together in order to both get support for ourselves and to optimize our thoughtfulness about how we might be a support to the suicide attempt survivor or to a person in crisis.

The following has nothing to do with D. It has to do with supporting the supporters by sharing the names (formally or informally) of the key support people around you at the time of crisis – before if possible – and allowing support to happen by trusting those supporters to think well of you and to do the right thing. The right thing, in all instances is to include the person in distress to the full extent possible in all decision making. The intent is to optimize the ability of the person in distress to make the best decision at the time and to know he or she is fully supported, heard, seen and loved and that together we will get through this.

Next I share lessons learned with the help of support people and refer to the person in crisis as Nancy. Knowing the main supporters in Nancy’s life at the time of her crisis helped me and others survive Nancy’s altered state, which was an extremely stressful time for many of us. We supporters formed an informal network primarily for ourselves. It also allowed us to think well about how we could offer Nancy support during the infrequent occasions that she actually communicated with one of us. The details of how this unfolded were nothing less than extraordinary and I fear that conveying the lessons learned very briefly and not giving much detail will diminish the point I am trying to make and understate the profound impact it had on me and others. Nevertheless – here is the short scoop.

At first there was no support network but as the events of Nancy’s suddenly tumultuous life unfolded we learned about each other and needed assistance to get through the nightmare. I had many 1-2 hour late night phone calls with one supporter in particular whom I was not close to when the crisis began. Today I consider her one of my closest friends – because of what we shared on those late night calls and what we went through supporting someone we loved as best as we possible could.

The bottom line was that about 10 of us formed an informal support network including a few of Nancy’s family members. The family members had very different opinions of what was needed and what the problem was compared to the mental health advocates who made up slightly more than half of the support network. We all connected on an individual basis and as the crisis endured we connected as a group via email and eventually via teleconferences. We did a lot of listening to each other and supporting each other. The advocates shared our different – holistic and self-determination — perspectives, always in a respectful manner even when family members were not able to hear our point. I and at least one other supporter had private conversations individually with most of the family members. After listening to them vent their fears and frustrations and thoughts about what needed to be done in the name of “treatment” (forced) and validating their concerns, I shared with them lessons I have learned from my experience being in altered states. They had never heard such information and found it quite thought provoking. It contradicted everything they had ever heard and understood about “mental illness.” It seemed that the family members became more patient and understanding as they learned more about the peer/advocate perspective. And all — or almost all — of the advocates in the support network were persons the family members had heard about previously from Nancy.

The perfect ending occurred. As Nancy came out of the altered state and out of crisis she joined the emails and the teleconferences. Nancy expressed deep appreciation for the strong network that was formed around her. She delighted in having been the reason it was formed. I believe that without this network there was a very good chance that Nancy would not be alive today. I am proud of the love we cultivated and the enduring deep, healing connections that were made during that time, and that continue today.