Archive for March, 2008

Bernard Leibov – The Hero Project


Bernie, tell me a little bit about the Hero Project and what instigated it.

The Hero Project is an exploration of certain avenues that have opened to me in my quest for something truly inspirational to motivate my development. I have been quite dissatisfied with my means of getting work done and earning income to date. I am searching out ways to do work that feel more natural to me and that pay some bills at the same time.

I have become very inspired around art, the community, the works, my early attempts at work. I believe in the power of art to inspire individuals to find some freedom/power in their existences. I would like to be the conduit for this inspiration and to be in community with artists.

Ultimately, the Hero Project is about taking action and learning from their impact getting many ideas, suppositions, theories, fantasies out of the space of thinking and measuring their effect in the world around me. I have just rented out my apartment for three months and am intending to spend that time in Joshua Tree, CA deepening my understanding of the local art community, developing my own work and finding ways to communicate the essence of the inspiration I find there to others. This may take the form of exhibiting desert artists back in NYC, creating installations in my apartment in NYC and/or bringing artists/others to Joshua Tree for community workshops/residencies.

At the same time, I am interviewing with a small brand agency that does inspiring/risk taking work I have been presented with an opportunity that I did not expect and am pursuing it. This is not mutually exclusive to the art route they will run in parallel should something develop employment-wise.

The fact you are in forward motion is palpable. What was nourishing about getting into action around the Hero Project and your quest?

The impetus and nourishment come from a sense of moving out of my head and into action. There is fear, hesitation etc. and that is feeling brought on by the pattern that has run my life to date. The nourishment comes from the sense of moving through a wall of fear toward something else and proving that the fear was not real. Nourishment also comes from the community around me that calls me into action.

We are actually conducting this interview as you are traveling between NYC the UK and South Africa. What is this trip all about?

The trip is about reconnecting with close friends and family from and in my country of origin something I find creates impetus in my development. I come away feeling truly blessed and ready to expend my energy fully. I also get out of NYC in February to avoid seasonal blues 😉

So a few weeks have lapsed and your intention to get to Joshua Tree came to fruition. What does it feel like to be there?

The feelings this week have been mixed. I came here to get some focus on my creative energies. At the same time, I have commitments and developments back in NYC. My interview process went well and I built the JT sojourn into the discussions. The Universe then stepped in and had a good laugh – a consulting opportunity and a non-profit position were both raised just as I was leaving. I am also curating the a benefit for the HIV Law Project which will take place right after I return. Technology is proving an alluring way to stay connected to these energies.

At the same time, I have had some desert magic starting with a visit to the gallery at which I will take some print classes. I met some new folks, got invited to see an amazing house full of industrial objects installed as artworks and had a photographic expedition to the wildflowers in the depths of Wonder Valley. I’m now making an effort to quieten things down and start making some things in preparation for the print workshop.

The lesson for me now seems to be about prioritization through connecting with those things that truly resonate.

B, thank you for showing us that we really can get out of our heads and into action, very motivational. I am really looking forward to seeing what your quest unfolds and for you to show me around Joshua Tree!

To check out Bernard’s art and follow the Hero Project visit boxoblog.

© The Red Barn Cooperative

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Eris Huemer – Break-up Emergency


Eris Huemer, author of Break-up Emergency, is a Life Coach and holds a masters degree in counseling psychology. She is the relationship specialist who puts the REAL back into REALationship. Not only is she academically accredited in the field of psychology, she also has a life time of real world experience. Her unique take on the ups and downs, and ins and outs of relationships, helps guide people toward making positive and lasting life change

Eris, you have recently been promoting your book ‘Break-Up Emergency’, what has that experience been like?

Yes, I have been promoting the book on a local level. The response has been wonderful! People are really gravitating to the book. Not only because the cover is really great but because what is in it really works. It feels really good when people read the book and tell me that it is helping or that they were inspired by certain points. I love it when they say that they feel like I was talking directly to them or telling their story. Also, when I get another client because they liked what the book had to say. That means that we did our job. We haven’t done any other PR yet and are looking forward to. We are taking meetings with different publishers. It is a lot of hard work. Ultimately it is worth it when we have accomplished our mission.

Tell us a little bit about the book and what inspired it.

My own personal experience and break-ups. I have had my heart broken and broken and broken. I have been lied to, cheated on, deceived, coerced, cajoled, tricked, cast aside, seduced, corrupted, convinced, and what I call man-ip-ulated…Then the Sleeping Beauty within me woke up and I realized that the only way things were going to change for me is if I began to help me help me.

Healing my broken heart did not happen overnight but becoming more conscious did. I discovered many healing tools through my break-ups, and as I worked them they evolved into the exercises you will find in the book. The more I worked them, the more I understood myself. They inspired me because I began to see results. I felt better, more personally powerful. I became confident and secure. I began to realize that I was not a victim. I found the gifts that my relationships brought me. I found my life’s purpose through my so called “failed” relationships. I did the work within and it worked! I decided that I wanted to share it with others.

So would you say that this book is more for girls than guys?

This is a good question. Statistics show that women are more likely to buy and read self-help books. However, I have had many men interested in buying the book. In fact I have different male clients because they read Break-Up Emergency. My fiance and business partner, Clayton Winans, is my co-author. He adds a male perspective, which is a plus.


Break-Up Emergency is for you if:
-You have ever experienced a break-up.
-You know anyone who has experienced a break-up.
-You’ve just broken up and are having a difficult time dealing with intense emotions.
-You are trying to initiate a break-up but for one reason or another you can’t.
-You broke up months ago and still feel down and out. Maybe you believe you have let go of your past relationship but subconsciously have not.
-You want to get over your ex and meet someone new but you just don’t know how.
– You’re stuck in the “Can’ts”: Can’t concentrate, Can’t complete tasks, Can’t stay awake, Can’t eat, Can’t stop eating, Can’t stop crying, Can’t go anywhere or do anything, Can’t help feeling lonely, helpless, empty, lacking in self-respect and self-confidence, Can’t stop feeling, thinking, or talking about your ex.
– If you Can’t X out your EX, then this book is for you.

You have developed a fabulous ‘heart lifting’ brand from your life coaching and relationship counseling practices. Your book, website & seminars are great expressions of who you are. What is next for you and ‘LOVE ERIS’?

We have exciting projects lined up for Love Eris and SIRE Enterprises, which is the company that I own with Clayton. Break-Up Emergency is the first book in a relationship book series – the “Emergency” book series. We also have a book series entitled, WeWOMEN. This is a series of books filled with women’s stories and memories, written by real women. We are taking submissions for stories right now for the first book entitled WeWOMEN: Love Stories. You can read more about that on

View with the sound on! Eris, thank you so much for talking with us today, I just adore all your effervescing energy and pink-ness!

Click here to purchase.
Break-ups are a simple fact of life. We’ve all experienced them, one way or another – through our own relationships or those of others. By reading Break-Up Emergency and trying its many exercises, you can find your strengths, your voice, and get a firm grip on your own life that will enable you to create new relationships. With the perspective you’ll gain from this book, you’ll discover that your latest ending is just a new beginning. You’ll be able to look at your past – not live in it. You’ll be able to take control of the direction of your life and make choices about who will bring you heartache or happiness. Allow your BREAK to take you UP to your BREAK THROUGH.

© The Red Barn Cooperative

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Beth Griffith – Surrendering powerfully


Spring is here and so is Beth! A native New Yorker, now residing in California, Beth has over 20 years of business experience in the health, medical, and non-profit fields. Trained in the “Co-Active Coaching Model” through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), she is proud to say she is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC). Beth believes in coaching the client’s whole life, with the client setting the agenda. She has her bachelor’s degree in sociology and has extensive experience in personal growth education. Her expertise is in joining with her clients at the heart level, using her intuitive ability ‘to get’ to the heart of the matter, and bringing forth each client’s truth. Beth is also Publications Director of The International Coaches Federation – Orange County Chapter and has the honor and privilege to be the chief editor of their monthly newsletter, Insights. Today we are acknowledging that Beth is also living with cancer.

Beth, there tends to be a vocabulary that is used around Cancer that includes ‘battling’ it and ‘fighting’ it, what is your unique perspective on your relationship with Cancer?

There is a powerful quote in ‘A Course in Miracles’ that states “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.” I believe this holds true in my perception of dealing with the breast cancer in my body. I cannot change the fact that this has happened to me but I can change my perspective on what it means. I do not do ‘battle’ with the cancer nor do I ‘fight’ it; I allow my doctors to handle this part for me. I use my mind to embrace what is happening to me now and learn how to use this cancer for my healing, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. To me, it is a wake up call to my life, my purpose on the planet, to my very existence. Is it scary? “Yes!” Does it have my attention? “Yes!” But, I do not ‘war’ with it. Rather I am vigilant in asking myself, “What can I learn from this now?” and see where it takes me.

There is a real sense of ‘opportunity’ in your answer. What are you learning about your purpose?

I have been clear for quite some time about my purpose; “to be truly helpful to others.” However, after living with breast cancer for several months, I now have a better understanding of the ways in which I express my helpfulness. I seem to come more from a place of vulnerability, compassion and a letting go of control. I now allow the side of me that is ‘naked’ to show forth and it affords me the opportunity to be at a whole new level with others, a healing level I was missing before. It’s scary for me and exciting at the same time. I am more willing to come from a place of ‘a blank canvas’ when someone asks for my help and be more in the moment rather than deciding what is best for them and acting accordingly.

Living in the moment can indeed be very beneficial – what else have you taken notice of in regard to your own well being? What have you had to adapt in your life?

If it’s okay with you, I’d like to change the word “adapt” to “surrender” so the question becomes, “What have I had to surrender to in my life?” This is a powerful question for me. What comes to mind first is “control.” Over the past few months I have had to learn what it feels like to have no control over my body when it wants to do something different than what I want it to. For example, when undergoing chemotherapy, the body goes through all kinds of changes as it heals. When I look in the mirror, I see myself with no hair on my head, including my eyebrows, and eyelashes. At times my mind gets foggy, my body is tired and needs to rest quite a bit, insomnia plagues me during the darkest of nights, and I have had to let most of my coaching practice go because I can’t concentrate. I have moments when all of this infuriates me, and I get so exasperated that I want to scream and cry. It has taken a while for me to learn to stop, breathe, and let go. I have learned to give the gifts of compassion and appreciation to myself and to others. I appreciate that the chemo is healing my body and that I have excellent doctors working on my behalf to help heal me. I appreciate my garden, the place where I live near the ocean, and, most especially, the relationships I choose to have in my life. My friends don’t care that I am bald; they just want to love me, and now I let them. I have had such happy moments lately by surrendering to “what is” in my life. Now I feel more compassion for others and what they might be experiencing, more love through giving and receiving, and more inner peace by developing a closer relationship with God. I am discovering an inner strength I truly didn’t know that I possess.

Beth, you present a beautiful new perspective on surrendering. What other wisdom do you want to share?

Hmmm, wisdom is a word that I do not feel I have earned just yet in my life. Here is something I have learned by experiencing breast cancer. When you see or meet someone who has something going on with them physically (it’s usually pretty easy to tell) look them right in the eye and acknowledge them with a nod, smile, or even a simple “hello.” That simple connection may keep the person going on the planet just a little bit longer and a little bit happier. I know of which I speak.

Beth, even though I may have trouble matching one of your gorgeous smiles I will make sure to honor the sentiment. Thank you so much for your vibrancy, strength and openness to sharing. C

© The Red Barn Cooperative

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Nao Yamasaki – Sensing the seasons


Nao, you recently moved back to Japan and landed a job at CTI, congratulations! In this very exciting period of your life, what does work-life balance mean to you?

At this moment, work-life balance is very very important to me. I had offers from 2 other companies but I chose CTI Japan for work-life balance. With this positon, I knew I could get enough time with my friends and for my hobbies. I wouldn’t be able to get enough time for such things with other companies.

Moreover working at a coaching training school is like I don’t really have to pay extra attention to balance out my time and energy. At this moment, one of the biggest things I want to invest my time is coaching, so working in the field itself is already balanced, in a sense.

When I got offers from CTI, executive search firm and HR training company, I couldn’t decide where I wanna go. I had been so indecisive. It was either to go for the damage control for my growth or just follow my pure interest. When I had a chance to talk with CTI staff, I told her about it. She said the experience I had so far is not something everybody can have. Then she asked me to say “YES” to what I have been cultivating no matter which field I move onto. Then my perspective shifted totally. It was snowing on that day, but I felt like warm milk and honey was poured into my heart and I was fulfilled, really.

I had been thinking that “the thing I cannot be with” was left-brainy “business-business” stuff, which I thought was my weakness and I tried to overcome. But I realized the thing I couldn’t be with was to acknowledge my experiences and something I already had. Now I am so thankful to my CTI friends who went through the workshops. 🙂

You have been on quite an introspective journey, I love the milk and honey perspective in regard to career! You mention time for hobbies, I know you already take part in Japanese tea ceremonies and are looking into ceramics. Firstly can you tell me a little about the tea ceremonies?

It has several hundred years of history, and largely influenced by Zen buddhism. It’s definitely not just a ritual, but an art and philosophy, I would say. Some people see it a way of meditation, like yoga. What I love about practicing tea ceremony are…
1) Confectionary! Not only they are so beautiful, they are yummy! Look at the photo, it’s made by green bean paste and egg yolk or sweet potato. Artisan of the confectionary don’t use food color, everything served in the tea party is supposed to be 100% natural. This one represents Spring flower, host of the tea party usually pick this kind of confectionary in spring time. Second photo is a cherry in jello. It would be served in summer or spring.

2) Appreciation to the season. We have 4 distinctive seasons, and we appreciate and enjoy that throughout the tea party. For example, host is likely to select tea bowl that is made by glass in summer time. See-through looking glass with a painting of a little fish will give an imaginative cool breeze for the guests. My teacher says, we didn’t have the air conditioner in old times so people become creative to feel the coolness through the senses.

I wouldn’t have taken tea ceremony lesson if I hadn’t been in southern California. I loved nice climate of CA but what I most miss about my country was seasons or changes in the season. That’s why I started taking lessons. One of the reasons why they appreciate seasons so much is zen buddism strongly believes everything we are experiencing right now is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Like tea party you are having right now will never be the same as the tea party tomorrow. That’s why it emphasizes showing thankfulness to everything, moment to moment. I hope I am expressing my love for tea ceremony.

Yes you are! It sounds fascinating. Is your interest in ceramics related in anyway?

Yeah, at the beginning I wanted to make my own ceramic tea bowl and other utensils. But simply I love crafts., I am free when I am creative. I was searching ceramics lessons on the web, and there is one school that I really wanna visit. They were saying something like “it is not just making cups and dishes. When you talk with the earth by touching or playing with clay they will let you know what they wanna be. ” I just loved “talking with the earth” part !

In both the tea ceremony and your interest in ceramics, you seem to be somehow getting grounded and more connected to mother nature. Has being back in Japan heightened that feeling of connection too?

Yes, I think so…
I bet you have experienced the same, we know more about our country once we get out of the place. If I had stayed in Japan and didn’t come to the US, I don’t think I would appreciate traditional culture or mother nature this much. Now I am back in Japan, and I am closer to the things I’ve been missing.

Funny thing is that now I started missing US, California, LA, and OC… Pictures come up to my mind quite often are:
1) Me driving on 405, under blue sky, feeling cool breeze
2) BBQ at the park, sunny day, green grass
3) Laguna Beach (my most favorite place on this planet, I really wanna do a beach wedding in Laguna lol), orange sun sinking to the horizon
4) the Whole foods market, fresh rasberries 😀
5) Arrowhead lake, birds, lake surface with shining reflection of the sunset
I thought I couldn’t enjoy changes in seasons in California, but I guess I was still very much enjoying and connected to the nature when I was in the US. Even I am not there, now I am really feeling these sceneries through my senses.
My body and senses remember the experience….hum… I am fulfilled…

Nao, the OC misses you too!

Interested in coach training? Coaches Training Institute
Would you like to be coached? Contact Nao at Nao Yamasaki or
Penny and I at, our Japanese however is little rusty!

© The Red Barn Cooperative

Nicole Grodesky – Riding her own wave


Born in Tampa, Nicole moved back and forth between Ohio and Florida until she was eleven and moved into a duplex that was a couple blocks from the beach. She fell in love with surfing and the rest is history. At the age of fourteen Nicole began competing, placing 3rd in her first national competition. Nicole traveled out to California for nationals and knew that one day she would live here. At the tender age of eighteen, Nicole packed her bags and made the drive across the country with a good buddy. Since that time she has traveled to many countries as pro surfer. The last five years has seen Nicole in college, planning to graduate next spring. She is competing again and training a young female for competition. Nicole is a published surf photographer and writer, and on the dean’s list at California State University, but mainly she enjoys sharing experiences and knowledge with others.

Nicole, you are currently known in the surf world for your journalism and photography but recently decided to return to competition and take part in the pro contest this spring. What inspired that decision?

I was known in surfing first as a pro surfer and have worked really hard to recieve recognition for my photography. Most of the girls remember me, but some of the new girls don’t. I think it will be fun to surf a contest with them and see how they react. The main reason I entered the event is because I am taking ‘gender issues’ in sport class. This class talks about the history of women in sport. In the past women weren’t allowed to compete. I am totally inspired to compete again. It’s women’s history month so why not celebrate and exercise my right to sport!

Very empowering of you Grodesky! While we are on this slightly political note, I once read a very inspiring article, which I am now going to misquote terribly, about how surfers are interesting global citizens. Drawn to travel the world’s oceans in search of extreme waves, surfers live in the ‘in between spaces’ of continents, choosing to be untouched by politics that land ownership and borders impose on us. Do you feel that there is truth in this?

Yes very much so. When the Europeans came over to North America and asked if they could buy the land, the natives response was, no one can own the land. This is a similar thought to your question. There are many examples where private property stood in the middle of a perfect unridden wave and a terribly anxious surfer. There are instances where private communities are built on the cliff above world class waves and surfers are denied access. I don’t feel that is fair at all. No one likes a wave hog. Another prime example would be when Trestles, a world class break right here in Southern California, was owned by the military. Surfers were chased out of the water with machine guns and sometimes thrown in the brig.

Surfers do have a unique bond that transcends language and culture. Surfing is a culture itself and no matter where you come from, it’s surfing that creates lifelong bonds. Not politics.

What is important to you about surf culture?

One of the most important benefits in the surf culture is how surfing connects people. People from all different backgrounds can come together and bond. Wherever you travel in the world people will take you in to their homes and take you around to their favorite spots. You “dial in” to the local line. You eat at their favorite spots, shop at their favorite markets and drink at their favorite bars. You meet their friends, their enemies and you embrace an entire new you in them. Then you leave and take with you what you’ve learned and the memories you’ve shared.

Then there’s the little things like, the smell of fresh surf wax, neoprene (wetsuits), sunscreen and the fresh salt air. Those smells always remind me of good times in the past and yet to come. I love everything to the fresh ocean water on my skin to the soft sand on my feet. I love riding a new surfboard for the first time or taking some one surfing for their first time. I love checking the waves in the morning while drinking my coffee, I love watching the sunset while other surfers get their last rides of the day. I love being on the outside and watching a wave break in silence, then slowly hear the water crack against the base of the wave.

This is fulfilling, this is what is important.

What experience and learnings have you taken from your surfing culture into other areas of your life?

What I love about the culture of surfing is that it’s centered around freedom of expression. The wave is an empty canvas, the surfboard is your paintbrush, and you are the artist. You can draw your own lines and those lines are yours, an expression short lived in time.

The freedom of expression in the water often spills over to inspire art on land as well. The inspiration manifested from surfing comes in all forms of mediums including: fashion, music, painting, drawing, graphic arts, writing, and photography. What is life without art? Every culture has an era of art that leaves a mark on the world. If you really want to understand the culture of surfing, just look at the many forms of art in the surf community. I recommend watching surf documentary films like: One California Day, Thicker Than Water, September Sessions, and Sipping Jet Streams. Also, have you been to the Surf Gallery in Laguna Beach?

No but I will now! Thanks so much for the insight.
If you want to tap into a bit of surf cuture you can support Nicole in the upcoming contest to be held at Huntington beach on Saturday 29th March. Alternatively check out her photography on (tip – make sure you have your sound on)

Photo credit: Chris Grant/
© The Red Barn Cooperative

Rev. Keith Andrew Hwang – A spiritual purpose


The Rev. Keith Andrew Hwang has served as Executive Director of Connectional Ministries and Conference Secretary of the Western Jurisdictional Conference since 2003. Rev. Hwang was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was sixteen. He did his undergraduate studies at U.C. San Diego and graduate studies at University of Southern California. He worked as a computer engineer for more than 10 years on various projects and capacities, including management. In 1993, he responded to God’s call to ministry after many years of soul searching and began his seminary education at Claremont School of Theology. After graduating from Claremont School of Theology in 1996 with an M. Div. Degree, he was ordained as a deacon in 1996, and as an elder in 2000. After serving two local churches and as Secretary of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, he became an associate director of Connectional Ministries in 2000. Rev. Hwang has two grown-up children, Albert and Laura.

Keith, can you describe a typical week in your life as a minister.

The title of my job is Executive Director of Connectional Ministries but it is very similar to COO of a corporation. My work is divided into the following main areas: (a) supervision of 16 staff – 8 professional staff and 8 support staff (b) giving an oversight to annual budget of over $2 million – that means a lot of signing checks (c) communicating with national and international groups with the denomination as well as international organizations – which requires a lot of traveling (d) training – staff, churches and other organizations (e) consulting with churches and social service organizations (e) preaching at local churches on special occasions. I get to do what other ministers do periodically but I wish I could do them more often.

There is no typical day for a minister. Each day is unique and full of surprises. Life happens without warning. Being a minster teaches a person to be open to life’s surprises. There are common activities that thread through a minister’s life, however, and let me share them with you.

(a) Visiting the sick and the homebound. The homebound are visited once a month for conversation and communion. They really appreciate visits. The sick are visited as the occasion calls for it.

(b) Planning for worship services. Creating a worship service requires a lot of work. Volunteers need to be contacted for information and instruction. Music has to be decided. Bulletins printed. Other resources, such as balloons, flowers, etc., ordered and confirmed.

(c) Personal/communal spiritual formation. A minister has to devote a hour or more each day for prayers and reading of the Scripture. Also leads Bible study groups and prayer meetings.

(d) Administrative matters. Buildings need to be maintained. Legal papers have to be processed. Financial matters duly considered for action. This is the least favorite part of my life as a minister. Dry as bone but necessary.

(e) Counseling/Coaching. People seek counsels from clergy for various reasons – relationship issues, financial problems, spiritual confusion, psychological problems. I usually refer people to a professional counselor/coach after 3 sessions for two reasons: (a) the issue may be too complex for my training and gifts; and (b) I do not have enough time to see more than 2 or 3 persons at a time.

(f) Special services. Wedding, baptism, and funerals and other special services are periodically requested. It is always a special moment in the life of those who undergo a major life transition such as marriage, new baby and death. Blessing new homes. Blessing when people get into university or military.

(g) Other duties as required. There are amazing number of duties that come up. Helping those who seek financial help from the church – referring them to shelters, giving them money for food and transportation, etc. People calling for help because they are suicidal. Visiting special shelters for battered women. Prison ministry for those who get into trouble with the law. Offering prayer at public functions such as the LA County Supervisor’s meeting. Helping AA groups. Mediating community groups that are in conflict. Being interviewed by newspaper reporters on various religious and social issues.

A minister experiences the whole spectrum of life – from birth through death and everything in between. It is an amazing job.

Keith, as if that wasn’t enough, you also seem to travel pretty extensively. What is that about?

I serve on various national organizations and there are lots of meetings. During the last seven years, I have traveled to over 53 cities in the United States and over 12 countries around the world. Some travel has to do with representing the denomination or the regional body I serve.

What do you know that you need in your life in order to sustain all the giving you do?

This is a really good question….Ultimately it is spiritual practices that keep me going. Knowing the heart of God and staying in love with God is the key. John Wesley, who found Methodism, had three simple rules: (a) Do no harm (b) Do good and (c) Stay in love with Christ. The third rule is what sustains all servants of God. Deep prayers and meditation upon the Scripture is essential. When I neglect spiritual practices, my soul goes dry and hard and troubles inevitably pop up.

Some spiritual practices I engage in are: centering prayer, meditating upon the Scripture, walking meditation, journaling and writing, meeting with my spiritual director, daily intercessory prayers, pilgrimages to retreat centers and weekly worship.

Your beliefs are obviously a strong source of nourishment. How does your spirituality and the idea that we can create our own fulfillment and destiny coalesce??

The world view I hold is that God created each one of us as a unique human being with specific purpose for each of us. Each human being is given gifts and limitations that fit perfectly for what we are meant to be and do on this planet. This means we are not infinitely flexible in what we can be. While I fully accept and affirm *CTI’s basic tenets that we are naturally creative, resourceful and whole, the tenet cannot be accepted without conditions. For example, I know that I would never make a good soldier even though my father was a career military man. Sure, I have entertained thoughts of becoming a soldier, even considering going to West Point, but my nature was not wired for killings and warfare. The future self exercise points to the path that will lead us to be in harmony with the universe.

May Sarton wrote this poem… ‘Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places. I have been dissolved and shaken, Worn other people’s faces.’

Socrates claimed that self-knowledge is the start of wisdom. Research on emotional intelligence has revealed that self-awareness is a key component in emotional health. Spiritual formation is not about what we do but is all about becoming who we are “shaped” to be. Discovering our true shape can lead to so much happiness because we can escape from “oughts” and “musts” that the world heaps on us. The musts and oughts cause more pain in life than anything.

Keith thank you so much for your time, your widsom and for starting such a thought provoking dialogue.

Do you believe that you were born with a purpose or do you believe that you shape your own fulfillment? Let us know by posting a comment.

© The Red Barn Cooperative

Monday will see us paddling out with surfer and photo journalist Nicole Grodesky, see you then…

*CTI – Coaches Training Institute (and if you are interested in experiencing the ‘future self’ exercise feel free to contact Penny or I.)

Ellen Catalano – Meditating in the vineyard


Working primarily within the realm of federal government agencies and academia, Ellen has been in the business of coaching and developing leaders and teams for the past twenty years. In a fun, energetic, yet compassionate manner, Ellen works with her clients to “get over themselves” so that they can increase their leadership impact by making authentic and inspiring decisions. Ellen has provided training and one-on-one development to mid and senior leaders at many federal agencies including, U.S. Agency for International Development, President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ellen, you have organized a series of Virginia wine country retreats starting in April. What is important to you about being able to offer retreats to your clients?

I believe they provide people an opportunity to stop for half a day, sit quietly in community and reflect, and seek internal wisdom to life’s questions and challenges. Gently guided group discussion and mediations provide people ample opportunity to quiet their minds and bodies, to receive internal guidance, enhanced by the picturesque beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ll provide time to walk about the groomed trails of the lovely Mark Addy Inn, near Afton, VA, especially beautiful in the Spring. Then, in the Fall people will be able to combine the retreat experience with grape crushing time and tasting at the local vineyards…VA wine is making a national noise!

Plus, as part of this experience, participants will get to have expert coaching from either myself or my co-leader as part of the workshop fee. I love to do these retreats because of the energy that gets generated by all, and the profound steps that people decide to take in their lives. Also, I plan to invite participants to consider five day retreats in one of the following locations: the Island of Vieques, off of Puerto Rico, Dominica or St. John (Carribbean) where we will recreate and renew with silence, coaching, movement and the ocean!

You get pretty excited when you talk about the island retreats. Tell me more about the significance of the ocean.

The ocean, a constant, steady, predictable sound outside of yourself, which helps people, me especially, block out the constant, steady, predictable noise inside of myself. Helps me relax and listen to my heart. Ocean waves are metaphor for change, and the gritty sand cleanses my skin. Sigh.

You obviously have a very strong draw to the ocean. So say I sign up for one of your retreats in a glorious location, ocean side or vineyard, how would you teach me to use nature’s gifts as a tool in my life?

By listening to consistent ocean and quiet mountain sounds through meditation, journaling and sharing within the small group, you distract yourself from inner and outer “noise” and move to the core of whatever you bring to the experience that day.

I’ll also add that I’m offering a new product to buy and use as part of this experience: hand painted/collaged (by me) hard cover journals – each one a unique design. Colorful and abstract.

I think a lot of people like the idea of meditation but often truly don’t know how to shut off those ‘voices’. How would you suggest they begin?

Candice, it might be helpful to view the word “meditation” as a way of being in the moment, rather than something you have to do. Peter Senge calls it being mindfully present, and I noticed the other night on the Oprah webinar that Echkart Tolle calls it “stillness”. So, I would suggest that people begin by giving themselves permission, for even just 5-10 minutes, to be still and present to competing internal noise – just noticing – and then allowing the noise to slip away, become smaller in your mind’s eye, or float away, what ever visual image your internal wisdom presents! And then to be patient and compassionate with yourself as the noise reappears.

Mmm, perfect stillness in a vineyard. Ellen, it sounds so lovely, you are creating such a treat.

If you would like to contact Ellen or would like more information on the retreats visit

Please visit with us again on Thursday when we will be talking nourishment with the Rev. Keith Andrew Hwang

© The Red Barn Cooperative

March 2008
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