Facilitators for a Better World: Meet Our Teachers & Guest Teachers

“The Art of Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation” with Joy Roulier Sawyer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg sets sail Jan. 15 – Feb 25. This online class also includes  video-conferencing (easily done through your phone or computer) with people well-versed in facilitating workshops, classes, meetings, coaching, and other sessions for change, community, and transformation. We are thrilled to interactive sessions with Callid Keefe-Perry, Beatric Briggs, and Marianela Medrano (plus one with Joy; Caryn will do such a session in the other class in this series next summer). Here’s some background on our gifted and experienced guest teachers and main teachers:

Callid Keefe-Perry is an Executive Director of ARC: Arts | Religion | Culture, a traveling minister in the Quaker tradition, and an advocate for the arts as a way of deepening spiritual practice. He has been a public school teacher, co-founder of a community theater, and Coordinator of the TLA Network. He thinks it is OK for people to laugh a lot, that power cedes nothing without demands, and that creativity is a vital quality of adaptive and effective leadership. Callid will share a bit about the field of theopoetics and talk about using different modalities for group facilitation and what is gained by doing so.

Beatrice Briggs helps leaders and organizations co-create conditions that make their meetings worthy of people’s time, talent, and energy. 
 As Director of the International Institute for Facilitation and Change, she has worked in over 30 countries with an change-oriented organizations such as UNICEF, World Wildlife Fund, Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Center for Development Research. A native of the United States, has made Mexico her home since 1998 and is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Marianela Medrano is a Dominican writer, poet and a psychotherapist with a Ph.D in psychology whose practice include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, and Integral Psychotherapy. The author of numerous poetry books, Medrano’s poetry has been widely published and translated. She is a certified poetry therapist and serves as a mentor/supervisor for the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy. Medrano’s Tedx Talk can be found here.

The Art of Facilitation Teachers

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is the founder of Transformative Language Arts and the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic, memoir, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather. Mirriam-Goldberg has facilitated community writing workshops widely since 1992 with diverse populations throughout the Midwest, the U.S., and in Mexico, including people living with serious illness, intergenerational communities, women living in public housing, teens and young adults, and humans at large in big-life transitions. She offers one-on-one coaching on writing and right livelihood. She co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats with Kelley Hunt and the Your Right Livelihood training with Laura Packer. You can find her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Linkedin. Her Patreon campaign to create transformative writing, workshops, and podcasts and offering patrons weekly inspirations is here.

Joy Roulier Sawyer is the author of two poetry collections, Tongues of Men and Angels and Lifeguards as well as several nonfiction books. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have been widely published. Joy holds an MA from New York University in Creative Writing and a master’s degree in counseling. Her extensive training and experience as a licensed professional counselor and in poetry/journal therapy gives her special expertise in facilitating expressive writing workshops. Joy was selected by poetry therapy pioneers to revise and update Arleen McCarty Hynes’ groundbreaking textbook, Biblio/Poetry Therapy: The Interactive Process. For over a decade, she’s taught at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the largest literary center in the West. Along with her other creative writing and poetry classes, Joy helps facilitate Lighthouses’s Denver Public Library, Arvada Library, and Edgewater Library’s Hard Times workshops, designed for those experiencing homelessness or poverty, as well as the Writing to Be Free program, an outreach for women transitioning out of incarceration. She has also taught at the University of Denver and in the TLA MA program at Goddard College. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

More on this dynamic class right here.

When Someone Truly “Gets” Us: A Letter From One of Our Founders

Dear TLAers,

I fell in love with poetry when I was 14, and it saved my life. It wasn’t just filling up journals that gave me meaning, vitality, and sometimes even joy in a traumatic time, but what happened when good witnesses found me and my writing. Having someone truly “get us” — who we are, what we have to say, and what we’re capable of — is at the heart of Transformative Language Arts and this emerging field, profession, and practice.

Like you, I’ve witnessed the continual miracles TLA brings to our lives. That’s why I’m writing you to ask for your support for the TLA Network today, an organization I helped found with others who resonate with writing, storytelling, theater, and other arts for social and personal transformation. Since we launched in 2005, we’ve become a thriving gathering place for people called to teach, heal, advocate, facilitate, organize, and guide people in our ailing world. 

With Grace Paley at the 2006 Power of Words conference

That’s why I’m writing you to ask for your support for theTLA Network today, an organization I helped found with others who resonate with writing, storytelling, theater, and other arts for social and personal transformation. Since we launched in 2005, we’ve become a thriving gathering place for people called to teach, heal, advocate, facilitate, organize, and guide people in our ailing world. 

  • We offer classes to help us amplify our voices and clarify our visions through writing, storytelling, theater, and other arts. 
  • Our 17th annual Power of Words conference, featuring Joy Harjo, will bring us together to learn from each other and find greater ways to sustain our work and ourselves. 
  • The TLA Foundations certification is a deep immersion into TLA theory and practice. 
  • Your Right Livelihood, an intensive training, helps people in the arts, healing arts and social change arts find ways to make a living and a difference. 
  • Our blog and creative, professional journal, Chrysalis, give us a forum to share our experiences, art, and scholarship. 

In the last year, we’ve leapt forward with a wonderful half-time managing director, Hanne Weedon. We’ve strengthened our council, the governing body for TLAN, through the leadership of Liz Burke-Cravens. Many of us feel like we’re on the cusp of significant growth at a time when it’s even more important for people to use their voices for positive change, including how the arts can bridge polarized communities.

Your contribution can bolster scholarships for our conference, classes, trainings, and provide general support for us to grow our capacity to do good in the world. Please also consider, if you haven’t already, renewing your membership or joining us. You can contribute easily and quickly right here.

Wishing us all the power of words for a better world,

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

P.S. If you have a birthday coming up and you’re on Facebook, how about birthday fundraiser for TLAN (we’re part of the Network for Good organizations)? 

“What Do You Love About Facilitation?” – A Conversation with Joy Roulier Sawyer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Listen to Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Joy Roulier Sawyer talk about how they came to love what can happen when we discover and share our truth in workshops, meetings, and other sessions. For Joy, it started with leading workshops for students at Columbine High School in Colorado after the 1999 shooting, and Caryn found her facilitation legs leading large meetings for people of many backgrounds fighting against a highway that would have impacted the environment, history, and even native American burial mounds.

You can see their upcoming class at www.tlanetwork.org/event-3567618 for more details.

The Art of Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg shares some of what compelled her to develop our new TLAN online class, The Art of Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation. The class runs Jan. 15-25, and it’s the first of two classes on powerful facilitation for your community and our ailing world.

Good facilitation can make worlds of difference when it comes to effective (and even joyful) meetings, powerful workshops, and meaningful coaching or consulting sessions. For years I’ve been both teaching facilitation and dreaming up in-depth facilitation training for others. So I’m especially happy to tell you about these facilitation classes.

“The Art of Facilitation: Roots and Blossoms of Facilitation,” an online class I’m teaching with Joy Roulier Sawyer through the Transformative Language Arts Network Jan. 15 – Feb. 25, focuses on whole-self and real-life facilitation as a life-long practice. Designed for writers, storytellers, healers, community leaders, and other change-makers, this class offers practical tools and deep wisdom, including planning, facilitating, and assessing sessions; beginnings endings, pacing and rhythm; and aligning your practice with your core values. This first of two facilitation classes goes deep when it comes to how to be a more effective and soulful facilitator.

The second class, “The Art of Facilitation: Facilitating for Community and Change,” launches this summer, encompasses how to work with diverse people and for meaningful transformation. Because these classes on online, you can do them from anywhere!

Joy and I have over 50 years of combined facilitation experience. She has worked as a a psychotherapist and poetry therapist, and most recently, Joy has led many sessions through Lighthouses’s Denver Public Library, Arvada Library, and Edgewater Library’s Hard Times workshops, designed for those experiencing homelessness or poverty, as well as the Writing to Be Free program, an outreach for women transitioning out of incarceration. I’ve been facilitating community writing workshops tilted toward healing and transformation since 1992, and with my husband Ken Lassman, have led training to help people plan and lead better meetings and more effective group processes. Guest teachers include people with deep experience in facilitation for transformation. More here, and if you want to chat with me about the class, please drop me a line at CarynMirriamGoldberg@gmail.com.

Truth to Power: Poetry for Our Times with Poets Laureate

After serving as the Kansas Poet Laureate for four years, writer and TLA founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg decided to draw on all the new friendships she made with other state poets laureate to develop a new self-paced class: “Truth to Power: Poetry for Our Times With Poets Laureate.”

The result is a wondrous self-paced class that allows you to write on your own time at your own pace in concert with a rich diversity of writing prompts (developed by poets laureate around the country just for us!) and powerful stories on how poetry is instrumental to community. The class also includes inspiring essays and videos on the craft and passion of writing powerful poetry about our lives and times, and written discussions on the history and possibilities of poetry that speaks to social transformation.

Each the 12 units in the class highlights both state and national poet laureate past or present, and a historic poet dedicated to changing the world, including a writing prompt and writing craft or writing life discussion from that poet, some of the poets laureate’s poems with writing prompts, a discussion of a poet from the past or present who crafts poetry for social transformation, and exciting links to interviews, essays, and videos. All in all, you’ll get to know the work, writing, and lives of 37 American poets.

Poets!

Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, Marilyn L. Taylor, Emily Dickinson, Dick Allen, William Stafford, Sue Brennan Walker, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, William Trowbridge, Robert Penn Warren, Muriel Rukeyser, Mark Strand, Grace Paley, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Adrienne Rich, Joyce Brinkman, Juan Felipe, Herrera, Denise Low, Wendell Berry, Rita Dove, David Romtvedt, Sharon Olds, Luci Tapahonso, Kimberly Blaeser, Yusef Komunyakaa, Joy Harjo, Marjory Wentworth, Audre Lorde, Elizabeth Woody, Natasha Trethewey, Li-Young Lee, JoAnn Balingit, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Naomi Shahib Nye, Tracy K. Smith, and Richard Blanco. (Photo: from left, Audre Lorde, Meridel Le Sueur, and Adrienne Rich.)

This is a perfect class for those with any amount of experience writing poetry, from those who are interested in learning more and might be a bit nervous about it, to writers with years of experience who want to generate new work and brush up on elements of craft and be exposed to new contemporary writers, and how writing can be a positive force for change.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, has created this class through study, experience, and in conversations with over a dozen state poets laureate (many of whom shared their best handouts and writing prompts). Caryn is the author of two dozen books, including the recent Miriam’s Well, a novel; Following the Curve, poetry; and Everyday Magic, a collection of beloved blog posts and personal essays. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College , Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Not too Late for the Power of Words Conference and Your Right Livelihood Training

Friends and lovers of words! Please join us for two life-changing events: the 16th Annual Power of Words conference Sept. 26-29, and right beforehand, Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love. If you’re in the Scottsdale, Arizona area or game for a road trip, there’s still room, and we’d love to meet you for these soulful events, all happening at the replenishing Franciscan Renewal Center.

The Power of Words Conference

Come to the Power of Words Conference to explore how we can use our words — written, spoken, or sung — to make community, deepen healing, witness one another, wake ourselves up, and foster empowerment and transformation. The conference features workshops, performances, talking circles, celebration and more, featuring writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, community leaders, activists, educators, and health professionals. The conference, founded in 2003, features workshops in four tracks: narrative medicine, social change, right livelihood (and making a living through the arts), ecological literacy, and engaged spirituality.

The 2019 conference keynoters include author and speaker, Gregg Levoy; storyteller and author, Noa Baum; and and poet and playwright, Usha Akella.  Over 20 other presenters will be sharing a variety of performances and workshops including:

  • Lisa Chu’s “Bad Asian Daughter” on transforming shame through embodied storytelling,
  • Loren Niemi’s “Walking Fields and Streets to Find Poems and Stories,”
  • John Genette and Doug Bland’s “Sacred Earth, Common Ground,”
  • Lyn Ford’s “The Path of Needles or the Path of Pins: Other Ways of Seeing ‘Red,'”
  • Valerie David’s “Fight Back Any Adversity in Life: Overcoming a Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis, the Pink Hulk Will Help You Find Your Inner Superhero” and
  • Rachel Gabriel’s “Writing Memoir for Empathy and Inquiry.”

As conference attendee Robin Russell wrote to us:

“The TLA Conference is an adventure of diving into a deep pool of unexpected discoveries. Some are delightful and awe-inspiring, some frightening and strange, but the immersion in diversity and the authenticity of the presenter’s (and participant’s) stories and presence is palpable and real. A necessary reminder of what we are so starved for in the current climate of media and political rhetoric. If change is going to be sustainable and humane, we need more people trained and working with the qualities of these warriors. The conference is a way to either dip a toe in or dive in head first.”

More at www.TLANetwork.org/conference

Your Right Livelihood

Consider Your Right Livelihood — a training with TLA founder and writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and storyteller and consultant Laura Packer. Your work in writing, storytelling, theater, and related healing and social change arts can bring you greater fulfillment and enable you to help others find and amplify the voices and visions so needed to address the challenges facing our communities, culture, and planet. Whether you’re just starting out, making a mid-career transition or revisioning your life’s work after retirement, this training guides you toward what constellation of vocation works best for you and your community now and when the path meanders.

This 100-hour training begins with a 2-day intensive September 25-27th at The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the Power of Words Conference will be held immediately following), and continues through mid-December with online study and community support, weekly video conferences with entrepreneurs and leaders in the field, weekly group check-ins and discussions, individual consultations with Laura and Caryn, and a toolkit of resources for planning, marketing, further training, and next steps.

Franciscan Renewal Center

The spectacular yet secluded 25-acre Franciscan Renewal Center offers a tranquil oasis in the heart of greater Phoenix for quiet reflection, prayer, learning, healing or joyful worship. Nestled in the lush desert valley at the base of majestic Camelback Mountain, The Casa is just a quick 20-minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The campus features a newly remodeled 60-ft swimming pool and spa, gift and book shop, labyrinth, healing garden, desert walkways, buffet-style dining, and private bathrooms in every lodging room. Owned by the Franciscan Friars of the Saint Barbara Province, The Casa has been renewing lives through spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others for over 60 years.

Find more on all of it here.

Finding Your Life’s Work: Not By Lightning, But Conversing With Our Callings

Most of us experience lightning strikes – moments when there’s a flash, and what we’re supposed to be becomes illuminated like the night sky – at some points in our lives, but we can’t depend on where, when, and even if that will happen.

What we can do is treat our discussion with our callings – for our work as well as for other parts of our lives – as a lifelong conversation, sometimes over tea in a lovely castle filled with antiques, and sometimes while driving our car through fog late at night, knowing that we will only be able to see where we’re going by going.

The Your Right Livelihood Training with Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg offers you ways to listen to what questions, longings, resentments or joys keep occur to you about your work, look toward the signs and wonders that guide you, and engage with your big hunches, questions, and leanings at this moment to find your way forward.

The training begins with a soulful retreat Sept. 25-27 (leading up to the Power of Words conference) at the Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ. It continues on with a 10-week online class, weekly video-conferences with guest teachers including Harriet Lerner and Gregg Levoy, one-on-one coaching with Laura and Caryn, and extensive resources and supports for making your dreams come true. Read testimonials from last year’s group here. 

Poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “I learn by going where I have to go,” and likewise, we learn where we’re being led as well as what we have to say to that calling by dialogue throughout our lives.

What’s right for one stage in our life will likely change over time, so by listening and speaking – asking questions, testing out ideas, thinking and feeling our way toward clarity – we will be able to continually use this conversation as a flashlight leading us forward.

Have questions? Book a  free 20-minutes discovery call with Laura or Caryn or learn more about Your Right Livelihood here. 

Photo by Stephen Locke, used with permission.

Right Livelihood Luminaries: Our Guest Teachers

One of the great benefits of Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love is the face-to-face weekly opportunities to talk with luminary writers, teachers, and change-makers about what’s calling to you in your work, art, and life. The training, which launches Sept. 25 and ends in mid-December, led by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Laura Packer, helps people both navigate their callings and their livelihoods (read an interview with Laura and Caryn to learn more).

In addition to the two-day opening retreat — to be held Sept. 25-27 at the Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the Power of Words conerence starts shortly after our retreat ends), the weekly video-conference live meetings with guest teachers helps us get to know each other voice to voice and face to face, and it gives participants the chance to ask our guest teachers questions and discuss many dimensions of making our life’s work come true. The training also includes a 10-week online class, one-on-one coaching with Laura and Caryn, and lots of extra supports and resources.

This year’s crop of guest teachers includes:

  • Dr. Harriet Lerner, one of our nation’s most respected voices in the psychology of women, and the “how-tos” of navigating the swamps and quicksands of difficult relationships. She lectures and consults nationally, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles and 12 books  including The Dance of Anger, which has sold more than three million copies with over  30 foreign translations, and her recent book, Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurt.
  • Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life and Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life, writes for, consults with, and speaks to thousands of people regularly on finding and following your life’s work and passions. See a SPARKS session, hosted by the TLA Network, featuring Gregg Levoy talking about callings and right livelihood.
  • Donna Washington a professional author, storyteller and multicultural folklorist who has been sharing stories for over thirty years. She has been featured at numerous festivals, schools & libraries theaters and other venues around the world, and she has released nine CDs and four children’s books.  She offers a range of multicultural folktales, personal narratives and stories of her own creation.
  • Doug Lipman is a renowned storyteller, storytelling mentor and teacher, and innovator. Doug loves to help artists and other self-employed professionals become comfortable (and effective) in marketing their own work. He says, “We tend to view marketing as something pushy and dishonest – which much marketing sadly is. But true marketing consists of discovering who is hungry for what you love to do—and letting them know you’re available to do it.
  • Kim Go is an interfaith minister, former minister of congregational life, public speaker, coach, author, ritual celebrant and expressive facilitator. A focus of her work is the project, Alive and Mortal, an online group to address grief and impermanence. She says, “We work togetherto learn expressiveness around grief and find our voice. This aids us to use the power of the group to move out into the world to speak of our grief and love story that we carry with an expanded language.
  • José Faus is an artist, writer, teacher, and mentor. A native of Bogota, Colombia and long time Kansas City resident, he has participated in mural projects throughout the Kansas City area, Mexico and SantaCruz de la Sierra, Bolivia where he traveled under a State Department grant. He is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective and sits on the boards of the Writers Place, UMKC Friends of the Library, The Latino WritersCollective and the Charlotte Street foundation.
  • Rob Peck, is an author, humorist and recovering perfectionist! True to the title of his new book, It’s a Juggle Out There, Rob’s moving speeches and uplifting seminars focuses on three things simultaneously: Stress management, Streamlining, & Simplifying.
  • Heather Forest is a modern-day bard fusing poetry, prose, original melody, and the sung and spoken word. A pioneer in the American storytelling revival she has shared her repertoire of world tales in theaters, schools, literature conferences, and storytelling festivals throughout the United States and abroad. A multiple award-winning author and recording artist, she has published seven children’s picture books based on folktales, three folktale anthologies, eight audio recordings of storytelling and a popular educational web site StoryArts Online.

Find out more about the training here.  You can also schedule a discovery call with Laura or Caryn to talk about the training and your life by going here. 

What a Deal! Your Right Livelihood and Power of Words Conference

Hanne Weedon, our managing director, recently shared this email, giving Power of Words conference attendees a great deal when attending Your Right Livelihood training too.

As we approach our 16th annual Power of Words conference, we’re excited to share a special offer: if you register (or are already registered) for the conference, you are now eligible for a 10% discount for the pre-conference Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love, led by Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Your Right Livelihood starts with a retreat at the Casa Francisco Retreat Center from Wed. evening Sept. 25 to Fri. afternoon, Sept. 27, ending in time for the conference. The 100-hour training continues through mid-December with online study and community support, weekly video conferences with entrepreneurs and leaders in the field (such as Harriet Lerner, Gregg Levoy, and Heather Forest – see special guest teachers here), weekly group check-ins and discussions, individual consultations with Laura and Caryn, and a toolkit of resources for planning, marketing, further training, and next steps. All participants receive a certificate of completion at the end.

It is no exaggeration to state that this training changed my life. The RLPT course not only taught me how to improve my professional portfolio, but, more importantly, how to live holistically as a creative person. I will continue to use the course materials for years to come, and will count myself very lucky to stay in touch with the outstanding community of people who were in my cohort.

~ Rachel Gabriel, writer and facilitator, Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you’d like to learn more about the training, please set up a free 15-minute discovery call here with Caryn or Laura.

To catch the 10% discount, if you’re already registered for the conference, please contact Hanne at Director@TLANetwork.org so I can get you registered. You can register for the conference and training together or apply to the training on its own. 

Six Ways to Find the Work You Love

Here’s an essay by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg with input from Laura Packer. This essay also speaks to Caryn and Laura’s approach to Your Right Livelihood: A Training to Do the Work, Art and Service You Love, which is a new certification with the TLA Network. Learn more here, and feel free to each out to Caryn and Laura (via Caryn at CarynMirriamGoldberg@gmail.com) to set up a free 15-minute discovery call about the training and your dreams and goals).

We all have our callings: the work we’re alive to do, yet for most of us, the path is not just a wavy line to follow but a tangle that runs through mosquito-filled forests, swampy grasslands, and even along the sea bottom at times before being tossing us back onto the shore.

By conversing with our callings, we can drop a kind of anchor, connecting us to the main story we’re meant to live, and from that story finding our own Right Livelihood. Traditionally Right Livelihood, part of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path, means work that does no harm, but a more contemporary definition is the work that follows our callings, helps us grow, and serves the world in some way, however small.

Growing up as a mediocre student and expert daydreamer in New Jersey, I had no idea that my love of art and music, then writing, would lead me toward calling myself a Transformative Language Artist, a person who uses writing, storytelling, and performance for personal and community transformation. As a teenage poet, when my dad told me I had two choices for a career – advertising or journalism – I followed the conventional wisdom of the day: I chose journalism. It didn’t stick, but it got me to the Midwest where my passion for the stories I was covering led me to grassroots organizing until I returned to school for graduate work in poetry. Paying my bills by gigging as a teaching assistant, I happened upon a twin calling: teaching.

I now make my living in a kaleidoscope of ways: leading writing workshops for people with serious illness, collaborating with a singer on a poetry music performance about courage, teaching classes on poetry to change our lives, coaching people on writing and right livelihood. While what I do isn’t something I can explain in one word — and it does entail a lot of travel, video-conferencing, and mostly listening carefully to what people are saying and writing – I continually find meaning, connection, and joy on the wild road trip of living my calling.

In putting together the Right Livelihood Professional Training (https://www.tlanetwork.org/Right-Livelihood-Training) with storyteller Laura Packer, based on what we wish we knew when we started out as working artists, Laura and I have discovered some uncommon steps most of us take in just starting out, making a mid-career shift, or launching a third act after retirement:

  1. Converse with Your Calling: Callings, according to writer Gregg Levoy, aren’t so much lightning bolts as they are continual conversations, sometimes with a voice whispering in code and sometimes with a loud booming billboard. You can catch more of what’s coming your way by keeping a callings journal: write for 10-15 minutes on a regular basis with what work calls to you, how you might do it, how others seem to do it, what would be required for you to launch yourself, and whatever else comes to you as questions or answers. You can even write a dialogue between yourself and your calling, imagining meeting your calling for coffee at a local cafe.
  2. Look for Signs and Wonders: Finding ways to cover your bills while doing the work of your heart is sometimes akin to looking for water in a big field with only a dowsing stick. It can take a lot of meandering, but along the way, you can be on the watch for signs and wonders: hints that this new direction is the right one for you. When I was developing the emerging field of Transformative Language Arts (TLA) (http://tlanetwork.org), just when I began to doubt myself about whether any of this made sense, someone would email or call to say how TLA named exactly what what they were doing for years. Listen to what little hints you find: snippets of conversation you might overhear, repeated lessons the universe keeps giving you, or something you keep dreaming about each night. It can be helpful to write down their signs and wonders in your callings journal because the more attention you pay to them, the more they show up.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” goes the old joke. “Practice, practice, practice,” is the answer, and the same is true for changing your job, either from the inside out or by shifting to new work. You can practice by learning all you can about what the new work may entail. For example, if you plan to launch a small consulting business, shadow someone else who does similar work, then practice by offering free sessions to people in exchange for their honest feedback on how to improve. Even when you’re doing your beloved work in the right balance for your life – whether as a paid job, volunteer work, or art – you’re always learning from the work itself how to do it better.
  4. Surround Yourself With Support: Laura and I know first-hand how essential it is to have a strong support system as you transition toward your dream work. Laura, who also does storytelling coaching, has a fellow coach she checks in with regularly, and I talk with several friends regularly who are crafting livelihoods from arts or activism. It can be invaluable to meet up with a group of people doing parallel work. If you’re developing writing workshops for your community, get together a group of people who offer art, music, and other kinds of workshops to share strategies and support.
  5. Leap When the Time is Right: “Timing is everything” goes the old adage. For most of us, leaping from a less-than-fulfilling day job without tried-and-true plans, connections, and experience doing the work we love may be far more exciting, exhausting, and fearful than you anticipated, not to mention less successful. Take your time to transition into your work. Study the field and learn the ins and outs from others doing this kind of work, develop a strong business and marketing plan, and surround yourself with people and resources that support your new work. Also, consider taking baby steps into the new work. Laura points out that moonlighting and volunteering are noble ways to test the waters and get some experience under your belt. Many people find themselves gradually transitioning, then taking a timely leap, often surprising themselves in the process. Of course, there are also times the universe forces us to jump when a job or contract ends, and at such moments, we have a little extra push when it comes to taking such a leap.
  6. Take Care of Yourself: Even once you’ve leapt (or are in mid-leap), it’s a good idea to keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re going in the right direction. Remember to take time off for your well-being, hanging out with friends or family, and making time for hobbies and other passions. Do whatever is self-care for you, from taking ten deep breaths in the morning before you start answering emails to showing up at a restorative yoga class regularly to slipping out of a stuck moment to see a movie or take a walk instead. Taking good care of yourself is essential to cultivating the perspective you’ll need for living your calling and doing the work you love, and it will inevitably make that adventure all-the-more sustainable.