Coming Out of Winter

by Rev. Shelly M. Mohnkern

“A second characteristic of the process which for me is the good life, is that it involves an increasingly tendency to live fully in each moment. I believe it would be evident that for the person who was fully open to his new experience, completely without defensiveness, each moment would be new.”

Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1961

This winter has left me with a curious habit; one that I assume will fade as spring takes a firm hold. Each morning when I get up, I immediately go to the window, and peek outside to make certain that winter is actually staying gone. There has not been any white on the ground in over a week. Check. The temperature is staying above freezing, even at night. Check. The daffodils are starting to open. Check. Breathe deeply, and relax.

Never was Carl Rogers more right about new moments than this past winter. No matter the forecast, no matter the previous few days’ temperature, no matter the date on the calendar, one could wake up to a white wonderland and a houseful of homebound children. There was little the authorities could do to predict the actual event. They could guess, they could speculate, they could even look at the data of the past, and project. But weather is still not an exact science, and sometimes it will simply go in ways that surprise us, for ill or for good.

For me this has been a parallel to what I am learning about the fascinating subject of mind-body-heart interactions, and what we, as humans, do with them. We are not an exact science either… we embody Spirit, and through Spirit, we are Mystery. There is not a way to categorize us down to base predictable mechanisms. We cannot fully know what the next moment will bring, for ourselves or for those we attempt to help and care for. All we can do is Be, and Be With.

It is first important to Be. We need to be present and aware, of ourselves and the world around us. We must learn to take in as much as we can, and experience it. We may not understand it all, but we can take it in. We can learn and adapt as things change, and store and reflect on the things we did not understand, and learn from them as well. We can become aware of our own Mystery.

Then we can Be With. As counselors, we learn the importance of empathy. It is mentioned in almost every class we take. We can Be With our clients, even when we are not 100% sure what is going on with them. We can reach out with our understanding, and be there with them, gaining knowledge from every work, every movement, and every silence. We can make them feel accompanied, no longer alone in their own understanding or confusion about their condition. We can share somewhat in their Mystery, and share a bit of our own.

We can move out of winter and into spring. We might still have to look out the window for a while, to assure ourselves we are moving forward, but eventually, Spring will arrive.

May all of you enjoy this season of rebirth, and awakening, and find your own amidst the Sacred. Blessings!

Emerge

by Andrea Noel

Emerge, according to dictionary.com, means to rise or come forth into notice, view, or existence. During springtime buds emerge on naked trees and flowers emerge out of those buds. In the spring, new life emerges.

This spring I am emerging into a new sense of self. The fall and winter seasons were times of deep contemplation about what it means to be authentically and fully who God created me to be. Listening to my heart, being present to deep feelings, noticing my intuition, and reflecting on past decisions helped me get reacquainted with me!

Over the last six months, I grew more familiar with my feelings, desires, fears, strengths and growing edges. I considered what external aspects of my life were not congruent with my internal sense of being and even realized that much of my life is spent living according to societal, familial or external exceptions, even expectations that did not fully resonate with my spirit. In the past, I made some decisions based on the affirmation and validation of things outside of me. All these years, all thirty of them, I made life choices that were mere reflections and interpretations of what others wanted for me.

This year I am choosing from within. As buds emerge, inviting flowers to bloom, I am living the life that reflects my inner most being. This spring I emerge, accepting who I am and living authentically. This spring I emerge courageously as who God created me to be. As we all anticipate lasting signs of spring, consider how you will emerge out of this prolonged season of stillness.

Pursuing Religious Freedom

by Rev. Shelly M. Mohnkern

Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.
C.G. Jung

This country’s exploration of the ideas of religious freedom has been on my mind a great deal over the last couple weeks, and different states struggle with what it means to allow the freedom of religion, in balance with legally excusing discrimination. The states will make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them, just as we in our pursuit of knowledge and learning seek to understand our own, and those of our predecessors. I am simply grateful that here, at least, the students and professors seem to get something that lawmakers still fail at.

Over the last two years that I have been in attendance here at Loyola, I have had many opportunities to express myself and my faith, my beliefs and my personal gnosis, this blog being one of them. As a pagan, I am in the minority here, in a sea of more traditional faith-paths, and yet I feel as valued and respected as any of my more traditional colleagues. It is the truest form of religious freedom, to be able to study how to bring Pastoral Counseling skills to a faith that does not have the centuries of established centers of learning and seminary enjoyed by more established churches. I enjoy this religious freedom. I revel in it every day as I attend classes, have discussions with my peers, and challenge the boundaries of established understandings of the universe and traditional views of our place within it. This is truly religious freedom done right.

It is my feeling that it is the atmosphere here at Loyola that America’s forefathers had in mind when they established a new country where faith was not mandated by the government, but was instead the freedom of every individual to keep to and live by as they saw fit. I hope that all of us here at Loyola will remember that when we step out of this world and into the larger one, so that through our practices we can spread our tolerance, acceptance and love to the larger world outside these doors, and let this country see what religious freedom truly means.

You readers may not realize that you are providing this grace to your fellow students, but believe that we have noticed receiving it, and are grateful.

 

What’s Happening – March 2014

Happy Friday Meaning Making Readers!

Starting this month Meaning Making will have a monthly summary of events from the last month and a list of events coming up for the next month.  If you have something you would like included for next month’s addition, please let us know!  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

What you missed last month:

Dinesh Braganza SJ facilitated a workshop in a technique called Core Transformation as developed by Connirae Andreas. It provides a way to resolve inner conflicts and bring oneself to experience inner harmony and alignment.  I found the steps simple, but focusing on the body and getting out of my head challenging.  After the two day training, I felt competent to practice the technique on myself.  I have continued to practice the techniques, each time learning something new about myself.  Since the workshop I seem, without any great effort, to appreciate and value myself more.  This in turn has transformed how I interpret my world.

-By Nicole Snyder

Joanne Miller had her final dissertation defense.  Her dissertation is titled: “Counselor and Theological Identity Formation and the Ethic of Inclusion for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients”.  Using interpretative phenomenological analysis she examined how Christian counselors-in-training engaged their theological beliefs about sexual orientation in relation to the ACA Code of Ethics.  She found that the process of the participants accepting their ability to counsel lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients was facilitated by seeing the client as Jesus would and/or an increasing awareness of the counselor’s limitations and control.

-By Nicole Snyder

Drs. Mickey Fenzel and Tom Rodgerson spoke at the “Chat with the Chair” event.  Topics included the Department of Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care successfully being reaccredited by the AAPC and CACREP, the launch of a community advisory board on how to improve the programs offered, and how the new computer program LiveText will benefit faculty and students.  Additionally, an announcement was made regarding the opening of three full-time visiting faculty positions in the department.  The remaining time was used to facilitate a discussion regarding the names of the department as well as the names of the degrees offered.

-By Nicole Snyder

Upcoming Events:

March 8: God Forgot Where I Was: Using Spiritual/Religious Issues in Therapy with the Traumatized at Timonium (http://www.examassure.com/) 2pm-5pm

March 13: Celebrate Diversity Day in Columbia Campus, Loyola (Questions: drlasurebryant@loyola.edu) Noon – 3pm

March 15: LGMFT discussing Autism: Counseling and Education at John Hopkins University Montgomery Campus (RSVP sgardn14@jhu.edu)  9am-Noon

March 18: Gathering of the M.A. Community at Room 304 Columbia Campus, Loyola University (RSVP rhmozeak@loyola.edu) Current students & Alumni Welcome  12:15pm – 1:15pm

March 20-23: Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, DC (http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/symposium/2014/)

March 25: Using Eastern Forms of Spirituality and Prayer to Become Wholesome Persons of the Healing at Room 360 Columbia Campus, Loyola University Process (Questions: jfox1@loyola.edu)  Noon – 1pm

 

Before You Begin

By Kate Gerwin

With the PC Open House coming up next week, thought I would put together a list of a few things I would tell anyone starting the MS program.

  1. Let the process unfold in its own time. Two and a half years and no more. That’s how long I wanted the program to take me when I first started. I was, by necessity, working full-time so even though this rich, growth producing experience may need more time to evolve in me, that fact was secondary to my desire to get it done. As it stands, I am slated to graduate in May of 2015, five and a half years after I started. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The “extra” time it took wasn’t extra at all—it was vital space for me to learn, integrate, question, play and grow. So if you are like me and find yourself anxious to be finished before you have even started, take heart! The process will take the time it needs to, no more, no less.
  2. Get involved.  I had the great fortune of attending Loyola Maryland (at that time Loyola College) as an undergrad and one of the things I appreciated most about my choice is how many opportunities I was presented with to get involved in campus life and other activities. When I started grad school however, I was working full-time, living far from campus and like many grad students, really pressed for time. In the last year or so, I have become slowly become more involved with the Pastoral Counseling community and it has been very rewarding. Even something as simple as meeting up with classmates for a cup of coffee can help you feel more connected and invested and is well worth the time you think you don’t have.
  3. Save Stuff! In fact, save everything! For one thing, you will need to have all of your syllabi to qualify for licensure. For another, you never know what kind of insight you will glean from that one little hastily scribbled note down the line when you are actually practicing in the counseling field.
  4. Plan Backwards. When I started the program, it was all I could do to register for one class—the thought of planning out what classes I would be taking the next semester, or the next year seemed way too overwhelming! I quickly learned however, that the best way to move forward is to plan backwards. As I learned what classes were offered when and got a sense of my overall “plan”, it became easier to see where I stood in the bigger picture and keep myself on track towards my graduation goal.
  5. Find a peer advisor—or a whole team of them. As great as Advisors are, the reality of office hours and schedules makes meeting regularly somewhat difficult. It’s definitely in your best interest to get to know some individuals who are further along in their journey and glean whatever information and insight you can from them. They can be invaluable resources for helping you navigate everything from what classes to take to helping you through the major challenge of clinicals.
  6. Take your own therapy seriously. While I have always valued therapy, I must admit I saw the 20 hour requirement as a bit of a chore when I first started—one more thing to fit into my busy schedule. As I grew in the program however and things started coming up for me however, my own therapy has been key in the process of evolving my identity as a counselor and a person. I think it is one of the best parts of Loyola’s program, so don’t short change yourself!
  7. Network Now. You never know if your “first friend” in Intro to Pastoral Counseling could later become a link to a job down the line! The program is just as much about developing your own professional identity as it is knowing the material, and networking is a key—and very practical—part of that process.

And most of all, as strange as it sounds, HAVE FUN!

Lighting the Winter Candle

by Shelly Mohnkern

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

Carl Jung, 1963

Winter:  The time of reflection, introspection, and thought;  the fallow time of the mind between semesters. We rest, but we are not still. We fill our days not with books and research and long hours at the library, but with family, food and fellowship. We prepare to re-engage in our scholarship by shopping for books, and supplies, thinking about our schedules, and waiting for the syllabi that will direct our efforts over the next five months. We reflect on the past year, and make resolutions for the upcoming one.

This is the time where we re-kindle Jung’s light, the light that will shine through us for the rest of the year.

I find myself looking inward, seeking that light within me, and searching for the knowledge I will need to nourish the flame to its brightest life. There are so many facets of that light. Much like the human housing it, it takes many different nutrients for the light to thrive and burn brightly. My light thrives on such lofty things as charity work, prayer, helping my tribe-of-choice, spiritual practice, and learning. It also thrives on more mundane pleasures like reading fiction, movies, time spent with children playing, vocal music, and indulging my theatrical side with role-play gaming. I give joy and receive it gratefully. I take “me time” and permit myself to be indulgent. It is a balance between doing for others, letting others do for me, and occasionally doing for myself.

Soon I return to classes. I’m excited and nervous.  I can’t wait to be learning again. In fact, I marvel at the idea that some folks stop learning, feeling they have already gleaned all they can from academic study. I came back to school later in life, and I marvel at all I have learned so far, and the horizons of learning yet to be achieved. I see my light begin to burn brighter, adding itself to the light of my peers, fed by the light of my instructors, the authors of our texts, and the scholarship of those who have gone before me.

Shine on, and shine well. The dark times are passing, now is the time of light.

An Advent of Humanity – No Cape Necessary

by Dayna Pizzigoni

What does it mean to have a God that was born in a manger and died on a cross? About five years ago I wrote this question in an untitled notebook on a page without a date. As my spiritual community closes our liturgical year with Christ our King on the cross and begins our celebration of Advent, I ponder this question and its personal meaning in my faith journey again.

The reality of a God born in a barn and murdered after healing the sick and feeding the hungry means that Jesus was not a super hero. He participated in the messiness of humanity. I need to remember that if God did not step into the world as a super hero then She probably doesn’t expect me to be a super hero (despite how fun it might be to have super powers as a doctoral student).

I am a human being. God does not expect me to be perfect. He intentionally did not give me a super hero cape. My humanity, like my need for rest and play, is not a flaw. The most significant joy I will celebrate, pain I will suffer, and contribution I will offer the world will be done cape-less-ly as a regular human.

Now it must be said that sometimes we, as humans, do put on wonderful capes of determination and resilience. Single fathers, abuse survivors, refugees, and struggling students probably have made good use of metaphorical capes. It is beautiful how we can survive, stretch, and grow, but this strength becomes a liability when our expectations for ourselves become too high. We are not made to be “on” and heroic all the time. Following Christ is not about being a super hero. It is about being fully human.

There is nothing as tempting as a doctoral program to make me wish I could be a super hero; however, doctoral classes are not crises. I do not need a cape for my courses. I need to plan for adequate time to do my work and trust my intelligence. My studies call me not to heroism, but to humility with which work and be ever grateful for the privilege of higher education.

This Advent I hope to contemplate the beauty of our limited humanity. I can honor the holiness of my humanity and humbly invite Christ into the Bethlehem of my heart this Advent. Jesus will be ok in the messiness of my fragile humanity. After all, He was born in a manger and died on a cross.

Chin up, graduated

There are a hundred thousand songs about saying goodbye . . . or not saying goodbye .  .  .  or don’t say goodbye . . .

I’m trying to keep my chin up, JoAnn, but I feel this little empty space where your words were supposed to be. I know they will be filled with Glenda’s and Kate’s and Andrea’s and Vernon’s words and thoughts abundantly rich with our spiritual and pastoral connections, but your words have made meaning in my life since the inception of Meaning Making.

I knew you and I were going to get along well when I found out your journey to Loyola included Texas where I was born. Our footsteps have shared some of the same paths like Loyola’s Spring Retreat, but you have ventured into bigger worlds.

Your last posting reached out and touched someone so deeply, that person has already been profoundly changed within. You led me to resiliency and taught me about the free-form of spiritual direction. You are not afraid to meet and greet the difficult issues. You shared your lessons about mystery, humility, and self-care.

But now you‘ve gone and graduated – a place where all of us bloggers plan to be someday. It’s not like “graduated” is a foreign country. Graduated still allows the privilege of visiting. I hope you will still come, read us and share your wisdom.

Graduated inherently implies that you are finished and complete with this particular place in your life and ready to move on. Graduated closes a door while it simultaneously opens another and brings you to a moment where you can say “here I begin anew.”

Graduated brings the coveted title of “professional.” It means that people will seek you out because they require a knowledgeable person who has wisdom to help them.

They will have chosen well.

Be happy, JoAnn. Live long and prosper.

Serenity, Courage, Wisdom

Hanging on a wall in my office, is a glass picture etched with the first four lines of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. At the end of each group session, my clients and I hold hands and recite the prayer together. As they leave, I pray that serenity, courage, and wisdom inform their decisions as they tend to their daily lives.

On Saturday, May 18, 2013, Loyola University Maryland held its 161st commencement ceremony. Among its graduates were members of the Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care Department. As they transition from the role of student to that of helping professional, I pray that serenity, courage, and wisdom inform their decisions as they tend to their clients.

The Pastoral Counseling program offers skills that graduates bring to the workforce. When they enter the world of work, they may realize that even with excellent skills, difficulties arise. Sometimes the difficulties are due to agency culture, or clients may not be motivated to change. During those occasions, we ask God to grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change.

For what can be changed, extra effort may be necessary. Pastoral Counselors are called to be advocates for clients. We hold hope and provide reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As clients respond to treatment, their accomplishments may radiate into our lives. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda stated that “when one takes action for others, one’s own suffering is transformed into the energy that can keep one moving forward; a light of hope illuminating a new tomorrow for oneself and others is kindled.”  Recognizing the value of advocacy, we pray that God grant them the courage to change the things that they can.

The third attribute recalls Solomon’s response to God’s magnanimous offer to give him anything that he wanted.  Solomon replied “give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).  In essence, Solomon requested wisdom, and God, delighting in his selfless request, made him the wisest man who ever lived.

Socrates stated that “wisdom begins in wonder.” As Pastoral Counselors enter the workforce filled with hope, wonder, and a burning desire for excellence, my prayer is for a spirit of discernment to accompany them so they recognize the times when change is not possible, and be at peace. For those times when they can facilitate change, they should have the courage to advocate for their clients. Yet most importantly, they should trust God for the wisdom to know the difference.

Our work as Pastoral Counselors requires us to facilitate change, advocate for our clients, and be discerning about their needs. The class of 2013 is equipped for these tasks, and I am convinced that the counseling profession has received a gift with the addition of these new graduates to their rolls.

Don’t Say Goodbye . . . Say Thank You

Another semester is almost over and the familiar routine begins. The furious rush to finish all papers, projects, and assignments that you knew about from week one. Then, that oft-repeated vow: that you will never wait so late start . . . again. The perfunctory filling out of class evaluations that you know you should spend more time on, but you don’t, and the lightning-fast goodbyes that we give to teachers and students alike as we dash toward the parking lot.

It is the last part of the routine that I take issue with. We say goodbye too easily. We often talk about “terminating” with clients and how much care is needed because of the emotional bonds that have been created. Yet what about the bonds created with that person who sat beside you for countless morning and evening hours? Saying goodbye to them should not be so easy. Take the time to thank them for their presence, their camaraderie, for their commiseration with you about the long nights, for their listening ear about the woes of your internship. And, of course, thank them for all the times that they agreed with you that your paper did deserve a better grade. Don’t just say goodbye, say thank you.

If the events in our country over the last few weeks have taught us anything, it is that life is precious and every day is a gift. Just like we can’t take life for granted, we also can’t take the relationships with our classmates for granted either. These are our present peers and our future colleagues, fostering and maintaining relationships with at least a few persons will produce unimagined benefits.

I have heard it said that part of what makes Loyola great is the students, and I would definitely agree. Even the students that I have disagreed with have added something to me. They have helped to clarify my voice, my views, and my beliefs and, in some cases, even my faith. That is a gift and I am thankful for it. And, to you who are reading this blog, I thank you as well for journeying with me and all the other writers as we have shared with you.

To the students I have met, the professors who challenged me to grow, and the friends I have made, I have been blessed by the gift of your presence.

I am not saying goodbye. I am saying thank you.