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Currents: November 2019

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Currents is published monthly by Windhorse Integrative Mental Health of Northampton, 211 North St., Suite 1, Northampton, MA 01060. The Executive Director is Victoria Yoshen. For questions, concerns, and suggestions about Currents, contact us at info@windhorseimh.org.  

Upcoming Events

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Mark your calendars for upcoming community gatherings!

Community Events:
Our Annual Thanksgiving Gathering
Thursday, November 28th, drop by anytime between 12pm and 4pm. Please note that this event is not taking place at the office. Please see You’re Invited to Our Windhorse Thanksgiving Gathering for more information about the event and how to RSVP.

Windhorse Craft Fair
In the Windhorse office parlor on weekdays from December 9th through December 20th, 10am to 3pm. Come see the beautiful items crafted by members of our community. All of the homemade goods will be available for purchase.

Windhorse Holiday Party
Wednesday, December 11th from 5 to 8pm at our Still Point house in Northampton. Please keep an eye on your email for details as they are announced. If you are not currently on our community email list and you’d like to be added, please email us at info@windhorseimh.org and let us know.

Events Committee: Wednesday, December 4th, 9-9:30am in the Windhorse community room. The Events Committee plans Windhorse community events. Clients, staff, and community members are welcome to attend and share their ideas. The committee meets on the first Wednesday of every month from 9-9:30am.

Community Lunch: Tuesday, December 10th, 12:30-1:30pm at the Windhorse office. This is an opportunity to enjoy a potluck lunch while meeting and socializing with others in the Windhorse community. All are welcome to come for the whole hour or just stop by for a visit. Please feel free to bring your own lunch or contribute something yummy for the group.

Community Education: Wednesday, December 11th, 9-11am with an optional guided meditation 9-9:30am. Join the Windhorse staff during their monthly discussions and trainings on topics relating to the work of Windhorse. Open to the entire Windhorse community. 2nd Wednesday of the month, 9-11am.

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Development Corner

Windhorse IMH is a 501(c)(3), which is a kind of nonprofit run by a board of directors.  When we expanded to three locations, our board did as well.  We have learned to hold meetings via electronic devices and to meet in person every 18 months.  The ideal structure for the board is two representatives from each site and a “floating” affiliate.  Currently, we have one rep from San Luis Obispo, CA, one rep from Portland, OR, two reps from Northampton, MA, and a “floater” from Florida, which adds up to five board members instead of the ideal seven.

Michael Stein, who has served our board through three leaderships and is currently the president and the treasurer, has wondered about new energy on the board, perhaps allowing him to step off without causing a gap.  He has business and meditation expertise as well as a generous view and a good understanding of oversight.

Board members at Windhorse fulfill two different roles.  One is being able to represent a client, family member, or professional lived-experience perspective.  The other role requires a skillset to help the board’s job of oversight, such as a background in law, programs, business, advocacy, networking, meditation, or health systems.

Our founding board was a serendipitous collection of healer/scholars from all the roles, who managed the ups and downs of a start-up, some staying on for more than a decade.  We have been blessed with continued growth of our clinical realm and the evolution of our organization, while also maintaining the core of our approach.  It has a community feel, a nonprofit business structure, and an attentive board.  Currently, it is not a “fundraising board,” but that might be an appropriate next direction.

If you have any interest in serving as a board member or if you know someone you’d like to suggest, please contact me!

Victoria Yoshen
Executive Director of Windhorse IMH Northampton
Windhorse IMH 211 North Street, Suite 1 Northampton, MA 01060
VYoshen@windhorseimh.org
 

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Holding the Importance and Complexity of Contemplative Practice at Our Windhorse

Written by Jeremy Andersen, Education Director and Senior Clinician of Windhorse IMH Northampton.

According to contemplative psychology, the capacity to be present and available to others is both an expression of our basic human sanity and a strength we can cultivate.  We share this capacity with everyone we encounter, regardless of role, mind state, diagnostic labels, and the like.  At Windhorse, staff members are asked to engage in mindfulness-awareness and compassion practices as a way of cultivating our natural presence and openness. We then endeavor to bring these qualities into the various relationships and environments that fill our work and lives.   By mindfully connecting with our immediate experience in this way, we are more prepared to meet others with greater presence and openness—human being to human being—and better able to recognize and encourage the innate wakefulness we all share.

Historically, the core Windhorse contemplative practices have included a particular shamatha-vipashyana (mindfulness-awareness) technique that was taught by Chogyam Trungpa, as well as the practice of tonglen (sending and taking), a compassion practice that involves letting in discomfort and pain and extending a sense of relief in order to cultivate compassion and other related qualities. Whereas Ed Podvoll and others who originally developed the Windhorse approach were all practicing Buddhists and students of Trungpa, Northampton has always been a more diverse group.  As a result, there is an ever-present creative tension around keeping alive foundational aspects of Windhorse work—including contemplative practice—without becoming dogmatic or overly narrow, which threatens freshness and genuineness.  Similarly, simply adopting an “anything goes” approach, disavowing the significance of the foundational practices, runs the risk of becoming “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Navigating this tension is an ever-unfolding process that is shaped by the makeup of the community at any given time, as well as by other contexts.  One way of relating to this dialectic is to work to sustain the both-and-ness without falling into extremes.

On the one hand, our organization holds some responsibility for keeping the foundational practices alive within our culture, which includes familiarizing staff with these practices and providing them with opportunities to engage in them.  At the same time, it’s important to recognize that, for various reasons, any given meditation practice is not universally helpful to all people.  Therefore, while we may encourage individuals to periodically experiment with the “foundational” practices, they may generally choose to practice other mindfulness-awareness practices or compassion practices that currently help them deepen into the qualities associated with those practices.  For example, while someone might periodically experiment with tonglen, they may presently find it too overwhelming or confusing and choose to practice metta (loving-kindness meditation) or other compassion practices, such as those developed by Lama John Makransky.

As I understand it, the Windhorse approach is rooted, at least in part, in the premise that it is imperative for those in supportive roles to work with their own minds and hearts in order to be deeply responsive to those they’re endeavoring to support.  A related premise is that contemplative practice is one of the primary tools or containers for doing such work. As mentioned above, certain contemplative practices have had a unique historical and practical relationship to Windhorse work.  At the same time, just as we aspire to meet each individual who comes here for support as they are, where they are, it is likewise important for us to continue to help staff find their way in their own contemplative journey as it relates to the work they are here to do.  Navigating such complexity with clarity, sensitivity, and flexibility is a practice unto itself.

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Report from the Fall 2019 ARTA Meeting

Written by Eric Friedland-Kays, Clinical Team Leader, Psychotherapist, and Development Manager of Windhorse IMH Northampton.

Phoebe Walker (the Clinical Director of Windhorse IMH Northampton) and I made our usual jaunt to the biannual meeting of the American Residential Treatment Association, which takes place at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  In attendance were representatives from the thirty or so member organizations, all assembled for the purposes of networking and supporting one another.  A few new people attended but for the most part the group consisted of a committed group of leaders, representing our individual organizations, who have gotten to know one another more and more through years of working together.  

The presentations made during each ARTA gathering range from clinically-oriented to administrative.  This time we had a presentation from Daniel Gemp, the head of Dreamscape Marketing, who offered many tips on the best practices for our websites and online marketing campaigns.  In addition, we had roundtable discussions on staff health, working with families, and how to respond to the diversity of reviews posted online.  We also participated in committee meetings, including leadership, marketing, membership, and innovations, and we had our usual casual connections at dinner and in the evening. 

In the group vote as to what topic we would like to see presented at our next meeting in the spring of 2020, Phoebe’s suggestion to look at Polyvagal Theory was chosen.  Polyvagal Theory focuses on the human nervous system and its will to connect and to love.  Getting to know and befriend one’s own nervous system allows us to be more self-compassionate and more empathic towards others – qualities that are valuable to everyone in the ARTA network, where member organizations are devoted to mental health recovery and sustainability.

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Reflections on the November 2019 ISPS Conference

Written by Angela Clark, Clinical Team Leader at Windhorse IMH Northampton, and David Stark, Peer Educator and Peer Counselor at Windhorse IMH Northampton.

In early November, Eric Friedland-Kays, Angela Clark, and David Stark attended the ISPS conference in New Haven, Connecticut entitled “Psychosis, Citizenship, and Belonging.” The conference began on Friday morning, November 1st, and concluded late that Sunday afternoon. The keynote talk was delivered by Marty Cindy Hadge, leader trainer of the Western Mass RLC as well as a nationally-recognized Hearing Voices trainer. The honoree was Larry Davidson, the director of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health and a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

On Saturday afternoon, Eric presented a session called “Cultivating a Welcoming Presence” that focused on Polyvagal Theory, which several Windhorse clinicians recently trained in with Deb Dana. Eric skillfully described the polyvagal approach to the nervous system including how stressors can disrupt or restore equilibrium. Eric eloquently explained how the polyvagal approach could then be applied to working with people who have experienced extreme states. He also guided participants through understanding and responding to a handout about their own experiences living with states that can be interpreted using polyvagal concepts. Eric’s presentation invited us to notice and welcome our own experience and emphasized the importance of connection with others.

On Sunday afternoon, David presented a talk entitled “The Changing Viewpoint: Psychosis and Its Treatment Limitations—Constructing a Better Way Forward.” He read the paper aloud and supplemented it with handouts. David explained concepts such as consensus reality, treatment parameters, identities, roles, feelings, facts, rights and rules. He sought to describe how some of what we ordinarily practice in order to help others is often one-sided in its values. Participants in David’s session were captivated as he challenged us to unpack the meaning and impact of ordinary practices and to consider something better.

David, Eric, and Angela also attended presentations exploring other topics including experiences of family members, learning from spiritual experience of altered states, navigating professional roles as helpers with lived experience, and maintaining body-mind connection while navigating extreme states or supporting others.

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You’re Invited to Our Windhorse Thanksgiving Gathering

This event is open to our entire Windhorse community of past and present clients, family members, friends, and staff. We hope you can make it! All of the available details are below.

Date: Thursday, November 28th
Time: Feel free to drop by anytime between 12pm and 4pm. We’ll keep the food warm for you.
Hosted by: Michele
Place: Michele’s home
RSVP to: frontoffice@windhorseimh.org

The menu will include turkey, potatoes, squash, stuffing, gravy, pies, cookies, vegetarian stuffed shells, vegetable quiche, cranberry sauce, and cheese and crackers. It’s not necessary to bring anything except your appetite, but if you have a favorite dish that you’d like to offer then please feel free to bring it. Everyone is very welcome to come, and we’ll try to provide a variety of foods, but if you have dietary limitations (such as vegan or gluten-free), you might consider bringing a side dish or dessert with you just in case there are limited options available.

We’ll have games and movies available, too!

Please email us at frontoffice@windhorseimh.org before November 27th if you’d like more information about this event or you’re interested in RSVPing.

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Are You Interested in a New Group?

Are there any groups that you’d like Windhorse to consider holding? Recently, we’ve heard of interest in a few different topics. Are these things that would interest you?

  • An NVC Group. NVC (also known as Nonviolent Communication) is a practice based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. It offers a way of authentically connecting with others through deep listening. An NVC group itself is skills-based and, through exercises and dialogue, teaches the participants the basics of NVC and how to make use of it in their lives. NVC groups are not new to Windhorse; the practice of nonviolent communication is admired, respected, and used by many people here, and Windhorse has hosted groups in the past.
  • A fiber arts group. In the past, Windhorse has held fiber arts groups that bring people together and give them a weekly space to knit, crochet, and hang out. It’s typically been a laid-back group that’s open to newbies as well as experienced fiber artists. Those who are less experienced are encouraged to ask questions and advice from those who’ve been practicing for awhile, and there’s usually some spare supplies so that people who are brand new can try it out. In addition, non-fiber enthusiasts have been welcome to come, sit, drink tea, chat, have a few laughs, and just relax.
  • A peer support group focused on looking for work. We know the search for work is daunting for everyone, and that at times it may feel particularly overwhelming to someone in recovery. And so, when someone brought up the idea of a peer support group centered on the search for work (paid and/or volunteer), it made sense to us. Perhaps it would be helpful to speak with and find support from others who are going through the same process. And those who’ve found work, or who have gone through the process more than once, could share what they’ve found helpful.

What do you think? Do any of these ideas for groups speak to you? If so, please let us know in the comments section or by emailing us at info@windhorseimh.org

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A Thought to Ponder:
We’re Not Walking Alone


Walking on Country Paths

“I like to walk along country paths lined [sic] with wild grasses lining the path. I place each foot on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I am walking on the wondrous Earth… When we walk, we’re not walking alone. Our parents and ancestors are walking with us. They’re present in every cell of our bodies. So each step that brings us healing and happiness also brings healing and happiness to our parents and ancestors. Every mindful step has the power to transform us and all our ancestors within us, including our animal, plant, and mineral ancestors. We don’t walk for ourselves alone. When we walk, we walk for our family and for the whole world.”

~ From At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life 
by Thich Nhat Hanh
(Parallax Press; Berkeley, CA;
2016; pg. 166)

 

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Recipes: Let’s Spice Things Up!

It’s cold out! That’s not shocking news, of course, but the temperature change can come as a shock to the system nevertheless. Our bodies can take some time to adjust to the change in the seasons and the growing cold. In the meantime, why not add some heat to your food and warm up your body from the inside out? Plus, eating spicy foods also brings with it a number of health benefits. We’ve compiled some fairly simple (but spicy!) recipes below for you to try. Just remember to keep your glass of water nearby.

Jambalaya with Shrimp and Andouille Sausage from MyRecipes.com

Spicy Broccoli from Food Network

20-Minute Spicy Tomato-Mushroom Tortellini from TheKitchn

Spicy Lentil Soup from Food Network

Spicy Refried Beans from Taste of Home

Thai Chicken Soup from Food Network

Spicy Grilled (or Broiled) Eggplant from Taste of Home

If you’re looking to bake something sweet and spicy, look for a recipe with ginger, like these Triple the Ginger Cookies from AllRecipes.com. Ground ginger, candied or crystallized ginger, and fresh ginger all bring some delicious heat.

Enjoy and let us know what you think!

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