Issues

Currents: September 2015

 

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Currents is published monthly by Windhorse Integrative Mental Health of Northampton, 211 North St., Suite 1, Northampton, MA  01060. Executive Director is Victoria Yoshen. Cherryl Jensen is editor and Kenan Jackson is photographer. For questions, concerns and suggestions about Currents, contact Cherryl at 603-313-0181 or cjensen@windhorseimh.org.


Upcoming Events

mark your calendarMark your calendars for the Community Lunch on September 8 and Potluck at Still Point September 25.

September 8:  Community Lunch, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Windhorse

September 25:  Potluck, 5:30-8 p.m., Still Point

For more information, contact frontoffice@windhorseimh.org.


 

Profile 

Engaging the World through Sound

When Tristan G. came to work at Windhorse as a housemate almost two years ago, shortly after t  graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio, t brought with him a musical background, a mindful listening practice and a dedication to living in community. (To avoid using gender specific pronouns, an italicized “t” will be used to indicate pronouns referringtgrdn.com to Tristan.)

As co-manager of Still Point, senior housemate and co-leader of the gardening group, Tristan has found many ways to continue t explorations of music and community in the Windhorse and Northampton communities.

Focus on contemporary music

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Tristan grew up in a musical family and started piano lessons when t was three years old. T’s brother, Solon, was taking lessons and, when Tristan’s parents noticed t had an imaginary piano teacher, they decided t was ready for lessons as well.

Both Tristan and Solon went to Oberlin. It is noted for its prestigious Conservatory of Music as well as for its political activism. It was the first American college or university to grant bachelor’s degrees to women in a coeducational setting and was a leader in the education of African Americans.

Tristan was admitted to the Technology in Music and Related Arts program (TIMARA), which stresses the use of technology in composition, new media and performance.

“What attracted me to Oberlin,” Tristan says, “was the opportunity to study music and liberal arts within a community of creative and passionate people committed to learning about the world from many different perspectives.”

Developing a listening practice

“While at Oberlin, I was deep into engaging with the world through sound,” Tristan says. “I was focused on listening and delving into the different ways of listening and playing with the perception of sound.”

T spent a lot of time in the woods, listening to nature, trying to hear the quietest sound t could.  For t’s senior recital piece, t composed an hour-long meditation on the winter soundscape of the Vermillion River in nearby Amherst, Ohio.

“I took four days over the course of several weeks to explore the landscape,” Tristan says, describing his creative process. “I made recordings of the freezing and thawing of the river, the snow falling on the golden-dried white beech leaves and the hungry calls and knocks of downy woodpeckers, not to mention jets and planes passing overhead and distant trains and snowplows.

“In the following months, I carefully mixed those recordings into a cohesive multichannel composition. I invited the audience to a pre-reception of Japanese sencha (green tea) before we all entered the recital hall to sit and listen together.”

You can hear recordings of several of Tristan’s engagements and experiments with music at tgrdn.com or soundcloud.com/tristangordon.

Passion for living in community

In addition to a creative and challenging music environment, Tristan found a thriving cooperative living community at Oberlin. In t’s first year, t became involved with the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA). Entirely student-run, OSCA houses nearly 200 students in four housing co-ops and feeds almost 600 students in eight dining co-ops.

In Tristan’s third year living in a co-op, t  supported residents and co-facilitated consensus-based house meetings as a Housing Loose Ends Coordinator, or HLEC. The following year, t was hired as OSCA’s Housing Coordinator, training and supporting the HLEC from each co-op while also liaising with the college administration about housing-related issues. These roles were excellent preparation for some duties t has had at Windhorse, t says.

“If I could have majored in cooperative living, I would have,” Tristan says. “It became a passion for me. I learned so much from my peers and being in community.”

The joy of making music with others

Since graduating from Oberlin, Tristan has focused less on composition musically and returned to playing instrumental music on clarinet and guitar. “I spent a lot of my life studying music in more rigid or rigorous forms,” t says. ”Now, I’m trying to not worry about focusing on one single musical practice or on producing or performing.”

Tristan has also taken up shape-note singing, an old American tradition of singing songs in four-part harmony from books printed in a kind of musical notation called shape notes. He participates in the Western Mass Sacred Harp Community, which hosts open sings every Tuesday night from 7-10 p.m. at Helen Hills Hills Chapel at Smith College.

“Singing with a group is special,” Tristan says, “regardless of what we’re singing. I love the fact that shape-note singing is participatory rather than focused on performing. It’s just getting together for the joy of making music with others, regardless of musical experience.”

Exploring spaciousness

In the last two years, Tristan has also put a lot of energy into exploring t’s edges. “I’m trying to work toward being more myself, whatever I am in the moment.

“Some people can be more strongly themselves,” t explains, “while others tend to blend in. Blending in or being spacious can be a gift. It can allow you to connect with a lot of people and be empathetic. But it’s possible to be too spacious and not take up enough space myself.  Windhorse is a rich place to work on that, how much space to give and how much to invite people into my space.”

Since coming to Windhorse, Tristan also discovered that t had undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.), which helped t understand some difficulties around organization and motivation, as well as some of t’s strengths for creative thinking and empathetic listening.

“As I learn more about A.D.D.,” t says, “I’m realizing that my musical and listening practices, especially in college, were ways of coping with inattentiveness and over-stimulation.”

To mitigate t’s difficulties associated with A.D.D., Tristan is now using tools and practices such as spending less time on the computer, taking medication, using a paper planner and regularly getting vigorous exercise and enough sleep.

“I’m trying to pay more attention to scheduling my time with intention,” t says, “and finding the balance between structure and fluidity. I’m finding routine can be beneficial as well as taking time to play and be spontaneous.”

Questioning norms in a compassionate way

Tristan has been thinking critically about gender and sexuality for several years. “I stopped defining my sexuality five years ago,” t says. “I didn’t want to be boxed in by anyone, most importantly myself. In the past two years I have begun to use the loose label of queer.

“It’s more than a gender or sexuality issue,” t says, “it’s about a certain fluidity, about questioning the norms in a compassionate way and not bowing to the status quo. I don’t want to be militant or oppositional about it but it’s another way of thinking about things from which, I believe, we all stand to benefit.

“I feel very young,” Tristan adds, “and I want to make sure I appreciate that. I can embrace not having things figured out.” 

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Current News

Board Elects Officers, Discusses Strategies for Increasing Number of Board Members

Raised-handsThree new officers were elected at the Windhorse Board of Directors meeting on July 21. Michael Stein is president of the Board, Larry Campbell is vice-president and Spirit Joseph is clerk and treasurer.

Michael led a discussion on strategies for increasing the number of board members. There are currently four voting Board members with two in Northampton (Michael Stein and Spirit Joseph), one in San Luis Obispo (Larry Campbell) and one in Portland (Stephen Boyd). Michael suggested aiming for a seven-member board with two members in Northampton, two in San Luis Obispo, two in Portland and a seventh from any of the three sites. Recruiting female board members is a priority, he said, since the Board is all male at this point. Windhorse community members who have ideas for Board members should submit them to Lisa T., executive director in San Luis Obispo, or Victoria Y., executive director in Northampton. They will forward them to the Board as appropriate.

The Board also discussed Windhorse governance in light of now having three sites:  Northampton, San Luis Obispo and Portland. Spirit noted that, at one time, three local boards had been discussed with one over-arching national board. Non-profits are required to have one board, he said. However, Massachusetts, where Windhorse is incorporated, allows a board to designate decision-making rights to specific subcommittees, such as regional executive committees. Michael suggested that there might be one main board with an executive committee at each site. A subcommittee will meet one time to look at financial agreements between the sites. Participants include Michael, Lisa T. and Victoria Y.

The topic of issues that are appropriate to come before the Board was also discussed. “While the Board needs to have information to exercise management oversight,” Michael said, “it doesn’t need to be involved in day-to-day operational issues.”

The Board will next meet on Tuesday, September 15, at 5 p.m. (EST) and 2 p.m. (PST). On the agenda for that meeting are a discussion of the strategic planning process, a report on the Portland site and possibly welcoming new board members.

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Portland Windhorse Officially Opened in July

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The new Windhorse site in Portland officially opened in July and its first client is expected to start in September, Victoria Y., Windhorse Northampton executive director, reported at the All-Staff meeting in August. The two West Coast sites, Portland and San Luis Obispo, will be co-managed by Lisa T., executive director in San Luis Obispo. She will split her time between sites. The first team leader for the Portland site is scheduled to start in September and another team leader is being sought.

The new Portland site has been under discussion for several years and was originally funded by a grant from the Hearst Foundation in California.

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Maitri Master Trainer Irini Rockwell to Lead Workshop October 16-1

Irini Rockwell

Irini Rockwell, one of the world’s leading trainers in Maitri, will come to Windhorse Northampton for two days in October to lead a Maitri Space-Awareness training. Maitri is often translated as loving kindness or unconditional friendliness, in particular unconditional friendliness to oneself. The training is an exploration of the five wisdom energies of Tibetan Buddhism. These energies are represented by the five colors of the Tibetan prayer flags – white, blue, yellow, red and green.

Irini is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist community and a long-time follower of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. She is the founder and principal trainer of the Five Wisdoms Institute and Wisdom@Work and has led professional development trainings for organizational leaders, health caregivers, educators, artists and individuals around the world. She is the author of “Natural Brilliance:  A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine” and “The Five Wisdom Energies, a Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions and Relationships.” Both books are available in the Windhorse library.

Rockwell was on the faculty of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, for ten years. She earned her master’s degree in contemplative psychology there as well as a certificate in authentic leadership. She “is a great proponent of the Windhorse approach,” she says.

The training is primarily intended for staff in lieu of the annual staff retreat. However, if space allows, it may be opened to a limited number of people from the wider Windhorse community. An email will be sent to the community list if this happens.

For more information or if you have questions, contact Jeremy A., education manager, at janderson@windhorseimh.org.

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New Books Available in Windhorse Northampton Library

Two new books are now available in the Windhorse Library. They are:  “The Descent of Madness:  Evolutionary Origins of Psychosis and the Social Brain,” by Jonathan Burns, and “Waking, Dreaming, Being:  Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation and Philosophy,” by Evan Thompson. Descriptions of the books from Amazon.com are below. Any member of the Windhorse community may check out books from the library. See Andi P., operations manager.

stacks-of-books“The Descent of Madness:  Evolutionary Origins of Psychosis and the Social Brain”

Drawing on evidence from across the behavioral and natural sciences, this book advances a radical new hypothesis: that madness exists as a costly consequence of the evolution of a sophisticated social brain in Homo sapiens.

Having explained the rationale for an evolutionary approach to psychosis, the author makes a case for psychotic illness in our living ape relatives, as well as in human ancestors. He then reviews existing evolutionary theories of psychosis, before introducing his own thesis: that the same genes causing madness are responsible for the evolution of our highly social brain.

Jonathan Burns’ novel Darwinian analysis of the importance of psychosis for human survival provides some meaning for this form of suffering. It also spurs us to a renewed commitment to changing our societies in a way that allows the mentally ill the opportunity of living.

The Descent of Madness will be of interest to those in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, sociology and anthropology, and is also accessible to the general reader.

Waking, Dreaming, Being:  Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation and Philosophy

A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain.

Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the “I” as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate–either in the waking state or in a lucid dream–we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as “me.” We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self.

Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life’s profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives.

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Transitions

AstridBurke
Astrid

Astrid B. joined Windhorse in August as an administrative assistant. A native of New York City, she graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a major in psychology and a minor in neuroscience. Astrid worked in academic publishing for W.W. Norton & Company in New York City before coming to Windhorse.Hope

 

 

Hope W. has joined Windhorse as a housemate. Originally from New York City, he studied mathematics at Amherst College.

Julia Jackson
Julia

 

Julia J., marketing manager at Windhorse, took a position with the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., at the end of August. She is a program specialist in the Communications Office of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. She will continue to work part-time remotely for Windhorse through December.

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Marcus

 

Marcus S. is a new team leader at Windhorse Northampton. Before coming to Windhorse, Marcus worked as an out-patient clinician for the Center for Human Development, a western Massachusetts non-profit that offers a wide range of social service and mental health programs. Marcus earned a master’s degree in mental health counseling and music therapy from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a guitarist and has a dog named Mushroom.

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