4:00 - 5:30pm

Four workshops are included in the registration price. Each registrant will be able to choose one workshop from each of the four Sessions A, B, C, and D (2:00-3:30 and 4:00-5:30 on Friday and Saturday). SDI will send you a form at the end of October inviting you to sign up for your four workshops. 

Come to engage, participate, and learn from the SDI global learning community! CEUs are available for workshop participants.





In this workshop, participants will be listening to a diverse panel of Queer (LGBTQIA)-identified spiritual directors talk about the intersection of spirituality and sexuality. Through the power of storytelling, a deeper understanding of the non-binary spectrum of gender identity, sexual attraction, gender expression, and biological sex will be explored, using the fun visual tool of the“Genderbread Person" (from author Sam Killerman). We will also examine why this matters to Spiritual Directors, and how Spiritual Directors can be supportive of diverse clients. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in open dialogue and substantive discussion throughout the workshop. 


Gender, Sexuality & Spirituality in Spiritual Direction 

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Chelsea Forbrook is a Spiritual Director and Enneagram Educator in Minneapolis, MN. She lightheartedly refers to herself as a "Liberationist-Buddhist-Universalist-Mystic-12 step-Queer-Christian." Having finished her Spiritual Direction training from Christos Center for Spiritual Formation in 2016, and an Enneagram certification from "Full Circle Enneagram" in 2017, Chelsea enjoys leading workshops on creative and contemplative prayer practices, connecting with the Divine Feminine, and the various ways the Enneagram can be used as a tool for transformation and spiritual growth. With a background in social work from Wartburg College and racial justice from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Chelsea brings a groundedness in both contemplation and action. She also delights in being an avid urban gardener, cyclist, and loving dog mom.

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Sister Alison McCrary, SFCC is a Catholic nun, Spiritual Director, reiki practitioner, social justice attorney, non-profit consultant, movement strategist, and community mediator based in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Re-Entry Mediation Institute of Louisiana and a Movement Capacity Building Strategist through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative supporting formerly-incarcerated-people-led movements for criminal justice reform. She works on issues related to the future of religious life, social justice and spirituality, criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, international human rights, cultural preservation, voting rights, and disaster recovery locally, nationally, and internationally.

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Brian Gaeta-Symonds, ordained by the PC(USA), serves as Associate Pastor for Outreach at Claremont Presbyterian Church. He completed a three-year program and other continuing education in Spiritual Direction through Stillpoint: The Center for Christian Spirituality. He has a Master of Divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a Bachelor degree from California State University, Fullerton. His heart and passion is active within community leadership and ending circumstances of oppression and poverty. Recently he has taught leadership, religious, and many other courses, and led different spirituality workshops and retreats. Brian and his husband Gilbert, reside in Claremont, CA with their three boys, Victor, Nathan, and Axel.


Storylistening:  Tending Hard Stories with Wisdom and Compassion


As spiritual companions, we serve first and foremost as storylisteners.  We aspire to tend each person’s story with wisdom and compassion--including our own. Whether we meet with someone in a traditional companioning setting or encounter them in the public square, we as companions are most often told hard stories about life’s difficulties, disappointments, and disruptions.


While none of us can rewrite our life’s history, we can re-author the stories we tell about our lives. Re-creating the stories we tell about our lives has vast implications. Those who tell more redemptive stories tend to lead more generative lives. The more beauty, truth, and goodness we come to see in ourselves, the more beauty, truth, and goodness we tend to see in the world and its peoples.


In this workshop, Diane Millis will introduce participants to guiding principles and best practices for storylistening to others’, as well as our own, hard stories. This workshop is designed for spiritual directors, spiritual directors in training, and all listening professionals who want to increase their capacity to work with difficult stories in one-to-one and group spiritual companioning as well as in the public square. 

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Diane Millis, PhD,  is an educator, spiritual director, and retreat facilitator who loves to help people explore their life stories through group spiritual companioning. Diane is the author of three books, including her recently released Re-Creating a Life (SDI Press, 2019).   She currently teaches at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (MN, USA) and shares her life with her husband, Mark, and their young adult son, Ryan.


Listen to Diane on this episode of SDI Encounters - the SDI Podcast.


Innovations for Expanding Spiritual Companioning: Sharing the Sacred in Ordinary Moments

Because our survival in these stressful times demands greater spiritual awakening, the Interfaith Amigos step beyond their separate traditions to share universal practices transcending boundaries of institution, affiliation, gender, race, economics, and age to more directly deepen a connective consciousness through the evolution of spiritual companioning. This workshop provides experience in specific practices participants can use in any setting to encourage the healing that spiritual companionship provides.


  • Turning Inward: Finding the Inner and Outer Spiritual Companion. Exercises designed to awaken our deeper identity and celebrate the sacred in every human encounter.

  • Turning Outward: How to Invite and Utilize Personal Stories. Processes helping us transcend differences and cut through the separation of polarization.

  • Turning Together: Expanding Spiritual Companioning Opportunities. Ways to support a natural expansion of spiritual connection


Learning from their experiences engaging together in hundreds of presentations nationally and internationally over the past 18-plus years, Rabbi Ted Falcon, Imam Jamal Rahman, and Pastor Don Mackenzie have realized that true spirituality is always universal. The authentic spiritual teachings from all great religions celebrate an inclusivity transcending the individual ego as well as the ego of any particular tradition.


Imam Jamal, Rabbi Ted, and Pastor Don came together following the tragedy of 9/11/2001. Their work together became a Calling, challenging them to move beyond untold centuries of separation and pain to realize their common ground of spiritual teaching. Their books include, Getting to the Heart of Interfaith (2009), Religion Gone Astray (2011), and Finding Peace Through Spiritual Practice (2016). They are currently working on their fourth book, Beyond Interfaith: Why Religion Has Failed and What We Can Do About It. Further information about their work can be found at their website,


What can leaders of faith communities do when tragedy strikes their community?  How can we prepare for the spontaneous eruption of disaster which by its very definition, strikes us unaware? This workshop will cover disaster Impact and Recovery Models, what makes us effective as community leaders, understanding our roles and its limitations, and how we take care of ourselves in order to be there for others

This workshop is experiential, interactive and didactic.  Its goals begin from the moment the participants enter the workshop by modeling for them, when they will be working with individuals who have experienced trauma,  how to ensure privacy in a group setting, create safe space, and create compassionate, contemplative space to contain grief and mourning in its myriad forms.


Counseling Communities Through Mass Tragedy

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Rabbi Carla Howard is the Founder and Executive Director and Jewish Healing Center of Los Angeles.  Rabbi Howard combines rabbinic ordination with a unique background of pre-medical studies, clinical work in women’s medicine and midwifery.  She has served as Rabbi for Gateway's Beit Tshuvah and Associate Rabbi of Metivta – A Center For Contemplative Judaism with Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man.   Rabbi Howard began her hospice chaplaincy work at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center immediately following her ordination in 2000 from American Jewish University and went on to found and serve as Executive Director of Jewish Jewish Healing and Hospice Center – Los Angeles, the city’s first Jewish hospice service.   Rabbi Howard is on the faculty of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, the Academy for Jewish Religion, and sits on the Bio-Ethics Committee of Santa Monica/UCLA Medical Center.  She has published numerous articles, and lecture on spiritual care and end-of-life issues to both lay and medical organizations, in the U.S. and internationally.


Listen to Rabbi Carla on this episode of SDI Encounters - the SDI Podcast.


Deep calls to Deep, Group Spiritual Direction

Discover the joy of experiencing God's presence in a safe, compassionate group with the inspiration of the Christian mystics, contemplative music, silent meditation, and deeply profound sharing.  Spiritual Direction unfolds organically in this open-hearted experience. All listen with the ear of the heart for the message that God has for each that day and then journal in response. The ensuing sharing is so authentic and inspiring that we are sometimes moved to tears and sometimes just sit in silence in awe of God's presence. These groups take us back to that place deep within where there is pure peace and pure joy, reconnecting us with the Center and the Soul, and then moving out in action from what we have heard in the Silence. This presentation consists of a demonstration group with volunteers, followed by a discussion led by the facilitator. 

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Cha Foxhall, OSB Obl. M.Ed., is a Benedictine Oblate and Certified Spiritual Director with a Master's in Counseling Psychology and degrees in Theology and Philosophy. She was the founding director of the Benedictine Spirituality Center in Houston in 2002. Over the last 17 years she has taught thousands of contemplative spirituality groups. She is a graduate of the Clinical Training in Mind/Body/Spirit Medicine at Harvard Medical School and also a graduate of the World Community for Christian Meditation School for Teachers. Recently retired, she practised as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor for 25 years. She has been an Oblate of the Pecos Benedictine Monastery for over 30 years. She now resides in Santa Fe, NM, and leads groups at The Church of the Holy Faith.



Spiritual Direction for Liberation

How do we practice spiritual direction in a way that accounts for the myriad ways we have been impacted by oppressive structures and separation? As spiritual directors serving those who have been marginalized both by society and by most spiritual circles, we deeply ponder this question. We have also been taking note of those practices in need of adjustment or dismantling and those “best practices” that support liberation. Through deep dialogue and group process, this workshop will create a space of ongoing exploration and discovery; we will glean from our collective experience those practices and ways of being that bring connection and healing.


Rebeccah Bennett is Founder and Principal of Emerging Wisdom LLC – a forward thinking social enterprise that helps individuals live empowered lives; leaders build impactful organizations; and communities advance brighter futures. As part of her personal empowerment and social transformation work, Rebeccah established InPower Institute, which is devoted to community healing and optimal living. Through InPower, she collaborates with healers and change agents to offer programs in six core areas: spiritual growth and discovery, abundant living, harmonious relationships, holistic health and healing, cultural arts and expression, and community and justice. In addition to her professional activities, Rebeccah currently serves as Co-Chair of the board of Forward Through Ferguson (the successor organization to the Ferguson Commission)

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Carolyn Griffeth is the founder and lead teacher of Earth Keeper Wisdom School which explores the power of community and ceremony for social change and personal transformation. Carolyn also serves as a spiritual director to a network of activist, artist, and social visionaries living around the country. In this capacity, she holds space for those seeking to align with the vast support of the universe by choosing to live one’s soul’s purpose. Her spiritual tool-box is diverse and includes: grief work including emotional clearing techniques that allow one to recover from trauma and oppression; passionate prayer and ceremony; dream work, shamanic energy medicine practices such as visualization, chord cutting, and soul retrieval, and most of all faith. Carolyn also serves on the pastoral team of Spirit Rising, a womanist spiritual community at InPower Institiute in St. Louis, Mo.



Empowering the Divine Feminine

The divine feminine is needed and is emerging at this time to bring healing and transformation to our social, religious and political structures. The divine feminine is creating something new and we are invited to be an integral part of it.  As persons who provide spiritual support, we have a front row seat to witness to and participate in what is emerging. What an exciting and privileged place to be!  Yet because this is new territory that requires us to stand outside the box, it can seem daunting and at times disorienting.  We really do need each other for support and discernment. This workshop provides a unique opportunity to gather and reflect on the divine feminine emerging in our own lives and in the relationships and communities we are engaged in. How do we experience the divine feminine?  What has nurtured or hindered the divine feminine within us?  What are we noticing about the divine feminine emerging in the people and communities we support?  How do we nurture and participate in the emergence of the divine feminine? There will be a number of ways that we will reflect on these questions.  Since we are being asked to step outside the box, participants are invited to use a diversity of modalities to share their experiences with one another.  In addition to storytelling we will invite creative expression, so bring your cell phones and whatever medium you want:  crayons, music, words, movement.  The intent is that from this sharing will emerge a collective wisdom of the divine feminine in our midst. And together we can gain greater clarity of how we can tend to the divine feminine within ourselves and empower the divine feminine in our relationships and community.

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Denise Ruiz is a Pastoral Care Coordinator, spiritual director, and pastoral supervisor.  Her experience includes directing a Spiritual Direction training program, supervising those in spiritual direction and pastoral care, and providing spiritual care as a Chaplain in a large hospital system in Louisville, KY.  She earned her Masters in Theology from Harvard Divinity School, a certificate in Pastoral Care Supervision, received training in spiritual direction from The Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA, and has completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education.


Making Good Decisions: Practicing with the Ignatian Discernment Framework


Discernment is foundational to the life of every seeker, as we seek guidance of the Divine in all that we do. Whether a pilgrim pondering a transition in vocation, an activist plumbing for the most beneficial methods to challenge the status quo, or an elder desiring to harvest life experiences to pass on wisdom to the emerging generation, we all seek to connect with the collective consciousness of all that has gone before and all that is yet to come. Even more than the decision itself, we are cultivating a deepened relationship with the Divine, using the discernment process as a platform. In fact, life offers a series of discernment opportunities to grow in our relationship with the Divine, others, and ourselves. To be transformed into the very True Self we are invited to become.

In this hands-on workshop format, together we will walk through all eleven steps of the ancient discernment framework from St. Ignatius of Loyola, with a decision that each of us is currently discerning. We will invite questions and share insights throughout the session. We will share personal examples of application of the framework as needed to assist seekers in finding themselves in the process. We will allow ourselves to be led by the Divine into other relevant teachings that appear to have energy for the group, such as the connection of this material to the teachings of other mystics like St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr and the like. We will allow ample silence for seekers to connect with the Divine throughout the session. We will provide lots of paper, crayons and other materials to invite the imagination to freely flow.


Laura Ann Lies is a native Chicagoan, with a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. She specializes in helping seekers with Discernment and Decision Making, Noticing Presence of the Divine in everyday life, and Navigating major life transitions.  Laura holds a Master of Arts in human resources and experience through Alpha as a Marriage & Parenting mentor.  Laura is a wife and mother to two amazing young adult daughters. She has roots in Catholic and Protestant faith traditions and as spiritually independent.  Laura founded the Streams of Grace Spiritual Direction practice and is also affiliated as a Spiritual Director and companion with St. Mary Immaculate Catholic parish, Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church, and The Perch inter-spiritual retreat center, all in Chicagoland. Laura supports a full-time practice of clients both locally and across the country.


 Animals, Art and Ambling: Cultivating Spiritual Companionship with the Living World


Through contemplative speaking, walking, making, and sharing we will practice multi-sensory and ancestral art forms that facilitate presence and connection with the living world which is our archetypal template for companioning. We will follow the guidance of award-winning Shiloh Shepherd therapy dogs Twillow Roses and Tala Rain of Alberta, Canada. Taking our cues from the spirit of the dogs, participants will take a contemplative walk (amble) on a scent, sound and shape journey of embodied presence “finding”, in the manner of our ancestral hunter/gatherers, something that calls attention to itself whether human made or natural. Returning to our room, our forms will be “arranged” (another ancestral art practice) within a hoop in the center of the room forming a contemplative community Mandala. During this practice of arranging, and sharing participants will listen to the narrative of their found forms listening with both the “ear of the heart” and to the heart of the world as the human animal bond is embedded in the soul of humanity.

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Portrait of Madeline from Nature in Pray

Straja Linder King is a Registered Art Psychotherapist and Board Certified counsellor working with verbal and non-verbal treatment modalities. She is the first to merge these two non verbal interventions both in her practice, research, and teachings. A printmaker, published poet, writer and Animal-Assisted specialist (both canine and equine). Linder King’s innovative work (medical research in stroke recovery) specializes in working non-verbally and she has extensive focus in bereavement including complicated and disenfranchised grief.  Linder King pioneered art in healing from a spiritual/nature-based perspective in Alberta and developed the Strawberry Tree Studio for Spiritual Directions, the only open art studio in Western Canada working with award winning International Therapy Dogs for over a decade.

Madeline Rugh is a consultant and educator specializing in the role of art, nature and spirituality in health and wellness. She holds a doctorate in adult and community education and is currently an associate adjunct professor for Pratt Art Institute in New York City and for the University of Oklahoma Master’s in Counseling program.


Listen to Straja and Madeline on this episode of SDI Encounters - the SDI Podcast.


Four Paths to Soulful Aging

Soulful Aging is a resource and resilience-based model for integrating grief into a soulfully lived life, while also channeling energies toward meaning, connection and giving back. In this experiential workshop, we will engage in reflection and group dialogue to introduce the framework of the Four Paths.  Our time will include a movement and dance-based ritual experience, including the creation of a collective symbolic art piece to explore the elements important to aging meaningfully. The Four Paths of Soulful Aging describes an evolving connection to how we relate inwardly with our selves, and outwardly with our families, communities and the collective in daily life as we age - regardless of actual age.  Participants will come away with a visceral connection to how these paths have personal significance, as well as how this map can support the companioning of others at all stages of life. The paths include: Resource - identifying that which strengthens and fills us; Release – authentic expression of emotion and moving the grief that often presents through the natural course of aging; Renewal - connecting with that which sparks and inspires newly discovered meaning and creative expression; and Return - identifying ways of being in service to self and others by giving back out of seasoned wisdom and heart-centered connection.  


Robyn Hubbard, DMin is a Spiritual Companion, Grief Counselor/Certified Compassionate Bereavement Care Counselor, Certified Dreamwork Facilitator, and Bodyworker supporting people compassionately through thresholds of growth and evolution, experiences of grief and loss, life transitions, illness and end of life.  She has over twenty years of experience and passion working with all ages of populations identifying resource and resilience while living soulfully with the challenges of grief, loss and aging.  Robyn has a broad depth of experience in body-centered awareness and movement-based healing practices that inform her work.  She is passionate about the inquiry of how the human soul awakens while navigating transitions, difficulty, loss and the bridge between living and dying.  Robyn works with individuals and groups and offers retreats and community rituals for the cultural transformation of how grief and aging are honored and modeled in our time.  She also offers presentations and workshops supporting grief within the hospital, school and corporate setting creating “Cultures of Support” using her Four Path model curriculum.



Nature as Healer, Teacher, Friend

Many spiritual seekers have a limited exposure to conventional religious traditions and practices.  Often wary of “organized religion,” they yearn for a stronger connection to something that they perceive in profound and fleeting moments of personal revelation, yet cannot name. 


This workshop focuses on nature as a milieu for spiritual formation.  Time in nature can restore minds and bodies, strengthen empathy, increase vitality, and expand mental horizons, making space for creative problem solving and new ways of understanding our place in the world. Simply put, time with nature equips us to live as our best selves in the world.


 Participants will create a personal nature-biography, exploring their life stories and spiritual journeys in the context of landscapes they have meaningfully experienced. Reflective questions will guide participants toward life integration and greater clarity about spiritual disciplines that they can practice or share, while evoking a deeper appreciation of nature as a place to seek and encounter Unconditional Love and Infinite Grace.    

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Dr. Susan MacKenzie is a spiritual director, retreat leader, and educator.  In private practice, she works with individuals and groups that seek more intentional prayer practices and spiritual disciplines.  In her role as a parish consultant, she guides churches to clarify their vision and mission, resolve conflict, and address the prophetic and pastoral challenges facing faith communities today. A master naturalist, Susan leads indoor and outdoor retreats and facilitates the Basic and Advanced Retreat Leadership Trainings for the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is on the faculty of the UM Five-Day Spiritual Academy. She has been nominated to represent New England at a gathering to envision a progressive, justice-oriented future for the United Methodist Church in America. Dr. MacKenzie is affiliated with Colby College, and teaches in the Environmental Studies program.




Creating Spiritual Companionship Through the Arts

As spiritual companions serving in the world, we need time for self nourishment and self care. Art-making is a illuminating healing tool, creating a pathway, a means and access to the language of the heart, sensitizing us to the “still small voice within”. Staying open, embracing a calming, contemplative mode of being, we can engage our imagination in ways which can surprise and gift us with subtle joy, and new insights. Art can offer creative solutions to support our conscious being and doing in the world. It is important that we continually nurture the creative dimensions of our being to allow surprise, delight and awe to be our experience in the world, both individually and in community. This wholly interactive workshop employs art, poetry, and music to create spiritually inspired images to release one’s natural creativity and imagination. Participants are given the opportunity to experience adult play, to be intuitively creative in a facilitated, safe uncritical space where all shades of ability are unconditionally welcome. Inclusivity, non-judgmental creativity, free self-expression, and communal celebration in a spirit of quiet love, is nurtured and embodied. The completed artworks may be exhibited at the conference for further interaction by viewers.  Materials will be provided.  


Zimbabwe born Rev. Andre van Zijl is co-founder of ALL PATHS Divinity School, an online non-denominational inter-spiritual seminary. He is an award winning artist, mystic poet, published author and non-dual philosophy teacher. Andre's teaching includes All Paths, University of Cape Town, the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department,
 LA County Museum of Art and LA Folk Art Museum. Andre is an elder of “The Mankind Project” and founder and director of Van Zijl Art and Design Studios. His most recent exhibition was: “I AM “: an Archeology of the Future” at the 2018 Toronto Parliament of World’s Religions in Toronto.


Interfaith Minister, Rev. Debrah Friedland-van Zyl is Co-founder, Co-director of All Paths Divinity School, an online interfaith seminary. Programs include Interfaith Ordination, Master of Divinity/Theology degrees, Spiritual Counselling & Spiritual Development. She is co-chair of the Southern California Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (SCCPWR). For nearly 40 years, she has designed and facilitated many interfaith and spiritual events, workshops and retreats, both in the US and  internationally. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, she was Co-Producer, Co-Chair and event manager of the SCCPWR Seeds of Peace events in Los Angeles and is co-creator of the Conversations on Pluralism Series. Debrah is L.A.-based and South African born and is a certified Death Doula.