Veronique is a life coach and lives in Topanga. We met at the University of Santa Monica Spiritual Psychology Master’s Class.
It was the first day of my new life as a student. That evening, at the end of the day, the teachers asked who needed a ride and who was offering a ride. Living in Topanga, some 40 minutes ride from the school, I asked for a ride and I saw a far-away hand raised with much energy. It was Veronique – my ride back home to Topanga, but also to a whole new life for me! We ended up being neighbors, and spending a lot of time each day together; from yoga classes to raw food café lunches, from kirtan chanting to dance parties.
Veronique taught me how to be gentle with myself and how to care for myself with more kindness. She taught me to hike, which I hated before meeting her.
She inspires me with her kindness, her wide-open heart, her warmth, and her gentleness.
Guzel Dreaming Deer Gjenasaj is an artist, yogini, teacher, gardener, medicine woman and community leader with a deep spiritual practice rooted in Native American, Mayan and Gaia loving traditions.
Guzel’s family is from Albania, but she grew up in Brooklyn, New York and then moved to Santa Monica. In a way, our immediate deep connection and sisterhood were also based on shared stories of tight Muslim upbringing and the ways we transcended it.
I met Guzel at the communal home The Giving Garden in Santa Monica. She was one of the sisters living there and was the heart and body of the community events that were being held there. Be it a garden love, wise women circle, breathwork workshop or some other activity – Guzel would set it up and get us all going!
Guzel is a true community person, a community gatherer, she breathes and lives community and connection to people. She inspires me so much with her creativity and resourcefulness, her joy and fun dance, and most of all, her ability to connect people and organize true community events where all are participating actively.
It was with Guzel that I held my first women-only retreat in my jungle house in Costa Rica. I experienced deep resonance with her and we were able to hold space together with so much ease and grace; complementing each other and supporting each other’s brilliance.
Guzel taught me about sisterhood, sitting in a circle with sisters and connecting to the deep feminine wisdom.
Lara Catone is a writer, transformative guide, social artist and researcher of gender, power and adult development. She is also the founder of The Artemis School for Women’s Sexual Sovereignty.
Lara and I met in Santa Monica when I moved there to live with my husband and relieve the toll that the intense work in conflict zones took on me. At the time, Lara was living in a community house The Giving Garden with three other awesome women. Meeting them was my first encounter with the practice of living sisterhood. We had great fun hanging out, dancing, and co-creating magical encounters.
It was with Lara that I first ventured beyond the parameter of workshops involving conflict-ridden content. Together, we held workshops in my house in Topanga on chakras – the energetic centers of the body – and their relation to Body-Mind-Spirit. It was a deeply satisfying and invigorating experience.
I joined Lara at the first edition of The Artemis School and was impressed by the width and depth of knowledge that she was sharing with us, the confidence and the skill with which she held space and the flawless weaving of the course content – from theoretical information to embodied practices.
She taught me so much about women’s sexuality and erotic power. Moreover, she gave me a new perspective on course development and practical training that allowed me to recognize women’s power in owning their sexuality, rather than focusing only on protecting women as victims of sexual violence.
Lara inspires me with her profound knowledge of a woman’s body, her sparkling intelligence, and her dedication to learning and researching the missing links in the triangle of gender, power, and sexuality.
I met Marie in Ivory Coast at her clinic. She was and still is an incredible healer, bodyworker and massage therapist. Marie’s healing center in Abidjan is a pure haven of peace and tranquility. It was also the meeting place for many of the Art of Living students, including myself, who would come to practice with her the breathing exercise once a week.
Upon return to Ivory Coast after the burnout episode I went through while in Brussels, I have set myself into a rigorous self-care program. This included a weekly bodywork at Marie’s. For three to four hours every week, she would work patiently, painstakingly and persistently on regenerating my body and my spirit. I don’t think I would have survived another year in the peacekeeping mission without these weekly sessions.
Marie taught me about body intelligence, its ability to remember and retain trauma and its own capacity to heal. Her knowledge of the human body, as well as the ayurvedic healing system, is as extensive as it is deep. She would often laugh when I would arrive at my weekly session saying: “OK, let’s get all this pita fire down and balance you out.”
She inspires me with her dedication to her work, her commitment to healing and her devotion to service to others.
I love you, Marie, and miss you so much! I really hope our roads will cross again soon!
Fabienne is a painter, an artist, and a therapist, sharing her time between the Ivory Coast and France.
I first met her in Ivory Coast, at a silent retreat organized by the Art of Living Foundation. I had just returned to continue my work at UNOCI – newlywed but still raw and fragile from malaria and burn-out that I rode out in Brussels. So, I decided to take that retreat to forward the recuperation process.
With Fabienne, I experienced a deep and immediate connection. We haven’t spoken to each other that entire week, yet our deep eye contact, soul gazing, walks in nature and just sitting in silence allowed for the unfolding of a beautiful friendship.
For the next two years that my partner and I spent in Ivory Coast, we were inseparable with Fabienne and her partner. We would spend every weekend together, sharing deep, soul searching conversations or just hanging out and having fun.
With Fabienne, I found a soul sister that is from another dimension. Her calm nature and soulful smile captivated me from the get-go. Every encounter with Fabienne, regardless of where we are, is an encounter filled with long walks, long silences, and deep, heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul conversations. The pleasure Fabienne and I find in each other’s presence never subsided. She taught me how to be in silence, how to appreciate silence, how expressive silence is and how much we say when we are being silent.
She inspires me with her beauty, with the beauty that she creates, with her joy, her sense of humour and her laughter.
My soul sister, dear friend and a Real Wonder Woman
Isabelle is a psychotherapist, a coach, and an animal communication expert, who – after living in 22 countries and then working for 18 years in Belgium as a psychotherapist – finally realized one of her dreams: to buy a horse and move her life and practice to Camargue (France).
Isabelle and I go way back to the days when we worked as freelance consultants in Brussels. We first met in a business meeting in which the two of us were the only women. The absurdity of the gender imbalance worked as an instant glue for us. We connected immediately and left the meeting laughing and deciding to create a work collaboration without any of the men present.
After all these years since that meeting in Brussels, Isabelle and I are still close. Sharing our experiences, ideas, projects, creations and desires for the future week in and week out seasoned and nourished our friendship so it grew ever stronger and deeper.
Isabelle taught me a deep presence and connection to animals, especially horses and dogs – something that didn’t come easily to me. She taught me to trust my intuition and visions. She held and supported me in key transitions in my life and I trust her without reservations.
She inspires me with her boundless joy and creativity, her unconditional love, her sensitivity and intuition, and – most importantly – her deep connection to nature.
I love you, Isabelle!
To know more about Isabelle and the amazing work she does with animals and humans visit her website www.isabelleboey.com.
Claudia is the founder of REDSCOPE Consulting, a global expert, author, coach, and public speaker. Also, a mother, a wife, an artist, and a true-blue Wonder Woman. We first met through a mutual friend in Brussels, while she was working on her Ph.D. from the European University Institute in Florence and I was working at the Search for Common Ground.
I remember our conversation after my three-month vacation in Brazil, following the end of my tenure with Search for Common Ground. I told her that I had an epiphany and that I want to be a therapist. She said: “Well if you want to be a therapist, you need to do your therapy first.”
I greatly admire Claudia’s emotional intelligence, her sensitivity and her ability to be present with emotions regardless of what they are. This emotional presence feeds and informs her artistic sensibility as a photographer. My first ever photoshoot was with Claudia and I was amazed by the acuity of her ability to see the beauty in this world and her desire to create beauty.
Claudia was the person who nurtured me back to health when I came down with burn-out and malaria after working at the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire. She showered me with love, comfort, and care, and supported me like a real true sister. Such a demonstration of generous devotion bonded me to her for life.
I have the utmost respect for her brilliant intellect, excellent judgment and analytical abilities that enable her to see beyond appearances. Like the mythical phoenix, she is the epitome of metamorphosis, transformation, and adjustment to new realities.
My darling Claudia, I love and admire you with all my heart!
Frédérique is a sociologist, writer, and stage director. I first met her in Burundi. I was watching one of her plays and there was a scene entitled “The competition of suffering”. In it, the Hutu and the Tutsi fought over who suffered more. Suddenly, sitting in the middle of this African country, so far away from home, it hit me: this scene is the same scene that’s been unfolding between the Palestinians and the Israeli. I felt that I just have to meet this woman and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that is still alive today.
Frédérique gave me one of the best lessons of my life: that a theatre is a healing tool even amid the worst trauma. After meeting her in Burundi, I worked with her on several shows where she guided me to open up and work through my traumas, such as This story starts there, Kairos, Women running with the wolves, Eat, and Femme Passpartout.
Frédérique taught me how to be an actress, an observer of reality, to be detached from that which is happening and avoid getting entangled with the drama of it. She taught me to play in a way that is both vulnerable and authentic, yet detached from what is happening in terms of crises, traumas, drama. She helped me to develop the ability to maintain a distance that enables one to act rather than react.
I remember collaborating with Frédérique on a training for the University of Peace in Costa Rica. We were using theater as a tool for conflict transformation and the main message that we aimed to instill in our students was that the desire to save other people is an illusion, because it is really about saving ourselves. Likewise, providing development aid is not so much about saving anybody, but much more about being aware of where we are at, so that we may be centered and present with what is happening and not what we think is happening.
From that first moment in the theatre audience in Burundi, Frédérique keeps inspiring me with her resilience, her deep love, and commitment to human beings regardless of who they are, where they come from and what they do. I love her so much and I am forever grateful for all that she taught me with her way of being and her way of doing theater. She remains one of my best friends to this day.
I love you, Frédérique, I love you so much and I am so grateful for having you in my life!
You can learn more about Frédérique and her amazing work here.
I met Carole at Search for Common Ground. At the time, she was the Director of Training based in Washington and I was working at SFCG Europe in Brussels. I will be forever grateful for her encouragement of my ambition to become a trainer. She supported my going to the field and doing the trainings on the SFCG approach, conflict transformation, communication, and leadership. Every step of the way and in every training, she was there – providing encouragement, assistance, and support. I feel so privileged to have had her as my mentor. She taught me everything I know as a trainer and guided me to develop my first training manual for SFCG Burundi and then, later on, the Gender Analysis and Gender in Conflict Transformation Manual.
I hold Carole very dear in my heart for all the knowledge she imparted on me. Even more importantly for me, Carole was the one to champion my desire to link gender with conflict transformation and develop a gender-sensitive conflict transformation training. It was a novel approach for SFCG, but Carole was steadfast in her support, reviewing the training materials I was developing and providing feedback for everything I wrote. In a way, I have her to thank for becoming the gender advisor that I am today.
Since the first moment we met, Carole inspires me with her sweetness, knowledge, wisdom, and generosity of her spirit. She holds an abiding love for humanity and I admire her for it. I hold in my heart her kindness and her warmth with deep gratitude and respect for her friendship and guidance.
Thank you, Carole, for everything you’ve done for me and I hope that our paths will cross again and very soon. Until then, may your path abound with blessings.
Carole now works at the Peace Nexus Foundation, and you can find out more about it here.
I met Lena in Burundi whilst on my first mission to the field. I was developing training for trainers on conflict transformation and third-party intervention. At times, I would lose heart and felt the work to be insurmountable. But then, living and working with Lena I learned first-hand what it was to be committed to one’s team. I particularly admired her dedication to activism that naturally spilled from her professional into her personal life.
The weekends we would go to train kids in the slums in Burundi and later on in Congo and Rwanda were so deeply inspiring. She would teach them how to drum while I would dance, feeling the earth underneath my feet and understanding on a deeper level that unless we connect to the trainees, to the people in the field, on a personal level we lose touch with reality and fail to bridge that which keeps us separate.
Lena and I reconnected again a few years ago, on a work project developing a training manual on Search for Common Ground approach to conflict transformation. I was so grateful for the opportunity to merge the spiritual psychology perspective and my professional experience in discovering a new approach to conflict transformation. Bringing spiritual psychology and conflict transformation together, I realized that, in its essence, the Search for Common Ground approach is that bridge where we humanize the other and we focus on what we have in common while understanding the difference. Lena inspired me so much during that process with her impressive knowledge, experience and deep understanding of the SFCG approach. It was an amazing experience and an inspiration to share and discuss my work with her.
The most important lesson I learned from Lena is how to be personal with the local colleagues you meet when working in the field. She showed me how to put aside the separation and keep the human connection alive through sharing food, dance, and drums. Most importantly, she taught me the commitment to self, and to conflict transformation.
Lena inspires me with her limitless creative flow, with a heart as big as the globe to encompass all beings and the suffering of all beings.