Alumni Spotlight

From time to time, we share news from our beloved alumni. Look under “Most Recent Post” below for our latest spotlight. Explore the online archive by browsing the years and months listed to the right (at the bottom of the page on mobile devices).

We would like to feature work that is being done by alumni in the world, illustrating how the teaching and practice of the Living School has enabled and focused that work for the betterment of others. We invite your stories, photos, video clips, or other ways of sharing how the Spirit is moving you to love and serve, wherever you are on the planet.

We also welcome alumni reflections on how you are integrating contemplative practice with daily living. How do you respond to the myriad situations which confront you without falling into defensive modes, ego-investment, reactive instincts which divide the world into “us and them?”

You might explore one or more of these questions:

  • How has what you learned in the Living School shaped your life?
  • How are you continuing to learn and grow in the ways of contemplation and action?
  • What has been your “growing edge” or a challenge as you seek to live what you’re learning?
  • How has your prayer life and active life changed?
  • If someone reading this wanted to help—supporting a project or your personal journey—how might they do that?

Please submit brief reflections to [email protected]. Selected submissions will be posted here as well as shared in the Living School alumni newsletter. By submitting material you acknowledge that you have permission to share the content (including music, images, poetry, etc.). Feel free to include a link where we can learn more about your work. Written submissions should be 500 words or fewer; audio or video recordings should be no longer than 10 minutes.


Most Recent Post

Image of Charles Kennedy, Living School Alumnus, Class of 2017.

Charles Kennedy (’17)

Background
Almost six years ago I moved back to my adult hometown of Dallas, Texas, to be near grandkids and to start a nonprofit called Directions: A 12 Step Recovery Campus. I quickly realized my leadership skill set was not going to suffice for this type of organization. I had previously started and owned a business in Dallas for over 25 years, but it was Force vs. Power. I had gotten sober via the 12 Steps and AA in 1982 and had grown spiritually over these years, but I now know in many ways it was about changing beliefs more than transforming my life. Trying to start this nonprofit with volunteers, I saw my ego was in the way but did not know what to do about it. I had begun a modest meditation practice several years earlier after being introduced to Richard Rohr and reading Falling Upward. Then I learned about the Living School and thought it might be what I needed.

Living School Experience
Participating in the Living School and being constantly encouraged to develop and grow a meditation practice has been the change that has changed everything. I now see my role differently. I see a vision that is not so much “all or nothing”; I find myself looking for ways to just get started and let things evolve. I now have a desire to bring a contemplative stance to all my dealings and hopefully model this to others. I see God’s hand in the people who are getting involved and the wonderful contributions they are making. My task is to love and support, rather than critique. As Father Richard says, “Suffering is the feeling I get whenever I am trying to control something.” This new way is much less stressful for everyone, including myself. God/Love does all the heavy lifting.

Vision for Directions
Directions will be a dignified place where recovered volunteers help others achieve sobriety based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. We will support the working class with a more affordable experience that has better results than traditional programs (which are highly medicalized and monetized, lacking the spiritual focus). We can accomplish our goal by being fully funded with no debt. We will help our recovery community by offering a place for volunteers to connect with others—sharing their own trustworthy experiences—and to grow spiritually. Happy, humble people change lives more than ideas. Directions will be a Caring Community (as opposed to the treatment center model).

Directions Today

  • Our Development Director is creating and implementing a $6,000,000 fundraising campaign to remodel and landscape an old, 22,000 square foot nursing home. Once we have raised these funds, Directions can be open to receiving residential guests within ten months. Since we own all our property and have no debt (we have raised approximately $1.5 million to date), we can take one day at a time in creating a solid foundation to execute our vision.
  • We have already purchased and remodeled a house next to the nursing home that is our new Community Center and Labyrinth. Our plan is to offer spiritually focused meetings and classes to start growing our Caring Community, the individuals who will then be most prepared to help our guests. We plan to emphasize the 11th Step by offering various meditation meetings to our community.
  • We received the charter for a new AA group, the “Unshakeable Foundation,” meeting at our Community Center. The group has different meetings with a couple formats: readings from various spiritual authors and a ten-minute meditation; working the 12 Steps from the Big Book of AA. By having a chartered AA meeting at our facility, we now have a way to “announce” Directions’ events at other AA meetings in Dallas. This is a significant step forward in growing our Caring Community in a very 11th Step, spiritual way.

Learn more about Directions: A Twelve Step Recovery Campus at 12stepdirections.com.

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