Finding Our Way

Sometimes we are ourselves. We are kind, patient, humble, present–available to our best human qualities. A woman drops a bag and we stop to help gather the groceries. A coworker finds out his son has won a scholarship and we genuinely share his pride and joy. A neighbor tells a racist joke and we confront them with integrity. A conversation turns to politics and we speak truthfully without demeaning those who hold different opinions. Generosity, empathy, courage, self-discipline, and other positive qualities flow easily toward others and ourselves.

And then some days we are not ourselves. We are disconnected, scattered, anxious, and reactive. We live on the brittle surface of our lives, easily battered about by emotions. We explode into fits of rage at our children. We simmer with jealousy at a co-worker’s success. We write angry insults online to people who hold opposing political views. And at night we lie in bed filled with shame, self-loathing, judgement and despair.

How is it possible for any of us, in any genuine way, to function as our best selves? How can we live as generous, kind, and loving people when there is so much meanness and disrespect in our work settings, our families, and our communities? How can we keep from being reactive when our inner world is so full of judgement, shame, and bitterness? How is it possible to work with others in our community when we have real and valid reasons to be afraid, angry, or repulsed by various people we encounter?

Most of us have given up on these questions. We are doing the best that we can. We avoid difficult conversations. We “unfriend” those who anger us online. We hide our disgust from friends and coworkers. We repress, deflect, numb or medicate our most dangerous feelings and then try to be civil. But do repression and avoidance really work?

The Finding Our Way Conference offers three days of facilitated discussions, practical workshops, and public gatherings for anyone who wants to deepen their capacity to respond to difficult people, divisive issues, and destructive emotions from a more grounded and graceful place.

Over three days the conference will include the following public offerings:

  • A night of personal stories and music by a diverse group of local community leaders.
  • An honest public discussion about our struggle and issues around race in Southern Oregon.
  • A second public conversation on local tensions around the unhoused in Southern Oregon.
  • A variety of free skills-based workshops on engaging difficult people, issues, and emotions. Workshop titles include: Calling All Conflict Avoiders!; How to Keep Your Cool When You are Mad as Hell; Finding Our Way Though Political Correctness; Why is the Grim Reaper so Grim? How Compassion Can Alleviate the Fear of Death; Learn How to Talk About Race; Tools for Deepening Your Relationships; How Do I Respond to a World in Crisis?; and Cultivating Calm and Resilience in Stressful Times.
  • A public talk on mercy and compassion by celebrated author, Anne Lamott.
  • A day-long personal retreat on the inner-work of compassion led by Mark Yaconelli and featuring a conversation with Anne Lamott.

All of these offerings are open to the public and seek to help local communities develop the skills and sensibilities needed strengthen our common life together.


  • Alma Rosa Alvarez
  • Barbara Allen & Jim Batzer
  • Ben Bellinson
  • Carol Fellows & Tim Bewley
  • Davis Wilkins & Matt Oliva
  • Dee Anne Everson
  • Emily & Eric Strong
  • Joel S. Garavaglia-Maiorano
  • Judy Dolmatch
  • Lisa & Rich Norvell
  • Mark & Jill Yaconelli
  • Mark & Maddy DiRienzo
  • Mary Rogan
  • Sharon & John Javna
  • Sheila Burns

In-Kind Contributors

Advisory Board

  • Davis Wilkins
  • Dee Anne Everson
  • Joel Garavaglia-Maiorano
  • Katharine Cato
  • Marjorie Trueblood-Gamble
  • Mark DiRienzo
  • Michelle Glass
  • Molly Kreuzman

Conference Staff

  • Mark Yaconelli – Conference Director
  • Karen Carnival – Conference Coordinator

SOU Recital Hall Staff

  • Breahna Molina – SOU house manager
  • Melissa Hampton – SOU stage manager

Volunteer Coordinators

  • Wendy Conner
  • Carolyn Wetzel
Chris Abbott-Stokes
Tricia Acheatel
Barbara Allen
Kathy Balint
Ben Bellinson
Scott Brandstetter
Jim Bronson
Sheila Burns
Ana Byers
Darren Campbell
Joslin Carson
Katharine Cato
Tina Clark
Laura Davis
April Delbrook
Maddy DiRienzo
Mark DiRienzo
Judy Dolmatch
Randy Ellison
Patty Farrell
Michelle Glass
Nicole Gomez
Amy Greenwold
Melissa Hampton
June Hans
Thomas Knapp
Dana Knoke
Stephanie Koerella
Susan Krant
Denise Krause
Molly Kreuzman
Janet London
Megan Malone
Jennifer Margulis
Emily McPeck
Bolan Meek
Linda Novak
Karen O’Dougherty
Karen Oppenheim
Diane Paulson
Stephanie Peterson
Tege Phillips
Judy Plapinger
Sugeet Posey
Jennifer Rogers
Ivy Ross
Cory Ross
Leah Saturen
Michelle Warrence Schreiber
Alisa Sherman
Sara-Lynne Simpson
Kayla Starr
Lucy Strasburg
Karen Toloui
Robin Weiss
David Wick
Allison Wildman
Davis Wilkins
Linda Wilson
Jill Yaconelli

Anne Lamott: Rediscovering Mercy

The Hearth presents “Rediscovering Mercy: An Evening with Anne Lamott.” Based on her recent book, Hallelujah Anyway, this keynote talk will include a Q & A period. The event will be held Friday, April 27, from 7:30-9:00 pm at Southern Oregon University’s Music Recital Hall. Doors open at 7:00 pm. All attendees MUST bring a paper ticket for admission to this event. There will be no tickets available at the door.

Anne Lamott’s appearance is part of the Finding Our Way Conference held April 26-28 in Ashland, Oregon. The focus of the conference is to increase awareness of the need for authentic, compassion-based skills for bridging differences within our personal, professional, and public lives. The conference offers a number of free events focused on the practice of compassion.


Practicing Compassion: A Personal Retreat with Mark Yaconelli and Anne Lamott

Practicing Compassion: A Personal Retreat is for anyone who wants to deepen their capacity to respond to difficult people, divisive issues, and destructive emotions from a more graceful place. The event will be led by author and veteran retreat leader Mark Yaconelli, based on his work as co-founder of the Center for Engaged Compassion. The day will include a mixture of presentation, contemplative exercises, and group discussion. One feature of the retreat will be a morning conversation with author Anne Lamott on the inner work of compassion.

Retreat participants will enlarge their capacity for receiving compassion, cultivate skills for practicing self-compassion, and learn how to identify and transform difficult emotions. The event is ideal for parents, teachers, spouses, social workers, non-profit leaders, activists, and anyone who wants to increase their capacity to heal suffering in self, others, and the world.

The retreat will be held Saturday, April 28,  9:00-4:00pm, at Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

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