Building Empathy and Equity

A retreat intensive with Karla McLaren and Jonathan McRay

Friday, August 23rd to Sunday, August 25th in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Emotional healing for racial justice

Talking about or confronting racism and inequality can bring up powerful emotions like shame, rage, panic, grief, and despair. And since most of us don’t know how to work with even one of these emotions, it’s not surprising that this emotional cascade can flood out our ability to face racism, inequality, and oppression.

In the presence of these and other powerful emotions, we may fight, collapse, or run away from any awareness of prejudice and injustice – and we may experience our painful inheritance of racism, inequality, and injustice as a trauma instead of an opportunity to face and right these wrongs. When we are unable to face trauma, we may cause more traumas that continue to hurt everyone.

This does not need to happen! Emotions are not our enemy; instead, they are a vital part of everything we are: every relationship; every dream; every failure; every triumph; every act of violence; and every act of love. When we know how to work with our emotions, we can face and heal the most pressing problems in our waiting world, and join with others to build a more just and loving community.

An invitation to build empathy and equity

Join Karla McLaren and Jonathan McRay for a weekend of learning to work directly with the power in your emotions so that you can challenge and transform racism and inequality — and build a community of justice and healing. Through body-based practices, emotional integration practices, and a traditional grief ritual, we will learn how to work with deep emotions (instead of being overwhelmed by them) so that we can apply their unique genius to transforming and healing the deep injustices of our world.

Our intentions for this ritual gathering

Photo of a path in the forest

This community ritual is intended for all who are aggrieved by what is happening, and has happened, to ourselves and to this land. And it’s intended for those who want to learn how to enter the deep emotions and experience their limitless healing genius.

This retreat is led by two white people as a dedication to the power of grieving, taking responsibility, and working to challenge and transform the legacy of oppression and injustice in our bodies, our relationships, and our waiting world.

Retreat Details

This retreat is over; thank you to everyone who participated!

Retreat leaders Karla McLaren and Jonathan McRay

Photo of Karla McLaren, a smiling middle-aged white woman with wavy brown hair, green eyes, and glasses.
Karla McLaren

Karla McLaren, M.Ed. is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy pioneer. Her lifelong work focuses on her grand unified theory of emotions, which revalues even the most “negative” emotions and opens startling new pathways into self-awareness, healthy empathy, and healing.

In her work with deep emotions, Karla has found that rituals offer a way into and through the emotional realm, and into a life-changing evolution and revolution of the soul. She welcomes you to experience one of the most powerful rituals of all — the grief ritual, which she has been studying and leading for 25 years. Though many of us have been socialized away from grief, there is still a part of us that knows grief intimately. With the support of this traditional ritual, the genius of grief can make a welcoming space for all of the emotions and bring their deep healing to our souls, and to the soul of the world.

Karla is the author of The Dynamic Emotional Integration® Workbook (2018), The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill (2013), The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You (2010), and the multi-media online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions (2012). She has also written a workbook for teens with Amanda Ball, MS: Emotional Genius for Teens: Discovering the Brilliance inside Your Feelings (2018), and is in production on an illustrated children’s book: Emotions! The Smart Kid’s Field Guide to the Wonderful World of Feelings (2020, in press). Her newest book, Embracing Anxiety will be released by Sounds True in 2020.

Photo of Jonathan McRay, a white man in his 30s with strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes, and a reddish full beard.
Jonathan McRay

Jonathan McRay is a farmer, facilitator, and writer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He is passionate about land care, healthy culture and community, and the renewable use of energy, from sunlight to calories to conflict! He grew up in Central Appalachia and worked overseas before completing an MA in Conflict Transformation and Restorative Justice, during which time he helped found, garden, and mediate for an urban farm, education center, and supportive home.

Jonathan regularly teaches classes and workshops on cultural ecology and restorative justice and is a member of the Speakers Collective of Soul Fire Farm, where he’s co-facilitated Uprooting Racism in the Food System trainings. Through the Cambium Collective, he consults with and facilitates groups and organizations to transform conflict, understand power and oppression, and shape liberating visions and decisions.

Jonathan grows beautiful and useful plants with Blacks Run Forest Farm, a riparian nursery and folk school rooted in love and living soil, committed to remediating the toxins that pollute our souls, society, and soil, from chemical leaching to white supremacy. His writing appears in ACRES USA, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Geez Magazine. Jonathan is also learning to give up erosive perfectionism in favor of joyful growth. 

Good readings on race, the body, and healing

When you sign up for a ritual, you are in the ritual. These short articles can welcome you and prepare you for the journey. 

White Supremacy as a Trauma Response by Resmaa Menakem

What Your Body Has to Do With Social Change by Adrienne Maree Brown

I Am Racist, And So Are You by Rachel Shadoan

Racist Ideas in America with Ibram X. Kendi

The Myth of Negative Emotions by Karla McLaren

Embracing Grief by Sobonfu Somé


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