It’s with great pleasure that we share these illuminating conversations with Joanne Greenberg. Though we’d felt a strong and warm connection with Joanne for many years, it wasn’t until the focus and depth of these recording sessions that we really started to experience her profundity. Interestingly, beyond the perspectives she shared, these far-ranging conversations appear to be taking us on an unexpected journey: one that’s inviting, positive, and affecting our creativity in an unmistakable way. Clearly, beyond what she knows, her life force is playful—and contagious.
Today’s podcast is the first of a three-part series, which we’ve titled, Swimming Lessons. Though our conversations were casual and often humorous in nature, they were set against Joanne’s personal experience of drowning in her mental illness.
We also knew she’s witnessed so many others in varying states of drowning, as have we, which brought a subtle life-and-death sobriety into the atmosphere. This didn’t produce solemnity—just an honest, shared knowing of the territory being discussed. When drowning is the condition at hand, the confused flailing to just survive is so disorienting that it’s almost impossible to know what will actually be helpful. However, in such a time, one can learn to swim, and this series of podcasts is all about doing just that. As someone who has completely recovered, Joanne is an expert, having learned to swim free from her mental illness. And as she poignantly described, once freed from the deadening nature of that illness, her passion for life carried her into an experience of living that was—and continues to be—joyfully beyond her sense of what was remotely possible.
After having had a full career of working with people and families experiencing extreme mental challenges, I recognize what Joanne is pointing to as essential knowledge—like points on a compass with which one can orient to a resilient recovery path. She emphasizes the vital importance of having genuine, kind, and honest human relationships. Among other benefits, these relationships can help one recognize what’s real in order that there be ground outside of the dream world of one’s illness. And if medications are used, which she’s not against, it’s absolutely crucial that one’s wakeful innate intelligence—so necessary for the process of recovery—is not obscured. Perhaps her most central insight for what compels and sustains a path of recovery is that the payoffs of being ill must not outweigh the challenging but natural invitation of ordinary, healthy life.
After nearly 60 years since its best-selling debut, there’s a reason I Never Promised You A Rose Garden is still powerfully relevant. You’ll hear and feel that in these podcasts, and I sincerely hope that Joanne’s compassion and life force will be as contagious for you as it has been for us.
Joanne Greenberg (born September 24, 1932 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American author best known for the bestselling novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, written under the pen name of Hannah Green. It was adapted into a 1977 movie and a 2004 play of the same name.
She received the Harry and Ethel Daroff Memorial Fiction Award as well as the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction in 1963 for her novel The King’s Persons, which was about the massacre of the Jewish population of York at York Castle in 1190. She was a professor of anthropology at the Colorado School of Mines, and also the author of an additional 20 novels, one of which, In This Sign, was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie called Love Is Never Silent. Joanne was also a volunteer firefighter and paramedic for approximately 15 years, and is a highly regarded, authentic voice of authority as a mental health advocate.
and author of 20 novels.
Her book, In This Sign, was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie called Love Is Never Silent.
Deborah Ruth Bronstein is Rabbi Emerita of Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, Colorado. She is a pastoral rabbi with a strong commitment to social justice and those who live on the margins of society. The stigmatization of mental illness led Rabbi Bronstein to be a spokesperson in this area, advocating in religious and civic systems and serving on the boards of various shelters. Rabbi Bronstein has served as a board member of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness (INMI), as well as the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council, the Midwest Association of Reform Rabbis, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. In addition to working in the mental health arena, and she has worked to help South Sudanese refugees (“Lost Girls”) move to Boulder. She has also lectured locally and nationally on the role of parables and storytelling in social justice, in transcending crises, and in the creation of new spiritual worldviews.
Chuck Knapp, M.A., L.P.C., a student of Chogyam Trungpa and graduate of Naropa University, worked closely for many years with Dr. Ed Podvoll, originator of the Windhorse Approach. Chuck was a founding member and later director of Friendship House, which was a publically funded residential treatment home for people with extreme mental states. In 1990 he co-founded Windhorse Community Services in Boulder, Colorado, where he served as a Co-Director until 2019, and currently works as a senior clinician. Through his published writings, presentations at conferences, and as co-founder and coordinator of the Windhorse Journal in 2018, Chuck continues to share his interest in exploring mindfulness-based therapeutic environments for both individual and social wellbeing.’
Jeffrey Fortuna received his MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy at Naropa University in 1980, and served on the Naropa faculty until 1989. In 1981, he co-founded the first Windhorse center, Maitri Psychological Services in Boulder, CO. From 1989 to 1992, Mr. Fortuna founded and directed a Windhorse group in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1992, he co-founded Windhorse Associates, Inc., and served as Executive/Clinical Director. In 2002, Jeff returned to Boulder as a co-director of Windhorse Community Services, Inc. He retired from his co-director role in 2013, yet continues to serve as a senior clinician and educator. He has taught widely, and written a book chapter and journal papers in the area of Windhorse treatment.
I love this podcast. Hearing Joanne talk about her experiences and the kind of disappointment/challenge of waking up were really comforting to me. A lot of times the difficulties of dealing with life and mental health issues don’t get validated enough, and I think the metaphor of climbing Mt. Everest to find everyone else is already up there is a wonderful example of how hard it can be when you have extra stuff you have to work with just to meet the status quo. Reminds me some of Dante and how climbing the path up to heaven includes dealing with all his demons down in hell. I really love Joanne’s humor and the way she can talk about such difficult topics with so much confidence and trust in her own experiences without becoming an authority that has the answer for everyone – a unique path for every person.