We first met in my living room, about once every other week when the Norwood space was just a dream.

On a typical planning meeting in our circle you’d see Joyce & Tom Choquette, Penny Costilla, Mary Duennes, Denise & Mike Eck, Mary Hutten, Jack Lennon, Micah Richey, Sue Saylors, Rob Thaler, Carol T. Yeazell…and XU students Austin Muller and Chris Place would drop in when they weren’t in class. A few more people would come and go and make their important contribution in those early days of 2010.

And we tried to conceive of something that many people told us was impossible. “A donation-based holistic center?!?”

We wanted it at first to be service as the donation…as in you do one hour of service anywhere and we give you one hour of programming. We even came up with a weekly circle where people could sit and meditate for the health of Cincinnati and the world, and they would then be eligible for a one hour yoga class or a one hour Healing Touch session. Once our Norwood space opened, Penny would lead those meditations-for-service, and so beautifully. Many XU students would come to enjoy them and be enriched by them.

At that time, Cincinnati ranked among the worst US cities for health. So while our focus was improving the health of our city, we had our eye on the gem of the world too…always with a map of the world nearby. (Maybe you’re interested in this fancy gem-map donated to us, available at Saturday’s Open House.)

Meditation is what held everything together, the river that enlivened everything. Even our planning meetings began with someone leading a meditation of some sort, often one of the Healing Touch self-care meditations.



The planning circle wanted to create a journaling offering, something with a very open and welcoming structure so that people with zero meditation or writing experience would feel welcome.

So Penny and Micah, with the encouragement of the group, came up Inner Journey…a simple process, informed by experiences at Women Writing for (a) Change…

1. gathering ideas/writing topics
2. time on one’s own for meditating/contemplating/creating
3. talking about one’s experience of #2, if anyone feels called to share

And back then and today some people write, and some people draw, and some people meditate the whole time, and some people watch the paint dry (one of my pastimes – ha!).

We never set out to write and publish books but as we heard what the circle inspired, often it was better and more resonant than stuff getting so much attention on the New York Times Book Review.

It was time for new voices getting a platform — in an age when social media was just beginning to invite just that.

It was a time for some wiser voices — not just the loudest voice in the room or in the national/world conversation.

And so we published two books — and now there are 12!

Penny welcomed the first Inner Journey circles and then soon Tom Choquette assisted.  Beginning this Tuesday, Helen Buswinka will assist with welcoming an in-person Inner Journey circle every 2nd Tuesday and Penny will continue to lead our Zoom Inner Journey circle every 4th Tuesday.  Both formats will begin at 6:30pm EDT.


Out of this journaling-and-contemplation-and-conversation circle sprang a whole bunch of wild and helpful ideas…gardening and gleaning being two of them, more on that tomorrow!

Could one of the ideas from our Inner Journey circles alter life — make life easier and sweeter — for all creatures on the planet?  Who knows!  We do know that our lives are sweeter when we gather for Inner Journey.

Who knows what goodnesses might spring out of the new circles emerging with our Autumn offerings for Inner Journey, for all of our programs.  Hope to discover with you this Saturday at 3pm at our Open House conversation!

Brian Shircliff