Episode 183: Stephen Jenkinson and Kimberly A. Johnson

On death, grieving, service, and releasing our fixation on redemption.

  • (8:35)- Personal growth and philosophical inquiry.
  • (13:00) – Aging, identity, and environmental crisis.
  • (20:46) – The discomfort of loving the ending of things.
  • (22:25) – Ending and making room for the wild.
  • (27:05) – Emotions and their natural flow.
  • (30:24) – Grief, depression, and personal growth.
  • (39:04) -Elderhood, cultural significance, and personal experience.
  • (43:23) – Aging, meaning-making, and the word “awake”.
  • (52:44) – Understanding time and memory.
  • (54:58) – Grief, mystery, and personal growth.

Reckoning is the cultural cyphering of Stephen Jenkinson and Kimberly Ann Johnson. It’s an unguarded, sober meeting with Spirit Work, Elderhood, Grief and Plague and Building Culture in a Me-First Era. To be tried at home. With Companions.

A younger woman no longer young, author and teacher in her own right, sends a note in late fall, 2021, to someone she doesn’t know, an older man not yet old, author too and activist of some kind. She proposes a talk she’ll promote. Her purpose: to wonder about what is happening to the moorings of her generation.

Whole-person heartbreak ensues, prompting another session, the next evening.

As winter comes on, they do five more. By then, something is born of their wonder. They consider the transcripts, they write a letter to each other, blessings of a kind, bindings of a kind. Reckoning is what they call it.

Also mentioned in this episode: Nights of Grief and Mystery Tour, 2023

Kimberly Ann Johnson is a Somatic Experiencing practitioner, Sexological Bodyworker, Structural Integration practitioner, retired yoga teacher, postpartum care advocate and single mom. She is the author of Call of the Wild: How We Heal Trauma, Awaken Our Own Power and Use It for Good (HarperWave, 2021) and the early mothering classic The Fourth Trimester: Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions and Restoring Your Vitality (Shambhala, 2017), as well as The Fourth Trimester Journal and the Fourth Trimester Cards (Shambhala, 2019). Kimberly’s previous episode on Practice You is here: https://elenabrower.com/episode-117-kimberly-ann-johnson/

Stephen Jenkinson is a culture activist, worker and authorteaching internationally. He’s the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School, co-founded with his wife Nathalie Roy in 2010, convening semi-annually in Deacon, Ontario, and in northern Europe.

He has Master’s degrees from Harvard University (Theology) and the University of Toronto (Social Work). Apprenticed to a master storyteller when a young man, he has worked extensively with dying people and their families, is former programme director in a major Canadian hospital, former assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school.

He is also a sculptor, traditional canoe builder whose house won a Governor General’s Award for architecture.

Since co-founding the Nights of Grief and Mystery project with singer/ songwriter Gregory Hoskins in 2015, he has toured this musical/ tent show revival/ storytelling/ ceremony of a show across North America, U.K. and Europe and Australia and New Zealand. They released their Nights of Grief & Mystery album in 2017 and at the end of 2020, they released two new records; Dark Roads and Rough Gods.

He is the author of A Generation’s Worth: Spirit Work While the Crisis Reigns (2021)Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble (2018), the award-winning Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (2015)Homecoming: The Haiku Sessions (a live teaching from 2013)How it All Could Be: A workbook for dying people and those who love them (2009)Angel and Executioner: Grief and the Love of Life – (a live teaching from 2009), and Money and The Soul’s Desires: A Meditation (2002). He was a contributing author to Palliative Care – Core Skills and Clinical Competencies (2007).

Stephen Jenkinson is also the subject of the feature length documentary film Griefwalker (National Film Board of Canada, 2008, dir. Tim Wilson), a portrait of his work with dying people, and Lost Nation Road, a shorter documentary on the crafting of the Nights of Grief and Mystery tours (2019, dir. Ian Mackenzie).

His books, recordings and DVDs are available for purchase at the Orphan Wisdom Shop.

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