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Embracing crisis, cultivating change


People can be resistant to change, according to Debra Landwehr Engle and Diane Glass. They see a crisis as something to survive. But change is constant, and every now and then, a crisis will arise, and it may push you in the direction you need to go. Engle and Glass draw a parallel between the changes in our lives and the changes in the natural world around us. That parallel is the theme of “Tending Your Inner Garden: A Year of Transformation and Renewal,” a series of workshops they will conduct in the months to come.

On Saturdays in January, July, April and October, they will meet with their students at Engles’ acreage near Winterset. They will also hold eight evening gatherings at Glass’ property in Carlisle. The two hope that holding one meeting per season at the same rural setting will help attendees observe changes in the world around them and reflect on the changes in their own lives. The topics of the four main programs have been set: developing a vision, preparing a plan, managing change and reflecting on the abundance in one’s life. The topics for the eight evening programs will be determined by the students. Engle and Glass hope to have 12 participants, and are already halfway to that goal. They also have a Web site, www.your-life-choices.com and offer private workshops for small groups of friends or organizations.

“Sometimes we let life carry us along, but we have to make choices to live the lives we want to lead,” Engle said. “It can be scary. Our desire is to set up a program to help people make those choices with the support of others.”

“It’s not a traditional support group, where we offer advice to one another,” Glass said. “We want to help our students listen to their intuition and accept guidance from their own inner wisdom. We believe what people are seeking is already inside them.”

Engle is the author of “Grace From the Garden: Changing the World One Garden at a Time,” a book about how people have improved their communities through gardening. She has developed and taught classes on personal growth, spiritual change and writing. Glass is a former teacher, marketing executive, candidate for public office, radio show host and political consultant. They met when Engle joined The Des Moines Register in 1987 to cover the presidential debates. Glass was Engle’s boss during her last two years with the publication. Engle left in the early ’90s. Their paths crossed a few years ago, as Glass was recovering from a serious illness.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, it led me to re-evaluate my life priorities,” Glass said. “I found there were a lot of things aside from my career that I wanted to pursue, so I left the Register to pursue music, writing and working on behalf of organizations I believe in.”

Engle also went through a period of rethinking her life. She was doing a lot of freelance writing, especially for Meredith Corp.’s publications. She began to realize, however, that it wasn’t enough. She wanted to write books, and that desire began to keep her awake at night.

“It’s easy to try to make that voice be quiet,” Engle said. “There can be comfort in maintaining the status quo, but sometimes you realize you have to take a risk in order to live a life that will really be meaningful. Once you open that door, the doors will continue to open and open. It’s not easy, but if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.”

We each have an inner garden, according to Engle. There are seedlings of potential, our gifts, characteristics and wishes, and we have to be “good stewards,” deciding which seedings to weed out and which ones to nurture.

“Change is not always something that happens to us,” Glass said. “It’s something that we can create.”

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