Oak Communications
September 2011
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Sometimes the unexpected shakes us up. It might be a welcome surprise, like receiving a bouquet of flowers from a friend or admirer or perhaps reconnecting with an old love at a high school reunion. These heighten our gratitude and contribute to a sense of well-being that radiates out to others.


At other times, we may have an unexpected experience that shakes us in another way. Across the country, people have been shaken by earthquakes and deluged by storms and hurricanes. Many have been unemployed for far longer than they ever anticipated. These experiences hit the core of our being and force us to call upon internal resources.


At times of change, disasters, or when we are feeling especially low or fatigued, it is helpful to use the tools that we have developed when our lives were going well. Just as we prepare for disasters by organizing a "to go" bag, storing water and food, and making a disaster plan, we need to also prepare our minds and bodies and build communities of friends and family.

Some of the ways I prepare my mind and body include meditation, work in the yard, long walks, exercise and yoga, and reading side by side with my husband. These practices contribute to a sense of calm, peace and energy, especially during the inevitable stressful times in life.

Recently I was in New Orleans attending the annual conference of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations (LANO). I stayed with a friend whom I had met at the conference last year.  On Saturday, Karen took me to her neighborhood café, Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.

For about a year and a half, soon after Katrina and the breach of the levees, Robert & Elizabeth, the owners of the café, opened their doors and gave away free coffee.  It was and continues to be a gathering place for healing, ideas and music.

On weekend mornings, Karen sits at a particular table with a group of people who have been gathering for many years. They share an intellectual curiosity and a lively repartee.  Sometimes there are grumblings and disagreements about the local or global state of affairs, yet there is a sense of community. This community echoes throughout the café as regulars come and go throughout the morning, exchanging stories and updates on their lives, a coffeehouse version of "Cheers."

The café is being sold to new owners and so change is inevitable. Dogs will not be allowed inside and one of the café's star attractions, Gracie, a black lab mutt, will no longer be a part of the intimate indoor scene. The dog's owner will continue to come to the café, because this is his community.   

In my old neighborhood in Oakland, California, one of our neighbors was instrumental in gathering the members of our cul de sac for emergency preparedness drills. We established sheds containing emergency and first aid supplies, practiced what we would do if an earthquake hit, and enjoyed block party potluck dinners. Through our preparations, we created community.

The live oaks that line the streets in my Louisiana neighborhood have deep roots and spreading branches. They sway in the winds and have survived for decades. Our communities and our personal resources are like the roots of an oak that allow us to sway in the winds of change and keep growing and spreading our limbs.

To what communities do you belong? What tools have you developed to cultivate a sense of peace even during the challenging times in life? Please share via email or go to the Oak Communications Facebook page to share them there.

In community,  


Sue Schleifer


Mindfulness Workshop  
Lotus flowers

For those who live in Louisiana, please join me when I will be the  

guest presenter for a free  


Mindfulness Workshop   


Sunday, September 18, 2 - 4 pm

 (note new date)    

 A Healing Arts Gathering  

 1109 Old Spanish Trail, Scott, LA


Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."


Mindfulness is a simple technique that will help you to reduce stress and promote well-being. Mindfulness practice helps you to develop awareness of thoughts, emotions, and the body. This awareness allows you to identify sources of stress before they intensify.


I will share some basic methods for practicing mindfulness in daily life. We will discuss some of the recent research on the benefits of mindfulness including contributing to a healthy brain and greater happiness.  


Together we will practice a few mindfulness exercises that you can use at home or at work.


I have been practicing mindfulness for ten years. I am writing a book entitled, Zen and Travel: A Beginner's Journey.



Writing Down Dementia: A Writing Workshop  
spiral cactus
I will be offering a Writing Down Dementia Workshop to begin in early October. The day of the week and time will be scheduled to meet the desires of those people interested in participating.

Please call or email to learn more about the workshop and to express your interest in joining this writing group.


Writing Down Dementia is a writing workshop for people who have or have had a loved one with dementia. It is also designed for caregivers and professionals working in the field of aging services. The workshop offers participants a rich experience of creative expression and emotional support.


"Your gently guided free writing exercises combined with reading what I wrote aloud and discussion was a powerful way to get some clarity on my daily dilemma arising from my caregiver activities. It was also great to be reminded that I am not alone." Jean 


"I felt camaraderie with the other people in the workshop. I found humor in what was going on. It gave me a perspective that I found invaluable. And, I realized that I had the ability to write." Bernice


Group members:

  • discover new ways of relating to a family member still living with dementia
  • access long-forgotten family stories that they now may view through wiser eyes
  • let go of guilt and shame about not being the perfect caregiver
  • learn who they are separate from their caregiver role
  • emerge and grow stronger from the pain of the loss of a loved one

Writing prompts are carefully selected to evoke reflection and inspire writing. Group members then free write for five to ten minutes.  


Writing and coach-facilitated conversation create an atmosphere where group members feel safe in sharing their stories, laughter, tears and healing.


Through the writing experience, especially over time in a supportive environment, we work through our confusion and grief to discover understanding and joy in ways we had not imagined.  


No writing experience is necessary.


The 1.5 hour workshop fee is $15. 


Please call 337.534.0954 or email Sue@Oak-Communications.com 


Monrose Row stairs
Here is a link to a wonderful video, Ira Glass on Storytelling.

He reminds us that it takes work and time to get good at something.

Glass is the host of This American Life which can be heard on NPR stations.


Coaching Services  

Headshot Sue

Have you been thinking about working with a life/career coach?   


Give me a call to schedule a complimentary coaching consultation.

Below are what some of my clients have said about the coaching experience.


"I was drawn to Sue based on her philosophy and background and knew I made the right decision when we 1st met.  She helped me work through ideas and thoughts and got me moving in the right direction.  

She even helped me re-connect with someone from my past that has now been instrumental in my current growth.  I am truly thankful!"   
Chief People Officer

"Sue truly cares about her clients' goals and brings that passion to her work as a life coach. With her fresh perspective and eye for possibility, she helps me find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
Sue adds her wide array of skills and rich life experience to my own, expanding my box of problem-solving tools. She helps me set priorities, identify goals, and push toward fulfilling them---all while keeping me honest with myself.
Plenty of professional and creative people would benefit from working with Sue, and I particularly recommend her to anyone who needs to get 'unstuck'."
Medical Editor and Fabric Artist

"Doesn't everyone need a coach? From working with Sue, I'm convinced of it. I am spending more time on the activities that are most important to me and have set aside some old patterns (like worrying too much!) that got in my way. Sue is helping me achieve my interpersonal as well as career goals."
President, High Tech Management Consulting Firm
"Sue is an excellent listener and an astute observer. I sought her help at a time when I was dissatisfied with my business, had some vague idea that changes needed to be made, but couldn't see the way forward.  
In our coaching sessions, she provided tremendously useful feedback, helping me to uncover and understand the sources of my dissatisfaction, and guided me towards making many positive changes.  
If you want to make changes in your personal or professional life, and need coaching to help you find your way and follow through, then I would strongly recommend working with Sue." 
Small Business Owner
"Whether in my work or private life, Sue has an uncanny ability to see situations from many different angles. Her attention is complete; she really makes you feel like you matter. If I circumvent an issue, she brings me back to what is important.  

Sue has become one of my most important teammates. I can tell her anything, never feel judged and always feel supported. It doesn't get better than this!"
Co-Founder, Co-Director, Non-Profit Organization

I would love to be a resource to you too! Let's talk.


Sue Schleifer, M.A.


510.316.3319 - cell
Oak Communications

Lafayette, LA and throughout the country

510.316.3319 - cell

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