Embracing Uncertainty

Facilitated by Tonia Lyon & Ashleigh Glass

Charlotte, NC

Our poetry partners, Tonia Lyon and Ashleigh Glass, met John in 2017 when they attended two weekend retreats at Mepkin Abbey near Charleston, SC. John recognized a very special quality that they had in responding during those workshops. It was both healing and a genuine partnership. Tonia and Ashleigh are bringing poetic medicine in a workshop series titled Embracing Uncertainty to families associated with The Sandbox, an organization helping families facing a child's cancer or other life-altering illness.


About the Workshop

Believing in the power of poetry as healer, Tonia and Ashleigh create a space for each person to slow down, reflect on, learn from, and own their sacred stories. Each class opens with 10-20 minutes of meditation and prayer to allow participants to become more mindful, and able to notice, accept, and attend to their own thoughts and reality. They nurture an environment of non-judgment, kindness, and curiosity so that participants can learn new skills and cultivate their own gifts of writing and sharing poetry.

Students learn the meditation basics of shifting and centering. They learn to notice their own thoughts and how to choose to respond rather than react to their thoughts. They learn the freedom of writing poetry as a tool for self-discovery and the joy of doing so in an atmosphere of openness, collaboration, and community.

IPM is pleased to be funding and supporting this wonderful poetry partner program.
If you'd like to support this effort, please consider donating!
Tonia Lyon and Ashleigh Glass

Tonia Lyon & Ashleigh Glass

Tonia Lyon

Twenty years of writing and reporting on news events in the United States broke Tonia's heart for people in need. Her passion for service led her to take a leap of faith from a successful career in journalism to pastoral care and other helping ministries. Tonia helped Elevation Church and Pastor Steven Furtick launch and direct the course of that church's now worldwide outreach ministry.

Today, as a personal and professional development coach, Tonia is guiding people from all walks of life to become their best selves. She also serves as Special Assistant to the President of Montreat College, a private Christian liberal arts school in the mountains of North Carolina. Tonia's love of the written and spoken word continues as she explores new ways of communicating. Since taking "Exploring Epiphany through Poetry and Poem-Making" with John Fox in 2018 and learning the power of poetic medicine, she's committed to leading and teaching others the healing art of poem-making.

If you'd like to collaborate on bringing poetry and mindfulness into your community,
please reach out to Tonia and/or Ashleigh. 

Ashleigh Glass

Ashleigh Glass is a poet and workshop facilitator who believes in giving your soul a voice. Ashleigh has been working in Human Resources for 15 years with a professional certification in the field. With a passion to serve others, she leads as an Outreach Coordinator at Elevation Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. This has allowed her consistent opportunities to work with our neighbors that struggle with homelessness and addictions; families that have children with cancer and other potentially terminal illnesses; the elderly and those with Alzheimer's disease; and other community initiatives that help those in need.

Ashleigh has helped facilitate writing sessions for women in the Union County Jail and seeks to continue such avenues of poetry-as-healer. Poetry has brought light to her life  journey, and she longs to help others discover their own healing as well.

Poetry as a Tool For Wellness – Facilitator Training

Poetry as a Tool for Wellness (PATFW) is a culmination of nearly 20 years of ground-breaking practice utilizing poetry as a catalyst to enhance skills, affirm strengths, and nurture creativity in order to promote overall wellbeing. Piloted in settings focused on mental health, it has been found equally transformative and roundly received in a much broader context.

PATFW is an ideal program for counselors, peer specialists, teachers, chaplains, healthcare/wellness coaches, community activists, support group facilitators, and anyone else interested in fostering a creative and therapeutic approach to wellness for integrating Poetic Medicine into mental health and wellness programs

The program is structured as eight themed, skills-based sessions outlined in a comprehensive manual. Emphasis is placed throughout on the interactive nature of each session that includes quotes, poems, discussion questions, writing activities/guided sharing and an Appendix of Facilitator Tools.

It is strongly recommended that those interested in the facilitator training also purchase the manual as it serves as a vital adjunct to the training series. Additional sessions are regularly being developed (and are available as insertable pages to those who have purchased the manual prior to their completion). The volume naturally fosters individual voice and empowerment, shared leadership, as well as a sense of community/belonging.

The Poetry as a Tool for Wellness: A Peer Facilitator's Manual includes:

  • 8-week series of themed, skills-based sessions
  • Quotes, poems, discussion questions, and writing activities
  • Suggested scripts and actions
  • Bonus session for hosting a celebratory poetry-reading event
  • Appendix including tools and resources for peer facilitators
  • Additional session add-ons

Seven Gifts: Poetry as a Pathway to Renewal

John will lead us on a journey that names “seven gifts” of renewal given to us by poetry and poem-making. The intention is to serve as encouragement and catalyst for your vocation and personal journey.

These gifts and this renewal are accessible in the midst of living this life—with its sorrow and joy, travail and adventure, the daily experience of being human and a deeper spiritual current that speaks to a greater mystery—poetry provides a perspective and felt-experience that can be recognized and received as gift.

Seven Gifts

  • Discovery of meaning and connection.
  • A way to sharpen the practice of mindfulness.
  • Poetry-as-Healer encourages embodiment.
  • Poem-Making invites play and imagination.
  • A way of asking questions, where a question is not in search of an answer. Questions ask to be held.
  • Relationships infused with compassion, vulnerability and courage.
  • The gift shared with another.

The retreat will include gentle, evocative and poignant writing prompts that will reveal to us these gifts. No prior experience with poem-making is necessary—and “beginner’s mind” is welcomed among all participants.

Poems of Witness: Climate Action

In these times, we are called to speak up and speak out, and by doing this, strengthen a community of conscience and caring.

Yet, within our country and living on this fragile planet, it is a challenge in the midst of heartbreaking social and political realities to express and give shape to YOUR unique voice; your poetic voice that is:

  • humane and beautiful
  • fierce, courageous and noble
  • creative and compassionate

The purpose of these workshops is to encourage poem-making that speaks truth, treasures beauty and empowers us to recognize common ground in our concern for the natural world. The goal is to inspire our commitment of action.

Beginning and experienced poets/writers are welcome. It will be valuable and safe for anyone with a desire to express their truth and creativity.

Poetic Medicine and Social Justice

In these complicated times, when the news is always blasting us with some new horror and our socials are an echo chamber of like-minded outrage, the practice of reading and writing poetry can open a quiet space within for reflection. Poetic Medicine offers a unique and sensitive approach to writing and responding to poetry, allowing us to hear directly from the heart.

Participants will come away with more compassion and deeper understanding of themselves, as well as the varied experiences of others, offered in a safe space for exploring difficult subjects. This program will introduce participants to the practice of writing poetry as a method of self-care, investigation, and personal expression, which they can carry with them into their lives beyond the classroom.

Six weekly topics examined: America, Religious Tolerance, Racial Injustice, LBGTQ awareness, Immigration, Women’s issues

Program Includes:

  • six weekly online poetic medicine workshops each centered around a current social justice issues such as race, LGBTQ, poverty, etc.
  • weekly email newsletter filled with fun writing prompts and delicious poetry
  • access to a private Facebook community where participants can share and respond to one another’s work

This program is for anyone wanting to explore, through poetry, the many different issues at the forefront of our society. No prior experience with poetry or social justice is required.

Opening the Mystic Heart Through Poetry

In this series, we will engage poetic medicine as a means of inviting our mystic heart to open more fully in our daily lives. In approaching our mystic heart through poetry, we engage the language of the heart through image, metaphor, spaciousness, and mystery. Poetry moves us below the discursive mind and invites our innate ways of knowing to reveal themselves through our imagination, intuition, and an embodied mode of participation.

Each of us is invited to open our mystic heart in our own way. In this poetic circle, we will explore how our mystic heart engages and responds to poetry written by mystics and non-mystics alike. We will also engage poetry that invites us to consider our mystic heart in relationship to the human and the more than human world, our dreams, and our creative energies.

When we cultivate our mystic heart, we enter a mystery that can enrichen our lived experience. As our hearts open, our capacity to experience compassion, gratitude and trust in community grows. Our ability to walk with what life offers us increases as we learn to honor the mystery of the seasons of our life. Throughout the ages, many who have cultivated their mystic hearts have grown in depth and wisdom, which is a gift to their communities and the world at large.

In this safe and compassionate poetic medicine circle, we will kindle the fires of our poetic voice, and deepen our practices of presence, deep listening and response, compassionate witness, self-reflection, and expression.

The sessions will include an introduction of a weekly theme and offer several poems that support the theme. Short video or images will be offered occasionally. Each week participants will be invited to engage poetry through reading, listening, mirroring, reflection, and poetry prompts. Sharing is optional. The poetic prompts are designed to invite greater awareness of our mystic heart through poetry, and the collective mystic heart within our poetry circle. There may be one or two guest speakers in the latter weeks.

Please join us for a poetically heart opening experience. All are welcome, no experience necessary.

Experiential Learning Live Facilitator Training

4-Weekly Classes
Saturdays, July 23 – August 13, 11:00 am –1:00 pm Pacific (adjust for your time zone)

4 select sessions from the PATFW Curriculum offered in interactive online classes (Zoom). 

You will be guided by highly experienced Peer-Facilitators, trained and certified by Cathey Capers at the Austin Clubhouse.
Attention is given to reflection on the role of the facilitator, along with the opportunity for Q & A following each session. 
This training is recommended for those who learn best through participation/demonstration.

Experience the impact of the poem-making process in the journey toward wholeness. 


The sessions chosen demonstrate innovative approaches used to invite others into poem-making and are ideal for those who learn best through experience. These skills-based sessions offer participants a safe and creative circle in which to explore themes vital to wellbeing.

No prior experience with poetry or writing is necessary. Bring your curiosity and allow your unique voice to expand in this interactive and respectful circle of learners.


Self-Paced Learning Facilitator Training Webinars

Available On-Demand


2 Core Webinars, plus a bonus webinar, appendix, and additional resources. 

You will be guided by Cathey Capers, one of the creators of this training and manual. Cathey is a certified Poetic Medicine Practitioner, and Poetry Partner, and former board member of the Institute for Poetic Medicine. 
This training is recommended for self-paced learners or in combination with the experiential, live training. 
The Facilitator Experience: Principles, Practice, & Preparation (1 hour)
This webinar delves into the first session of the PATFW curriculum, “unpacking” each step of the session. The rationale for each component of class is shared, along with specific suggestions and activities for preparation. At the end of this webinar, participants are ready to offer the first session and have a template for preparing for future sessions. 
Nurturing Strengths: Guidelines for Responding (1 hour)
This webinar focuses on the art of facilitation, with emphasis placed on the delicate nature of responding to participants’ poems and writing. A set of specific guidelines are shared that offer a repertoire of responses designed to build on specific individual strengths and nurture a creative and respectful group environment. 
Bonus Webinar, Appendix,
& Additional Resources
Adapting PATFW to be Online & Creating New Sessions
This webinar will disccuss the framework for how you can make your own themes for skills-based sessions.  Adaptations for a virtual class are recommended for select poetry writing activities included in the PATFW curriculum. (e.g. using animal images as prompts, the word bowl, touchstones for self-care). 
An appendix to the manual provides additional resources, along with the framework for you to add poems / handouts / exercises. 
Poetry of Nature Letters
Facilitated by NanLeah, Geoff Oelsner Monthly Letters delivered through November
This Poetic Medicine journey of monthly letters (with access to past issues) is for all kinds of Nature Lovers: for those wishing to create or deepen their Nature practice and poetry writing; for those that are concerned about Earth’s chang- ing climate, and their place in it; for those who have the felt sense that things can be different; and for those who are ready to turn their hearts and minds to a new story.
Through stories, poems, writing prompts, and reflections on the theme of choice, we’ll weave a tangible, living record of our journey together.
Morning Branches
by Geoff Oelsner
If there’s an award for Most Eclectic Local Album of the Year and Possibly Even the Decade, it will surely go to Geoff Oelsner for his new release, “Morning Branches.”
There is the unadorned informality of Geoff Oelsner, LCSW’s Dream and the theatrical pandemonium of Mad Tom’s Song. And there are some genuine folk songs delivered in Geoff ’s engaging resonant baritone and liberally sprinkled with tasty acoustic instruments and harmony. Two of these songs, My Shady and Borderguards, I would put right up there with the best of Joan Baez or Peter, Paul & Mary.
More than those of most singer-songwriters, Geoff Oelsner’s lyrics read as poetry on the printed page…Oelsner, who once told me that he considers himself “a happy hand-puppet of the artistic process,” often gets song ideas, and even entire songs, from his dreams… Geoff Oelsner is especially attuned to this phenomenon and tries to honor it and be faithful to it when it occurs.
Emily Kaitz, Fayetteville Free Weekly
Ordinary Mystery
by Geoff Oelsner
Geoff Oelsner doesn’t spend too much time thinking about writing songs. Inspiration, he says, just hits him. He calls them “givens,” and he knows that a gift like that is to be used.
On the recording (Ordinary Mystery), he was backed by Kelly Mulhollan, Robin Rues, Andrew Sieff, and also his family, including his wife and two grown children who now make their careers as musicians.
Oelsner chatted with the us recently about the gifts of songs, the importance of recording with his family and his love of Native American cultures. Four songs on the album are dedicated to the country’s different native peoples, and proceeds from the recording will be donated to Native American charities.
Kevin Kinder, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity through Poem-Making
by John Fox
Transcending the traditional academic approach to poetry writing, Finding What You Didn’t Lose deals with craft but, more importantly, guides readers to explore their deepest feelings and express their own unique insights through the incomparable language of poetry.
Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
by John Fox
Poetic Medicine is designed for readers wanting to tap their creative energy in order to make a difference in the world, including educators, therapists, parents and their children, writers, couples, and the infirm. As John Fox demonstrates, we all possess the ability to write. This gift enables us to access unlimited spiritual resources that restore our genuine voices and meaning in our lives, while healing and creatively satisfying us.
We Are the Future: Poems with a Voice for Peace
Edited by Merna Ann Hecht
This unique anthology brings readers into the personal, lived experiences of young people whose lives are challenged by leaving a homeland behind and negotiating relocation. At a time of uncertainty with a global pandemic and the very real threat to our planet from climate change, We Are the Future reminds us to stand strong with refugee and immigrant youth in their hopes, dreams and determination for a more humane, just, and peaceful world.
Geography of Loss
by Judith Prest
Geography of Loss explores grief and loss, whether through death or other experiences. It is a collection of poems detailing family history, lessons from loss and the resilience that come from surviving loss.
Write a Poem, Save Your Life
by Meredith Heller
With writing prompts, tools, encouragement, and moving student examples, Meredith Heller gently guides us in the art of using poetry to figure out who we are and what matters to us and to heal the deeper issues many of us face, such as depression, addiction, health and body image issues, low self-esteem, trauma, gender and sexual identity issues, and home and family problems. Along the way, we learn that writing poems helps us believe in ourselves, make positive life choices, and find direction, purpose, and meaning.