Karen began her career in mindful caregiving more than 30 years ago when she was introduced to the Dana model of home care that began in the Shambala community in Colorado and spread to Chicago, where she worked with the Dana Home Care founder, Bill Brauer, and later, Nancy Newton, who became a close friend and mentor.
The inquiries supporting self-awareness and ongoing practice became the ground for her work over the years to come.
As a provider of care, are we holding ourselves as separate from those receiving it? How do we relate to illness, aging and dying in those we care for as inseparable from knowing it in our own human experience? How can we skillfully work with the defensiveness or overwhelm that can arise when we are serving those who are suffering? How might we recognize our own basic goodness, our basic sanity, and see it in those we care for, alongside our own habits or tendencies, moods, and mind states, those 'difficult' or 'neurotic' tendencies, that we see in others? How can we embody patience, dignity, compassion and letting go in all aspects of the caring relationship? How can the healing relationship be one built on our shared humanity, not on the power over another that often slips in with our identification as the 'sane, healthy' person who doles out care to someone who is somehow the 'sick' one? How can we mentor, learn, and lead with connection to vulnerability and humility?
Karen's commitment to these foundations of mindfulness-informed care, mentoring, and leadership, have accompanied her through her various roles in healthcare and health advocacy. Her experience in midwifery, her training in behavioral health coaching at Duke Integrative Medicine, her training as a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher, her decades of work in health advocacy as well as her leadership roles as President and CEO, all allowed ample opportunities to practice putting these principles into action.
For more than two decades, Karen has trained & mentored midwives, doulas, perinatal educators and lactation specialists and has refined models of care built on compassionate, equitable, and respectful care relationships, with an emphasis on the art of collaboration between home-based doula supports, perinatal mental health & lactation support. She served on the board of the National Association of Postpartum Care Services, where she helped to establish the first national standards for postpartum doulas. Since 1997, doulas, lactation specialists, and perinatal educators have established their practices with the Birthways Core Curriculum and refined their expertise with her mentoring, advanced trainings, symposiums, retreats and monthly case reviews.
Today, Karen is a blogger, a writer, and a national speaker, who has developed frameworks to address health care reforms within and beyond maternal/child health. Founding WisdomWay Institute in 2017, she has authored and developed curriculums around the 6 Qualities of Embodied Mindfulness, the Compass of Mindful Caregiving and is the creator of 40-second Compassion Initiatives, patient and family engagement & advocacy tools and other publications aimed at shifting healthcare towards greater equity, safety, dignity and compassion. Her collaborations with other experts have led to the development of learning retreats and on-line and on-site trainings that establish the foundational skills that support Relationship-Centered Care, Trauma -Informed Care/Healing Informed Care, and Anti-bias/Equity.
She has also provided programs and projects that support the family caregiver & parents, including the Cup of Kindness initiative, a 28-day Mindful Caregiving course, online Mindful Caregiver Support Groups, and has been invited to speak to family caregivers at the National Family Federation for Children's Mental Health, the National Caregivers Conference, Rainbow Families, March of Dimes, and workplace offerings for the American Medical Association, Rush Prudential, and others. Providing support to parents during times of adjustment, parents of premature or medically fragile infants, and partners and family members impacted by perinatal mood disorders or mental illness has been an important part of her work over the years.
From serving as a professional and family caregiver, providing maternal/child care and perinatal education, and teaching and mentoring providers, and supporting loved ones at end-of-life, she has cultivated ways to be a midwife to others. In her view, both care-giver and care-receiver hold the potential for healing and transformation in the care relationship.
Karen lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her partner, her daughter, and their two Welsh Springer Spaniels. She is an active member and facilitator of a Kilyanna Mitta group and is involved in an LGBTQ+ sangha and an Insight Meditation community, where she completed a 13 month Theraveda training with Jan Sheppard. She leads meditation retreats, learning retreats and workshops throughout the U.S.
At its center, the profession of healing is the fulfillment of our wish to serve, to give…and to be restored.