Thordis Niela Simonsen

building on memory: a writer-artist’s backstory

Friday, March 6, 2015 


Words possess the power to move us. So too, art. But what happens when we hear a captivating story embedded with compelling visual images, delivered by an engaging and wise artist? Something extraordinary. We see ourselves. We reflect. We re-commit to life.

Thordis Niela Simonsen has been writing and telling stories for 40 years, painting for 20. Her multi-media program, “Building on Memory: A Writer-Artist’s Backstory” interweaves narrative and visual image to powerful effect. Simonsen’s recollections of an innocent 1950s Lake Erie childhood are set against a backdrop of endearing black/white photographs taken by her father. Explorations of Simonsen’s life-altering relationship with her adopted Greek village—and the abandoned house she restores there stone by stone—are set against a backdrop of her straightforward color photographs. And reflections upon the artist’s lifelong pursuit of insight and freedom through creative self-expression are set against a backdrop of her arresting and revealing paintings.

Built on stories of a lost infancy, a twin-like bond with her sister, touch through the lens of her father’s camera, a mother’s obstinate will, and an unexpected gift from her grandmother, “Building on Memory” is one woman’s soulful and inspiring journey of self-discovery.

The 60-minute program includes 120 slides and is followed by conversation with the audience that includes facilitated discussion of relevant Jungian themes that have surfaced across the artist’s lifespan as well as an opportunity to reflect on what the imagery evoked in the psyche of the the audience

About Thordis Niela Simonsen

Like Odysseus, your program guide is a traveler. Her Greek village odyssey began in earnest in 1982 when the Cabot Trust awarded her a grant for documentary work in the Greek village, Elika, because she expressed “bravery” and “venturesomeness” when she diverged from teaching high school biology to design and teach a course in cultural anthropology and to edit the oral history, You May Plow Here (Norton, 1986). Thordis continues to live in the once roofless and abandoned village house that she purchased and has single-handedly restored. Since 1995, Thordis has shared her love for travel and her passion for Greece by taking small groups on Excursions & Sojourns in Greece. In 2009, she introduced Astra Writing in Greece, a program for women writers who like to travel. Guided all the while by carefully chosen mentors representing the world of Jungian and art therapy and neuro-linguistic patterning, Thordis “travels the path home.”

Like Homer, Thordis is a storyteller. She recorded villagers’ stories and her own in her book Dancing Girl(Fundamental Note, 1991), and she became a storyteller in the traditional sense with her dramatic monologue performances of “Dancing Girl: An American Woman’s Greek Village Odyssey” (2005-06). Her most recent book, Dances in Two Worlds (Fundamental Note, 2011) combines personal essays with evocative paintings.




Allison Steiger

Creativity and the Intersection Between Myth and Innovation

Friday Night Lecture, April 3, 2015


Creativity and Myth: Living Outside the Boundaries

The ability to innovate and think creatively is a task that has been important to humankind from the time of our earliest myths. When read carefully, myth from cultures all over the world can provide us with insights into ways the ancients used their ability to innovate to bring about the earliest moments of civilization. These insights are still useful for us in our attempts to do the same.

This lecture will use storytelling and images from mythic art and film to reveal the metaphor in the myth, allowing us to pull away the layers of time to look into the heart of myths from around the world. Examples include the Greek god Hephaestus, the African epic hero Mwindo, and the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna. These mythic figures and more will show us the way toward innovation. We will also examine Jung’s ideas about individuation and the importance of myth to that process, and how the use of creativity can move us forward on our path towards it.

Saturday Workshop: “Creativity and Myth: Living Outside the Boundaries”

Saturday’s workshop will build on the concepts introduced in the Friday lecture, with more time to explore a new set of myths from around the world. We will look at the stages of the creative cycle, and exercises designed to pull out each participant’s creative energies will be included for each stage. As with the Friday lecture, the workshop will include myth retellings, with images and short film clips included to illustrate further the metaphor in each myth. This approach allows us to more deeply investigate the archetypal patterns in the myths that we look at, with time to consider the shadow aspects of the creative process as well. Finally, we will discuss in more detail how the presence of creative and innovative thinking in our lives increases our life satisfaction and moves us ever closer on the path toward individuation.

About Allison Stieger 

Allison Stieger is a mythologist, writer and speaker who is passionate about myth and what it has to teach us about living a more fulfilled life. She holds an M.A. in Mythological Studies in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and is a member of the National Speaker’s Association and Toastmaster’s International. In 2004 she founded Mythic Stories, and since then she has been working with myth in modern culture in many different ways, including teaching Indian myth to yoga teachers-in-training, teaching online myth classes to gifted kids, and teaching myth, creativity, and writing at workshops and retreats. She founded the Seattle Roundtable group of the Joseph Campbell Foundation in 2004, and led the group until 2012.

In 2014 Allison founded Mythic Stories Education LLC, which offers after-school enrichment classes on myth and college essay tutoring from a mythological perspective to elementary and high school aged students around the United States.

Allison blogs on topics related to mythology at, and is a contributing columnist for The Creativity Post, writing on the intersection between myth, creativity and innovation.




Lori Pye, PhD

Psyche as Ecosystem


Friday, May 1, 2015


This lecture focuses on the ecopsychological idea that the human psyche is an ecosystem. This means that we are connected biologically, ecologically, and psychologically through vast webs of exchanges and vicissitudes across systems that are not always obvious or visible.

We also know there is no waste in the natural world, and that change happens through processes of decay and renewal. We’ll explore the need for the decay and renewal of human ideologies, attitudes, and narratives when they cease to be life serving. These processes harken back to Jung’s notion that psyche is nature. What might this mean however, and what are possible consequences and benefits?

Ecopsychological inquiry is one way in which personal and cultural narratives can be transformed or preserved.

Saturday Workshop:

Ecopsychology is an interdisciplinary field born out of the necessity for a more mature, empathic and ethical awareness of the plurality and interdependency of life and death. The field integrates ecological and depth psychological principles essential to sustainability, and recognizes that all of life’s systems are linked through multiple relationships. This deeper understanding of humanity promotes reflection and insight into the narratives, images, and unconscious foundations that underlie our worldview and encourages behavioral change based on this understanding.

This interactive workshop opens a portal into ecopsychology, thus fostering a deeper understanding of the multifaceted patterns within one’s personal ecosystem, and opening to wider community and cultural applications for ecopsychology. Participants will begin imagining how we might further participate in the process of human evolution.

This workshop will introduce five ecological principles: Energy, Diversity, Waste, Change and Connectivity in order to illustrate our role in the wider web of life. We’ll also examine Jung’s notion that the psychology of the individual is reflected in the psychology of the culture, of our nations, and in our world’s complex issues.

About Lori Pye:

Lori Pye founded and directs Viridis Graduate Institute: International School of Ecopsychology. She also serves as faculty for Kaweah Delta Psychiatric Residency Program, University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB); and Pacifica Graduate Institute. Dr. Pye teaches ecopsychology internationally, has multiple publications in peer reviewed journals, and serves on the Editorial Board for Ecopsychology Journal. She is a member of IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication.