Featured Course

Free Your Inner Circus

Transformational practices for change leaders

Limited to 25 participants

Created by Hannah du Plessis of Fit Associates, CMU, and SVA Social Innovation
In partnership with Inclusant’s Creating Confluence series

  Eight 3-hour in-person sessions

  Online resource library 

  Guided practices for each topic

  Local change makers as guests

Registration for 2018 is closed. See you next year!

This course is already underway. But we do intend to run it again, and can put you on the list of people to notify as soon as we make our plans. 

Want a version in your city or organization?

Let us know in the “tell us you’re interested” form.

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Based on eight years of study, teaching, practice and experience

A “learning lab” to help you become able to stand in creative response to the challenges of changing ourselves and our world

This course gives you...

✓  Ways to build a trusting relationship with yourself, through habits of listening to and caring for yourself

✓  Personal practices to help you stand in creative response to life

✓  A journal of your writings and reflections for each topic

✓  Lifetime access to a library of resources, readings and videos

✓  A framework and good beginning for continued personal development

A unique space for deep learning

✓  Learn from local change makers and a group of peers engaged in similar questions

✓  A rich mix of activities, brief lectures, readings, conversations, and personal reflection

✓  Class activities draw from art, theater, mindfulness, and more

✓  The freedom to engage at your own level of comfort

Student Quotes

After doing these activities, I’m feeling more confident about the idea of changing myself. But “change” doesn’t mean force or twist to me, but the growing ability to initiate my inner power. The power comes when I can pull back, stand outside the situation, and see it with new perspective. I am gradually learning not to narrow my mind, but to nurture my mind’s openness. This makes me happy!

I am grateful for the space and time where I got to challenge myself and grow. I appreciate Hannah's humility, vulnerability and thoughtfulness. She met us where we were.

I am shifting my focus from outcomes and "success" to process. The process of change is beautiful – the time it takes, the challenges I face, the people around me. It is all beautiful.

Joanna Macy says that “there is no private salvation; I cannot be healed unless you are healed.” Sometimes we can feel so powerless in dealing with issues that are so large scale, but which influence every aspect of our lives. I agree that acknowledging our weakness and true intentions is the best way to be present in this crazy world. It is very difficult when no one is doing that with you. I feel that in this class, Hannah is trying exactly this: to open our heart, to listen and to accept that we are all suffering with the world.

Details: where, when, what to expect


5512 Hobart Street, Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh
View a map


We will meet every other Wednesday evening from 6:00 to 9:00pm, starting September 12 and ending December 19. So that’s:

  • September 12 and 26
  • October 10 and 24
  • November 7 and 21
  • December 5 and 19

How much time will this require?

Outside of class, expect to spend ten minutes each day on the practices, and a one- to two-hour coffee date with yourself sometime during the two weeks between sessions, to go through the readings and exercises. (That’s the minimum. You might choose to do more!)

What will the sessions be like?

Each session will be broken into two parts with a short break between. We will provide light refreshments, but not dinner. Together we’ll create a learning space of unconditional acceptance so that we can show up unedited. We will explore topics intellectually, through dialogue and through embodied methods. You are invited to stretch yourself, but always free to participate only to the degree you feel comfortable. I bring the perspective of a white immigrant women. To open the window of wisdom wider, I am inviting guest speakers whose lived experience differs from mine.

Who will be our guest speakers?

Our guests are practitioners from the Pittsburgh region who work on creating social change. 

  • Session one: Sheba Gittens “Sheba Gittens is, as you are”
  • Session two: Michelle King see her talk here
  • Session four: Julius Boatright from Steel Smiling
  • Session seven: I Medina spoken word artist, community educator, mama and evolving human

Writings from Hannah, related to the topic of this course

Read more about Hannah on the Instructors page.

Stories about working through white guilt, shame, and silence, and reflections on white peoples’ role in creating change: Fynbos and Fire

An essay for Roz Duffy’s Fear of Creativity collection: Fear in the creative journey

An article on feeling like you don’t belong: A letter to the misfit

A paper for the Transition Design Seminar at CMU: The mindset and Posture Required to Engender Life-Affirming Transitions

A story about the mindset from which we engender change: Oppression and Sue

On #metoo and trauma: This is not the end of your story

What if you could change your relationship with your inner critic? The value of your inner critic

What you are, the world is. And without your transformation, there can be no transformation of the world.

J. Krishnamurti

Everyone in a relationship or community is committed to their own self-transformation. We see ourselves as microcosms of the world, and work to shift oppressive patterns in our bodies, hearts, minds, speech, interactions, liberating ourselves into purpose, liberating our communities into new practices.

adrienne maree brown

And there is another way of going about things, in dealing with the mortal threats that our planet now faces, which is to consider, not what we do, but who we are.

Michael McCarthy

Course topics

1. Pack your bags: deepen your sense of agency and gain strength for the journey

What is the relationship between personal transformation and a better world?
Learn the difference between incremental change and transformation
Learn about the different stages people go through on the journey of transformation

Practice Set #1: Gain strength for the journey

Journal exercises
 Reframe the idea of “life’s journey” 

Let your social system help you recognize and claim your strength

Daily practice
 Create a place for reflection. Practice checking in and resourcing yourself in this moment

2. Develop night vision: increase your self-awareness and acceptance

Understand the forces that shape us
Learn the importance of self-awareness and unconditional acceptance
Understand the importance and components of self-compassion

Practice Set #2: Increase self-awareness and acceptance

Journal exercises
Explore the influence of your family history 

Self-compassion writing exercise

Daily practice
 Five minutes of mindful acceptance or free-writing

3. Work with your monkey mind: learn to see and question your beliefs

Understand how beliefs perpetuate themselves
Take a look into white supremacy culture
Look at how beliefs are formed and shifted

Practice Set #3: Shifting beliefs

Journal exercises
Use the ”ladder of inference” to unpack your judgments about someone else

Write through judgment into self-knowledge and empathy

Daily practice
 Keep a pain diary, question your beliefs

4. Calm your anacondas: working with strong emotion

 Understand what emotions are and why they matter
 Understand what is useful (or not) when working with emotions
 Dig deeper into understanding and working with fear

Practice Set #4: Working with strong emotions

Journal exercise
 Write through strong emotions to find their wisdom

Daily practice
 Body and emotions scan

 In-the-moment practice: practice the RAIN technique                 

5. Support the wounded elephant: working with past pain and shame

Understand trauma and healing: what it is, why it matters
Take a step toward the difficulty: choose a painful aspect of your personal or cultural past to work with

Practice Set #5: Transforming pain

Journal exercise
Explore the shadow side of your own identity and cultural history

Daily practice
Ritual: practice letting go of something tough
Self-acceptance, self-forgivenness, and resourcing

6. Learn the ancient language: become still and tap into your own wisdom

Understand why we need our inner compass and our cultural script
Accessing your inner compass: remember what truth feels like in the body
Explore practices that help us step into stillness

Practice Set #6: Deep listening

Journal exercises
Writing exercises to access your inner wisdom

Daily practice
Try different techniques to quiet your mind and let go of control

7. Flaunt those flamingos: nourishing your creative fire

Learn the conditions necessary for creative response to life
Learn how to work with your inner critic barring the way

Practice Set #7: Dig into your power

Journal exercise
Develop your rebuttal against your inner critic
Body Practice freewriting from your imagination
Take yourself on an artist’s date to rekindle a sense of wonder

Daily practice
Practice resting into this moment and entering it fully   

8. Wild joy: caring as a way of being

Set yourself up for success: a closing conversation on how to stay engaged in cultivating joy, committed to your own becoming, trusting the process, and surrounding yourself with supportive relationships and practices. Discuss how these practices can be applied to groups as you facilitate change.