This post describes a course that happened in the past. We’re putting the description on our blog for two reasons:

  • If the topics and approach resonate with your work, we want to say, “Hello family! Happy to compare notes and talk shop any time.”
  • If this sounds like something you’d like to explore for your own community or organization, let’s talk!”

Past Course

A Liberated Life

Practices for leading with all you've got

Hanna du Plessis and I Medina Jackson, instructor-facilitators

Pittsburgh is racially divided, and finding a cross-race community that supports your growth is rare. We gathered a mixed-race cohort for fifteen weeks to learn and practice being with strong emotion, pain and trauma, genuine relationship, and creative expression.

Click the CC icon under the video to turn on captions. 

In this video, Medina and Hanna discuss the concept of “a liberated life,” talk about what it means to “practice” the skills we need for such a life, and offer an overview of the course experience.

This gathering is over, but we offer the full description below as both documentation and invitation. If you would like to hold a version of A Liberated Life in your organization, please contact us. Use the “Subscribe” button on our contact page to be notified when we hold a similar event in the future.

Where did you learn to be your full self?

Where did you learn to stand tall, inhabiting every inch of your body? To stand strong, even when you feel the darkest dread or fiery rage? To speak up despite the fear in your belly? To tap into the ancient aqueducts of stillness so you can rest even when the world feels ablaze? To create boldly using all the gifts that only you can give? To listen to yourself so that you know the season you are in?

If you are anything like us, you were not taught these things. Instead, you were taught to conform. To feel a little less. To put your anger aside. To keep busy so you can avoid discomfort. To do what is expected of you, and certainly not to follow your joy.

This course exists to help you find your way back to yourself—all of yourself. The world needs to come alive again, and it starts with each of us waking up from the numbing belief that we are powerless and stepping into our full selves.

This course can be transforming if you…

 Feel stuck in habitual responses to life’s challenges and seek to show up with more authenticity

 Desire to embrace your wholeness and create more authentic relationships, in the embrace of a multicultural community of folks on a similar journey

 Benefit from having accountability and structure to learn practices that will result in lasting change

What you'll get from this course

The following quotes are from past participants’ feedback surveys and statements during end-of-course celebrations. 

Develop new personal skills

Course activities draw from the arts, mindfulness, theater, personal development, and more, and combine to help you practice skills of being genuine with yourself in the company of others.

“I learned to see the beliefs that had me boxed in.”

“I’ve learned that I can hold all of my emotions in my body.”

“I’ve learned to get unstuck from pain.”

“I’ve learned to create safe space for myself, and to spend more time with myself.”

Take time to practice and internalize your learning

We take our time, so you can increase your competence and confidence in essential new skills. The length and pace of the course–eight sessions over 15 weeks–is designed to help you internalize new practices.

“I’ve learned to prioritize taking time for myself.”

“I’m learning how to relax, how to heal, how to express.”

“I’ve learned to find my vulnerability and be comfortable in it.”

Learn a grounded state of being and begin to internalize it

The course provides practices to ground you in your body, help you see your worth and show up with more confidence.

“I have more self-confidence. I’m not so apologetic.”

“I have learned to love myself again.”

“I feel more grounded, less anxious. More whole, less scattered.”

“I’ve learned that I am enough. This space helped me be enough for myself, and we were enough for each other.”

Experience welcoming community and grow your network of support

We provide a comfortable, welcoming place. The people who show up come from different backgrounds and races and are genuinely interested in becoming their best selves. Together we learn what it means to create selves and community where all of each of us and everyone belongs.

“It is profound to do vulnerable work in a group like this. It was a different experience for me–we had such a deep level of trust with one another. It has really changed me.”

“By bringing together a phenomenal range of people who were ready to dive into this work, we created a safe container for genuine sharing.”

Meet your host-instructors

Medina Jackson

Medina Jackson, M.S.W., is the director of engagement for The P.R.I.D.E. Program (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education) at the University of Pittsburgh, a spoken word and Hip Hop artist, blogger, mama, community educator and 2017 Pittsburgh Magazine 40 Under 40 honoree.

Hanna du Plessis

This course draws from over eight years of Hannah’s study, practice and teaching, as she has lived and worked into her own journey of development. She teaches in two “social innovation” graduate programs, and is a principal at Fit Associates. Read more of her story and see her relevant writings on her bio page.


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 mischievous 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.