A talk titled, “Cultural Preservation and Looking Forward,” will be delivered by Rev. Ted Wiard and Professor of Religious Studies Mirabai Starr, Wednesday (Oct. 10), 6:30 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is free and the public is invited.
This is the final presentation in the annual Taos Lecture Series, sponsored jointly by the University of New Mexico-Taos and Southern Methodist University-in-Taos.
It was through the death of a brother, his wife and two daughters — all within a short time span — that Wiard plummeted into the turbulent waters of loss. From his own need for outside support, he said he realized there was little to be found. As he began to rebuild his own life, Wiard was called to find ways to support others through their grieving. Golden Willow Retreat arose from these ashes.
Today, Wiard is a certified grief counselor and founder and director of Golden Willow Retreat Center, an emotional healing center located in Arroyo Hondo. Its mission is “to provide a safe and compassionate refuge and to offer support and education for individuals, families, and communities who are experiencing grief and loss.”
Starr says she was born to a secular Jewish family in New York in 1961, and raised in Taos. As a teenager, Starr studied inter-faith spirituality at the Lama Foundation, north of Taos.
Both speakers grew up in Taos, and their paths have intertwined on many occasions. When they were in their early 20s, they both taught at the old Taos Valley School.
Starr’s daughter, Jenny, was good friends with Wiard’s two daughters. When the sisters died in a car accident, Starr and her daughter attended their funeral together. A few years later, in 2001, Starr published her first book “Night of the Soul.” On the day the book was released, Starr’s daughter was killed in a car accident.
Starr left Taos to find her bearings. She was at the ocean shore when she received an unexpected call from Wiard. “I remember sitting on that beach not being able to breathe and Ted called me. I don’t know how he found me,” Starr remembered. “Ted was the net that caught me in my free fall. I was his first client.”
Wiard established his private practice in Taos after having worked at the Betty Ford Center, and is also a therapist and Clinical Supervisor with TeamBuilders Counseling Services.
He writes a bi-weekly column in The Taos News and helped create a book and video titled, ”Crossing Bridges: Tools for Teenage Caregivers.” He also co-authored ”Witnessing Ted, The Journey to Potential through Grief and Loss.”
Since 1993, Starr has been an adjunct professor of philosophy and world religions at the UNM-Taos. As an author, her books have included new translations of the Spanish mystics. Her most recent book, “God of Love,” explores the God of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
With both knowing and working, firsthand, through tremendous loss, Wiard asked Starr if she would consider training to become a bereavement group facilitator. She agreed, and in the years since, the two have become known in the Taos community for their support of those in the midst of grief.
For their lecture, Starr and Wiard plan to speak on how crisis can at times facilitate resiliency and spiritual transformation. Starr will share an overview of common guidelines various religions offer us for how to care for humankind, the earth and our relationship to the divine. Wiard will discuss the different aspects that comprise the grief process and the importance of conscious grieving to facilitate emotional healing, spiritual growth and the ability to reconnect to the world and live with passion.
For more information on the lecture, call (575) 758-4677 or visit www.taoslecture.com.