Difficult Decisions in Difficult Times
August 3 – September 25
We all have decisions to make, and some of them are just really hard.
These days, even one conundrum can be fraught with consequence. You make choices that affect health, employment, caring for your children, and showing up to relationships, just to name a few.
Choices have consequences that ripple out from you to ones you love and into your larger communities.
It’s not simple pro-con lists that you need at these times. Rather, everyone needs a deep sense of guidance…guidance to access the Deepest, Wisest parts of ourselves.
We need to know that we’re not in this—this time, these questions, this life—alone. Support and care is available. None of us are alone.
And this August and September, I want to know that I can be with you on this journey. Beginning August 3, and continuing for eight weeks, Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment will be a shared journey.
My profound hope for Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment is to offer you eight weeks of learning how to trust in yourself, your intuition, and your connection to what is most sacred to you.
My intention during Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment is that the principles, methods, and tools we use will help as you face really challenging decisions.
My desire in Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment is to help you connect with your own Deepest, Wisest Self and therefore to what is most sacred and reliable in your life.
I hope that you will come out of Making Hard Choices with the sure knowledge that you are not alone.
What is Making Hard Choices?
Most simply, Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment is an eight-week course with new discernment topics each week. We use methods “sacred and secular” to learn how to make reliable decisions. Through a range of methods, we learn to ask the right questions, trust our hearts and bodies as well as our minds, and use specific techniques from various traditions.
Discernment is not easy work. It’s not even always gentle. Discovering what we really, most deeply want can call into question whole swaths of how our lives are put together now. Discernment can confront us with the decisions – often non-decision choices – we’ve made, just to get along, to let circumstances catch up with us, or just not take responsibility for our choices.
There’s no reason to feel bad about having made (or not made) decisions that way. We’ve all done it. But you don’t have to keep doing it.
Sometimes, you realize you want something different. Sometimes you really do want to dare to listen to your deepest, wisest self. Sometimes you want to know what is written in the deepest desires of your heart.
What are those desires the hand of Spirit has written in your heart?
Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment is here to help you learn how you can move toward fulfilling those things—those needs, desires, and longings that are most important to you.
Who am I?
I am Catharine Clarenbach, a queer, white, fat femme, and I hope to support you as you learn to make better, more reliable decisions.
I have over 35 years of conscious engagement in spiritual and religious communities. I cannot remember a time when I did not yearn for the Source of Love. Drinking from the holy place that is the Wellspring of Life, always seeking to fall deeper and deeper into the embrace of the One and Many—Male, Female, All, and None…these are images that come to mind when I consider the purpose of my life.
Pertinent to this course, in particular, I have been studying discernment since 1999, when I first encountered some of its formal practices while I was studying with the Sisters of St. Joseph. I have been fascinated with practices of discernment ever since.
I was first initiated as a priestess in the Tradition of Stone Circle Wicca in 1999, and I completed my studies and was initiated into the last level of priestesshood in 2006. I entered Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC in 2010 and was ordained into the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 2015. I live with my wife and two elder statescats in Portland, OR, where I am also the affiliated community minister for the West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Through my online ministry, The Way of the River, I help spiritual seekers who desire deepening of heart, soul, and understanding – with a focus on working with marginalized people of all faiths and none.
Is This Course for You?
Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment may be right for you if
- you have made decisions more often than you’d like by not deciding, instead letting external events “choose for you;”
- you have some time before you must make an important decision – one that is right before you;
- you have a tendency to “poll” those around you, never secure in your own deep knowledge and guidance;
- you struggle to access your own deep guidance, but you long to know and trust it;
- finally, you simply want more tools to help make good decisions for your family, your work, your health, and your happiness in the future.
Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment may not be right for you now if
- you have an urgent, time-sensitive question and must make an immediate decision;
- you’re expecting to use tools perfectly right away, and thereby never to make a wrong turn ever again;
- finally, if you feel unsure, don’t rush; give yourself some time to think.
If you know that you want to work together on the difficult decisions in your life, Join Now and jump down the page for the nuts-and-bolts and Pay-from-the-Heart registration.
When Will This Course Help You?
This may seem like a strange question. If you take a course, you expect it to help you!
But Making Hard Choices is a little bit different.
Learner-teachers (students who engage with me, the teacher-learner) tell me again and again how Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment comes back to help them months and even a year or two later. Tools from the class that didn’t “click” for them when we went over them in class come back to help them after months of integration.
This course is not one-and-done. It is not something you’ll integrate right away but is rather an approach that will change how you approach hard choices for the rest of your life.
Imagine knowing that you have the skills to ask the right questions and use the right tools to figure out which way to go with a difficult decision.
Imagine the confidence and joy of knowing you’ve made a focused, wholehearted decision.
It truly is possible – and together, we may be able to come to a place where you can make decisions, trust them, and learn how to look for confirmation of their rightness in your life.
I have been using Tarot for my spiritual practice for a few years now. Taking Catharine’s Tarot for Discernment opened that practice in many new ways. Learning about different ways to interpret cards, different spreads for different questions, and working with others to interpret readings made Tarot even more accessible to me. I’ve even shared some of the techniques with others. The online environment that Catharine creates feels very safe and inviting. Her style is encouraging but never pressuring. Because of the safe space, I felt more open to exploring and sharing with the group. I highly recommend this course for anyone looking for new tools, new ways of looking at the world, or looking to deepen their spiritual journey. – Beth Irikura
What Does Making Hard Choices Include?
All the material in Making Hard Choices is recorded, and you may take the class as many times as you like. You do not have to go through the material in eight weeks. Take the time you need.
Module One: Getting to the Question – starts August 3
One of the biggest stumbling blocks or barriers to a well-discerned decision is not having the real question. Not knowing what you really need or most long for. Another barrier is believing we already know what a “good answer” might look like. To address these limiting beliefs, we dive right into the most important concepts of the course: cultivating a willingness to be surprised, seeking “holy indifference,” and learning interior freedom. These are concepts that help you get to your real questions. Often, getting into what you really long for, without the expectation that you know how your needs and desires might be fulfilled, is the most important part of discernment. We return throughout the course to contemplating these foundations of deep, reliable decision-making.
Module Two: The Lists – starts August 10
Two of the most important tools I have ever learned to use in my practice of discernment, along with a consistent practice of seeking interior freedom, are simple lists. Lists can help you tell a clearer story of what you long for, need, and what is a clear dealbreaker. They can also help you refine your questions, those deeper inquiries into living toward answers.
One of our lists is a simple, weighted pro-con list. Nothing fancy, maybe just something you jot down on a napkin or make a grid for on a whiteboard. The other reflects back to you what you really hope for, not what you think you should or what others might say, but what you need.
Module Three: The Body Scan and Qualities of Desire – starts August 17
Effective techniques often ask your body and imagination for help. This week, we explore some of the concepts of The Perfect Day, which I strongly advise you to sign up for here. (It’s free and includes a subscription to my love letters, Reflections.) We’ll practice, with respect for different relationships to our body, asking how our body says “yes,” and how our body says “no” when we bring up ideas. We’ll also work more on what we most long for, what it feels like to have, and how we imagine it will change our lives.
Module Four: Confirmation – starts August 24
Once you’ve made a decision, how do you know it’s right for you? What are the signs, both internal and external, that you have embraced interior freedom and allowed yourself to be led by your Deepest, Wisest Self?
We’ll explore these questions and some examples of confirmation over the course of this week. Continuing to seek interior freedom is essential in this time, because it’s so easy to feel as though, “Eureka! I have the answer!” and then realize that what you have found is not the whole puzzle. In Week Four, we look at ways to find out where you feel complete and your answer solid, as well as where you have new questions that may have emerged from your initial inquiries.
Module Five: Integration – starts August 31
All along the way, I’ll be encouraging you to take integration time. Attempting to make big changes without integration time rarely lets those changes take root in your life. In Office Hours for this week, we’ll have open question and guidance time to talk about anything that has come up for you over the previous weeks.
Module Six: Introduction to Tarot – starts September 8
The last three weeks of our class are lighter than the earlier weeks of Making Hard Choices. In these weeks, we study Tarot, my invaluable friend and guide for over twenty-five years. There is absolutely no need for you to have studied Tarot or any kind of divination before to benefit from these last three weeks. This week we explore the question, “What am I missing?” and how Tarot will help us get to that answer. As with the remaining two classes, this week will be split into two live calls when we can talk about the shape or layout of a reading and then share collective reading time together.
Module Seven: The Three-Card Layout – starts September 15
Thanks to one of our comrades in the original iteration of this teaching, we have several ways to look at what choosing a simple layout of three cards.
Each card sits in a particular position of meaning. The three cards may represent Tools I Have, A Tool I Need, and A Tool I Need to Ask For; or How Can I Frame Yesterday, What Lesson Should I Be on the Lookout for Today, and What Pitfall May Present Itself. We may also enter into the practice of developing a word or phrase that comes from simply contemplating the images on the cards. In module Seven, we practice the differences between reading for one another and reading for oneself.
Module Eight: WTAF?! – starts September 22
Thanks to Interrobang, a noted Tarot blogger and gifted reader, we have the layout called, most simply, “WTAF?!” Each letter and punctuation mark has significance, and each one, as in the reading in Week Seven, relates to the others. Again, we’ll work together in two live calls to learn how to use this layout for the good, not only of ourselves, but for the other learner-teachers in the course. We’ll also have a third call not just for questions and guidance, but also to play together, practicing reading all together as a shared intuitive exercise.
Now that you have a sense of what we’ll be doing, if you’re clear you want to join us, Join Now to jump to Pay-from-the-Heart registration.
How Making Hard Choices is Structured
For the first five weeks, we will share
- A lesson delivered to our shared virtual classroom every weekday, with a video or audio presentation, sometimes with a downloadable PDF worksheet to reinforce that day’s topic or activity;
- A close-knit, closed Facebook group to share your experiences with me, your classmates, and alumni of the course who have elected to return to take the course;
- “Office Hours” with me twice per week (tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning – Pacific and Thursday afternoon – Pacific). We’ll meet through the Zoom platform so you can go back to recordings of office hours if you weren’t able to attend or there’s something you want to spend more time with;
- A list of poems, reflections, and other readings for you to take with you and work with during and long after our time together ends;
- And, if you so choose, any time after our class has begun, you may sign up for an additional, discounted hour-long call with me to talk through your experience, the choices you’re trying to sift through, the tools that have surfaced regularly, and anything else that comes up as a result of your work throughout the course.
During the last three weeks of the course
- As you integrate what has gone before, we will share live calls which will be recorded for the benefit of those who cannot join us for the teaching and sharing.
- Each week, we will have one recorded “content” call on Zoom, during which I will introduce the layout, or reading, for that week.
- In office hours, we’ll discuss the material together—how you’ve used the layout, what emerged for you over the week, whether or not you found that particular reading helpful, etc.
- You’ll have access to all six recordings and may download them to keep. That way, if, say, you miss a content call, you can watch it at your leisure and still participate fully in the following discussion call. Or if you know you’re going to be away one of the weeks, you’ll still have the benefit of the content and discussion calls, both.
- You’ll receive a PDF each week for you to download and print out as a guide to our reading of the week. Again, this is material I’m giving you to keep and use again and again.
- Just as with the earlier weeks of Making Hard Choices, we’ll be together in our closed Facebook group so that you can bring up questions or observations. The idea is that all of us come together to share what we know. I am the teacher-learner, and students are learner-teachers. We are all in this together.
- The weeks of the course in which we study Tarot will use the same intuitive skills that are part of Making Hard Choices. Those last three weeks are an opportunity to put into practice one specific tool that is flexible enough to use in different ways at different times.
- Again, if you’re very familiar with Tarot, be welcome and feel free to bring your experience! If you’re not, get yourself a deck, and join in with gusto! The only requirement is that you be willing to learn a discernment tool that leans heavily on your own intuition. Tarot never tells you something you don’t already know, deep in your own, Wisest Self. So consider learning or honing your skills in finding out what that Self is saying, learn what you’re missing, what you need to know, dare, and do!
I found this course to be extremely helpful. It’s a multi-faceted approach in that one is not simply thinking through options and magically selecting one at the end. While magic might be a part of the formulae, Catharine Buck Claranbach infuses a variety of tools to assist in this process. She conveys that any decision requires an intentional somatic check-in. She does this by spending a considerable amount of time employing exercises that assist in “listening” to the body. This process was the most valuable to me in that it challenged me to get out of my head and to take a deeper dive.
Coupled with excellent readings and other deep dive exercises, Catharine creates an experience where one can take these tools with them after the course has ended. I still find myself reviewing my journal and other notes related to the course. Finally and probably the most astonishing benefit of the course is that insights into my choice continue to unfold more than two years later. The choice that I had to make changed over time but the core understanding of HOW I got to that choice has not. I still always start with “the greatest desire of my heart” and see what emerges from there.
This course continues to be an essential tool in my discernment process and Catharine did an excellent job crafting this experience that I continue to revisit again and again. – Jack Mandeville
What Is This Pay-from-the-Heart Stuff?
At it’s simplest, Pay-from-the-Heart is a three-tiered system of payment.
For those of you who are Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color, I invite you to choose this lowest tier of payment. This also goes for members of the LGBTQIA community, people with disabilities, and single parents. If you need to pay in the lowest tier, please do so. There is no application, and I need no “proof” of any kind that you intend to pay this rate.
The “Sustainable Price” for Making Hard Choices is the middle tier. This is the tier for those of you with the resources to pay a bit more.
The third tier is for those of you who want to support my having a lower price for others. And indeed, if you wish to bolster the ministry of The Way of the River and pay more for the eight-week course than the price above, please do contact me, and I’ll happily invoice you for a higher amount.
The second charge for the two-payment option will be fourteen days after the first charge. The first charge will be when you register for the course.
And back to that first tier: I really mean it. No course is worth threatening health or shelter. If you have a wholehearted “YES!” to this offering, but you are not able to pay the full $100, please contact me at the email below, and we’ll figure something out.
Similarly, as some of you know, I have offered this material in the past for much more money than I am charging this year. If you are able, if your job is secure, if you have the means, I do invite you, as well, to contact me to make a higher payment in accordance with your wholehearted YES!
Still have questions?
Please send an email to email@example.com and I’ll personally answer your questions.
I so look forward to working with you!