Hello, friends! I’m Karly, the founder and steward of this labor of love, what my husband named ‘Growing Humankindness’ one afternoon in a flash of inspiration. I help people who self soothe with food and who want to be more compassionate with themselves – especially the places where they feel they’ve fallen short.
When we experience trauma, rupture, or loss, we need support and holding to process our fear and pain. Without sufficient support, our nervous systems move in to protect us. These protections, rooted in goodness, become the ‘not beautiful’ coping strategies – the addictions, defenses, compulsions, and obsessions – that fill us with shame and self loathing.
In my own life, my harbors include soothing myself in food, perfectionism, overgiving and overresponsibility, isolation, and depression. These vulnerabilities continue to teach and soften me, and bring me home again and again to our shared human life.
I help people understand and forgive their protectors so they can come into a kinder relationship with them, soften shame, and support them in gently falling away.
Growing Humankindness arose from two things: from my own journey through multiple eating disorders, chronic depression, and anxiety, and from bending my knee to listen to others' healing journeys.
If I had to describe in a sentence how Growing Humankindness offers her particular medicine to the world, it would be thus: may we soften our hearts towards what we fear, misunderstand, and shame in ourselves and in each other.
The word that best conveys this is respect, which means to 'see again, to regard in a new way, or to see with new eyes.' As mystic John O' Donohue said, 'When we approach things with reverence, they have powerful ways of approaching us.' And so I wonder: what rises to meet us when we offer reverence to those things that we most fear? Breath by breath, my wish is that we may embody our wholeness and live from this knowing.
I believe that listening to each other's stories and witnessing the vulnerable courage of each other is one of the most powerful ways we can soften what divides us, both within and without. And so I bend my knee towards these stories in many forms.
I write poems and essays about grief, love, healing and connection at O Nobly Born, create books and courses, give presentations and speak to groups, facilitate classes and steward a membership community of soul divers. All my offerings carry my yearning for compassion – that none of us are left out or behind – and gratitude for my lineage.
Back in my mid 20s, when I was looking for support for my eating disorders, I was also a young mother. Motherhood provided the perfect context to learn about my relationship with food. As I read books and took parenting classes, I started to glimpse my own trauma and better understand my wounds. I remember thinking, "What my kids need I need too!"
I've spent the past 20 years studying developmental psychology, attachment theory, and relational neuroscience to better understand what lies underneath food compulsions and how we can support their healing. (You can read more about my teachers below.) I've also been a student of spirituality, meditation and contemplative practice these past 25 years. I was raised Christian, and then dove into the waters of Buddhism, Sufism and my relationship with the earth and the Divine Mother. All of these paths have claimed me, and I'm their grateful student. These pillars - developmental psychology and presence, mixed with the perfume of self compassion - are the foundation of my work.
I offer this home in service to all who've felt the shame of human stumbling and who yearn for wholeness, to a desire for a more just and loving world, and to deepen our shared connectedness. Underneath all my work you'll find a love for the human heart.
I live in Austin, Texas on the land of the Tonkawa, Apache, and Comanche people, Peace and Blessings be upon them, with my husband Patrick and our family, our Bailey pups, a very frisky cat, and radiant oak trees. I love connecting with people, sitting in the Silence, reading and writing poetry, good stories, good music, good food, lifting heavy things, making as much as possible with my hands, playing Scrabble, and taking long, meandering walks with my animals.
My dreams are rooted in the hearts of my mothers and fathers, my grandmothers and grandfathers, both those of blood and those of friendship who've taught me what it means to be human: to grow things in the soil, to make things with my hands, to live in community, to live simply, to serve life, to love fiercely, to offer freely, to receive with gratitude, to protect what is vulnerable, to ask for help, to listen, to speak the truth, to feast, to face conflict, to create beauty, to praise, to forgive often, to dream, to laugh, to dance, to grieve, to mourn, and to celebrate life.
Their eldering has helped me through both my darkest hours and my joys, and has helped me reclaim my love of life through many rounds of crippling depression, anxiety and despair. Their companionship, love, and wisdom is seeded throughout Growing Humankindness, the soil that feeds us here. The mistakes I make in translating their wisdom are my own.
I hope you feel their footfalls.
How to work with me
If you want support to soften a compulsive relationship with food, kindly go to this page here, where you can explore my offerings. We offer home study courses that you can begin at any time, 2-3 cohort group classes a year, and an intimate support group, our sangha of the heart.
Speaking, teaching and training
I offer speaking and training to understand the roots of food compulsions, soften shame, and nurture a more connected world. I'm a passionate advocate for softening the stigma of human suffering in our institutions, schools, spiritual communities, psychological models, and communities.
Dreaming aloud together + partnerships
I love to collaborate with contemplatives, artists, writers, teachers, poets, psychoeducators, community organizers, and facilitators to create beautiful mischief together. I'm especially interested in restoring our fractured relationships with our bodies and our earth.
Poetry and writing
I write a reader supported newsletter, filled with poems and essays about healing, motherhood, gratitude, grief, and beauty at O Nobly Born: The Letters of Growing Humankindness. You can sign up for these letters here.
I have several books in process, including a book version of When Food is Your Mother - a long dreamed for wish.
My teachers and lineage + the foundation of my approach
I offer a bow of gratitude to my lineage and to those who've blessed me with their teaching and wisdom. My approach draws from three primary wells:
- Attachment theory and relational neuroscience, especially the work of my beloved mentors, Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Bonnie Badenoch
- Self compassion
- And Loving Presence - what's nurtured by practices from many spiritual and wisdom traditions
I'm especially drawn to the intermingling, healing waters of relational neuroscience and mystical waters of Divine Love. To my ears, these rivers speak the same language of connection and arise from and lead to the same ocean, the spark of life within.
Many have blessed me with their offerings, but a few stand out in how their work has personally impacted me, shaped my thinking and perceiving, and touched me. I honor their great hearts. All mistakes in interpreting their work are my own.
- Bonnie Badenoch, trauma trainer, therapist and teacher of interpersonal neurobiology, author, The Heart of Trauma
- Tara Brach, meditation teacher, therapist, and author, Radical Compassion, True Refuge and Radical Acceptance
- My teachers on death, grief, culture, and human making, Stephen Jenkinson and Nathalie Roy
- Dr. Gordon Neufeld, theorist, developmental psychologist, man of great wisdom, and all my teachers at the Neufeld Institute
- Abby Seixas, my first mentor, a therapist, meditation teacher, and author of Finding the Deep River Within
- Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand Parenting and creator of Listening Partnerships
I've also been moved and helped by my Sufi teachers, especially Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and Holly Glaser and Mark Silver of Heart of Business, the gorgeous work of Stephen Harrod Buhner, my daily practice of Centering Prayer, Eugene Gendlin's Focusing, Soul Collage, Internal Family Systems, elder Malidoma Somé and his invitation into the ancestors, and the researchers, scientists, and seekers who've helped us understand trauma, including Peter Levine, Gabor Maté, Stephen Porges, and Bessel van der Kolk. And I can't forget Montessori elder Maureen Bright, who first opened my eyes, and who was my children's beloved teacher, and mine.
Lastly, I offer my endless gratitude to the poets, story tellers, mystics and artists of all forms - Rumi and Hafiz, Mary Oliver and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, William Stafford and Naomi Shahib Nye, Rilke and Hildegard of Bingen - and so many others who are too countless to name.
Bless them all.
May you feel their presence, wisdom and guidance here.