Soul-Stirring Work: An Interview with Sarri Gilman

About the Transform Your Boundaries Workshop


Friday, February 2 through Sunday, February 4

Tuition and Fees

Tuition: $300 for those paying their own way; $375 for those supported by a business or organization.

Tuition starts at $275 with earlybird discount.

Fees: $325 for onsite lodging, meals, and facilities use; $225 for meals and facilities use by those lodging offsite.

Discounts: $25 earlybird discount through January 5; $25 discount for each person registering in a group of three or more with a single transaction.

Learn More & Register

We’re excited to welcome author, psychotherapist, Cocoon House founder, and South Whidbey resident Sarri Gilman to the Whidbey Institute in February for the Transform Your Boundaries® Workshop, designed to create better lives, better work, and a better world through our relationships to our boundaries. I had a chance to talk to Sarri last week to learn more about her and the work. Here’s our conversation. —Marnie Jackson

Marnie: Can you tell me about your background, especially as it prepared you to hold this work?
Sarri: If you were to look at my background, you might wonder how the path led here. I have been a psychotherapist for 32 years. I founded two nonprofits and ran nonprofits for 20 years. It was an essential part of my background and education about humanity. I also taught community leadership development to people from business, the nonprofit sector, and government for seven years. I would say that no matter what I was doing, boundary development was the heart of everything. It has always been part of my work and my story.

Boundary development—helping others understand and grow their boundaries—has been the center of my work for several decades. Boundaries come up in every aspect of our lives, our work, and our communities. How we find our way through, figure out our yes and no, is a process. I realized I was going over that process—that path—over and over with many people. Figuring out how to help people find their way was a bit like drawing a map as you are taking a very long walk.

In 2012, I wrote down the process that seemed to help people the most. That became the map for my work in workshops and the framework for my book, Transform Your Boundaries. My second book, Naming and Taming Overwhelm, has also grown from a similar process. I have been taking notes on what overwhelm is, what helps, and what doesn’t help for many years.

The greatest influence on how I work has come from the people I have worked with. From them, I learned what helps . . . and I learned that boundaries and overwhelm are connected.

Finally, I have always been a student of trauma. I spent many years understanding trauma. Before there was a field called trauma informed care or even Internet access, I called researchers and asked as much as I could about the subject in order to integrate what they were learning into my work.

What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I am deeply moved and inspired by peacemakers. I have always read and listened to stories about peacemaking. I never expected to personally understand my own relationship to peacemaking, but a doorway opened for me when I realized my calling was to understand and teach about boundaries and overwhelm recovery. I find myself very humbled to have insight and a calling that relates to peacemaking. I have been talking about boundaries my whole life, and I didn’t realize how it connected to the peacemakers until I wrote it all down and began teaching the process in a more formal way.

I would say the people whose lives I carry in my heart as inspiration include the Dalai Lama, Golda Meir, Thich Nhat Hanh, Virginia Satir, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, and my husband. Dogs have also been my constant companions and inspiration.

Can you give me examples of the types of challenges or issues that boundary work can help with?
Boundary work is an awareness practice. It helps with any relationship to understand your boundaries and those of other people. The irony is you feel more connected to people when you have boundaries. It helps you increase your self-care and enables you to recognize very challenging situations and walk through them with grace—and, after much practice, with ease.

After experiencing this program and taking the work to heart, what kind of changes might someone start to see in their own life?
Increased self-care, much clearer agreements with people at work and at home, and an ability to navigate very big challenges without being crushed or burdened by them. In our times, more and more challenges are coming at greater speed toward us and these skills are essential.

Who stands to benefit the most from participating in this program?
People are drawn to workshops with me for a variety of reasons. I always tailor the workshop to fit what people are seeking in their lives and help them get to their next steps. The workshop is structured so that there is plenty to take from it. You will leave with enough to work on for the next year or for your lifetime.

This workshop will be beneficial for people who are seeing a need for more boundaries, and who feel a bit inspired and a bit uncomfortable with the word. People who are struggling with their own boundaries or or with someone else’s. People in leadership roles, who really need these essential skills for navigating through the challenges of these times. People who want to make change, and make a better world. People who feel a loss of connection or intimacy. People who want more joy in their lives. People who want to deepen their connection to their own innate wisdom and that of others.

Why does the Whidbey Institute appeal to you as a home for this work?
People have been requesting a weekend immersion for a few years. I was not offering it because I believe certain elements must be in place before we can settle in for an effective weekend immersion. Whidbey Institute has all the essential elements—an intentionally well-designed space for reflection, an intimate connection to nature, food prepared with attention individual dietary needs, warmth, and comfort. This space enhances a sense of community because that is core to what the Whidbey Institute is about—it’s a setting that helps you feel more connected, where your senses come awake. All of these elements are essential to connecting within, and that is essential for boundary awareness. The space will support you are you do this immersion.

Can you share some feedback you’ve received about your programs?
I hear from many people who have taken workshops with me that this work has changed their lives. It is soul-stirring work. People have been surprised by how much they emerge with that they can use right away, and how much the work stayed with them after the workshop. Most people have commented that they wished my single-day workshops were longer and I’ve had a lot of demand for a weekend offering. Often, people stay in touch after a workshop and I get updates from them about how the work unfolds in their lives. I get beautiful thank you notes. People are very touched by how safe they feel in the room, and often comment that they learned so much.

What kind of experience should a participant expect?
There will be storytelling, reflecting, writing, art, sharing. There will be learning, aha moments, laughter, and some tears. Doing this work in a group accelerates your learning.

December 13, 2017

People & Partners