Nina Lindsey, '06

St. Joseph the Worker, Phoeniz, AZ

Nina LindseyFour years ago, while attending Naropa, Nina's instructor asked her, "Why is the bodhisattva generous?" She answered honestly, that she didn't know the answer,  and made a smart-aleck remark -- "Because they don't have a choice." Everyone, including her instructor, thought it was a great answer. Nina never really understood why and didn't want to embarrass herself by telling people that she made it up. Over the last few years, she's been thinking about it and hoping that someday it might make sense.

About a month ago, Nina was in Los Angeles touring agencies on Skid Row. She was visiting Homeboy Industries and talking with Father Greg Boyle about all the different industries they've created to help employ people transitioning out of gangs. She inquired how they decided to start a cafe, bakery, and a silk-screening business to employ people who have difficulty finding work on their own such as people who've been incarcerated for years with multiple felonies. He said, "We didn't have a choice. We got tired of waiting for someone else to employ them." And, Nina finally got it! Being able to have such a tangible example of the bodhisattva path has opened her eyes and heart to some other perspectives and ways of "helping." It was a miraculous experience to say the least. And, in that moment, she realized how far reaching my Naropa education has been.

Since 2007, Nina has served as Program Manager at St. Joseph the Worker, located on the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix. St. Joseph works to assist homeless, low-income and other disadvantaged individuals in their efforts to become self-sufficient through permanent, full-time employment. Her role involves primarily supervising the direct care staff and volunteers, as well as program monitoring, evaluation, data collection and reporting results. "I utilize my background from my degree at Naropa everyday to help explain difficult situations to clients, staff, volunteers and the community. When doing my initial interview with Naropa, a professor told me that Naropa would give me the height to stand on the treetops so I could clearly see and survey all my options. He was right; I not only needed that skill personally at the time but I continue to use it each day in all of my relationships."

Todd Thillman, ’06

Todd ThillmanHospiceCare of Boulder and Broomfield Counties, CO

As a chaplain for HospiceCare of Boulder and Broomfield Counties, Todd Thillman understands the courage required to embrace both life and death without flinching—a willingness to remain nakedly empathetic and feel what others feel.

Todd had a sense of mutual ministry in the world early on—a phenomenon made even more obvious by children. “I have found parenting to be one of the most spiritual activities I have ever encountered. I have often heard it likened to the path of the Bodhisattva for you have to give yourself so completely to your child. In return, you get to engage with the pure energy of the child, which is continually giving back.”

In 1999, Todd spent five weeks tending to his mother before she died. “This event represented one of the most difficult and yet joyous experiences of my life, and it was very transformative. Todd ThillmanAfterwards, I realized that I wanted to work with the dying and that I wanted to do it spiritually.”

Todd’s wish led him to Naropa’s Master of Divinity program. “I knew Naropa was small, but I didn’t realize just how small! During my time there, I realized that this was part of its wondrous appeal. …I was suddenly surrounded by other people who allowed their hearts to play a key role in guiding them. The Naropa green, in front of the library, was one of my favorite places to congregate; I never knew who I would see or meet, nor what exhilarating conversations would arise from these encounters.”

“In chaplaincy, we are always working on leaving our own beliefs at the door, in order to support the patient/families’ beliefs …The interesting thing about a contemplative or ecumenical approach is that it draws from wisdom that is very grounded in everyday experience. Because of this, it can be used to touch anyone, anywhere, no matter what the religious beliefs. It is about the human experience and it creates a meeting point where we can come together and support one another ...Through my meditation practice, I have learned ways to be with my own suffering and to embrace it. I have learned that it won’t destroy me. In turn, I can then offer this experience to other.”