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Neema Caughran

Residency Sites: Plainfield, VT

What I call “radical inclusivity” is my commitment to life.  I seek to break down the walls that separate “us” and “them:” one from another, culture from culture, religion from religion, community from community; and at the same time to respect the integrity and wisdom found in every expression of life on this planet, from plants and animals to differing human communities and cultures, and finally to differing personal ideas, beliefs, and practices. I cannot say I as yet fulfill this commitment completely.  We all have lifetimes of conditioning that need examining because they impede living in true compassion and gratitude. Learning and growing never ends.
As this goal has evolved in the course of my life I have developed my critical and intuitive thinking about cultural and applied anthropology, the histories of colonialism and neo-colonialism and international “development,” world religions, feminism, and art making: earning various graduate degrees in Psychology/Art Therapy, Anthropology, and World Religion. My global view began at the tender age of 12 years when I moved with my family from our insular life in Lincoln, Nebraska to Lahore, Pakistan.  South Asia calls me still and I have since lived several times India and Nepal for never less than a year at a time.  I have experienced first hand in many cultural settings the damage that is done when we try to “understand” another way of being by co-opting what we assume to be their beliefs and practices, or to “help” or “convert” others to our beliefs and practices, no matter how well meaning we may be.
We all tell stories and we have since the beginning of language, art, music, etc. We each tell stories about how the world works, who we are, and who we want to become, about the societies and cultures we live in, and those we don’t.  The folklore of our everyday identities is shaped and reshaped continuously.  The words we use to describe ourselves all have stories behind them.  I am a healer, an artist, an activist, a writer, a scholar, a contemplative monk without the cloistered walls.   I have worn many “hats”: starving artist in NYC, massage therapist/healer, psychological counselor and art therapist, ethnographer in Varanasi, India, executive director of a non-profit, consultant for USAID in international development, co-founder of a free integrative health clinic in Tucson Arizona serving mostly undocumented immigrants, faculty member, and minister of a small interfaith center. Each one of these experiences has taught me about "situated knowing".
I love to ask questions that take me deeper into the meaning of life.  I love entertaining your questions.  I learn so much from my students. I believe there are no all-encompassing “answers” to the big questions.  Each of us must forge our own path and we inspire others while doing so.  I revel in the mystery of life.

Educational Background:

PhD in Cultural Anthropology, Syracuse University; MDiv in Contemplative Interfaith Theology, Prescott College Interfaith Theological Seminary; MA in Psychology and Art Therapy, Antioch University/Seattle; BA in Anthropology, Syracuse University.