Thank You Thursdays: Karen Kisslinger

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and mentor Karen Kisslinger died. Ever since I heard the news, I’ve been remembering some of my favorite moments with Karen–an acupuncturist, teacher, writer, organic gardener, artist, and activist. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the ways in which I’ve been blessed with so many different mentors who let me into their lives and essentially said, “Here Courtney, this is how I make sense of the world in my own little way. This is how I structure the overwhelming wealth of family, friends, work, care taking, day dreaming, eating, moving, and creating that is life.”
I want to thank Karen for teaching me the following about “composing a life,” as Mary Catherine Bateson so wisely puts it:
1. Eat miso soup for breakfast.
2. Take tiny moments out of every day to move slowly, really experience your own body, your own life.
3. Don’t settle for the status quo. You don’t have to be numb. You don’t have to tolerate anxiety or busyness or overwhelm. Make your own life.
4. Breastfeed.
5. Be bold. Life’s short.
6. Move your body as much as possible. Especially between the hours of 11 and 2 when there is much-needed Vitamin D to soak up.
7. You will do everything you can to be healthy and it might not be enough. Do it anyway.
8. Love and prioritize your family fiercely.
9. Collaborate and create whenever possible.
10. Teach without attachment.
Thank you Karen. I’ll miss you but your presence will always be with me–every time I slow down, speak boldly, or do something as simple as get up from the computer and stretch my legs. Feel free to add your own lessons on composing a life from your mentors and friends in comments.
Full obit after the jump.


Karen Louise Kisslinger, 61, of Millerton NY, who through teaching and daily example spread the regenerative power of mindful living and creativity, died Monday, November 9 at Sharon Hospital. An accomplished acupuncturist, teacher, writer, and organic gardener, Karen was also known throughout the community as a skillful musician, singer, dancer, ceramic and visual artist, and poet.
A 34 year resident of Ancramdale and Millerton, Karen had a wide impact on the health of the region through program development. She was very active in the Northeast Community Center (NECC), where she founded the Millerton Farmers Market and taught basic principles of organic gardening and stress reduction to teens through the Summer Youth Farm Project. Previously at NECC she founded Partners for Children to educate parents in how to support healthy development. She also started NECC’s ongoing Monday night “Community Happy Hour” which includes yoga, meditation and chi-kung.
Karen was the meditation and contemplative practice instructor at the Woodhull Center for Ethical Leadership in Ancramdale, NY. She led workshops, lectures and retreats in stress reduction, healing arts, and healthy lifestyles at the Millbrook School, the Hotchkiss School, and Housatonic Valley Regional High School. She wrote the regular “Way of Life” column for the Healthy Living section of the Poughkeepsie Journal, and has had a long-running popular daily radio show on WKZE called “Time to Relax” which may still be heard. In the 1980s she produced Critter Jitters, the first video and instruction manual for sexual abuse prevention for small children, and founded a breastfeeding support group called W.E.B. (We Encourage Breastfeeding). More recently, Karen was a featured blogger for the Huffington Post, publishing twenty articles which are available on-line, and wrote and produced a CD: First Just Listen: Guided Relaxation and Meditation.
Karen was born October 1, 1948 in St. Louis, MO, and graduated from Barnard College with honors in 1970. She worked as a ceramic artist and teacher before studying in England with Dr. J.R. Worsley, under whom she became a master acupuncturist. She maintained an active acupuncture and healing arts practice for over 30 years. Through this work she helped many hundreds of people move towards a more balanced relationship to life.
She will be profoundly missed by her adoring husband, Rob Dweck, and daughters, Emma and Ava Kisslinger Dweck; her sisters Susan, Pam, Ellen and Ellen’s husband Michael; her brother Jerry and his wife Leslie; her nieces Rachel, Sarah, and Paula; her nephews David, Daniel, Aaron and Charles; Rob’s sister Laurie; and her mother, Penny. Karen is pre-deceased by her father, Carl. A memorial service will be planned for a later date.
Karen believed that compassion is the only true source of power and was deeply committed to promoting the skills and traits of mindfulness that become part of living ethically, compassionately, and healthfully. A fund in her name will be established at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to support students who show creativity in community health, well-being, and/or contemplative practices such as yoga, meditation or organic agriculture. Donations to the fund can be sent to “The Karen Kisslinger Fund”, c/o Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, 271 Main St., Suite 3, Great Barrington, MA, 01230 or online at www.berkshiretaconic.org.

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One Comment

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I teared up a bit reading this. Mentors are so crucial to our development. After my mentor in college was denied tenure and went into a depressed tail-spin, I felt so lost.
    I hope someday I’ll be someone’s mentor, though it does make me uncomfortable to take that role, since we have a tendency to built heroes and then assume that they are perfect, when they are just as flawed as we are.
    You were very lucky to have this person in your life.

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