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February 2009

Meet the Moms

This Mom Is a Spirited Woman

By Karen Kullgren

I first came to know of Grace Ogden through participation in the Washington National Cathedral's interfaith Sacred Circles conferences she created 14 years ago. They were extraordinary, uplifting gatherings of more than 1,000 women from around the United States and beyond, coming together every two years for exploration and celebration of the many aspects of women's spirituality. I became hooked on other interfaith programs offered through Cathedral College, and it was at a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, that I saw an adorable little girl run up to hug Ogden at a program and learned she was also a mom.

Serving the Community

Ogden left the Cathedral last year; budget cuts eliminated the popular programs she had been running. Now she's working on her own business, Grace Productions, beginning in the role of "a consultant in service of a larger vision. It's a time of spreading my wings," she says, and serving the broader Washington community. She wants to provide a continuum of programming that continues to serve the Sacred Circles community of women so there is still a locus of effort and exploration around the issues the programs addressed--"deeply nourishing material about our inner lives, how to best serve, how to heal ourselves and heal our world simultaneously, and fulfill our potential as women."

Grace Productions is collaborating with a number of institutions, including the Center for Spirituality & Social Work at Catholic University, where Ogden is helping launch a new continuing education certificate program on spirituality in clinical practice. The new program is not centered in the Catholic tradition, she says, but more broadly in the deep inner life that social workers need to support their clients. She set up "Practicing Transformation: Insights from Meditation and Psychotherapy," a program at Catholic University on January 29 and 30 with Sharon Salzberg and Mark Epstein, M.D., as part of the new certificate program and also a stand-alone event for the public.

Serving Parents and Children

Ogden is working with Oneness Family School International Peace Academy, where her daughter is a student, doing programming in the area of mindful parenting and peace education, for the school and for the wider public. The first program, sometime later this spring, will feature Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. "It will have lecture and experiential content for parents, and we are also planning a concurrent, related children's activity program so whole families can attend together," says Ogden. "It's the nexus of neuroscience, psychology and spirituality," she adds, "a very potent area of discovery. This can be a transforming agent in our own lives, as partners, parents, citizens."

She is also working on bringing the Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based Omega Institute for Holistic Studies' wellness and personal growth programs to the District.

Ogden had daughter Julia, now 7, when she was 41. Husband Denis Borum has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on water-related issues for more than two decades. As we spoke before New Year's Eve, Ogden was also caring for her 85-year-old mother, Petronelle, who is recovering from an illness.

Ogden's job at the Cathedral, which preceded both her marriage and motherhood, "had already filled up my life almost completely. I realize family was on the fringe of my work and vocation at the beginning. I love my family very much, but my mental space was full of that." The intensity of her work, and a commute to and from their home in Takoma Park, meant that Julia was in before- and after-care. "Her day ran 9 to 10 hours. It crowded our family time in the evening."

Resetting Priorities

"One of the powerful discoveries for me after leaving the Cathedral was realizing I had a chance to reset my priorities and how I live. My values are that my daughter, my mother, my family life, my work, all aspects are equally important and inform each other. So I'm experimenting anew with living a life that is much more integrated. Now I find that I'm working and then in the next moment I'm picking my daughter up from school, so my days are more of a mixture of these different elements. I'm praying this makes me a more authentic practitioner of what I hold dear and what I do through programs."

Ogden finds herself now more in touch with "the divine feminine, a nurturing counterweight to a more linear, methodical way of getting through every day. It's been a very profound change, and I'm in the midst of that." As we talked about the demands of everyday life and the busyness around us, she spoke of the need we all share for "a sense of having a connection to a deeper meaning and a way of calming ourselves really deeply." For her that's meditation, but she's also an Episcopalian, so she jokes sometimes and calls herself a "Buddhapalian."

Two other interests capture Ogden's attention these days, too. "I love to sail," says Ogden, who sailed across the Atlantic in her late 20s. "Sailing is also very much a spiritual practice. We all sail, my husband, Julia and even my mother at 85. This is a deep passion of mine."

In addition, after having always had animals growing up, and with her daughter asking for a dog for some time, after Ogden left the Cathedral they rescued a two-year-old red poodle she named Kismet. "That too has been very profound," she says, adding, "Kismet, too, will sail when spring comes."

Karen Kullgren has been Contributing Editor for Washington Parent for 12 years, and she is also a freelance writer. Reach her at