5 Questions With Heather Morrow, Aspen City of Wellbeing Program + Event Director
by Abby Stern
1) Tell us a little about your background and your role with Aspen City of Wellbeing.
I came to ACW through my friendship with Jess Ewart. I had received my yoga teaching certification from her program at the Aspen Yoga School in 2014 and I hired her in the summer of 2016, to build my new website. During our conversations about what I wanted to do with my life, she shared with me some about ACW and how it was developing. She thought my experience and aspirations in helping people connect more deeply to themselves, to each other, to community and to our planet earth might coincide nicely to what ACW aspired to do. I was teaching yoga, partner dancing, coordinating community dance events, promoting another non-profit related to climate change and I really craved bringing it all together somehow. She mentioned that she was working with Gina Murdock so I went to Gina's talk at Wanderlust and got to hear her story of how ACW had developed. I was thrilled and told Jess I couldn't wait to work on this with them. The first week of September, Jess introduced me to Gina at the Aspen Art Museum and I was brought in to help with Gina's birthday party. At the time, her birthday party might include some of her friends as speakers at a day event of maybe 50 people at the Doerr Hosier building. Within a couple of weeks the event grew to be a 4 day Wellbeing Retreat with 11 presenters, over 200 participants, all put together with a staff of 4. I volunteered over half of my time and scurried to organize an amazing team of volunteers and we pulled it off. It was an extraordinary experience! The feedback we received from the participants at the event was so positive and overflowing with heartfelt joy, that while we were cleaning up, I looked Gina in the eye and I said, I want to keep doing this! No other work I’ve ever done has ever made me feel so useful in positively affecting people’s wellbeing. And here we are.
2) I want to brag on you for being a brilliant dancer, can you tell us about the type of dance you practice and teach and where we can get in on the action?
I teach Argentine tango, an improvisational social ballroom dance. It’s a dance of great connection and creativity with a partner. I also use the tools of tango as a relationship coach to couples.
I feel most alive when feeling connected and I find this dance a great way to explore connection in safe and creative ways. Tango can be a great performance art, an encouraging community activity and a great relationship practice. Men get to practice being compassionate and clear leaders while women get to practice being collaborativeand supportive muses all within a context of mutual respect and play. Where two or more are gathered; there love exists. The art of relationship explored under the context of partner dancing in a community of other such dancers is a kind of artistic meditation for me. The mind chatter stills and flow becomes real. The concept that we are all ONE human family is so very apparent as we move and relax into working and playing with another. Give it a try sometime.
My partner and I teach monthly workshops at Dance Progressions on the 3rd Tuesday & Wednesday of each month and we host monthly milongas where we give opportunities for dancers to get dressed up and go dancing. You can go to www.aspentango.com for more details.
Here is one of my favorite tango performances to Sting:
3) What is it like working with Aspen City of Wellbeing and what are your favorite programs?
Working for Aspen City of Wellbeing is the best job I’ve ever had! I get to spend my time planning and organizing ways to give people more wellbeing in their lives, working with an inspiring team of gorgeous and highly skilled women. We don't have a specific office and can move our meetings and work time to wherever is most convenient and effective. Sometimes, a carefully placed hike is the most convenient and effect way to hold a meeting. I love being part of a group of people that hold the wellbeing of the team as important as the meaning of our work.
As the ACW Program and Event Director, I organize and plan our Workplace Wellbeing Programs and direct the flow of our our many events, including our Lead with Love Experience, October 26-30, this year presenting Dr. Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Ashley Turner, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, John Paul DeJoria, Rod Stryker, Seane Corn, HH the Sakyong, Eddie Stern, Suzanne Sterling, Gina Caputo and Scott Neeson. This is the event that brought me into ACW and it is our fundraising cornerstone. I really look forward to making this event happen again this year and I am super excited to meet and learn from this fabulously inspiring list of spiritual world leaders.
In our Workplace Wellbeing Programs so far this year, we've implemented 18 different six month pilot programs between Aspen and Basalt. These include Brain Break, which is a 30 meditation, breath and mindfulness practice; Desk Relief, a 45 minute stretching and mindful movement class; You 2 You, a 45 minute foundations yoga class; ReCharge, a 30 minute stretching and mindfulness class in work clothes that includes periodic nutritious lunches provided by Mawa's Kitchen; Redemption Yoga at the jail; and Stress Recess, a 15 minute chair massage. Jess and I crafted each program to tailor fit the department or organization that requested our wellbeing programs. For example, ReCharge, our first program was implemented at Pitkin County Public Works for the Road and Bridges crew. I'm very proud of this program. These guys come in and we stretch using the tables, walls and the trucks they drive to help them find more flexibility while driving, maintain agility and prevent injury in their very physical work reality. These are the guys that keep our roads and bridges clear of snow and ice in the winter; we want to help them stay safe and happy as they keep us all safe and happy in our isolated mountain town all year long. We currently have programs at the City of Aspen and Pitkin County and are shaping programs for the Hospital, the Public Schools and SkiCo.
4) You are a student at the University of Santa Monica can you tell us little about the Spiritual Psychology program you are enrolled in?
During the first LWL Experience, I was radically moved by participating in a full day of spiritual psychology exercises with Drs. Ron & Mary Hulnick. We got to take turns following simple yet well studied spiritual psychology practices, among a group of 3 strangers: as either the speaker, the listener or the neutral observer. I came away feeling so inspired, lifted up and awkwardly self-aware that I enrolled in their 10 month Soul Centered Living Certificate Program in Spiritual Psychology. I would describe the education as a comprehensive, interactive and experiential psychology training where everything is explored in the context of each of us having a vertical soul line and a horizontal goal line; where we work our process learning to advance along both of these lines with heartfelt and respected psychology practices. The Hulnicks' program is a game changer for me. I’ve learned numerous tools and techniques to counsel myself through what I’ve ordinarily avoid as well as help me clarify my life’s purpose, dreams and intentions. It’s helped me relate better and listen to myself as well as others with more compassion and forgiveness than I ever thought possible. The travel away from Aspen one weekend per month hasn’t been easy, but it has been such an extremely valuable education to me that it has been well worth the effort. I have only two months left. The Hulnicks just announced that they will only be teaching this program for one more year; I’m so happy that I found them before they ended their 35 + year run at the university.
5) As a mother to the beautiful Luca, what is it like raising a child in the Roaring Fork Valley?
Let me start by saying that being a mom is the most important and rewarding job I’ve yet to experience. Parenting Luca, hanging out with Luca, is my favorite thing to do, because he is the coolest person that ever lived. So I admit, I’m a little biased.
Luca was born at the Aspen Hospital where I got to dance with my doctor between contractions. This small town has offered huge opportunities reminiscent of great cities with regard to sports, culture, art, music, ideas and science, while still retaining the safety of a small town. Our little boy has had an idyllic upbringing in our paradise mountain town. Please excuse me while I brag: he learned to ski at 4 years old, has studied and performed on guitar and drums with some of the most talented musicians in the world, met interesting celebrities, been mentored by a world-renowned physicist, helped care for his grandmother, learned the restaurant trade from his dad ever since he could lift his arms to point at a table as a held baby restaurant co-host. And now he is taking after me and learning to dance Argentine Tango. I’m a crazy proud parent and overwhelmingly grateful that we’ve been able to give Luca, even at a public school, the opportunities that he’s had to develop in all the perfectly unique ways of being him. He is thoughtful, curious and open to experiencing new things, while still having a great sense of self-discipline and concern for others. But he is still a teenager, after all.
Even with this perfect upbringing, he still doesn’t wash his dishes or make his bed unless he’s told. He struggles in school with bullies. He is still annoyed when he can’t always get his way. There are general pitfalls to raising children in this valley that are so very obvious from the extreme drug and alcohol use to the high rate of suicide and lack of racial and economic diversity in our area. These could be potentially devastating to raising children, but we really work on keeping open dialog on these topics and we get involved. We include him on volunteer events, encourage him to find balance between all his interests and activities and ask him questions about what he thinks, probing and inciting him to have his own ideas and make his own plans. We do our best to model our actions in ways that we would hope he would act and speak. I think keeping Luca aware of what is going on helps him to see and make discerning judgments for himself. I hope he continues on this path; he still has a few more years before his father and I are finished being responsible for him.