Catherine Ann Lombard, M.A.

Welcome

Catherine Ann Lombard is a psychosynthesis psychologist, counselor, writer, and teacher specializing in activating the will and bringing meaning to the workplace. She is a published writer of first-person essays, poetry, and news articles. She also teaches academic writing at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

Her goal is to help people from all walks of life realize their full potential. As an empathetic presence, she sees her role as standing on the threshold, holding the door open, and helping her clients to journey from their present reality towards what they long to be.

Essentially, Catherine concentrates on helping her students and clients remove obstacles to improve their life and work performance. She believes that each individual innately knows the best way forward. Whether teaching English or guiding clients through their life journey, Catherine's goal is to help her clients identify and articulate what they need to more freely learn and integrate that knowledge.

Articles Published by On Being

Catherine recently had two blogs published by Krista Tippet's On Being, reaching more that 75,000 viewers.

A Communion with the Earth: Gardening and Gratitude

The Rhymes and Rituals of Cairo during Ramadan

Love and Will - A Blog on Psychosynthesis

Visit and follow Catherine's blog Love and Will, a psychosynthesis approach to living.

Article included in Top Most Read for 2014

Catherine is happy to announce that her article, "Coping with anxiety and rebuilding identity: A psychosynthesis approach to culture shock," published in Counselling Psychology Quarterly has been included in an online article collection featuring the most downloaded articles published in Routledge Behavioral Sciences journals in 2014.

The collection features the top three most downloaded articles that were published and downloaded in 2014in each Routledge Behavioral Sciences journal.

This article (along with others you might find interesting) will be freely available until the 30th June 2015.

Book Available

Book CoverNow available for purchase is Catherine's book From Culture Shock to Personal Transformation: Studying Abroad and the Search for Meaning.

Through her psychosynthesis counseling work with international students, Catherine illustrates how young people, when faced with the challenges of living abroad, can enter into a personal journey towards their authentic selves. Ultimately, by confronting themselves and growing in awareness, the students whose testimonies appear in this book release new creative energy and renew their personal and working relationships. To read the abstract of this study, click Abstract.

Recent News and Publications

Free Meditation

If you would like a free audio recording of the Body Feelings Mind Meditation for your daily practice, just email Catherine with your request. This meditation takes about 20 minutes and is practiced in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. The Body Feelings Mind Meditation was created by Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis, to help you to practice identifying and then disindentifying from your body, feelings, and mind.

Workshops

Catherine successfully led the workshop "The Upside of Stress" for the PhD students at the University of Twente on 11 June, 2015.

Recent Publications and Interviews

"Reconnecting the Personal Self with the Higher Self - Journeying with Dante", was co-authored with Catherine's husband Dr. Kees den Biesen and published in June 2015 in the Psychosynthesis Quarterly.

"Into the Hidden Things He Led My Way ... A Psychosynthesis View of Dante's Inferno", was co-authored with Catherine's husband Dr. Kees den Biesen and published in March 2015 in the Psychosynthesis Quarterly.

"Coping with Anxiety and Rebuilding Identity: a Psychosynthesis Approach to Culture Shock" was published by the peer-reviewed journal Counselling Psychology Quarterly on 17 January 2014. A shorter version appeared in the March 2014 newsletter of the Assoication for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis.

"Reading The Divine Comedy from a Psychosynthesis Perspective" was co-authored with Catherine's husband Dr. Kees den Biesen and published in September 2014 by the Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis.

"In Search of Meaning" was published in December 2013 by the Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis.

"Letter from the Netherlands" was published by the Guardian Weekly. See more photos and read Catherine's short reflection on her recent trip to see the blossoming tulips at the Keukenhof Gardens.

The Holland Times interviewed Catherine as a psychologist and expert on culture shock in the Netherlands.

"Living a Spiritual Life" was published in June 2013 by the Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis.

To better understand Catherine's counseling work, you can read "Crossing Over," a story published in March 2013 by the Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis. This reflection is about the conversion between a client's indecision to go home and visit her dying grandmother, Catherine's own personal story, Passover, and Easter Week.

Artwork Published on BBC Website

Catherine's painting Freedom was included in the collection of artwork for the BBC's Freedom2014 series. The painting is number 13 and represents how difficult it is to find the freedom to become our authentic selves.


Latest Poetry

Here I am Lord (in Arabic)

أنا هنا الرب

ترجمة:محمد أحمد شبشة

 

أنا هنا الرب

في نارك.. مرة أخرى.

تحت وطأة

المطرقة.الذهبية خاصتك

كما كنت مرة أخرى

محاولا تشكيلي في

كامل إنسانيتي

 

أنا هنا الرب

مرتعدة وباكية مرة أخرى.

تحت وطأة

حبك الممتاز.

كما كنت مرة أخرى

تحاول ان تشملني

بجمالي

الذي أنا أصلا عليه

 

أنا هنا الرب

تستعر مقاومتي مرة أخرى.

تحت الاضواء الشرسة

لوجودك الكلي

 

كما كنت مرة أخرى

تحاول أن تغسلني بالمفتدى

من ظلال

رحمتك.

 

أنا هنا الرب

أقترب ببطء من الفرح.

بتوجيه من

يدك الغامضة.

كما كنت مرة أخرى

تحاول دفعي  نحو

كمالي

ومكاني

في هذا العالم.

آن كاترين لومبارد

شاعرة من هولندا-انشيدي

تعمل مدرب ومدرس للغة الإنجليزية

 

I am greatful and honored by Mohamed Ibrahim's translation of this poem into Arabic.



WritingAug 23, 2011

English Teaching Confessional

My career as an English language teacher started when I found myself divorced after ten years of marriage at the age of 30. Having just graduated from the University of California in Berkeley, I felt a desperate need to move to a foreign country – anywhere where I could have a fresh start in an unfamiliar environment. It was 1987, before the internet was even imaginable, and so I buried myself in the university’s employment office, searching for letters from international schools that needed native English-speaking teachers.

Unconcerned about my final destination, I applied to more than 100 schools all over the world. People always ask me how I ended up in Japan, and I always say, ‘Japan picked me’. Within six weeks, I had signed a contract to teach in a Japanese juku, or cram school, for one year in the town of Fukuyama, about 400 miles south of Tokyo.

Less than 16 hours after arriving in Japan, I was standing in front of a classroom of 20 straight-backed and attentive nine year olds. After I had introduced myself, they replied, ‘Hello! I’m fine thank you. How are you?’ in a clipped staccato sing-song.

As I had hoped, my US identity immediately began to dissolve. My name was soon twisted into Japanese phonetics and crowned with an honorable title – I was now Kyasarin-sensei. Ironically, sensei (teacher) literally means ‘the one who has come before’. I bore this title gingerly, feeling more like ‘the one who has just arrived’.

My students ranged in age from four to 84, and included a diverse cross-section of Japanese society. In the afternoons I sang ‘London Bridge’ with pre-school children who were trying to pass exams into the best kindergarten. Then in the evening, I would bike to a local bar for my conversation class. Sipping beer, I chatted with a piano tuner, a sculptor, ‘office ladies’ and a World War II veteran who once supplied Japanese troops in Malaysia with food from China. Once a week, I was crammed into a tiny auto and whisked away to the Mitsubishi factory to teach engineers business English. And on Thursday mornings, I smiled and encouraged grandmotherly obaasans who studied English just as my mother might play bridge – for company, stimulation and prestige.

From these diverse groups, I slowly discovered where I was and, within that context, who I was. Examining myself through the prism of the Japanese culture proved to be poignant and humorous at best, startling and confronting at worst. All my students became my guides and teachers, the ‘ones who came before’, and I am forever grateful for their warmth, grace, hospitality and understanding during our brief time together.

Initially, I was surprised at how much Japan felt like America to me. It was strange and yet familiar. People dressed like the folks back home, shopped at department stores, ate at McDonald’s and found themselves stuck in traffic jams. Ever-present TVs blasted nonsense into living rooms, and the moon glistened in the evening sky like a waxed orange.

Despite these reassuring similarities, however, Japan was undeniably different. My first trip to the supermarket left me stunned when I realized I could not read a single package label. And suddenly, at the meager height of 5 foot 2 inches, I became tall and able to reach the highest shelf.

My first cultural challenge as a teacher was to learn how to decipher the subtle body language that marked my students’ incomprehension. But before long, I was able to recognise their look of puzzlement, and instantly knew whenever I was not understood. It always began with a slightly tilted head as they uttered ‘Eto ne…’ (Well, ummmmm ...). The ne was a prolonged neeeeeeey punctuated by the sucking of air through an invisible straw. Then there was a frantic search through dictionaries, as they attempted to coax the right word from its abyss of forgotten vocabulary.

Finally they would shyly mangle a noun. Perhaps if they were brave or practised, a sentence emerged, and their look became one of hope: ‘Will the sensei recognise this strange glob of sound as English?’ I would then smile and nod, repeating the sentence, replacing its words in their proper order, adding a missing article or two. Gratefully, the student would mirror my nod and smile, whispering yes, yes, a hushed ‘hai, hai’. Until it all began again.

One day, Yoshi, an eager seven-year-old boy, belted out a perfect song of ABCs with a finale of ‘Now I know my ABCs. Won’t you, won’t you sink [sic] with me?’. Hayashi-san, an adult student, took great joy in digging inside his book of English-language proverbs for snappy phrases. He would proudly exhume sayings like ‘Butter is mad twice a year’ and ‘It is no sure rule to fish with a crossbow’. All I could do was smile and nod, completely mystified by these archaic maxims.

Along with these unsettling moments were others of startling beauty. When the cherry blossoms started to bloom in early April, I asked my teenage and adult students to write haiku in English. Haiku is an art form that originated in Japan around the 17th century. A haiku poem consists of 17 syllables, usually divided in three lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively. It uses nature to reflect human emotions and must suggest one (and only one) season. I relaxed the rules for syllables, but insisted on three lines focusing on spring.

While some students literally translated well-known haiku, others movingly revealed themselves. One student whose family was from Hokkaido, the northernmost island, touched upon my own homesickness clearly and simply with this poem:

My lonely day
remember my hometown
cherry blossoms tonight.

Other students who hid themselves behind shy smiles were suddenly awoken by this exercise which deeply touched their Japanese identity. One 16-year-old girl wrote:

Cherry buds
whisper
spring come here.

These students’ poems, which felt so honest, seemed to reach beyond our differences to unite us in our deeper shared humanity.

In the spring sky
misty clouds embrace
the early evening cherry blossoms.

Without doubt, my most demanding students were the engineers and marketing representatives at Mitsubishi Electric Company. Moving from cherry blossoms to circuit breakers continued to challenge my newly-founded expertise. On Monday evenings after working hours, I spent two hours at the factory with a select group of men and women who were highly motivated to improve their English skills.

Learning that I had spent one summer as an intern for a well-known international computer firm, the Director of Education soon asked me to give a speech in English about the differences between American and Japanese computer companies. I was left open-mouthed. Having only arrived six weeks earlier, I felt ignorant about both the subject and audience. But figuring I’d have time before the actual speech to do some research, I agreed to the idea.

Two weeks later, I was sweating profusely in front of nearly 200 blue-jacketed, uniformed employees. As I unwound the carefully-worded presentation, I felt pressure from all sides as a representative of the juku, my university and my country.

Afterwards, there was a 40-minute question and answer period, where I struggled to shape my answers for my audience. But my final answer proved too challenging for all of us. It seemed to be part of my greater struggle to define myself. I was in Japan as an English teacher, but more essentially, I was searching for my authentic self, beyond the definitions imposed by family, society and homeland.

‘What kind of a name is Lombard and who were your ancestors?’ asked one of the employees. The idea that you could be a blend of different genealogies and cultures was difficult to comprehend for the Japanese people, who take great pride in the purity of their race and celebrate their ancestry during Obon, a national holiday in August. But as a direct product of the melding of European immigrates during America’s early 1900s, I had no real answer.

‘There is a ketchup in the United States,’ I replied. ‘It’s called Heinz 57 because it is seasoned with 57 different spices. That’s what I am. You see, I’m part Italian and part Scottish. One great-grandfather comes from the border of France and Germany. We’re not sure what nationality he was. They called my great-grandmother Pennsylvanian Dutch, but she probably wasn’t Dutch at all, but really German. We’re not really sure.’

‘What? Nani?’ The audience stirred restlessly.

‘Ketsup?’ they said. ‘Your ancestors are ketsup?’

Throughout my entire two-year stay in Japan, my identity continued to be gracefully (and at times ruthlessly) mirrored by a culture different from my own. In the end, these reflections offered me a new spectrum of myself, my past, and what I longed to become. Upon saying sayōnara to Japan, I realized that each and every experience had brought me closer to that inner place called home.

 

This confessional was published in English Teaching Professional, Issue 76, September 2011.

 



ArticlesAug 23, 2011

Sunflower Lessons

There are times in my life when I know I am trying too hard. No matter what I seem to do, nothing works, eases forward, sings in tune. As a gardener in my backyard, I can dig the earth, feed it with the richest manure, insure it has enough calcium, carefully sow the seeds, faithfully water, fuss over the tiniest plants, pull weeds, and even pray. And still nothing grows. Sometimes I forget about God. Oh yeah, that Guy. He also might have something to say. In fact, his Will might be bigger and beyond what I can imagine can grow in anybody’s garden. In anybody’s heart and soul.

I recently learned a lesson from my sunflowers. This year they grew with only the Hand of God to tend them. Last year, we carefully planted sunflowers which grew and blossomed. Once the flowers hung heavy with seed, tipping their heads like bowing monks, we cut and left them on our terrace for the birds to swoop down and eat from. The chickadees and blue tits would shyly flutter from the sunflower stalks down to the plate-like flower, steel a seed and speed home. By the end of the day, discarded seeds and shells would lay strewn on the terrace floor to be swept away.

These instinctual, hungry birds and my unwitting broom were the unknown planters of this year’s new crop of sunflowers. The seeds lay buried for months under ice and snow, waiting for the breathe of spring warmth to release them. They grew. And they grew. And they grew. The largest 10.5 feet tall (3.45 meters) stands in front of the very spot where the birds dined last year. We only had to water when the rain did not come and watch in wonder.

Many people don’t believe in God these days. God is rather passé. They want scientific proof set before their eyes. Or they are more comfortable with the Buddha and nothingness. Some have been abused by and in the name of institutions that claim to believe in God, but are only shelters for frightened people who cling to ideological certainty and flee from mystery.

But, if you open your eyes, you will see God at the point where the invisible becomes visible. God is in the sunflower that grows beyond what I can imagine or try to grow by myself. God is in the bird who eats and, at the same time, plants what it needs to eat in the coming year. God is in the naïve woman who thinks she can tend a garden when, at times, all she needs to do is sweep her terrace.



Moving Towards JoyAug 23, 2011

A Heron's Visit

The world outside my window is white. Snow is falling, has been falling for days now. Every twig on every tree is adorned with crystals. The sky is pale, tempered with a haze of blue and all is frozen still. How amazing water is—frozen, steamy, wet. From my window I look upon a meadow where mothers plod pulling sleds laden with their bundled children. Dogs frolic and jump, catching invisible snowballs. A cyclist slips silently by. Occasionally, the northeast wind whirls the dry snow around my garden into spirals of fine mist.

The Christmas emails are arriving in my inbox. From Ireland, Italy, England, the US. I wonder how to respond. Do I write back with an innocuous Merry Christmas and say nothing more? Do I tell of how tired I am, how old I sometimes feel these days, how hard I’ve been working? Do I cover up my fears of never being able to learn either Dutch or German with how great my life is going? Do I tell about my wonderful holiday in Turkey which really was a pilgrimage spent in monasteries in 45C (125F) degree heat without air conditioning or fan? Where does the balance of this past year hang? What is the hope that I hold onto while crossing the threshold of 2011?

Recently, Kees and I were talking about birds. We have a small birdhouse in front of our kitchen window that has become a local diner for robins and sparrows, chickadees and finches. When the yellow-beaked, shiny blackbird overtakes the place, we run outside and chase her away. I was watching these birds flitting from branch to birdhouse, thinking about how much more trust I wanted in my life. “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet God feeds them. Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life?” (Matthew 6: 26, Luke 12:25-26) This trust has always been one of the points of contention in our marriage. Kees and I have come from such distance places of its understanding. As a Benedictine monk for 19 years, Kees has always flown with the birds with the faith that God will provide everything. As an American, born and bred with the idea that hard-earned money means success, I struggle with being satisfied with just enough. We’ve been together twelve years and are finally reaching closer to this center of trust, and the excruciating balance one must walk between God’s will and our free will.

We sat sipping steamy cappuccinos and mused about this balance, and how our search as individuals inevitably leads us towards our definition of ourselves as a couple. Our lives are but a delicate balance of snow crystals hanging on tiny tree branches. Of relationship. Of knowing and not knowing.

That night around 10 pm while the snow swirled in whirlpools of dusty flakes, a giant heron came and sat on our hedge. Where had she come from? Once I spied a lone heron on the bank of the meandering Dingle River five kilometers from home. Could this be the same bird? She fluffed her feathers fat for insulation and tucked her head under a powdered wing. I watched amazed. Was this a sign? A sign to say that I could trust as much as a heron in a snowstorm far from lake or sea? I watched her stretch her neck and turn a pointed beak first up then back and down again. What did she search for? What could she eat? All fish lay frozen under ice. She seemed to grow bigger aloft my hedge, alone and cold, so far from home. I knew her better from California estuaries; her wings outspread to catch the sun at water’s edge. I feared her death upon my hedge and wondered then what would I do?

But then she flew, a low and wide flight into the blue night and snow so wide and white. What would I do, what could I do … but trust?

Everyone knows the Christmas story of how three Magi followed a star to a poor stable in Bethlehem. Three Kings from the East trusted that the bright Star shining high above would lead them to a King. But they did not know the King would be a Child. Upon leaving that Child, they trusted their inner Wisdom and did not return to King Herod who longed to know where the Child lay, only to destroy him. Trust the Light high above you. Trust the Wisdom deep within.

Come. Take my hand. Hold on tight. The heron is in flight. We have each other and Love is All.



ArticlesDec 31, 2010

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