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Conversations with Greg Cochran

Today we’d like to introduce you to Greg Cochran.

Hi Greg, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I now am the executive director of a spiritual wellness center, Well for the Journey, in Lutherville, MD. I always sensed I was a contemplative even as a child growing up in the small, rural town of Six Mile, SC., although I would not have known this word (nor would it have been welcomed in my context) living within a conservative evangelical setting. However, my world changed and my theological views challenged when the tragic death of a beloved uncle, working beside him when this construction accident occurred. The theological container that held me could no longer hold the questions, doubts, and anger that was welling up within. Trying to lean into the fear that comes when foundational tenets are shaken, I moved toward them by attending a progressive seminary in Louisville, KY where I knew I could ask the questions that were taboo in my religious setting up to this point. Now exposed to new thoughts, ideas, and spiritual traditions, my worldview begin to expand as did my own spiritual development. I was beginning to trust and name the “contemplative” spirit within me. I believe the phrase that is being used currently is that my faith was being “deconstructed”.

After seminary, I moved to Baltimore (1988) to begin a position at a progressive Baptist church as an associate pastor where I could continue to live into my ongoing questioning. I learned that this “deconstruction” process was going to be ongoing and that “letting go” was going to be the norm. After moving to Baltimore, I rediscovered my love of nature and hikes in the woods – where I truly connect with who I would call Spirit. I became connected with contemplative spirit groups like the Well and Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. I began to work with a Spiritual Guide/Director who helped me put words to my experiences. Eventually, I became more connected with Well for the Journey and found a spiritual home and community – first by participating in their programs; then as a board member; eventually becoming their executive director. It is here where I am happy to invite people wherever they are on their spiritual journey – to come explore; to be nurtured; to be challenged; to ask your questions…in this safe sacred space and community.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Hmmm…smooth road….the road has definitely not been smooth – at places for sure, but when I have been on “the road” there have been, for sure, major hills and a lot of rocks. And I think that’s just the point, I stayed on the same road far too long – out a sense of loyalty to what I was taught; out of loyalty to my family system’s norms and my faith system’s doctrines; out of fear of the unknown should I stray from the familiar road. Still, when I am hiking, I am always drawn to the less worn paths…and many times where there are no paths, just wilderness – the unknown.

So stepping off of the main thoroughfare into wilderness always invites challenges like trusting I would still have a “self” even if I broke away from my family system’s norm and believed differently than my childhood faith system’s doctrines; that it was better listening to and trusting my internal intuition than fear whom I seemed to have made a god.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I believe we are whole people – physical, social, emotional, mental, spiritual – all these connected. Something happens in one of these areas, it affects the others. I have always been drawn to the spiritual aspect of our living, believing that this is the thread that hems all other aspects together. I have always had a desire and drive for a deeper spiritual connection with others and with the Divine (knowing there are many names given). Thus, started to pursue this desire in the arena I knew, the church. I eventually went to seminary and served as an associate pastor – wanting to help others connect with their longings of a deeper spiritual connection.

On a parallel path, I was discovering what I feel is my true spiritual home as a contemplative. Not always in quiet reflection, prayer or meditation (although this is an important aspect), but a contemplative, as I like to describe it, trying to listen to and live from a deep conversation going on inside of me – my spirit (little “s”) with the Spirit. So I can try and live from a contemplative place when I am in a finance meeting, with my family, when someone cuts me off while I am driving, in social justice settings, in meditation, etc…

This has led me to become a spiritual guide/director, a mentor in a couple of spiritual guidance programs, and the executive director at a spiritual wellness center (Well for the journey). The Well has become a place where I, along with our staff and Well community, can provide an open, safe place for all, no matter where a person is on their spiritual journey, to come and explore their innate spiritual desire.

Through all of this, I feel I can be a small part in helping others deepen their spiritual journey while deepening mine.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in Six Mile, SC (about 2000 people when I was there) near Clemson University. I was the middle, sensitive child always trying to please others and keep the peace. I love nature and spent most of my time outdoors in the woods behind our house. The woods were my sanctuary and still are. Catching crayfish and salamanders and taking long walks in the woods were my past times. I also played sports. I collected baseball and football cards. Using these cards, my brother (5 years older) and I would play games pretending to be the players on the cards. Interestingly enough, my favorite teams growing up were the Baltimore Colts and the Baltimore Orioles – going far enough to buy a Johnny Unitas Jersey and have my dad paint a horseshoe on my helmet. And look where my path has led…Baltimore.

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