I am humbled by your visit to my website.
tree turtle (always spelled lowercase even at the beginning of a sentence) is my legal name and my Buddhist Upāsikā ordination vow name. I write, publish, and edit under my other name, Cleis Abeni. My pronouns are she/her. Click here to learn more about my names.
I am a Black American woman who loves to read, write, edit, teach, and work benevolently for others.
If you are encountering me through this website or through my work as a nonprofit executive, teacher, or healer, please call me Miss turtle or Miss tree. If we are friends, then feel free to call me by my first name, tree.
My purpose in life is to live compassionately and contemplatively for peace, healing, and justice.
Currently, I am the Director (CEO) of the Baltimore Wisdom Project (BWP) and the Co-Director (Co-CEO) of Wisdom Projects, Inc., the larger 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization within which the BWP is one of two divisions (along with the Chicago Wisdom Project).
I am also a longtime professional editor and writer.
Along with editing, writing, and teaching, I have worked on staff (including as an executive leader) at several nonprofit organizations to uplift their communications, operations, and fundraising.
I have a clinical background in health and wellness. I was a formerly licensed nurse, a former licensed social worker, a certified community counselor, a former substance abuse counselor, a certified specialist in conflict transformation, and a multifaceted healer with a certificate in trauma-informed care. As a nurse practitioner and/or a health navigator, I worked mostly on night shifts at DC General, Maryland General, Providence Hospital, the Walter P. Carter Center, FutureCare, Hahnemann Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and the Ohio Hospital For Psychiatry.
Since 1986 (over 30 years), I've worked with children, youth, and adults to prevent violence and elevate wellness. As a peacemaker, I apply trauma-sensitive and disability-aware principles and practices of restorative justice, conflict transformation, de-escalation, and social and emotional learning to all of the work that I do.
Mindfulness is also one of my foremost vehicles for individual and collective holistic transformation. I am trained in a variety of contemplative traditions including several different forms of meditation (especially Vipassanā, Mettā Bhāvanā, and active breathing practices), African holistic health and nutrition (Dr. Llaila Olela Afrika was my friend and teacher), and many forms of mindful movement, including mudras, Qigong, San Soo internal martial art, Tuina, Wat Po healing, Hatha yoga for adults, Isha yoga for children, Alexander Technique, and Body Mind Centering. I also trained deeply in restorative justice practices with Ms. Ruth Revels, a Lumbee elder, and other Native peoples. At the core of my contemplative practice is daily meditative breathing practice, insight meditation, and loving-kindness meditation.
I believe firmly that our prosperity is fueled by the care and support of others. My life was formed and enriched by the mentoring and/or teaching of the following people who I miss dearly. (My associations with living people are confidential.)
For all of my life—even during my late childhood—I have been interested in two main themes:
Writing, editing, teaching, creating media messaging, public speaking, organizing for peace and justice are my tools to uplift people.
I am a former foster child and homeless child who was also blessed to attend private schools for short periods. As a child, I was diagnosed autistic and hyperlexic. Like many autistic people, I sometimes stim, especially when I am exhausted. I am a survivor of multiple forms of violence. My firsthand experiences inform my lifelong work on the impact of disability, violence, homelessness, trauma, and poverty on youth and adults.
Storytelling—written, visualized, spoken, and physicalized—is my lifelong method to realize a caring, inquisitive and reflective world.
I hold an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts with a focus on arts education, child development, and choreography studies from the former College of the Arts at The Ohio State University (OSU); an MA in science writing and poetry from Johns Hopkins University; and a BA in English with minors in Theater, Dance, and Philosophy/Religion from Goucher College.
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