Meet Dr. Karen Grayson, Center Founder
Welcome. So glad you found our site! The Center has developed out of my lifelong goal to help ease suffering in the world, individually and collectively. I combine philosophy, therapy, and spirituality—three areas the western world tends to separate—as an integrated pathway toward personal and collective development. My greatest hope is that ripples from this work will contribute to positive planetary evolution.
Qualifications and Credentials
Dr. Karen Grayson, LPC, is a trained philosopher, educator, and counselor. She has been a dedicated spiritual explorer her whole life. Over many years, she has integrated psychological training and deep spiritual practice, with rigorous attention to persistent philosophical and political questions. These overlapping interests have created a unique approach to counseling, teaching and accompanying those with whom she works.
PhD in Ethics from Washington University, 2001
MA in Counseling from Webster University, 2008
MA in Philosophy from Washington University, 1991
MAT & K-8 certification from Montclair State University, 1987
BA in Religion and Philosophy from Principia College, 1986
Training & Certification
Levels 1 &2 Training: Internal Family Systems, 2011, 2016, Level 3 Training: 2019
SQ21: Spiritual IQ Certification, 2015
Retreats with Pema Chodron, 2012, 2014
Safe Space Domestic Abuse Training, 2011
License in Professional Counseling, State of Missouri, 2010
Why are we here? What can we believe? Why do we suffer and how do we heal?
Since her youth, Karen has asked big cosmological questions. She grew up in a home where religious commitments and spiritual values offered a steady and vibrant foundation for daily life. Devoted students of Christian Science, her family modeled a love for spiritual study and a deep understanding that all beings are fully good, unique, and beautiful expressions of the Divine. Her parents believed in public education, caring for the natural world, and mixing with people different from themselves. In this environment, Karen gained a deep love for humanity, animals and the earth, grounded in the redemptive message of the Bible and the transcendent writings of theologian Mary Baker Eddy.
Always spiritually curious, Karen sought to deepen her path by studying religion and philosophy in college. Her love for ideas, questions, truth, and dialogue propelled her to graduate school, where she earned masters’ degrees in both education and philosophy. Eventually, she received a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and specialized in ethics and dialogue—coming to believe that growth, clarity, and transformation take place in fluid community with others. She taught in urban Newark, NJ, seeing first hand how disparate economic positions rooted in racial and social inequalities shackled beautiful children in crazy unfair ways. She resolved to teach critical thinking to students positioned by privilege to do something to mitigate injustice. She embarked on a twenty year career teaching many outstanding students at Principia College, a small liberal arts college in Illinois.
In her early thirties, Karen began studying a contemporary version of ancient Tibetan Buddhism, being drawn to its compassionate response to human suffering. She was intrigued to see whether and how her new learning could be woven into the Abrahamic foundations, Western philosophy, and Progressive Christian Theology she so deeply cherished. The writings of Pema Chödrön and Chögyam Trungpa moved her deeply and enriched both her daily spiritual practice and her commitment to respond compassionately to human “sin” and its underbelly of suffering. As Karen folded together various and sometimes conflicting wisdom traditions, winnowing out incongruences, she realized that authentic spiritual growth requires honest self-reflection, brave discernment, and a willingness continually to soften, deepen, and humbly open to Divine Love.
Seeing the Sky
As she worked closely with colleagues, students, and clients, Karen’s youthful religious certainty began to relax. She realized she had been, in the words of Sharon Salzberg, “looking at the sky through a straw.” The sky she had been seeing was beautiful but small. What would happen if she dropped the straw and looked directly at the sky itself? As Karen began to move beyond her religious filters, she experienced confusion, self-doubt, uncertainty. She wondered: Which is the best path? What will happen if I expand my experience and some of my deeply held religious beliefs change? The path felt risky and dangerous. And so, Karen began a quest in earnest by asking: How can I release outworn cultural impositions while keeping and deepening what is beautiful and true in the theology of my childhood? How can I honor and live from my roots without stagnating at those roots?
Deepening and Broadening
As she opened thought and learned new spiritual practices, Karen noticed that focusing exclusively on the positive—on spiritual goodness and light—had caused her to ignore wisdom that emerges from a darker place. Instead of denying or suppressing darkness, Karen began to understand how negative experiences, childhood trauma, and deep suffering serve as teachers. She decided to learn more about shadow work. She went back to school to study counseling, learning about inner confusion, emotional pain, and egoic motivation. In 2009, she opened a private counseling and mentoring practice, drawing on a powerful and spiritually attuned therapeutic modality called Internal Family Systems (IFS). Her spiritual exploration thrived as well. Karen began to work with some very old traditions like Taoism and the Hindu Chakra system. She dove into ideas offered in some of the newest spiritual pathways as well, such as the integral thought of Ken Wilber and the Diamond Approach of A H Almaas; all the time, sorting, clarifying, winnowing, and integrating.
Finding Her Purpose
In 2012, during a contemplative workshop with the Philosopher and spiritual teacher, Rick Jarrow, Karen glimpsed the first vision of her new work. She would become a “spiritual growth coach” helping others just like herself to resolve old emotional problems, drop harmful religious baggage, and find their own authentic pathway to the divine. She got serious about Internal Family Systems Psychotherapy. She confronted and healed some of her own deepest emotional wounding that had kept her shackled and disappointed with life. Her therapy practice flourished. Her home and family life bloomed.
Drawing from Philosophy, IFS Therapy, and a wide array of profound spiritual teachings, new and old, Karen has helped clients turn toward their own internal turmoil, pain and trauma in order to transform pain into wisdom and confusion into clarity. She has helped individuals and families gain insight, invite growth, and heal trauma. Her years in therapeutic practice, her innate spiritual curiosity, and her deep appreciation for the ways suffering offers transformation has led her to create The Center. She works outward from her mission to help ease suffering in the world through compassion, growth, and healing. She continues to expect and to encounter slow and steady planetary evolution as a result.