Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge dialogue group taps the female brain

Life coach Lana Ribble Staheli speaks at the second Pomegranate Dialogues meeting at BPA. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Life coach Lana Ribble Staheli speaks at the second Pomegranate Dialogues meeting at BPA.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

What happens when a group of accomplished women sit down in front of an accomplished speaker?

Well. They talk.

“I find, for me, the best way to be intellectually stimulated is to actually be surrounded by the people who have the thoughts, as opposed to watching it on TV or hearing a lecture,” Zan Merriman said. “I think actually being able to interact over the topic is the most stimulating.”

Merriman – with an advanced degree in cultural anthropology, a career in finance, and a current position as president of the board of Bainbridge Performing Arts – is no slouch herself. And she does not like to be bored.

So she conceived a monthly meeting based on what she herself was interested in achieving, “getting together with a group of women, having really interesting speakers, and being able to talk to them about what topics were covered.”

She and a loose steering committee put their heads together to create an initial mailing list and begin planning speakers. The venue would be the BPA lobby, with the series title, Pomegranate Dialogues, offering a nod to BPA’s fruity de facto mascot.

When the e-vite went out for the inaugural speaker, island author Carol Cassella, roughly 45 women RSVP’d.

For the second, Seattle psychologist and life coach Lana Ribble Staheli, at least 60 women crowded into the BPA lobby. Parking was tough.

Staheli, the founder of a personal growth program called Bounce, discussed the ways in which women connecting with women, and then reaching beyond their comfort zones, can lead to explosive personal and even world-changing growth.

Staheli’s target audience is women over 50, whose children are grown, who may be retired, and who have the time and energy to focus their brain power outward.

The talk seemed tailor-made for Pomegranate. Because one of Merriman’s convictions is that “experienced women can take advantage of their past experience.”

When Merriman was in the world of finance 25 years ago, she founded a professional women’s organization and discovered that through small groupings and the free-flowing exchange of ideas, an inward-focused group can morph. Hers remained a professional group that drew from one field, but it also established scholarship and assistance programs to help position the up-and-coming generation to thrive.

“Women are incredibly powerful and can do many things,” Merriman said. “And once they get together and realize they have a common interest somewhere, they just do it.”

Future Pomegranate speakers and topics under consideration are documentary filmmakers, a nutritionist, the economy, and the Internet and Internet addiction. And while the initial mailing list was limited to 130 women, that was only a technicality. Merriman wants to reach a broad group, and wants friends to bring friends.

“Bainbridge is an extraordinary place to do this kind of thing, because there are so many amazing women. It just makes it really fun,” she said.

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