Thursday, May 25, 2017

Encouragement

As I mentioned in my last entry, my parents early championing of my abilities fortified me with courage and the assumption that all adults – that they approved of, of course – would back me with equal sincerity. But not all adults were so easily swayed. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mahoney, and I started off on the wrong foot. A few weeks into a very rough beginning, she knew I was still missing my mother. One day I felt sick and stood before her holding my stomach. “I need to go home. I’m sick.” Mrs. Mahoney would have none of it, sure in her conviction this was a ruse to get me home to my mother’s comforting arms. Unfortunately for my teacher, the only proof I could offer that I had come down with the flu, was to decorate her shoes with that mornings breakfast. Mrs. Mahoney never doubted me again. After she got to know me better and saw that I could manage time away from my mom quite well she came to believe that as shy as I was I could handle a leading role in the Christmas play. My mother nearly fell off her chair when I belted out my solo in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Though she wore a gruff expression most of the time, I’m grateful for Mrs. Mahoney’s encouraging gesture that planted the seeds for future stage aspirations. I'll say more about that next time... Until then, I encourage you to breathe in the beauty of this day, your day, and the Earth that supports you! Wishing you well in it!😀

Robin

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Summer Memories

I gave myself some extra time to explore while out on my walk on a recent day that hinted of coming summer. I meandered along the edges of the creek and found a rock containing a “spirit line” as my Native American friends would call it. Spirit lines are typically placed in artwork to allow the spirit of the artist to exit the work when it is finished. The line in this rock invited me to wander past some of the sharp edges of now and into gentle thoughts and memories of people and experiences I am grateful for.

The line on the rock that has now taken up residence on my hearth is light gray with a narrow black line dividing it down the middle, like a road. When I hold it my finger traces this spirit road until I find myself in warm past summer places, remembering all who helped me along my path to the person I am now.

My mother started me out right with bright white walking shoes and “You can do it honey!” It was the summer of my second year when I finally took my first steps unassisted. Her applause urged me on, though after waiting fifteen months she may also have been secretly cheering for herself and her aching back that had hefted a rapidly growing me since birth.

When I was off and running she and my father took me out on summer nights to see the stars that floated down to glimmer about our yard. They each cupped their two hands like clamshells and urged “You can do it sweetheart!” as they caught blinking stars one by one and placed them in a jar for us to admire. 

Their love of being outdoors showed me a love for and connection to nature that sustains me still. That early championing of my abilities fortified me with courage and the assumption that all adults – that they approved of, of course – would back me with equal sincerity. But not all adults were so easily swayed as you will see in my next edition. Until then breathe in the beauty of this day, your day, and the Earth that supports you! Wishing you well in it!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sacred Space

When I wrote down the stories for my book Earth Divine – Adventures of an Everyday Mystic I wanted to get across the idea that if we pay close attention to the incredible world that surrounds us and form true relationship with it, it responds in miraculous ways. Focused communication with people and pets as well as trees, birds, our wild four-legged friends, even rocks hold messages of wisdom and guidance. They offer us a sense of comfort and belonging, but only when we learn to be present and listen deeply. By staying present I found out it is possible to connect on levels I would never have believed until I knew the moment of NOW and realized the impermanence of things. I discovered the sacredness of direct contact and communion with all my relations.

Technology offers contact with humans. It is now possible to send messages to almost every part of the world. It also isolates us unless we have a dedicated intention to get out there and be with it all. What’s often missing is communion.

There are many advantages to technological access. I understand there are times when we want to connect with what the internet offers. At the same time if technology takes away from real-time connection with other humans and the world we are one with, where are we headed? Without down time how can we expect our imaginations to soar and dream and create? Without going outdoors for extended periods how can we have any hope of receiving essential messages from our non-human friends – messages that enhance our time here on earth? We are not using technology wisely. Before you tune me out, please listen to this five minute TEDx talk: https://youtu.be/UNGvhO8XNrE

I’ve been thinking a lot about cell phones – the kind that do everything but get you dressed in the morning. Cell phones are my biggest pet peeve. Why? Because they usually go everywhere with their owners and get in the way of live human interaction. I love the scent and sensuality of people – the little plastic attention robbers that take people away from where they are in present time, not so much. I want to know who you are today and who you hope to be tomorrow, what you care about, and what motivates or stirs you. I want to hear it with my ears and see it in your eyes.

I refuse to have anything but a simple phone. Friends and acquaintances snicker at my antique, my dinosaur of the techy age. If my phone, which does no more than connect me with (hopefully) a live voice or the occasional text message, is a simple dinosaur then so am I. I am happy to compare myself to those ancient creatures who lived as peaceable giants, who fed on plants and small fish, in families, herds, packs, and in strong social communities.

An article from Scientific American, written by Helen Lee Lin, social psychologist, says that the mere visual presence of a cell phone reduces the intimacy, trust, and empathy of a relationship. This is based on studies rather than biased opinion. You may read more here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-your-cell-phone-hurts-your-relationships/

I’ve felt the punch of being in the same space with someone on cell phone Wi-Fi just as I imagine many other dinosaurs have. We may as well be by ourselves if the other person is more interested in what’s happening on the phone than they are in the person they’re sitting next to.

When two or more people sit in the same close space using their devices, MIT professor and author Sherry Turkle calls it being “alone together.” She says, “Technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online, we fall prey to the illusion of companionship, gathering thousands of Twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication. But this relentless connection leads to a deep solitude…as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down…we’re lonely but we’re afraid of intimacy.” Listen to her TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together

I’ve observed people having lunch together, engaged with their phones so much as to not know what else is going on around them let alone with the person they arrived with. Would they notice if someone nearby was choking? I’ve witnessed those in attendance at a concert in glazed-over obsession with a tiny lit screen instead of paying attention to the people on stage. As a performer myself, I know this has got to be hard for any performer who feeds off the energy of the crowd. What we don’t realize is how much we need tangible meaningful connection in any interaction. Phones are not only a distraction but an adverse step in the direction of forgetting how great and healthful real eyeball to eyeball, heart to heart communication and connection can be.

It can be too tempting to hide behind your little black box and not have to deal with the feelings and musings of another living, breathing, vulnerable person. A lack of face to face contact leads to complacency, anti-social behavior, loneliness, and erosion of emotional health. In Psychology today, Christopher Bergland wrote, “Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression." These days people have fewer close friendships, decreasing social skills (especially children), reduced language skills, and increased social media bullying (both adult and youth), and technology addiction. As a society, we are forgetting HOW to talk to each other.

Communication via technology tends to be quick, short, and impersonal. Years of research proves that ninety-three percent of communication is non-verbal. In online conversation, you have no way of knowing for sure how your recipient will receive and interpret your message. If you “talk” via the “waves” it’s too easy to react and say something you will later regret. You may be present with your own response but fail to be present with that of the other person. There is no voice inflection or tone. No body language or facial expression and little chance of coming to an understanding if a comment is misconstrued.

Growing up, I remember the mailman stopping by for coffee at the homes of his friends. He lingered and joyful chatter filled the rafters. My family had dinner with friends and nothing interfered with the flow of catching up, who did what when, and how it all went. The smiling faces caused by intimate conversation imprinted on my mind: Mom and Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Shea, Myrtle Stone, The Halls, my high school pals, and so many more. Most are gone but they live on in my heart because I paid attention when they were with me. They told jokes, shared concerns, offered praises, sympathy, and congratulations. When we were together it was rude to answer a ringing phone, turn on a television, or play the radio unless it was turned way down. Two or four or ten people engaged with each other full on, telling stories, listening - hearts buzzing in tune with each other. It didn’t matter if the story was new or had been told a thousand times. What mattered was connection and I always came away with a sense of being supported and necessary to the whole. The place where two or more gathered became sacred space. The same for solo moments. Alone time was a sacred time without distraction for inner contemplation, soul-searching, rejuvenation, and much needed quiet and rest from the cares of the world.

In yoga, I learned the ancient Sanskrit greeting Namaste – a term that means, “the divinity in me recognizes the divinity in you.” Yoga philosophy urges to do no harm. With these yoga teachings in mind I dream of a world where we care enough about each other and ourselves to enliven the sacred in our relationships and nurture them by making room in our scheduled lives for at least half an hour a day of intentional, meaningful conversation where we put aside all technology in favor of bonding with those we love. I envision when two or more are gathered we revere that time and space as sacred. Light a candle, hold hands, link arms, share a sunset. Even the non-verbal can be intimate and meaningful when technology doesn’t stand between us. When we are outdoors, alone or with others, we take time to quiet our thoughts and listen to the wisdom that waits in the hollows, the mountains, the creeks, the birdsong, and the serenity of stillness.

May peace and wonderful conversations be part of your every day!
Robin




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What I Learned at Disney World and a Dream Come True

I’m just back from Disney and have some unexpected impressions to share.

After this recent visit to The Magic Kingdom I read up on the history of one of my most admired childhood cartoon heroes. The idea for Mickey Mouse came to Walt Disney on a train trip from Manhattan to Hollywood. His career had taken a nose dive and he and his brother faced a possible end to their previous small successes if they couldn’t rise above the disastrous, blatant theft of one of their most popular characters – a rabbit named Oswald.

In Walt’s own words, “All we ever intended for him (Mickey Mouse) or expected of him was that he should continue to make people everywhere chuckle with him and at him. We didn’t burden him with any social symbolism, we made him no mouthpiece for frustrations or harsh satire. Mickey was simply a little personality assigned to the purposes of laughter.”

After a few faltering steps, Mickey was off and running generating laughter and endearment around the world. From this bit of information I realized Mickey symbolizes hope, dreams come true, perseverance, and love that grew out of one man’s wish to give people the gift of merriment.

When I was 9, the more famous characters at Disneyland in California tended to be elusive. Back then I met Cinderella, Alice from Wonderland and the March Hare, and had my picture taken with one of seven small friends of Snow White, Happy I think it was. A few other characters wandered in the distance and I left my one-day visit with the disappointment of a little girl whose fondest wish was to meet the famous mouse.

In my twenties I had no better luck. A similar smattering of princesses and colorful cartoon pals whisked by on my second visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, this time at Disney World in Florida. My heart leapt at the sight of Mickey and Minnie waving from a distant parade float with hundreds of people waving back to them, forming an impenetrable wall between me and the illustrious pair. The reason hope of meeting one little person dressed in a mouse costume (albeit a famous mouse costume) sustained so many spirits, including my own, escaped my comprehension. Why did my mood sag when the hope was not fulfilled?

My initial assumption was that Mickey took me back to a happier time, early childhood before my mother became ill. It made sense I would want to relive those special moments. That alone is reason enough to cry happy tender tears, but when I looked up the history of the mouse and his creator after my most recent visit, there was more, much more. It dawned on me that Mickey and friends, with their cartoon antics, had lifted me out of the dire circumstances of my mother’s illness every Saturday morning the way he had lifted Walt out of the foreshadowing of failure...and now he stood poised to lift me out of the doldrums of a strange and sometimes frightening world.

In keeping with my understanding that everything carries its own energy, Mickey too, I believe, exudes the goodness he stands for. I imagine that whoever is chosen for the honor of wearing the outfit must also radiate the same goodness.

I knew little of his history when tears formed in my eyes as Mickey arrived in his train for opening ceremonies on my first day at the park last week. “Good morning! Good Morning! Sun beams are shinin’ through! Good Morning! Good Morning to you!” One look at his squeaky clean presence and I lost it. The next day Minnie passed through the crowd and tears rolled down my cheeks again. What is going on with me? Each time I entered a ride or watched a performance I remembered from childhood the floodgates opened. If I was a proper adult I’d think “How embarrassing!” but instead, how wonderful to experience some kind of mysterious magic reaching beyond my adult exterior!

With perfect timing this trip occurred during one of the worst weeks I’ve ever known. I’d been fending off bouts of sadness, trying to maintain my usual bright outlook, working hard to not get swallowed up in months of devastating current events and the worst prelude to a Presidential election I’ve ever witnessed. If ever I needed magic it was now. Though at the beginning of the visit I did not think it possible, Mickey and friends opened a window where glimmers of cheer could drift in with a wave of their magic wands.

One thing stood out as I walked the packed streets of this vibrant fantastic world of Disney. There were no political signs. No rallies with candidates shooting disparaging words at one another. No religious orders defending their claims as the one true and only way to God. No people indulging in desperate disputes on social media or in town hall meetings.  If anyone cared one way or another about ethnicity or sexual preference or who won the election or who earned their ticket to heaven and who did not, they let it go here in a poof of fairy dust. Everyone was there in pursuit of magic and joy, if not their own then for their children. There were smiles, kindnesses aplenty, patience in long lines, and laughter, LOTS of laughter. Laughter that would have made the wizard who initiated it all very proud.

I came to the stunning conclusion that if humans can let all the strife and hostility go in a magical kingdom for a day or a week, they can let it go indefinitely. If we humans are capable of the incredible feats of technological magic that stream from every attraction in that park I am confident we can love better, fight less, listen more, seek to understand each other, and together envision a brighter future for ourselves and our children. Though these thoughts came later I am certain this is what Mickey intended for me to pass on to you when my lifelong dream came true…

Due to some ticketing mix-ups our whole gang was treated to a private audience with the Mouse with the Most. My eyes rimmed with tears one last time when we entered his chamber and he said, “Hi everybody!” He was every bit as real as stars and sunbeams and wishes that rise up from the heart. I whispered to him that I’d waited to meet him since I was nine and he thanked me for coming. After a few photos I thanked him too. Though I didn’t say exactly what I was thanking him for, on some level I think he knew it was for resuscitating my spirit. Maybe he saw it in my eyes because just as I turned to go he reached out and gave me the best, the warmest, the most sincere magical mouse hug anyone could ever imagine.

I’m thankful for one blessed idea and the man who nurtured it into being. Now let’s turn the tables and give him and his little mouse companion what they have given so many millions of children and children-at-heart: smiles and laughter and a land that welcomes every person and nurtures every spirit.

Be the change and laugh as often as you can.
Love, Robin



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Listening for Your Heart

There is special kind of listening called listening with the heart that unlocks a treasure unlike anything else. Listening with the heart creates connection between two people, two countries, and even between a person and themselves or their natural surroundings. Listening with the heart helps you, well, get to the heart of the matter. It strengthens bonds. It opens the door for healing to occur. And it’s good for your health!

You are not alone if you have difficulty listening. It is one of our most common interpersonal relationship stumbling blocks. There is only one way to access the key to better listening. You must turn off all those red buttons that go off in your mind. The flashing red lights that have you preparing a response without really hearing what the other person is saying. The buttons that project your own meaning on what is being said instead of listening to understand the other person’s meaning. And worst of all, the buttons that urge you to jump in and interrupt because you think you have something more important to say OR because what a person is saying makes you uncomfortable prompting you to talk over and shut the person up altogether.

I was in a health care workshop once when the facilitator began to speak about how to handle someone who emotes in your presence and perhaps shares an experience that is causing them concern. His simple advice? Listen. He said, “If a client emotes with you it is a sign that they trust you enough to allow a peek into their innermost being. This goes for anyone who allows themselves to be vulnerable with you whether in business or personal interactions. It is a sacred moment and one you should be honored to witness. Be quiet. Give your full attention and respect.” He went on to say, “If you find you have difficulty hearing someone’s story or observing their tears, I strongly urge you to seek therapy to find out why. That is something going on inside of YOU that needs to be addressed and healed.”

While undergoing a training in body-centered psychotherapy I learned to listen with my whole being. When the traditional senses of sight, hearing, and touch join together with well-honed intuition and empathy – while allowing the mind to retreat to the background - we can be said to be listening with the heart. This requires “tuning in” completely to the other person. Most of my client sessions involved quiet, focused listening to what the person’s whole being was telling me. Quite often during a session I did little more than mirror back the few words uttered by the client. At the conclusion, inevitably the client reported feeling truly understood though I had added little or no input. The client was able to pull together lost parts of themselves and begin to heal simply because they were heard with unbiased, unconditional regard for what their experience was in a given moment. Healing does not need to be in a clinical setting to occur.

Listening is an extremely pleasurable experience when you do it with the intention of really connecting with another human being and meeting them on their own level. The opposite, interrupting or talking over a person, raises blood pressure for both parties and is often cause for two people moving further away from each other rather than closer to understanding and compassion. This makes sense when you consider the work of Dr. Rick Bommelje and Dr. Manny Steil whose "Listening Leaders Newsletter" reports the effects of interrupting on your health:

Several university studies have found that people who interrupt conversations are at greater risk for heart problems. In fact, one study at Duke University found that people who interrupt are up to seven times more likely to get heart disease! Why is this so? The researchers theorize that people who interrupt are excessively competitive and controlling - two hallmarks of the worst "Type A" personalities.

But here is the amazing kicker: These same high-risk people can lower their risk without totally altering their personalities...and without any drugs, exercise or dietary changes. All they have to do is practice being good listeners.

If you are someone who tends to interrupt or gets anxious during a conversation there is plenty of information available to help you learn how to listen. Here’s a great short video from Ornish Lifestyle Medicine to get you started: https://www.ornish.com/video/feeling-others/  When you have more time, Leon Berg offers great suggestions in his TEDx talk https://youtu.be/6iDMuB6NjNA

Your significant others and business colleagues will thank you! 

Peace of the day to you and happy listening, Robin

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Art of Acceptance

  As I send out my prayers and love to all people who face the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, a thought occurred to me that is in some way comforting. I ask all who read this to put things into perspective and please read to the end for the full message. Natural disasters and the associated damage and death tolls have been a fact of life since the beginning of time. When we watch the news we forget this reality because devastation and fear mongering sells. Because it is happening NOW in our lifetime, we realize it could happen to us. We don’t like knowing we are vulnerable and one day we will die somehow, some way.
  We forget that we are also SURVIVORS. We get up each morning in spite of it all as we have for millenia. We grieve. We restore. We move on.
  YES it is sad that one precious life is cut short – someone’s mother or sister or child. AND what is the best thing we can do to honor those lost lives? I say it is to LIVE each day to the fullest – days they might have wished they could enjoy. Revere the rising and setting sun, the trees, the lakes, the oceans. Glory in the gentle breeze against your skin. Go out and jump in puddles in the middle of a rainstorm. Play, dance, sing, create, and have hope like it’s going out of style! Savor the wholesome variety of foods that are available to you each and every day. Be thankful for the home that shelters you as best it can and the clothing that protects you from the elements. Appreciate the wild creatures who grace our planet and the domestic furred friends who add so much joy and pleasure to your days.   Above all, offer gratitude for the life you have been given, CHERISH those who walk beside you, and let’s work TOGETHER to care for and preserve OUR Mother Earth for generations to come. We don’t have total control, and there IS A LOT WE CAN DO!
  As you listen to the tallies of today’s damage and loss and any that occurs in the future, realize how our populations have grown exponentially through the centuries. Imagine how devastating it was to lose 50,000 people in 365CE when there were far fewer people on the earth. Here is just a fraction of what has occurred since then, not to mention deaths that occurred in wars and hate crimes:

January 12, 2010 - A powerful earthquake destroyed much of Haiti and killed over 200,000 people.
1887 - The Huang Ho River flooded and killed 900,000.
August 26, 1883 - The island volcano Krakatoa, Indonesia erupted and killed 36,000.
October 5, 1864 - Calcutta, India denuded by a cyclone that killed 70,000.
November 1, 1755 - An earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal killed 70,000. Resulting heavy damage from ensuing fires and tsunami flooding in Morocco killed nearly 250,000 people.
March 11, 1669 - Mt. Etna, Sicily erupted killing 15,000. On March 25 it erupted again destroying Nicolosi and killing 20,000 more.
Feb 2 1556 - Worst earthquake in history Shangxi Province, China killing 830,000.
July 21, 365 CE - An earthquake leveled the Egyptian Port of Alexandria killing an estimated 50,000 people.

Please don’t buy what the fear-mongers are selling. You’ve been given a precious life and other precious lives to go with you on the journey. You have the choice to spend your gift wisely with love and joy as your focus OR to sit under a dark cloud of worry about things out of your control. I wish you peace and beauty and love, Robin




Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rain

Water speaks to your heart when you listen. On this day of Rain weaving in and out of the hours, what does she say to you? You may want to go make yourself a cup of tea, sit back in your favorite cozy chair, and close your eyes.

The softer gray light wraps my mind in a pleasant haze and I start getting all poetic on days like today. I've piled dry wood around the wood stove, ready for the first fire and thoughts of wool sweaters and long johns drift in the periphery. Winter is not my favorite season for its frigid temperatures and icy roads, but I do love the mystical quality of a fresh blanket of snow and drinking hot chocolate and baking sweet treats that fill the air with anticipation. Right now the wheel has just turned toward autumn and in order to stay in the present I want to enjoy every falling leaf, every coolish breeze, every snap of a crisp apple, and every pumpkin that brightens the fields. Winter will come soon enough and today Rain calls for attention.

Rain has been elusive these last few weeks but she needs to show off her talents now and again. Without her the world is parched and thirsty for love. Love that nourishes. Love that heals. Love that cleanses and soothes the cracked skin of Mother Earth. Love that urges all of life to grow and flourish.

Without Rain the Sun works overtime, the Moon has too little privacy, and Clouds fear retirement. Oceans and Rivers crave her presence. A Stream will not flow without rain.

Without Rain there is no impish jumping and splashing, no mud, and no bare toes meeting slippery pleasure. Rain loves the upturned faces of children, those who are young and those who remember.


Rain, Clouds, and Sun meet in sky studios to create what they could not accomplish alone. The timing, the placement, the light must be perfect. Let your dreams dance up across their arched artistry and down the other side. Later, the Moon will bathe you in her warmth and share stories of mirrored lakes and diamond rain drops. “Rain,” the Moon will tell you, “holds the very keys to existence.”

Be thankful for Rain! Where would we be without her?
Enjoy your tea!
Robin