The Podcast

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Podcast Episode 36: Kathy Giusti

Author of Fatal to Fearless: 12 Steps to Beating Cancer in a Broken Medical System, Kathy Giusti is a two-time cancer survivor, business leader, and healthcare disrupter. Named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and Fortune Magazine’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, Giusti is recognized as a pioneer in precision medicine. Find her and the book here: Kathy Giusti

ALISON : Hey, there. How you doing?

JEAN : I’m wonderful. How are you?

ALISON : Good. I learned how to turn this on so nicely.

JEAN : You are getting so great at at being able to turn on and off our recording system.

ALISON : It’s, you know, it’s a real skill. It really is truly a skill.

JEAN : Well, better you than me.

ALISON : That’s right. That’s exactly right. And today we are talking to Kathy Giusti. And she is the author of,  Fatal to Fearless – 12 Steps to Beating Cancer in a Broken Medical System. And I have to tell you, she has done so much in her life. It’s amazing. She has started a multiple myeloma research foundation (MMRF). She’s worked with presidents. She’s worked on committees to pioneer new drugs at Harvard. Right. It’s amazing.

JEAN : Pharmaceutical executive for major companies. I do not know how she finds the time to to accomplish everything she does with such brilliance and heart. Right?

ALISON : How does she shower?

JEAN : Like maybe she hasn’t, like a special car. A car as she’s driving to work, that kind of dresses her and showers her, that wipes her down because she’s amazing. I felt a little on the slacker side, like I’m just not doing enough. But I think she speaks to that point a little bit at the end of her book that, um, you know, we do all have to embrace where we are in life and, and honor each other.

ALISON : And, and I love people that have embraced their powerhouse.

JEAN : Yeah. I mean, she was perfect to write this book. She came from such a wonderful background of the medical recovery.

ALISON : Yeah. And remission twice with cancer. Right,  and it’s just a very interesting story. And it’s a memoir and a sort of a guide.

JEAN : And a workbook. Right. And I do wish I had had this book when, when Alex was diagnosed. And it would have been helpful. Um, but I’m so looking forward to interviewing this brilliant, beautiful woman.

ALISON : That’s right. Okay, here we go. Okay.

JEAN :  This is so great. We’ve been really looking forward to meeting you, Kathy. And my name is Jean.

JEAN : And I’m Alison.

KATHY : Hi, Jean and Alison.

ALISON : Thank you so much. Your book is just, uh, wonderful. Uh, I couldn’t put it down.

KATHY : Oh, good. I’m glad.

ALISON : And the memoir part really spoke to me because I really feel like I got to know you and your family, and I found it very moving and very, um, accessible.

KATHY : Yeah, I think that happened because, you know, I started out with writing a what to do book and, um, the publisher really wanted it to be a what to do book. But, um, you know, in writing it, I had to go back and read all of the journals that I had started writing for our daughter Nicole, when she was just one. And when all of a sudden you’re going through all the journals, you can kind of read between the lines, and it’s what I said, you know,– I know what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I didn’t do at all. And, you know, you really it takes time to just sit and reflect on all of it and on the on the impact it has on family, which obviously, you know all too well.

JEAN : Yeah. Yeah. Well, reading your book, I did think to myself, wow, I could have used this book and, and have already shared your book with, with a friend. So thank you for taking the time to do this book.

ALISON : My brother in law passed away just recently from multiple myeloma, and…

KATHY : oh, I’m sorry.

ALISON : Yes, and I’m reading this and I’m crying and I just thought, you know, thank goodness for you. Like, the impact you’re having on so many people is like, are you aware of that? Like, like what is that feel like as a human being?

KATHY : You know, I  think it’s one of these things where,  you just have to believe things happened for a reason, for some strange reason. Right? And I think I had this ideal background, kind of crazy to take on the medical system.  And if I didn’t have the right background to do it, I’m not sure I could have been as successful as we were. So I, I definitely got the sense of the progress in myeloma and how many lives we were saving in that field. I think it was when I went on to teach up at Harvard Business School and worked with all the other foundations, um, that I really started to see the impact of our knowledge and how to build really innovative nonprofit models that I could see the impact across all cancers and even all diseases. It’s really good to understand the physical journey that cancer will take, but I think the book took me one step further, unexpectedly, because I’m really quite a private person to share, um, that it’s all about relationships and, you know, the impact that disease can have on those relationships. And I think that became kind of the third leg to my stool of, okay, here are the things I hope I can give back.

ALISON : I think it’s um, I think your book is a love story.

KATHY : Yeah. Somebody said that to me. They said somebody said they felt it was a love story to my family and friends. Right. Um. And I felt, um, that it was more of a love story that i was writing to the patients.  Because, um, you know, really, I think what threw me off so much, you know, you can read that book and know that I was feeling like, oh, my God, I was so urgent, so passionate, all of these things. And it took a toll on my family. And so I had regrets about that in the book. But I feel like I know what it’s like to be a patient, and I know what it’s like to have that knot in the stomach. And I know the fear that you have. And so I had no boundaries. If they had just gotten diagnosed and wanted to talk to me at 9:00 at night, I talked to them at 9:00 at night. If they wanted to talk to me on a Saturday, while I was driving David to a baseball game, I would take the call just because I knew how scared they were, and I didn’t want to make them wait. But, you know, on the other hand, you know, boundaries are probably a good thing. And I think the patients have been completely understanding. If I said, can I just wait and call you tomorrow morning? Right. So, you know, these are just lessons learned in life, that you think everything is urgent. You think you’re the only one that can do it. You’re the only one that’s going to make them play right in the sandbox. And then you realize, you know, there are other people just as smart as me and as capable as me or can be trained, you know, to work with me and have that same kind of attitude and approach.

JEAN : It is a it’s amazing how cancer or any life threatening disease really throws your your perception of life into what’s important. And not only the patient, but all, you know, the orbit around us. Um.

KATHY : Absolutely. And I think, you know, what you find is, you know, there’s over 100 types of cancer, right? So it doesn’t matter which one you hear. All you hear is the word cancer. And all of a sudden, you know, we all say like there’s life before the day you got diagnosed, and then there’s life after. And you just wish you could go back to that life before. But you’re not allowed. It’s it’s not going to happen. You have to do your best to make the life that is now given to you. And I think the other thing is, for those of us that really understand oncology, we know that one cancer is not another cancer. And you know that pancreatic is tough. Brain tumors are really tough. And so there’s some cancers that are they’re just really challenging. And even today in this world of amazing immunotherapy, which is making a big difference, not every cancer is responding the same way to immunotherapy. So some cancers see more promise right now than others. And I think it’s important for patients and caregivers to know what’s going on in the field and stay in touch with all the science.

ALISON : Right. Do you feel there’s, um do you feel hope? I got hope from your book, but do you do you feel like because you’re faced a lot with this and just your life, do you feel hope?

KATHY : Yes, I do. You know, it’s funny, um, I always say that when people call me, when patients call me, they call me and either they were just diagnosed and they’re scared, or they run out of options and they’re scared. If people are doing well, they’re not calling me. So my job really is to, you know, first of all, make sure I can calm them down and then take the steps that you see in the book to try to help find them. You know, what is the next action that they can take. I find that by putting things into simple steps for patients and saying, okay, I know you’ve read all this and you’ve been to every site and it’s a little overwhelming. Here are the three things you need to do. And I just think by keeping things very simple and telling people where to keep moving forward, that’s where the hope comes from, that they’re starting to move through the process, and they feel a little more confident. They’re willing to ask their doctor more questions. They’re willing to say that the drug has side effects, whatever it might be. And so I think that confidence builds hope. And then the second part is there’s a huge reason for hope that is based off the science.

KATHY : So when I was diagnosed, you know, that was back in 1996. And, um, you know, science moved so slowly, so slowly. And in today’s world, you know, things, you know, back then it was $1 billion and ten years to get a drug to market. And in today’s world, it’s happening so much faster. You’ve got gene therapy, immunotherapy, genomics. There’s just so many ways you can go. And now even with AI, drug development will start happening much faster. Imaging will get much better. So when I say there’s reason for hope, the the hope is coming from the amazing scientists, pharmaceutical companies, everybody out there working on it. My biggest fear and why I wrote the book was now you have a lot more to miss out on. You know, if you’re not on your game, you’re going to miss a clinical trial that might extend your life, that could extend your life until the next drug comes out for you. And I just felt that that game of FOMO in, you know, treating cancer is a dangerous game. And I wanted patients and their caregivers to know you can beat the system. You just have to know the steps to do it.

JEAN : Can you give our listeners three really great tips what to do upon a diagnosis? Because you say that (in your book) and, but you’re they’re wonderful. And I wish I had known those.

KATHY : And I know, I would say the three tips, like when you read the book, you’ll know that it’s divided into three parts. So the first part is you’ve just been diagnosed. The second part is you are in the thick of treatment, and the third part is you’ve finished your treatment and now your so-called survivor. So in the first part, when you’re diagnosed, what I recommend to everybody, number one, is to Google wisely. And that means you don’t have to go everywhere. There are very good sites in oncology, the American Cancer Society,, um, the National Cancer Institute, So you can go to the cancer sites and they actually are highly credible and highly reliable. The second piece is then you have to identify within your cancer. Is there a foundation, a disease group specifically focused on that cancer? You would be amazed, i mean, here we are decades later in the field of multiple myeloma, you would think that every myeloma patient has signed up at the MMRF to get our newsletter, our updates on clinical trials, whatever. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the MMRF or Pancan or Lustgarten or any of these organizations, we don’t have nearly the percentage, high percentage of patients that you think we would. And part of that, because they don’t know we’re out here.

ALISON : Yeah.

KATHY : And that’s what’s really scary. Like a lot of patients don’t know that there are disease groups specifically focused in their disease. So I always say make sure you find a reliable disease foundation that can then concierge you much better to that specific cancer. And often like at the MMRF we have full time patient navigators. I mean they came out of the best hospitals and they will walk you through from the moment of diagnosis all the way through trials, everything you need. And they’re amazing nurses and, you know, they’re they could be utilized even more than they are right now. So that’s go to the cancer sites. They’re really good. Go to the disease groups and register. Give them your email. Otherwise you won’t get the information. The other is get a second opinion. You have to get a second opinion. And the third is know your insurance. Like you would think. Someone like me, who has lived in this field and breathed the medical field for all of my life, that I would have this right. And one of the reasons I wrote the book was to share with you. Like I had everything going for me. Everything, the right husband, the right kids, the right friends, the right insurance, the right job and i still messed it up. I still messed it up and in areas where I often messed it up was insurance, um, paying out of pocket.

KATHY : Um, going to my breast cancer doctor, going to…. I thought my surgeon was, um, in house. You know, you get hit with huge surgical bills. And I’m thinking to myself, if I’m not tracking this. Yeah, I always say, everybody know your insurance and make sure you call them. It’s not enough to just think that you’re covered. Make sure you talk to them and say, where should I go? Is this covered? And then fight for what you want? Which leads me into the second part of the book, which is the treatment. When you’re trying to get the test done, whether it’s genomic testing, biomarker testing, anything, you often have to keep asking for it. So like in multiple myeloma, we often have to ask for Pet scans. The insurance companies don’t always love it, but they’re really good at helping us to know when and when to get treatment and how we’re doing. And then when you get into the stage where you’re actually looking at the treatment side, that’s where we really say, you’ve got to make sure you’re building that team around you. Your medical team has to be amazing, and your personal caregiving team has to be equally as strong, because now you’re in the thick of it. You know, you need somebody to help with your kids, your parents, everybody there.

KATHY : Um, so we always say that that part is the most important part when you’re in the treatment side. And then when you get to survivorship, kind of what I say to people there is um, I know we all ring the bell when we finish chemo and we high five after. But it’s not like that. You take these really tough toxic treatments and they’re hard. Or you do a really tough surgery and people are like, okay, you got through that now you should be smiling and everything should be great. And I’m going to head back to work and we’re going to go do this. And you’re sitting there going, I have not healed. I’m sad. What’s wrong with me? And it’s very prevalent time of, um, depression. So it’s important that people know that. And then then you have to also be tracked. You don’t know how deep your remission is. So you need them to do more testing to tell you so that, you know, if you need more chemotherapy, anything to go along with the surgery you just had. So the journey doesn’t end. It’s just a cycle. It’s a cycle. And and patients still live in fear of relapse. It doesn’t matter how many times you get a good test result, you’re still scared every time you go to Sloan-Kettering or Dana-Farber or wherever.

ALISON : Yeah. Do you um, I thought it was very interesting about the clinical trials. You say at one point, know the point of the trial.

KATHY : Yes.

ALISON : I had never even thought about because some you’re like some are trying to see side effects. It’s not all just like about curing the type of cancer you have.

KATHY : So I think, you responded, you actually both were talking about this. This is really, really important. So when all of a sudden someone gets diagnosed, then everybody kind of comes in and tells them every story about where they got treated for their cancer. And here’s the best doctor for you. You start listening. But the truth is, cancer centers are all really good at specific cancers. It just depends on how their departments are built. Like, you know, we may have great hospitals in New York that focus on myeloma, but they may not be just as strong in pancreatic or glioblastoma. So you have to know which center to go to. First of all, that’s really important. And then the second part is you have to know who’s doing the best clinical trials. So that depends on who has a great clinical background at that academic center. And if they have a great background, then the pharma companies are coming to them with amazing clinical trials. But then as a patient, you have to understand a phase one trial means they’re still trying to find the dose. So like when you were saying all these clinical trials were coming his way, like you’re saying to yourself, well, how do I know which one to put them on? The truth is, you know, you have to look at the inclusion criteria.

KATHY : Can he even get in? Right. And this is this is hard stuff to read. You’re supposed to go to and start reading this yourself. It’s this is why we have navigators, you know, at the walk you through. So you have to know the inclusion criteria. You have to know if it’s phase one, phase two or phase three. At least you know when you’re getting out to phase two, they know the dose. And at phase three, you know, now you really are in a very strong clinical trial. At that point, you’re really trying to understand the efficacy of the drug versus the standard of care. So you want later stage trials. You want trials that are near you. You don’t want to have to go crazy getting to them. Um, and you want to make sure that that drug looks highly effective and it’s hard to know.

JEAN : Yeah, yeah. For sure. And the other thing is, I think most people I mean, I would, I would assume that my doctor knew how to do all this. And like you say in your book, these, these brilliant doctors have like 13, 16 minutes to really be with you. Yeah. So you really have to become your own advocate. And, um, just the language alone in the medical industry is so overwhelming. And that part for me was, was very challenging and I remember clearly feeling like a deer in headlights, like what, where do we begin? And, um and everyone’s personality is so different.

KATHY : It’s all so complex, you know, and they use all the acronyms, and it’s really hard…

JEAN : Oh, that’s right..the Acronyms!

KATHY : It’s just so hard to stay on top of it. And so you have to understand who you trust to kind of help you sort through all this information that’s coming your way. And you hope it’s your doctor. But you are right. The doctors have limited time to focus on what the patient’s. The good thing about going to an academic cancer center is that they tend to specialize in certain cancers. So if you’re seeing somebody there that’s a hematologist oncologist, odds are they’re just strictly focused on myeloma or leukemia or lymphoma. And I think what happens a little bit more as you move out, you know, to the community centers, which are, again, still great doctors and 70% of cancer care is done at the community, not at the academic centers. Um, those community doctors have to know lots of cancers. So every cancer is making progress. And if you think that it’s up to your oncologist to stay on top of your type of cancer and then your specific subtype of cancer, like, there’s just no way. So it really is on you these days to stay on top of it for sure. Absolutely.

ALISON : Do you think, um, it’s important to get genetic testing or do you think it’s like I’m going to be transparent, because you were, I’m a worrier… So I’m afraid that if I get genetic testing, uh, I’ll be like, oh, oh, like, oh my gosh, can you give me some advice about that? Because my other friends going through it too.

KATHY : So, well, first of all, just remember there’s two types of genetic testing. One type of genetic testing is to understand what genes run in your family. So in a situation like that, if there’s risk in your family, for example, a BRCA gene and breast cancer, um, you definitely would want to know that. So I always say to everybody, you have to know the history in your family. You have to. And that way you’re able to tell your doctors that it runs in your family, and they can then make sure you’re being screened appropriately. The second type of testing, just so the listeners know, is that when you actually have cancer and you have a specific tumor type, they will do testing on that to identify what kind of genes are turned on and off in your specific tumor, and that will help them to decide treatment.. In your specific situation where you’re trying to say, I’d like to know if I’m prone to cancer, um, but I’m going to worry about it a lot. I would say to you, I would focus more on your family history right now and make sure you’re very aware of any, any risks at all that are going on in your family. And then secondly, I would just say there are so many ways to continue to prevent cancer that I would focus on them. I mean, it’s not complicated. I mean, you know, minimal alcohol, eat healthy, exercise, don’t gain weight. I mean, these are not crazy things that the world is asking us to do. And then I would say the third thing is there are tests that are just starting to be developed.

KATHY : They’re not covered necessarily by insurance quite yet. Um, but they’re getting better and better and better. And over the next number of years, I actually think this is one of the places that’s really going to expand in cancer care. I feel like, you know, my kids are in their late 20s now, and I kind of ended the book, you know, in a full cycle with them where they now know cancer runs in our family like crazy. So, you know, I said to them, you need to see a great primary care internist that’s on it. And they do. And I just say to them, you have to watch for every single sign. And if and along the way, your internist feels that there should be testing done earlier, do it. But, um, you will find there’s going to be some amazing new blood tests that come out that will literally tell, you know, the next generation, whether they have any kind of early cancer cells going on. It’s a vast and growing area. I wouldn’t say it’s there quite yet. They don’t have all the genes that they’re following. There’s still a lot of false positives. So then I worry about people like you that might worry more. Um, you know, so but I would say know your risk be really healthy. And three, keep an eye on these new diagnostic tests that are going to help us to identify what’s happening in our bodies.

ALISON : Thank you.

JEAN : There’s so much information out there, Kathy, you know, it’s like going to a huge shopping mall. You don’t even know where do I begin? And um, so another thing I love in your book is that you talk about the caregiver, which is so important and it’s essentially vital to the healing of the patient. Um, your family

ALISON :  You’re eight friends, i would love to meet them..

KATHY : It’s really funny, though. Think about it, um, the way that developed was my talking with a counselor, and again, I was headed to the second part of the book. It was Go time. I was working full time, two little ones, and now I’m headed to the stem cell transplant. I’m going to be in isolation for weeks on end. My sister’s my donor. She has three little ones at home. Like, how are we going to pull all this off? My husband has work, too. And so I went the counselor saying to me, they’re just going to be some things like your husband’s a great caregiver, but there’s just going to be some things that you, you want to share with your friends, like you need help. So just call them like, yeah, just call them. So I did, and it was funny because we all worked. But we ended up doing this lunch. And so we just stayed together through the whole thing. And like some of them were just again, when I in the book, I talk a lot about on caregiving, you always need to write down what your needs are. Your needs are the immediate, like, oh my God, who’s taking care of the kids? Who’s cleaning the house? Who’s walking the dog? Like the immediate stuff that you think, I don’t know who’s going to do this anymore? And then there are the wants. Do I want to stay working? Do I want to see a wedding? Do I want to travel the world? Like, what do I want to do? And I always say, line your caregivers up so that they’re doing what they want to do and what they’re really good at. So of my eight, there are some that are amazing cooks, like just incredible.

KATHY : I mean, they just fed our family while we were gone. And then there are others that just love to drive. And they, you know, they had time to do it. And then there were others, and I always say this to everybody like, don’t ever ask me to cook for you. You will be very disappointed. But if you say to me, Kathy, give me, give me two hours and go research everything you can find on my specific cancer. Now you’re giving me a job that I like, that I can do for you and hand it back over to you. And it just got done. I think that patients forget, um, it’s their job to delegate out to those that care about them. And it’s a gift. Like, of the eight, I think three of us have now had cancer. So, you know, I tend even though they were helping me, I turned my bag of scarves back over to them, gave them all the blankets like everything goes around, comes around. And then we’ve been together on anything that comes up. It could be sick parents, dying parents, you know, how do we handle all these things? And we’ve just all stayed together, which is it’s an amazing gift. We all talk about the importance of these relationships, but, um, I put effort into it. And I think it’s important in the book to also note that it doesn’t need to be eight. It can be one, right? You don’t need to have eight. You know, like I was really fortunate to have that. If you have one, that’s all that that’s perfectly fine. Just work with them as best you can.

ALISON : Right.. That’s what I loved, I loved that and can I just ask you about you for a minute? Like, you know, when you were saying that when a patient gets, you know, that fear, so what do you what did you do with that? Like do you meditate? Do you? I know you were journaling for your daughter. Has she ever read the journals?

KATHY : It’s so funny. I just got this question. Um, my kids laugh and say we can’t read your writing. Number one. Um, I think they said if you their response is, if you want us to read them, we’ll read them. But for right now, they really don’t have any interest in reading them. I think, you know, my mom recently passed away, and it was at that moment that, um, my sister and I were going through all of her things, and I just remember sitting on the floor and just reading and reading every card, everything she’d ever saved. And I can just kind of think that’s probably at the point at which my kids will do it. It’ll be funny because they’ll be doing it when I’m not here. Right. Um, but you know, they kind of view the book to be the cliff notes, so…

ALISON : Exactly. That’s right.

KATHY : So they can they can cheat and read that. haha

ALISON : Exactly. This is what you read before the test. haha

KATHY : But in terms of like the, um, the gut wrenching feeling and by the way, it doesn’t have to be the patient, it can also be the caregiver. Yeah. I mean,  when somebody calls me, like even my twin sister and, um, at one point, I remember she had elevated liver enzymes, and she had me completely convinced that she had metastatic breast cancer. And I, I mean,I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything just for a period of time, but, you know, we are amazing human beings and somehow we find this way to compartmentalize. I can’t tell you how many times living with myeloma for so long and running the Myeloma Research Foundation, I would get horrible test results. And then I’d have a huge event where I had to speak in front of hundreds and hundreds of people. And I remember calling my friends one of the eight and just saying, I can’t do this, like I can’t do this… And they would literally walk me through it and help me get back on my path. And, you know, everybody says, go for a walk, go for a run, go do a yoga class. And I do. And I always say, people say, well, what else do you do? And I always say, I’m completely neurotic about my sleep. Neurotic. I’m just like, just please give me give me those eight hours. I’ll take it. And your immune system builds while you’re sleeping, so it’s really important to do it. I eat healthy, but I still also go for a walk, usually out in a park or somewhere in nature, um, every morning. And just try to keep your head in the game. And I think those things are, are critical.

ALISON : Because I’m amazed that what everything that you’ve done and went through, I was like, oh, man, you know, we were recording your intro this morning and I said, how do you even have time for a shower? Like, you’re amazing.

JEAN :  Just being a mom… and being an executive and yeah, you are amazing. And  I’m a little curious, Kathy, do you have any religious background or spiritual background that you..

KATHY : This is so interesting. Um, when my husband and I got married, he’s  was Catholic. And, you know, this happened, you know, just a few years after we got married. So it’s almost like he didn’t know any other life with me except cancer. And think about it, he’s been living with it now, with me for decades and decades. And I think, you know, there were points in time and you could sense this when you’re reading the book where I, you know, I think he’s like fed up, like, oh my God, how many like, now another doctor’s visit or during my breast cancer journey, like it was supposed to be double mastectomy. And then I would move out and be done. But it went I had these terrible infections. It went on and on and on, and I could just see it in his eyes, like, how long are we going to do this? And so, that’s why I always say to everybody, um, just be aware that your caregivers are giving so much. We forget to say thank you. We forget to really like sometimes we almost take advantage. Like, he was always great about driving me to every doctor’s appointment. I could have driven myself like it would have been fine.

KATHY : Um. And he probably would have been happy going to work. But I was like, he offered. And I said, sure. And I think, I think over time, what happens is, if it happens for a long time, resentment builds and you really want to avoid that. When you’re a cancer patient and your caregiver is often the person you love the most, you don’t want resentment building. You want to be able to talk about it and handle things like that. So going back over to the religion, um, he really did, when we were in Chicago and I had first gotten diagnosed, we were very close with our Catholic Church out there, and he was super close with the priest, and the priest was this amazing, amazing man. And it was a small church that felt so community like. And so, they really got us through, like, um, you know, I ended up getting pregnant. I ended up having David and we ended up saying, okay, we’re going to move back east to be near Paul’s parents and my sister. And that whole story is in the book. But, you know, it was Mother’s Day and the the entire church, he had us come forward in the entire church, blessed us before we left.

KATHY : He was just, like everybody was there for you. And I can’t even describe it, like I write about it in the book. Like we went and lit the candles and just working him we haven’t found. Um, I hate to say this. We haven’t found anybody like him since that time, and it was a special time for us. And as a result, we ended up..this is terrible to say, but we came back to this area on the East coast, um, came to a church, and there was embezzlement going on. And we ran into some problems and we went off the rails. And I do wish we could find our way back. I do, um, because I think it helped us tremendously early on, and I think it would still be helpful today.  And I think everything is always about finding special people that you can relate to, whether it’s your friend, your doctor, a certain nurse, a priest, you know, a counselor, there’s just people along the way that you, I don’t know, you just work with, and you love them and they help you and you have to see that and catch on to it and make it work for you.

ALISON : I’m so impressed by your um you know, accessibility and your vulnerability in this. And yet you say you’re a private person.

KATHY : I know I think people are really shocked the ones knowing me um, that I put that much into it. But I felt like once I was going through the journals themselves, I didn’t expect to do it, but I could just see that I had made mistakes. And I feel like here I am, you know, 66 years old, and I and I’m just realizing this now, like, I laugh about it. And you can see toward the end of the book I’m writing, how many times did I Google cancer, myeloma, whatever it may be. And I never once googled relationships? How to have a good relationship. And so,  while I was writing the book, I was literally saying to myself, you know, Kathy, you are kind of a jerk, you know? And so I really did spend I’m a curious soul. So I kind of switched while I was writing the book and, and I would still go on my walks and nature and everything. But now I was listening to, you know, Gottman and Brene Brown and people that were more like in those areas. And I was learning so much and I thought, oh, this is how I’m supposed to be. Um, and I think it really did teach me a lot. And I felt like, I don’t want people to wait till they’re 66 to figure some of this out. I hope that if people get diagnosed earlier, or even if you’re a child caregiver to an elderly parent or whomever, that you have to realize, you have a voice and it’s up to you to speak up. And don’t let resentment feel like all these little lessons in there. I didn’t want people to learn them too late in life, like like I did. Um, I felt like I could have picked up on those much sooner.

JEAN : But, you know, Kathy, I don’t be hard on yourself. I think the universe chooses certain people to  deliver, communicate information, and clearly this spoke to your strengths. And at the same time, we’re all having experiences in our life. And bottom line is, we’re learning how to just love more. Yeah, love more unconditionally and for ourselves too.

KATHY : You definitely do that in the book.

JEAN : You hit this out of the park.

ALISON : You are really amazing and you’re just…

JEAN : So lovely

ALISON : lovely and normal and great. So Thank you so much for talking to us. I, I’m giving this book to my friend who’s now going through lung cancer and and you and you’ve given me so much hope. And thank you very, very much. You’re touching so many people.

KATHY : Thank you. And thank.

JEAN : You and your family are truly amazing and your Eight.

ALISON : That’s right… Love to all of them.

KATHY : Thank you thank you. It was really nice talking with both of you.

ALISON : Have a beautiful day.

JEAN : All the best okay.


JEAN : Wow.

JEAN : She is just, uh, so full of information and on both the intellectual side and the wisdom heart side.

ALISON : I, I was so, um, I thought from reading the book, like, she would seem so intense, and yet she’s so warm and lovely and open, and, you know, I just really enjoyed speaking with her.

JEAN : Me too. And I just want to read here three things that her, um, her takeaway at the end, she says, say thank you. Don’t ever take kindness for granted. Number two, speak up. Don’t ever let resentment build. And number three apologize. It’s never too late. So her journey has taught her some very deep soul wisdom that that we forget sometimes. But a cancer diagnosis, um, really has a way of transforming our perceptions to what’s very important in life.

ALISON : And that, you know, I’m always taken aback reading all these books and talking to all these people. Doesn’t it always come down to love ?

JEAN : It does.

ALISON : Like, you know, when you see, goodness, you’re actually seeing love.. Like, um, you know, love for yourself, advocating for yourself, love for your caregiver… You know, we talk to all these people… Lasagna Love, You Matter, Humankind…it’s all about love

JEAN : Yeah. It is. Um, so that’s great to know and to just check in with yourself, you know? Am I losing track of love and what’s truly important in life?  What’s your North star?

ALISON : What’s your North star? That’s great. I love that.

JEAN : I got that from Kathy, by the way.

ALISON : We can’t we don’t have an original thought, us, you and me.

JEAN : I think she says that when she’s sitting in Starbucks and she decides what’s really important in life, like, write it down and let that be your North Star.

ALISON : That’s great. That’s beautiful. Well, we hope that you enjoyed this as much as we did. It’s really it’s a wonderful book. Fatal to Rearless – 12 Steps to Beating Cancer in a Broken Medical System. I just loved it. Thank you so much, Kathy.

JEAN : Yes, Kathy, we send you our kindest thoughts.

ALISON : That’s right. Have a beautiful day.

JEAN : Bye.

Podcast Episode 35: Machiel Klerk

Author of DREAM GUIDANCE, Machiel Klerk is a licensed mental health therapist with a specialty in working with dreams. He is the founder of the non-profit organization the Jung Society of Utah, which has hosted more than 75 events to more than 20,000 guests, and the online educational organization the Jung Platform.

JEAN: Is our theme song playing?

ALISON: It’s playing under just about now, and then it fades out. You know, the show today is going to be a very exciting interview, don’t you think?

JEAN: Absolutely. We are interviewing, um, Michael Clarke.

ALISON: You did that? Well, I, I could not have done that.

JEAN: He’s got a great accent.

ALISON: He does, he does. And the name of his book is Dream Guidance – connecting to the soul through Dream Incubation.

JEAN: Right. And isn’t that a fascinating title? Yeah, I think it’s very, um, catching…I, Jean, don’t think I remember my dreams. And I never really gave dreaming a lot of my thought or conscious attention that it could hold answers to my desires or questions or or healing. And now, from reading his book, I’m, i’m 180 degrees turned around, around about my dreams.

ALISON: He has a definite process to help people get in touch with their dreams, remember their dreams, and how to sort of evaluate their dreams. Which I thought was really interesting because I know I do have dreams, but they just seem like a cluster of craziness.

JEAN: You know, same, same here in my dreams, I feel are just airy, abstract activity that really don’t give me any insight. And, I am so wrong. Yeah.

ALISON: And that he says, you know that if you really pose a question and the way he has, he has guidelines to help you figure out how to pose that question. Right. You can get true insight from your dreams, which I love. I love that idea. It’s exciting to me.

JEAN: So anyway, we hope you love this interview and, uh, you’ll you’ll get a lot from it. It’ll be a great resource.

ALISON: But don’t fall asleep during the interview and dream.  stay awake.

JEAN: Hi Machiel, so great to meet you, I’m Jean

ALISON: and.. I’m Allison.

MACHIEL: hi, Allison.

ALISON: We’re already talking about dreams while we’re. We’re waiting for you.

MACHIEL: Excellent. I, I’m curious to to to to learn what, uh, what was, uh, bubbling up for you.

JEAN: All right. Well, for me, I don’t consider my dreams of any importance. And I thought to myself, wow, we’re going to get to interview this author and this will be a whole new awakening for me about my dreams. And it truly has. And I am going to really give my dreams some some attention now because  if you were to ask me, I do not think that I remember that i have dreams, I’m sure, but I don’t remember them, and I don’t even try to remember them. I usually go, that was crazy. That didn’t make sense. Thank God I’m awake now.

Speaker3: One of those.

ALISON: Right? Right.

MACHIEL: But I love this notion that you, uh, that you started with, oh, dreams. Uh, like many people, they discard dreams. They don’t think it’s important. Uh, we don’t live in a culture that, uh, values dreams. Like many indigenous cultures, people in the morning ask, what did you dream they would rely on, on dreams for, for their path through life? And, uh, of course, there are many ways that you can connect to the deep self, uh, intuition, yoga, meditation, just, uh, being a kind person. So it’s not that, uh, that dreams, uh, is necessary, but it can be such a valuable tool in, uh, in life if you know a little bit how to listen and be with them.

ALISON: Your, your, your process, I thought was really amazing about, um, how to ask the right question, how to do a little ritual. And the question thing was challenging for me because I kept thinking, no, that’s that’s not that’s not open ended. That’s not alive. That’s not, you know.


ALISON: Well go ahead.

JEAN: Yeah. Mikhail, I was curious if you could before we get into that, I just would love our, our listeners to just hear. What got you interested in dreams and thn. Yeah, that would be great.

MACHIEL: Yes-  like many things in life that have a deep impact. Uh, this it’s either, uh, pain or love. Mhm.. I was in deep pain, I had unresolved heartbreak of my father who died when I was ten, and our culture and family didn’t know how to grieve, and I didn’t even know how much unresolved grief I had until I started tending to it. I was stuck in my life in my early 20s. I didn’t know what to do. I started smoking way too much weed, uh, and sit on the couch,  which made me even more lethargic. And, um, so I was in a pit… And by chance, I stumbled upon the works of Carl Jung, who provided a way of thinking, and imagining the dream world as an expression of your own psyche. And so I got a kind of a psychological x-ray of what was going on inside of me. And there I learned a whole bunch of things from my shadow parts, things that were, uh, destructive, uh, characters showed up that brought me in a certain direction. So the dreams were a lifeline that I found, and I climbed out of the pit, and then I stayed connected to this lifeline because it had shown so much compassion and guidance to me that, uh, my life had turned around, that I’m eternally grateful to the world of dream and its inhabitants.

ALISON: And then how did you come up with your process then about the question in the ritual? Because it’s really beautiful.

MACHIEL: Yeah. And the questions is, uh, it can be helpful in general to, to learn to ask questions because questions deepen intimacy. Uh, we all ask ourselves throughout the day a lot of questions. And, uh, also they, uh, can often be refined instead of asking, why can’t they do this, then your own brain or psyche responds. Uh, and if you ask, how can I do this? You already get a different answer, right? Um, but I studied many dream, uh, techniques that started with Jung, but it branched out to, uh, many traditions around the world, and, uh, one thing I learned is that when you’re in the dream, you can become lucid. So in the dream that you know that you’re dreaming. And a lot of people have had it in some variation that you were there and was like, is this a dream? Or some people are like, oh my gosh, I’m in a dream. And then you can ask questions and you and you start learning that you live in a, in a responsive universe. Yeah. That you ask something and that the dream world shifts to, to help you. And, uh, I’m not that easily lucid. So I started experimenting with asking the dream questions before you go to bed in order to have a dream respond. And you can ask questions around love or creativity or health or anything that is is relevant to one’s life. And I noticed oh, this, this works too. And, uh, so, uh, I practiced and then I learned, oh, this this technique that’s done all over the world in all cultures. So, uh, nothing, nothing new there. But I first, for a year and a half, practiced on my own, then studied all these cultures. And then I desolated these five steps. How? How everyone could ask their dream question in order to trigger a helpful response.

ALISON: That’s great. Yeah.

ALISON: I think my favorite thing was, is, is your question alive? Yeah. Because even in life, um, it’s great to be truly curious and alive and present with the question. I think I just loved that statement.


MACHIEL: And also in, uh, even in conversation like this, the quality of the conversation is partly by are these questions really coming from a place of curiosity? Right. Uh, are they something you really want to know, or is it a bit obligatory? Uh, question. Right. And, uh, and that that makes a big difference. So yes.


JEAN: And, and that I just think that bleeds into, into our life, you know, are we living life from the word you used? Obligatory. Or are we living it from a true soulful interaction? Asking questions. Being curious. Um, so I love that. And you know this sometimes the sad thing is that we’re so busy. Yeah, we don’t give that time. You know, we’re just checking off our to do list and getting to the next thing so fast, and, um, you know, so your, your book addresses so many wonderful aspects of, of life.

ALISON: What was interesting to me, too, is that there’s a lot of books about, you know, a dog means this, a snake means that. And and then you point out, you know, maybe not, you know, maybe not. If you’re, you know, this is. And, um, and I liked the dream that you had. I think you’re asking about, um, what do I eat to be healthy? And you were drinking on a beach? Uh, whiskey and coconut, right?

MACHIEL: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

ALISON: But I thought to myself, if I got that, I would have been like, well, there you go. Break out the whiskey. But you you were able to interpret it in such a great way and that that’s, is that like a talent that you have or can I get there too?

MACHIEL: Yeah. We can we can all get there. It’s it’s just somewhat of the familiarity with, uh, with dreaming and, uh, what you pointed out that a lot of books say dark means, uh,  whatever, you will be lucky. And, uh, there is some kind of, uh, maybe a general quality to a dark that in most cases it says something about an instinctual way. But then there are so many variations. Is this a dark that you had, uh, or is it the neighbor’s dog, or is the dog that did by you when you were young, or are you afraid for dogs? So it varies. Yeah. Dreams are really manifestations of your own psyche in a three dimensional environment. So in dreams and world that you find yourself in, it’s not a movie that you watch because actually in the dream, you’re, you’re in a, you’re acting in a world, um, very similar to this world. Right? And, uh, the only thing is that we take now this world for real, and then we go to bed and we sleep. And in the dream world, we take that world for real, right?

ALISON: Right.

MACHIEL: And then we wake up and we take this world for real. But actually, there are these multiple worlds coexisting. We can see that from our own experience. And in the dream, you can see how that world is is a creation of your own beliefs and expectations and intent. And so let’s say this was a dream, and now the door opens up and my previous boss comes in and he shakes his hand and my own critical voice would be presented in my dream as my previous boss, who comes in and shakes his head because I associate to my previous boss that he’s very critical. Um, someone else that might be their mom, or their neighbor, or their brother or partner or, uh, whoever is critical in their life. So if the dream book would say previous, uh, your boss, then it would be quickly say, oh, it may be an authority figure. Um, but it is it’s much, uh, much more nuanced. You get further by asking, what do I associate to this character, right? Oh, this is neighbor John. And neighbor John, uh, is very jealous.  Oh, jealousy shows up as neighbor John and acts out something in my dream. And then we can learn about what? What a little bit about your own jealousy. That attribute in the dream to neighbor John, the jealousy is present. And then you can see how do I relate to jealousy or how do I relate to criticalness? And then I can shift, uh, and those dynamics play out in this reality as well. So it can just starting to think about how do I relate to Criticalness. Right. And if I then imagine our criticalness or I always get scared or I fight it, right, what other ways can I can I develop to, uh, to befriend or to understand this? And then in this reality, things also change because of course we dream work is partly just to enrich your life and you want to also live. This reality more fully, and the dream world can really help you understand what goes on inside yourself in a way that’s very hard to get to just by thinking about a situation.

ALISON: Hmm. Right, right. That’s interesting.

JEAN: Very interesting. Right. Okay. Well, can you share with our viewer.. Listeners the five steps?


JEAN: Give an example after each. That would be great. Yeah.

MACHIEL: I, uh, I happen to live in Mexico City these days.


MACHIEL: And, uh, recently, I, uh, met a woman who was, uh, laid off from her job, and she took some time off, uh, came, uh, came here and I asked her, what what are you going to do?

JEAN: Mhm.

MACHIEL: She said, I don’t know yet. I said, well you could uh, consult your dream, because the dream is interested in helping and educating. So um, and she was like, oh that sounds good. And she said, what can I ask. I said, first of all, what do you want to know? And that is really step one. What is what is alive in you? What do you want to know? And in her way, in her life, what is alive is- what shall be my next step, or what company, or what shall I do? And for other people. I said, how can I find a loved one? Or what if you’ve been working on your health? A question around the diet and then step two is, phrase a good question? Yeah, that is one question at a time, not how do I become rich and find the love of my life.. That is too complicated and too much. So she said, uh, well, actually, I want to know where I will apply for a job?  And the dream will very seldom say, uh, write to Walmart.

MACHIEL: hahah– and that’s your job.

MACHIEL: So. So that’s important to know about about also asking these questions. The same in love. It’s it’s not asking where where do I find my loved one? But far more, what can I do in myself to cross paths with the beloved or open up or work on my own, uh, fears? So, uh, the woman, decided to keep it a bit open and said, what is my next step? Then she did a little step three, is do a little ritual, and the ritual is, uh, anything you do with a heartfelt intention, right?  Light a candle. Sing a song, do a dance. Make a drawing….so she made a little drawing.

JEAN: And why do you think that’s important? To do a ritual?

MACHIEL: Well, I’ve studied all these traditions, uh, around the world that do this, too, whether it’s in African shamanism or in Islam or the Dalai Lama talked about it recently, he just suggested to put some form of grass under your pillow.


MACHIEL: And so you see all these cultures, they say do a ritual. But these rituals are all different, so it cannot be the grass or the glass of water or the candle. But it is more the dynamic in the ritual that you do something with a heartfelt intention showing to the other side, let’s say to your soul or to the Divine or spirit guide. Or if you want to believe your brain, it doesn’t matter so much it shows that you’re interested… and it’s relational.

ALISON: Mhm mhm.

MACHIEL: And  like Jung said, it’s like there’s an old 2 million year old man or woman living inside of your psyche. And you can connect with this old wisdom within. And ritual seems to be the way to do that. And and almost any indigenous culture also prescribes ritual for healing.

ALISON: Right.

MACHIEL: And not to get too far off. But probably the placebo works because it’s a ritual.


MACHIEL: And so placebos work, but not because you eat uh, a sugar pill, but because the person with the white coat gave you something and says, uh, take this, you will be be better, right? It’s actually a kind of a ritual in itself.. And so a ritual is, is you you pump up your expectation, your intent, your belief, your desire and if that is strong, the the other side, the response. If it’s not so strong, then you probably also don’t have a question that is alive. Because if I want to know something, it’s a strong intent, desire and intent if I’m going to ask, where did, uh, the doormen go during lunch?  my dream is going to think …..

ALISON: Hahahahah

JEAN: Because curious minds want to know..where he got his hamberger from?

MACHIEL: Yeah, the old wise woman within probably then thinks, well Machiel, maybe focus a little bit on your own life? hahah

JEAN: Like, stay in your own lane.

ALISON: Don’t worry about the doorman.

MACHIEL: Right, right, right.

MACHIEL: So you do a ritual in step three. So this woman did a ritual. Then step four, is sleep dream and write it down. Because dreams uh, if you don’t write them down, most of them evaporate. And  if you want to spark dream recall, just start writing down even a feeling and you will have two, three, four dreams a week.

ALISON: Right.

MACHIEL: So she wrote down the dream and then step five is work on it. And in her case, uh, she had the following dream. She said, in the dream, I’m in a shoe store and I’m trying to fit several shoes, and then someone comes to me with a pair of shoes, uh, and suggests that I put them on. I look at them, and i’m not convinced, but I do it anyway. And then they fit like a glove.


MACHIEL: That’s the dream. And, uh, step five. She worked on it, and she pretty quickly came to– oh, it feels like I need to be open to the possibilities that come on my path. And also possibilities that might not feel or look like a perfect fit. I should try it and then, uh, I might actually find the perfect fit. Where i don’t expect that.

ALISON: That’s kind of amazing, I love that.

JEAN: Did she come up with that interpretation or did you help her with that?

MACHIEL: No, no… She told me.

JEAN: Yeah.

MACHIEL: And uh, and this was a woman who normally a little bit like you, Jean, who wasn’t overly interested, uh, intrigued by dreams. But uh, after this conversation, thought, because I sleep and dream tonight, anyway, let me try it.

ALISON: I wanted to know, do you think, um, I have like two things I have to ask you. The first one is, do you think that your subconscious, even if you don’t ask a question, your dream state is always answering something in your subconscious anyway? Do you think that without the questions, dreams represents something that you need to know? Do you understand what I’m asking?

MACHIEL: I think, I think so, and, um, I don’t I don’t think that all dreams do that, but if we, if we’ve been working on on something long enough, the dreams seem to come spontaneously adding to it. It’s like it’s, uh, the great creative weaver that weaves together with us the tapestry of our life.

ALISON: Oh that’s interesting.

MACHIEL: And many people have had spontaneous, helpful dreams like, Paul McCartney had the dream of,  “Yesterday” ,  Stephen King as many of his plots from dreams, probably nightmares. hahah

ALISON: Exactly.

MACHIEL: And the largest oil field in Kuwait was found because someone had the dream on where to drill. So, uh, they come spontaneously.


MACHIEL: But if we turn towards the dream and ask for help, uh, we get more help. But it is almost like we need to give an informed consent, as if there is some form of free will that, uh, that says, if you want to figure it out on your own is fine if you want to have help. Equally fine, both elements, the dream seems to be totally okay with. But as life is, uh, pretty complex by times, yeah, it’s nice that there is some creative force that can can add in a, in a helpful way. So I don’t think all dreams do that, but a lot of dreams will pick up on the themes of our lives.

JEAN: Mhm.

MACHIEL: And sometimes dreams anticipate tomorrow. So dreams are not only in response to yesterday but  are anticipating tomorrow. It’s like a flower that comes out, comes first out in the dream and then in this reality.

ALISON: Right.

MACHIEL:  it embodies this way into into the world.

ALISON: Right.

ALISON: That’s beautiful.

JEAN: Yeah, it is beautiful.

ALISON: Do I get to ask my second question right away? Okay. Um, my second one is,  have you ever connected with somebody in a dream? ( audio unclear – (in your book) It seems like you talk a lot about.. You even say, if you’re dating me, you’re talking about dreams.- audio unclear)  Have you ever had a dream and said to someone, okay, tonight, let’s try to dream together? Or has anything like that ever happened for you?

MACHIEL: I have tried this, but I’ve not been very successful with it. But I know people who, uh, who have the ability to be relatively easy, lucid in their dreams so that they know they’re in their dream. And I know from a man who, uh, had this experiment with someone else and that they said, uh, I’m going to show you a sign tonight in the dream. So he showed, uh, I think he did this. Then the other person, uh, would have to say, what is the sign? And they had a third person there to make sure that person “A” would tell person “B” the sign, and then person “B” would come and say, I saw this sign. And so they met up. He did the sign. Uh, he was lucid. The other person wasn’t, but he remembered it.


MACHIEL: And so it seems to be that we in that we that we enter and what Jung would call the collective unconscious territory where you can meet other living people and or even deceased loved ones. We can, uh, we we encounter once in a while in a dream.

ALISON: That’s that is so amazing to me.

JEAN: It really is. And after reading your book, I feel like the realm of dreams has this grand, this infinite intelligence.  and I’ve been schooled in prayer and in Science of Mind, which is affirmative prayer and using, you know, your mind and this whole other dimension, Machiel from dreams, it’s like such a huge missing piece that I never even  entertained. Um. So I love that. I wanted to ask you, I have a friend that has recurring dreams. What is that?

MACHIEL: Yeah. So those are important dreams. Recurring dreams is a shows that, uh, that the person hasn’t picked up or worked through the issue that the dream presents. Mhm. So sometimes a recurring dream can be a recurring nightmare, monster is chasing us and we keep running away. And then we feel that something, something we feel chased by something in life. And our response is running. And until we turn around and face it and figure out a better way, uh, this this dream will keep on going. Or a recurring, but a little bit less recurring is, well, I have a recurring dream that I’m locked up in jail, and, uh, it’s horrible, but it’s always in a time that I feel stuck.

JEAN: Yeah. Mhm.

MACHIEL: Uh, and so my stuckness translates to a dream that I’m in jail. And depending on how long I’m in jail usually is an amount of how stuck I feel. Mhm.

ALISON: And I think it’s, because you’re following that Dorman….I think you gotta let him go. hahah

MACHIEL: Or maybe he has the key? hahah

ALISON: That’s right, that’s right.

ALISON: That’s interesting. So you’re able to kind of see that and then figure out on your own life where that really pertains, right?

MACHIEL: Yeah….Well but everyone can and and and sure, I have, uh, paid so much attention that you get a feel for it, but if, uh, instead of asking the classic question, what does this mean? Ask the question, what is what is the experience or what are your feelings?  When you are running through the school, uh, the university to your classroom for the exam and you can’t find it and you start running even faster, and you think I didn’t even prepare for this? What is the what is the feeling? Yeah. Oh, I’m really anxious. I feel being tested, I feel unprepared. Oh, interesting. Is that something that you are at that moment also experienced somewhere in your life?

JEAN: Mhm.

MACHIEL: And it’s almost always the case. It’s almost always even if you didn’t know it, it you reflect on it. Oh yeah I have  this project and I feel tested, I feel I need to deliver. And then you can recognize those feelings in day to day life and start finding different ways of, of relating to it. But so, for the listeners and easy way, uh, what is the experience.

ALISON: Right.

MACHIEL: And then look at what, what your response is in the dream to that experience. I see a crocodile and I get really angry and I kick it. All right, so is that your experience from when you get scared?  And then you can figure out what you want to do with that..

ALISON: Right, right, well…That’s that’s not what I would do, but I totally get there. But that’s interesting because you can have, um, you I think you even talk about it in the book that, the contex, i could do a I could describe something that seems very neutral right now, and yet I may have a lot of emotion on that and that emotion is also very important, like what is the context? And that I think that is such a good tip just in life, like because people will text me and it could be complete miscommunications because it’s more about what is the experience, what is the feeling. So I thought that was very profound. Can I ask maybe this is probably a stupid question. What do you think a dream is? Like aside from being a guidance, are we tapping into in our own head? Are we tapping into like, what is it?

MACHIEL: I think it’s a brilliant question.  Really because it brings, uh, the sense of need, what is a dream? And if you take a dream, uh, whether it’s a nightmare from when you were young or a recent dream, you remember. And for everyone that listens, they can watch us, can go along. But you will notice is that, uh, you are in a dream. So you’re in a world, And in this world, you’re interacting… And Actually, you’re awake in this world– you’re seeing the doorman, you think of course, what did you eat? (HAHAH) – And you go over, you ask, and, uh. But that’s really a curious thing, that your mind is actually awake while you’re asleep. Your body is asleep, your mind is awake.  Your psyche generated a world around it in which you interact actually with this big part, with the substance of your own psyche. Criticalness, uh, whatever. So the question, what is a dream?… And that  brings you quickly to, what the dream is not? A dream is not a message from mystery source X to you, like a lot of traditions say, oh, it’s the message from the divine to you, and you need to translate that message. That is, that is in a letter metaphor, as if it’s a movie. But it’s not..  It seems that that awareness, the deeper awareness generates this world in which you find yourself, in which you live through psychological topics in your life, and you anticipate a certain delivery of your creative talent for tomorrow. So if you’re stuck in your life, you might meet a very upbeat, uh, cab driver who is an embodiment of consciousness of a beatness and getting, uh, getting going again. And if you can relate to that and befriend that state of consciousness and bring it into your day to day life, your habitual way of being changes.


MACHIEL: So but those are things you do as a as a result of the dream. The dreams are worlds we find ourselves in.  You interact, your mind is awake. And it appears that the dream doesn’t, uh, go away when we open up the eyes. It’s just a stream of consciousness that coexists.


MACHIEL: So you have waking consciousness, dreaming consciousness. If you daydream, it might come up, at night you might sink in this, and it appears that if you want to get in a flow state, that if you merge these two states that you have a sense of being in the flow.  And just like in dreams, the sense of time starts changing. So you do something and it feels, oh gosh, the hour flew by or ….. so, I don’t know where I wanted to go with that, but, uh…

ALISON: that’s good, it’s so interesting.

MACHIEL: But the question, what is a dream? Is really important because a lot of these techniques are what does the dream mean? But it’s not just that we could say ask about this reality. What does it mean? What does it mean that I talk to the two of you right now? That’s one way of interpreting this. It’s another how can I be with the two of you?. What? What does it feel like? I have a certain experience here, and, uh, certain feelings come up, and, uh, that is, uh, that does something to me, and then I can work that further. But, um, so once you know that the dream is a world there, you can you can relate to the states of consciousness, you can interpret it. You can, uh, uh, feel the states of consciousness. Uh, you can get a sense of where you are. So it opens up to a lot of ways of being with the, with the dream world that can be beneficial for this world as well.

ALISON: That was beautiful. Thank you. I never thought about it like that. Really never thought about that.

JEAN: So great.

MACHIEL: But that was because you asked a really good question.

JEAN: Yeah. Allison, you are.. You ask such great questions.

ALISON: I’m just I’m very curious you know about this.

JEAN: But she is great .. I take so long to formulate my question that’s all right, but…

JEAN:  Okay, if someone is starting to, to do this process, Machiel, what are some pitfalls that they should be aware of so that they can continue and stay with the the process like 1 or 2 pitfalls?

MACHIEL: Well, what I’ve learned over the years is that, uh uh, people  do this method. They do it well. They just choose a something that’s relevant to them. They phrase a nice one question. After dream, write it down and then think, oh gosh, this has nothing to do with my question. And they dismiss it. And, uh, because the dream sometimes is very literal, but sometimes it’s like the one with the woman and the shoes and, uh, it fits. So what is the feeling, the experience? You sometimes have the puzzle a little bit.

MACHIEL: They say, yeah, I believe this method, but I don’t know if it works for me? And, and, and I’ve come to some, some and I try to tell people, uh, show up for yourself. Uh, because actually, uh, you taking your own dream answer serious is a way in which you also show up for yourself and you build, self confidence and trust because the old wise woman within will answer. It’s not even a moral thing. It’s just like you throw a stone in the air, the stone comes down and you can say, well, that’s right, because it went up, it needs to go down. But it just is. And the dream is we live in a responsive universe. That’s why prayer also works. But it doesn’t work in the way, oh, I want a Ferrari.

ALISON: Right?

MACHIEL: You need to learn to pray a little bit, uh, smarter. And, uh, and with this to the first part is, is how do you ask? It’s kind of dream prayer. How do you ask the good question? And a lot of people get there, but then they dismiss the response because the response is not what they what they suspect, or they don’t get it in 30 seconds, just to write it down and, you know, then come back later and say, gosh, you know, I had a weird dream. Can I share it? And then someone listens to it and they can and they say, well, this makes sense. Or  someone thinks I want another job and literally thinks, oh, buy with Coca Cola. Has the marketing director position open, right? It’s extremely seldom that the dream does that.  It’s more helping you get where you need to be.  And if and if people know that, then it works and it works one time, you can do it multiple times. Uh, so it’s the biggest pitfall –  is that people give up too quickly on themselves.

ALISON: That’s the pitfall in life…right?  that’s basically the truth.

JEAN: Throwing in the towel.

ALISON: That’s really interesting because, if you’re talking about the woman with the shoes, someone could just be like, oh, I’m not going to be a shoe salesman. So therefore, that dream means nothing.

MACHIEL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.  right.

ALISON: And it’s really, it’s almost as if you’re describing, art… Do you know? It’s almost like it’s, it’s evocative, like art. You get a feeling from it. You might see something different than I see. But if it’s my dream, really, what resonates with with me?

MACHIEL: And also stay more with the feeling.  Because in her case, you don’t need to be a great dream interpreter to have –  what is the feeling? Or someone offers me something that doesn’t look really appealing to me… But I try it anyway, and then it is a great fit. Okay that if you stay there and you just have to have the feeling journey and then and that’s much easier to get to then– oh yeah, a raven comes back and these sculptures very often.

ALISON: You just had me think of, because the other night I asked, I want to meet my spirit guide. (question from your book.)  And then the little glimpse that I remember is I’m holding a squirrel and I drop it, it’s like and then it’s like a baby and I’m like oh crap, I dropped the squirrel. Right. And I, and I, and I think oh it’s dead. And then I pick it up and I’m going to nurture it more. And this whole time I’ve been thinking, so that means a squirrel is my spirit guide. But now what you’re making me think is, it was the feeling of wanting to nurture it. So maybe the dream is saying you have a spirit guide- good- keep nurturing it and it will be more vibrant for you.

MACHIEL: Yes, yes. Yeah. Beautiful.

ALISON: So it’s the feeling, really. That’s great.

ALISON: Yeah. Yeah.

ALISON: That’s like a breakthrough.

MACHIEL: Beautiful.

ALISON: Yeah yeah, yeah…it’s been bugging me.

MACHIEL: But that’s great that you also kept with it and this part is can help a lot because otherwise people start googling, uh, squirrels and babies. Right. And, and then you get distracted from.

JEAN: Right. Yes.

ALISON: Right…But I think that feeling is so important. Really? You really.. You’re just so… And what I love about this talk is it’s so respectful of dreams and it’s not compartmentalizing them. I feel just a real, like I feel like all open to it, a great respect. So thank you for sharing that.

MACHIEL: You’re welcome.   And an additional step in the work is then usually also do the follow up. So now that you have a little breakthrough … Okay, I want to nurture this more, and then you then also say, oh, spirit guide, I had this sense of, you have always been here, and I’ve always held you close and, uh, uh, and then I picked you up again. And now I want to nurture our relationship. And, uh, I’m going to do the following thing, whatever that is for you. And, uh, um, and maybe, uh, come back in the dream or in this life and give me some sign that you, uh, that you, uh, heard me, uh, did notice me or something. You know, uh, figure out something so that you that you continue to nurture that, uh, that relationship.

ALISON: I just got chills. Yeah, yeah. That’s great. Thank you so much. Thank you so, so much. This has been such an exciting. You’re very low key and peaceful, but you’re very exciting at the same time.

MACHIEL: hahaha

JEAN: And yeah, you could not have written a more meaningful book about dreams and it and it’s very easy to understand. And I love your examples, Machiel, and I thank you for this new, big door opening to help my soul evolve and to enjoy this life more.

MACHIEL: Beautifully said.. Thank you.

ALISON: Thank you so, so much.

JEAN: We wish you all the best.

ALISON: Thank you. Likewise.

MACHIEL: Yes, it was a delight being with the two of you. I love your energy.

ALISON: Thank you. You’re really you’re really so special and have. Have a good night’s sleep.

JEAN: Yes. Sweet dreams, sweet dreams.

ALISON: Bye. I’m. I’m floating around after that interview.

JEAN: I can tell because you weren’t feeling that well before..

ALISON: I wasn’t feeling great before, and now I feel like I’m on a cloud. Yeah. I loved that interview.

JEAN: That was so great. I have such new appreciation for my dreams, and I really can’t wait to get home and.

ALISON: And get to sleep.

JEAN: Get to sleep… Exactly.

ALISON: That’s right. Good night everybody. Yeah, I, um, I loved his demeanor and his expansiveness and about really tapping in. I think that’s a great thing about the feeling.  As opposed to the meaning. You know, I think in today’s world, we look so much for a meaning or a media gratification or this didn’t happen. And he seemed to describe a slower process, that you tap into and you develop a relationship with and that you’re working from meaning of, not from meanings, but from real emotional content, which is so beautiful to me.

JEAN: Yes. Well said. One of my things from listening to him, is that the empowerment that the dream is your own life force. It’s not looking outside of yourself for someone else to give you an answer. This is all within you. And and it just speaks to the incredible, um, brilliance of our soul and how we are so much more than a body bopping around on a planet having crazy dreams. I mean, we are super beings with this amazing ability to tap into infinite intelligence.

ALISON: Well … what Am I going to say after that?

JEAN: Good night. Good night. Allison.

ALISON: Good night, good night. Well, we hope you enjoyed it. And we we really recommend his book. He is fantastic. I’m going to go get the book again. Wait. I want to get the title correct.

JEAN: Oh, it’s right here. Okay, I’ll say the title –  Dream Guidance.

ALISON: Connecting to the soul through dream incubation. And it’s an easy, quick read, but something that you can keep by your bedside and keep referring to. It’s really, really great.

JEAN: And if you don’t know where to start with a question, he gives very wonderful sample questions for you to start out with. So um…This is a great book.

ALISON: All right. Good night. Good night everybody.

JEAN: Good night.


Podcast Episode 34: Hadley Vlahos

Hospice nurse and TikTok star Hadley Vlahos shares moving stories, life lessons and wisdom from her patients in THE IN BETWEEN. This heart-warming memoir is about how end-of-life care can teach us just as much about how to live as it does about how we die.


Alison : Okay. Hi.

Jean: Oh. Good morning.

Alison : Good morning.

Jean: Let me get my glasses on.

Alison : That’s right. You all ready?

Jean: I’m all ready.

Alison : You’re all prepared?

Jean: I’m ready for this amazing interview. What are you looking at?

Alison : It says remove before use on your glasses. That’s excellent. Did you just like…

Jean: Oh, I just got these.

Alison : Okay, let me help you. So what’s our interview today?

Jean: Okay. We have this amazing nurse who is really taking… She’s on fire..she’s hot. This beautiful nurse ,her name is Hadley Vlahos.. And she talks about hospice care. She wrote a book called The In Between and I loved it. Allison.

Alison : Me too.

Jean: And my friend, um, AnneMarie introduced me to this book and she said, Jean, you’re going to love this book. And I do.

Alison : I do too, and I, I think death and before death and what happens during the death process is something that we don’t talk about enough.

Jean: I was actually thinking the same thing. And and I love that she’s she’s gently easing us into the, the okayness around death that it is a natural process and it’s, um, something we all eventually will, will experience. And it’s, um, she’s really a gifted writer as well.

Alison : Oh, yes. Yeah. And I had resistance to reading it because I was taking care of my mother as she was passing, and you’ve been through the process, too. And, um, I really was afraid to read the book because I thought it would bring up so much for me, or I had resistance. And then I said, well, I’ll give it a chapter. And then I just, I loved it. I loved how she writes about it, and it actually gave me comfort. Um, you know, which is great.

Jean: Yeah. I found it very relatable.

Alison : I can’t wait to hear this interview.

Jean: Yeah, me too..Okay, let’s do it.

Alison : Let’s do it.

Hadley: Nice to meet y’all.

Alison : I am so nice to meet you. Uh, you are just so wonderful. And we loved the, In Between… Yeah.

Hadley:  oh, I’m so glad. Thank you.

Alison : And I, I bought some to give to people.

Hadley: Oh, thank you so much. That means the world to me.

Jean: You did such a beautiful job in writing about such a delicate topic, Hadley. And, um, I really appreciate the book and could absolutely relate to it. And I also got a chuckle when I saw my husband’s name when you were talking to your mother.

Hadley: Oh, I forgot about that. Yes.

Speaker3: You mentioned Alex Trebek, and I thought, I am definitely supposed to be reading this book. So, um, anyway, thank you. We know you’re super busy. Uh, your –  this book has really launched a new, uh.

Alison : Like, discussion.

Jean: So many openings for you.

Hadley: Yeah, it definitely has. It’s. Yeah, it’s a whole new world.

Alison : That’s great. Your personality really comes across in this book, but could you tell us a little bit about how you got into hospice care because you were, uh, working in the ER, right?

Hadley: Yeah, So I did a year long internship in the hospital where I went to all different areas of the hospital, but they mostly had me in the ER, and then from there, after that year long, um, internship where I did a night shift, uh, I applied for a day shift job and I didn’t get it. And I had my son, who was so young and, um, I went to my manager and said, you know, how long do you think until I could get moved to day shift? This is really hard for me, finding childcare in the middle of the night. And, um, they said, you know, it could be three years. And I said, I can’t, I can’t do that. So I took a job in the nursing home as a manager, and that is where I really saw hospice patients for the first time. We didn’t really learn about it in school, but we had hospice patients in the nursing home. So I would watch the hospice nurses come in and sit one on one with the patients. And I’m like, I did not know that there was a type of nursing where you could be one on one with patients, and also they would talk to me about more than just their medications and more than just what we were doing for them. To them, honestly, they would tell me about how their family was doing and just a really holistic viewpoint. And I was like, oh, I don’t know what kind of nursing this is, but I want to try this instead and haven’t looked back. That was eight years ago.

Alison : Wow. And the switch from going from, um, caregiving and helping people get better to helping people let go. What was that switch like?

Hadley: That was really difficult for me, because nursing school really teaches you to just fix, fix, fix. And I had to really, um, adjust my thinking to that, instead saying, how can I make them comfortable? And it really is a totally different mindset, to the point where I don’t think I could ever go back to the hospital, because if someone was like near the end of their life, they wanted ice cream, I’d be like, okay, let’s do it, you know?

Jean: Right. Well, you make you, um, really drive that point home in your book that, um, it is about comfort. Is that what you would say? What would you actually say, Hadley, hospice is all about?

Hadley: I actually would say comfort is a big one, but I think that it’s finding, uh, life at the end of life. And I know a lot of people seem to think it a lot of it’s about death. But as you all know, even in the book, it’s less than half a page is usually the death part of it. Um, for each patient, because it’s such a small part of the time that I’m spending with these patients, I really get to see a lot of a lot of life with them and a lot of good quality of life.

Jean: Yeah.

Jean: One of my favorite quotes that you say, well, I have many favorite quotes, but one of them is, um, where you say, Hadley, that being a hospice nurse, you really feel alive.

Hadley: Yeah.

Jean: And why do you think that?

Hadley: I think I get this constant reminder that I’m going to be in those shoes, that bed one day. And I think it’s so easy for people to get caught up in their day to day and their routines, and to forget that one day we’re going to die until it’s in your face. You know, for me, it’s in my face every day because of my job. But for many people, it’s not in their face until they’re losing a loved one. And then all of a sudden we get this wake up call of, oh, that’s going to be me one day, and I need to, i need to live my life. I need to make sure that I’m doing the things that I’m supposed to be doing, like telling people how much I love them and making sure that I’m happy and doing the things I want to be doing. But that’s where I found a lot of life. Is that constant reminder for me that one day I’m going to be in that hospital bed.

Alison : Right when I found it, I took care of my.. We all know about Jean and Alex, and I took care of my mother when she was passing, and it was really hard, hard, really, really hard. And I was afraid to read your book because I thought it was going to bring up, um, a lot of stuff for me, you know? But actually, I found it so comforting. Wow, I feel very emotional. I found it very comforting, um, because she was saying things like, where are all those people going on that escalator? And, you know, grandma told me this today, and I found that so beautiful. So those stories of seeing people that’s consistent for you, right?

Hadley: Yeah, it doesn’t matter what their background is or their beliefs, religious beliefs, no religious beliefs, no matter what it is. And I hear that a lot, or they say that they’re packing bags or there’s a train. And the way I interpret that is that whatever they’re hearing, seeing, knowing about, they don’t we don’t necessarily have the language or the knowledge here on earth to interpret that. So they’re using what’s closest to such as an escalator or a train. Like they they’re going on a trip is what they say, because that’s the only language I think we have to try to interpret what’s going on, because everything will have this like underlying travel theme, but they’ll be but they’ll be different in that way. Or someone says, uh, you know, I need to pack a bag. And I’m like, do you, do you need a bag? And they’ll say, no, I guess I don’t.

Alison : Right, I guess I have everything I need. Um, is there such a thing as, like, I found it very profound. And, uh, your story about Babette, um, because you had felt. And that’s how I felt about my mother. I should have done more. It should have been different. I should have, like, been playing soft music, and it just didn’t happen that way,  and I thought it was going to. So, um, is there is there really now, in hindsight, such a thing as a good passing or a bad passing?

Hadley: I don’t think so. I think that everything happens as it should for, for whatever reason that is. Um, I think it’s easy, though, for me to say, as a nurse with goals, I want certain things to happen for my patients, so of course I can feel like some are better than the other. But at the end of the day, I say, you know, it’s out of my hands. And and this happened for whatever reason it did. And sometimes I’ll learn about it, um, later. Such as, i remember one actually just very recently that a daughter was coming and I really felt like I was like, come on. Like I knew it was going to be very close to her making it. And I was very anxious about it. And, um, she did not make it by like 20 minutes. And of course, in my mind as a nurse, I’m like. Uh, you know, I really wanted her to make it. And should I have called her a day sooner? Because it was one where she was trying to get off work, and so she was like, please call me. This is how long? And so, of course, as a nurse, I’m like, oh gosh, I should have called the day before. But she couldn’t take off like a week and that can be hard to predict. And then at the funeral, she was like, hey, like, you know, I’ve been doing stuff at the funeral this week. Um, I just want to let you know, uh, I think this is how it’s supposed to happen. I really don’t think I could have handled watching her pass. And I was like, okay. And it made me feel better. So, you know, that underlying thing of, like, everything happens as it should, right?

Jean: Right.

Jean: Yeah. That’s such a great thing to remember all the time. So, Hadley, uh, you know, I sense that your connection with your patients is what really is so important to letting them let go and release this physical body and move into the next dimension, if you will. So for you personally, how do you, kind of soothe yourself or not take it so personally. Um, that you get so connected with these beings and you’re giving your heart and your love. Uh, and then you have to… Oh, you know, moving on to the next. I mean, can you talk about that a little bit?

Hadley: Yeah, it can definitely be very difficult for sure. Um, but I think it helps that I’m like, oh, I’m going to see them again one day. And I do truly believe that. So that definitely is more like the see you later instead of goodbye. But it definitely can be difficult whenever you have a really close patient and then you have to just go see someone new. Uh, the good thing about hospice, though, um, especially whenever you do home based care, is that you do get time in the car to decompress. I have a little playlist that I’ll listen to after a patient passes. And, um, that is really nice, as opposed to when you’re in the hospital or really any other setting where you’re going from room to room and you’re immediately usually I’ll get some time and, you know, I’m out here in the country so I can get up to 30 minutes sometimes between patients to kind of decompress, which helps a lot.

Alison : Where are you? Where are you located?

Hadley: I’m, um, outside of New Orleans.

Alison : Oh, excellent. Because I thought. I thought you were closer to the East Coast, but New Orleans. I love New Orleans. Yeah.

Hadley: Me, too.

Alison : Yeah, it’s it’s beautiful.

Alison : It’s so beautiful there. And, um, you have so many different people in this book. Um, have you treated anyone else similar to Albert? (a person living on the streets).

Hadley: Yes, I have some right now. Um, but it’s pretty rare. Usually they will agree to go into a nursing home if we can get them. Patients who are homeless into a nursing home. Um, I had one recently, though, where it was like we meet at the same bench at the same time every week. And I asked my manager, I was like, what happens when they don’t show up? Or if they don’t show up? She said, we’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m like, okay, so I get nervous every single week, but so far so good. Um, but yeah, that we, we have we have patients like that. It’s always, um,  it’s always challenging, but it reminds me to get out of autopilot, which I think we can all do in our jobs and, um, to, to really make sure that I’m doing things the correct way. And then that also helps with all of my patients.

Alison : Right? Yeah. Right.

Jean: So it I feel like I’ve taken so much, um, pearls of wisdom from your book, Hadley. And can you share 1 or 2 of your favorite patients that have really imprinted something that’s very meaningful to you?

Hadley: Yeah. Um, definitely. Elizabeth, she says to me,  “Eat the cake.” She matters, you know a lot to me. And I’ve seen so many eat the cake tattoos, which is really cool.

Jean: Um, can you tell us about Elizabeth for our audience?

Hadley: Of course. Yeah.  I had a patient who I call Elizabeth, who was younger for a hospice patient in her 40s, and she had lung cancer, but we did not know why. She was like the picture of health. Yoga teacher, um, never smoked a cigarette. Um, and she was dying on hospice, and she just stopped me one day, i was just sitting there with her and said, you know, Hadley, I would love to give you some advice because I see a lot of myself in you. Um, and I really have been sitting here just thinking about my life, and I really wish I would have just eaten the cake. And I wish I would have spent more time with my friends and gone to the beach and not cared what my stomach looked like, and gone to dinners. And, um, what was so significant to me about that was that, um, it it was so true because she ended up dying with just me there. And another one of my coworkers, um, she she did not have her family and friends around her because she had been so obsessed, um, from her words, with just her body image. And it was really eye opening to me whenever I realized that I had been doing that, I had been skipping out on on certain bonding activities because I was so self conscious, and it really changed my life in a really significant way. And I definitely believe that Elizabeth is is looking down and is happy that her, that she impacted so many people in such a big way. Um, that’s been really important to me. And then, um, Carl in my book was like a grandfather to me.  And, um, we had a weird way of going about it.

Hadley: He ended up finding out that I was a single mom, and I just said, you know, I don’t I don’t have time to keep up with the news, with sports and with whatever’s going on in the world. And he’s like, well, I just lie here in bed all day, you know? That’s all I have time to do. So he would start telling me what’s going on in the world and in sports world. And then he started writing down these little notes for me because he would say, every time you leave, I forget to tell you something I wanted to tell you. So I just start writing them down so I’d come give me my little notes. And, um, I didn’t think much of it, uh, at the time it was happening, and I was still pretty new in my career. Just was like something that had developed between the two of us. And then, um, right before he died, he had told me, um, thank you for giving me something to look forward to- instead of death. And that was the moment that I was like, oh, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. Like, this is my calling. This is why I am here. And I think of him so often, whenever I feel like I, I’m not doing much when I just go in there and I’m just taking their vital signs and I’m just like, okay, are you okay on medications? And it just reminds me of just being here and making sure that I’m providing a positive presence and an uplifting presence can, and just talking to them and listening can be doing more than I realize it is.

Alison : That’s a that’s amazing. Um, what do you think are some questions if someone that that our listeners know is in hospice, what are some questions that are important to ask a hospice person or what are some like what how do you prepare for this?

Hadley: Yeah, it can definitely. Be difficult. Um, I would say if you are in hospice, um, nothing is off limits. Um, and don’t be afraid to talk to your hospice nurse, to the hospice social worker. If you are encountering difficulties with the family, because we are so used to that and we we don’t mind at all having conversations and helping to facilitate that. Um, I think people sometimes feel like, oh, I don’t want people to think like, my family’s crazy. Um, I have learned that there is no such thing as a normal family. Like there is absolutely…

Alison : That is so true.

Hadley: There is no Such thing. So we we don’t mind. A big thing that I see hospice patients deal with is that they go to talk to their family and friends about their death, and they start that conversation and out of a place of love, 100% the family or friends will stop them and say, oh my gosh, we don’t need to talk about that. You know, you’re going to get better. You’re going to beat this. They are trying to be positive, and I know it’s coming from a place of love, but my hospice patients will tell me that they feel like they can’t talk to anyone about what they’re going through, and they sometimes just want to be able to express, you know, hey, when I do die, please know how much I love you. And whenever people hear, oh, when I die, they immediately want to be like, oh, that’s not positive. That’s not going to happen. Um, but it’s doing more harm than good. Yeah. And, um, I wish people realized that because I think everyone’s coming from a place of, like, good. Right? Even though it is, you know, you should just let that person tell you what they want to tell you. And if they want to talk about death, to just let them talk about death.

Jean: Right.

Alison : That’s such a good point. This society doesn’t do that. That’s what Jean and I were talking about. This society just makes believe we’re born and like, everything’s about birth.

Jean: We can’t even talk about aging. We can’t talk about…

Alison : Menopause, you know?

Jean: Yeah. You know, I, I want to give a shout out to your profession, Hadley. Because when when Alex passed away, um, I was one of those people that was like, you know, the numbers can change. You’re going to get stronger. You know, people love you. We’re getting so many prayers. You know, it’s going to… And I now, in retrospect, I think that it was hard for Alex to really say to me. I’m really moving in a different direction than you want me to. And it took our hospice nurse who was amazing. Um, to to come into the kitchen and say, you know what, Jean? I was talking to Alex, and he is he’s ready to let go of this physical form. And I had such, I had such a feeling of surrender that there was really it was in God’s hands, if you will. It was not my life, this was Alex’s life, not mine, to dictate and make it about me. Um, me feeling you can do it like that, that had its time for a little bit, but, um, his course of his soul expression here on planet Earth had its own agenda. And I had to really become selfless and just go, i have to let this hospice nurse be with her and not… And I was never against, you know, we it was very short the time that the hospice nurse was with us but that surrender. And then once I really did that there was this peace that passes all understanding. As for me anyway. And, um. Your profession is is such a blessing and it’s not for everyone, you know, you are a chosen few. Um, and so it’s such an honor to talk and with you about this very delicate and important conversation about death.

Alison : Totally. You know, and I think having children. Do you talk to your children about what you do?

Hadley: Yeah. They know, um, they will talk about death very normally. I actually got a call from Brody, who’s now eleven and in school, about a year ago that, um, he had told people in class, um, my mommy went and saw a dead person last night, and I was like, well, I did. I was at the dinner table and I got a call that someone died, and I said, someone died, I’m leaving. And, um, I don’t think too much of it, to be honest. And, um, I said, that is what happened. I’m in hospice nurse, and I said, I’m not going to tell him to not say that. Um, you know, was it upsetting anyone? I mean, that’s that’s what I do for work. Um, and I’m okay with him doing that. He actually lost his dad’s dad, so his grandfather about six months ago, and I was curious how he would handle it with being the first one that he can at least remember. And, um, he said, you know, I think that he I’m going to see him again. And I said, I agree. Um, he said, I think that I can feel him with me sometimes. And I said, I think so, I definitely do. And he said, can I get a picture of him for my room? And I said, absolutely, I’ll do that today. And he said, okay. And then he called his grandmother, you know, his wife, and said, can we go to church? Which is something she likes to do. Can I go with you this Sunday? And she said, yes. And  that’s been the extent of it. He’s done really, really well. I’ve been really proud of him.

Alison : That’s, that’s really amazing. I think teaching, you know, we have older children and I try to talking with them when my mom was back here passing, my kids were in back here running around

Speaker4: Yeah, you know what I mean? Like, there’s no. Way to keep them out, you know? Yeah, it’s it’s, I think it’s an important thing to do. How how has all of this changed your view spiritually? And what do you think happens when they close their eyes and their heart stops? What do you think happens?

Hadley: Yeah. So I consider myself to be spiritual. And, um, I like religion. I think that it can provide a guidebook for like how to live a good life. I just like personally haven’t found a religion that I’m like, oh yeah, that’s that’s me. So I just say that I’m spiritual. I, um, believe that there is some other place that we go that there is like something beyond us, just from what I have experienced, um, with people such as seeing their deceased loved ones and for me, something that’s really significant for even people who don’t, um, believe in anything is that at the end of life, there’s up to a minute between breaths. So scientifically if it was no there’s no spiritual realm, there’s no like feeling of anything, um, then no one would know that someone died until a minute after they’ve actually taken their last breath because, then the next breath never comes and they’re like, oh, they died a minute ago. But being in the room with so many people as they’ve taken that last breath, I have never, ever, ever once not had a family member say that was their last breath immediately and been correct.  Um, you know, and I know too, you can feel it, you know, whenever someone takes their last breath, um, which I think is really interesting, um, you can just feel that there, that that they’re not there anymore. Um, so I don’t really know what exactly happens. And I’ve had to just kind of be comfortable with that of, like, I think something happens, but I’ll figure it out one day?

Alison : I agree, I totally agree, but I love that I think people look to people like you, you know, for that, which is interesting. Is that is that good or is that a pressure or like what? How do you feel about the impact you’re having right now?

Hadley: I actually, when I was writing the book, went back and forth. My editor love her so much. Um, so I was raised in the Deep South, raised very religious, and, um, she wanted me to put that I was spiritual and not religious in the conclusion, which I did. And, um, I said, they’re going to like, come for me, like, they’re gonna everyone’s gonna one star my book. Like, I can’t do it. I can’t do it. Just leave it out. And she’s like, no, because people are gonna put down the book and they’re gonna have questions. You have to. You have to just own it. Just be yourself. The amount of people who have come to me and said, thank you so much. Thank you for putting that. Thank you for saying, because I’ve felt I’ve also was raised religious and I fear saying, you know, maybe I’m not anymore, but maybe that doesn’t mean that I’m an atheist. Maybe it means that I can just be spiritual and I can still have these beliefs without necessarily agreeing with some of the religious trauma that I have. And, um, it’s been overwhelming positive. But I was very, very, very scared about putting that.

Alison : I bet. Yeah.

Jean: I mean, you know, your book, you you’ve shared so much about your life, Hadley. You know, it’s not easy to. Yeah. And then to have this book be accepted at such a level.  Like here you go from small town, hospice nurse and I’m going to share my stories and, and, uh, where this book has really opened your life to such a public platform.  How do you feel? Do you feel different about that now? Do your children?

Alison : Do you Personally feel different? Yeah.

Hadley: Yeah, it’s a little bit. I was actually just talking to my therapist about this this morning that, um. Yeah, it is, it’s been, um, it’s it has been sometimes I kind of want to, like, run back to that comfort of, you know, um, that. But I feel like from doing my book and speaking tour recently and getting to meet hundreds of people, that it is having a really positive impact. But it can be scary to be so out there and have so many people, um, kind of looking at me because I did have a little comfort zone of just taking care of my patients and, you know, going home and not going to the grocery store and having people stop me. And it’s it’s been an adjustment, but obviously it’s been a very positive one. And my therapist is like, we’re going to get through this. We’ve been through it. We’re getting through it as long as you want to. And I was like, I think it’s positive. She’s like, okay, that’s right.

Alison : That’s right.  Yeah, the universe has plans for us sometimes that we can’t even imagine. And yeah, put yourself in a place and you’re like, wow, like…

Jean: oh my gosh.

Alison : Well, it’s the Talking Heads…(the song) How did I get here? You know?

Jean: Exactly right. And you’re communicating such a beautiful message, Hadley. And it certainly comes from such a beautiful soul…yours.

Hadley: Thank you.

Jean: And, um, you know, we wish you all the best.

Alison : You’re just so lovely and really, you know, and and I heard this is becoming a series?

Hadley: Yes. NBC Universal is turning it into a scripted series. And I’m super excited. We have a great producer on board that hasn’t been announced yet, and I’m an executive producer, and I’m excited for it. I think that they’re going to really, uh, display it in the correct light. I feel like we don’t really see peaceful deaths on TV at all. And, um, I’m really excited for people to see that side.

Alison : It’s really great, you know? You know, Touched by an Angel affected a lot of people. And it went on for years because I think people need, especially in these days, hope. And I think you’ve given people a different way to view something that has been so deemed as scary or uncomfortable. So you really are, um, you know, an angel walking around.

Hadley: Thank you.

Alison : You’re doing the good work. You’re a champion. Thank you so much.

Hadley: Thank you, I appreciate that.

Alison : And I love this room that you redecorated.

Hadley: Oh thank you.

Alison : I saw it on Instagram. I’m like oh… Yeah she’s got another career happening!

Hadley:  I have a really good friend, Lexi from social media. And she, uh, she’ll send me mockups on stuff, so I can’t take too much credit for that.

Alison : Well, you’re wearing it. Well, my friend, uh.

Hadley: Thank you.

Jean: Uh, you deserve everything that’s really beautiful in this world.

Alison : Thank you so much for talking with us.

Hadley: Thank you.

Alison : Have a beautiful day.

Hadley: Yes, thanks. Bye bye.

Alison : Oh my gosh. She is an like an angel.

Jean: If you who else would you want as a stranger to be by b your bedside when you are taking your last breath? I mean, yes, your loved ones, that’s true, but then next would be Hadley, Nurse Hadley.

Alison : And I think all hospices, like you brought up all hospice nurses , really come with something special.

Jean: Right. And and because that time, that that very in-between time, as Nurse Hadley puts it, uh, is so, it’s so special or vulnerable. Extraordinary. I mean, it’s not just your day to day, but…  you know, these these nurses that that help bridge the physical life to the spiritual life are really, um, doing magnanimous work.

Alison : And I really appreciated what you shared about about Alex. And because I think so many times, people go through something like this or a trauma, and they can’t picture anyone else as having, yeah, problems with it or challenges. And so I think it’s really great to read Hadley’s book and to begin a talk, begin to talk about this in a discussion about this, because death is very important.

Jean: It is. I don’t know where I read this quote, but or this statement, but someone said it’s the most, the biggest spiritual experience anyone has. And when you think about it, it’s so true. And , um, I’m glad that we’re all opening up more and more to the spiritual, right, not just the physical.

Alison : We hope you found this, uh, comforting. And really, we can’t recommend the In-Between more. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book. And a glimpse into something that we don’t often have the opportunity to see.

Jean: No, we don’t give a lot of time and attention to this very reverent topic. So thank you everyone.

Alison : Have a great day.

Jean: I hope you …  Eat the cake.

Alison : Yes, Let’s go do that.  I love that.

Jean: What’s your favorite cake?

Alison : Oh well, I like all of them. Now I’m moving into sort of like a lemon. Um, uh, orange. I’m moving into those because I’m not doing as much chocolate. What about you?

Jean: I’m a big coconut fan.

Alison : Oh, yes.

Jean: and I also love German chocolate cake.

Alison : I know you do.

Jean: Which Alex loved also.

Alison : I know he loved it. Well, have a great day… we have to eat cake now. Okay, bye.

Podcast Episode 33: Emily Grodin and Valerie Gilpeer

I Have Been Buried Under Years Of Dust… is remarkable memoir by a mother and her autistic daughter who’d long been unable to communicate—until a miraculous breakthrough revealed a young woman with a rich and creative interior life, a poet, who’d been trapped inside for more than two decades. We are fortunate to speak with authors – Emily Grodin and her mother, Valerie Gilpeer.

ALISON:Okay. Come on in.

JEAN: There we are.

ALISON: Here we are.

JEAN: This is one of my favorite things to do.

ALISON: Sit together, jammed up into a microphone and having fun, right?

JEAN: Yes.

ALISON: Just hanging out. We love it. How was .your day?

JEAN: My day was busy. I spoke to a lot of people today, and, uh. But it was a great day.

ALISON: It was. And I started Tai Chi today.

JEAN: You did? that’s right.

ALISON: Yes. And it, um. You know, it looks so easy, and the guy turned around and he goes, “Alison, how did you do?” And I just said to him, I’m glad you weren’t watching. And the guy starts laughing. Yeah, because that is the truth. I’ll get better.

JEAN: And I love that you’re doing that. You’re really doing some unique things that that you have, not unique, but things that you haven’t been doing all your life.

ALISON: It’s stuff that’s starting with T – tap and tai chi.

JEAN: Right…well, go you!

ALISON: I’m gonna be a twirling dervish next.

JEAN: You’ll be a twirling top.

ALISON: That’s correct. So we have a wonderful interview today.

JEAN: We do. We have Emily Grodin.

ALISON: And her mom, Valerie.

ALISON: Emily is an incredible poet. And the two of them wrote a book called, “I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust- a memoir of autism and hope”. Emily is on the on the autism spectrum.

JEAN: Right. And her mother, Valerie, and her dad, Tom, really championed her to, um, help her speak.

ALISON: Right. And they use, um, they use a technique called facilitated communication. So there’s a woman sitting with Emily, and her name was Stephanie, i think when we talked… Was that right?

JEAN: I don’t remember her name, but she was very nice. Right?

ALISON: She was very nice…you’ll hear her be introduced. And then when Emily responds to her questions, you’re going to hear like a robotic Siri, like, um, computer voice. Because what Emily is doing is typing and then it speaks back. Right?

JEAN: Right. And what a great device that has really opened up Emily’s life to this creative expression of writing. And she she’s actually writing a screenplay.

ALISON: Yeah. That’s right. And her poetry I found so moving and so, um, deep, meaningful, deep and meaningful and so accessible for, for so many people. So we think you’re going to love this interview.

JEAN: We know you’re going to love it.


JEAN: We do.

ALISON: Being definite.

JEAN: Such a treat… Valerie.

ALISON: We read your book and it’s really amazing. Emily, you are such a beautiful writer.

VALERIE: Hello.. And Stephanie Lewis is with Emily. I should introduce Stephanie. Stephanie, stick your head in there.

STEPHANIE: Hi. That’s me. Hi. How are you?

JEAN: I just first want to say that, um… So, I’m Jean, and this is Alison, and, um. your story is amazing and I think it brings such hope to.. It’s just another huge beacon of hope for people to know that this modality of communicating is out there…

VALERIE: Right, yeah.

ALISON: And I thought what was amazing was even if, uh, right now I feel like the world needs more hope. And I feel that your book communicates that in a larger spectrum- that the two of you, uh, really never gave up.

VALERIE: Well, and Tom too, are the three of us.

ALISON: Yes. I’m sorry.

VALERIE: Yes, Tom was such a big part of this, too. Because he, you know, he sort of brought me back when I was sort of, you know, careening out of control a little bit. I mean, it was, you know, there was a balance to it, you know, I mean, Emily, Emily went through so much. I mean, the child was subjected to one therapy after another. And she never complained. She never, you know, pushed back. She just sort of went along with things, you know, and and on our part, you know, was constantly searching for things that would help her because, you know, it wasn’t to normalize her. It was just to help her have access to the world. And I think that’s one of the things that I kind of want people to understand, because some of the comments that have been written about me, um, in on some platforms has been that I was trying to make her quote unquote normal, but what was not the case… I mean, I love Emily as exactly as Emily is, for who she is, in every aspect about her. I mean, there’s not anything I don’t love about my daughter, but, you know, I understood the challenges that the world presents. And I really was just trying to, um, make her better able to access the world, um, given who she is. And I think any parent does that. I mean, all of our kids have. I mean, everybody has their limitations. I have my limitations. You know? I mean, you try to maximize what you can, so that you can have a good life, you know? And that’s all I was really trying to do for her.

ALISON: I never felt that reading the book. I have to be honest with you. I actually just, we both have two children, and they’re just around…. Emily, how old are you right now? is that okay to ask? I’ve never asked a woman their age, but how old are you, Emily?

STEPHANIE: 29. Oh, sorry. I have her volume super low. 29 there.

EMILY: 29.

ALISON: Wow – so you’ve been able to find this opening for yourself to communicate, Emily, for the past five years?

EMILY: That’s right.

ALISON: Very nice…And your poems, um, I was so moved by your poems. Some of them… see, I’m going to get teary eyed… Some of them truly expressed things that I have felt in my life. And I thought the universality of them was so moving. How long does it take you to write a poem? Does it just flow out of you quickly, or is it something that you spend a lot of time with?

EMILY: They come quickly. I would usually complete in an hour.

ALISON: That is shocking…that’s like you are a muse.

VALERIE: You know, it’s interesting…that’s how poets are, though, you know, I mean, Paul Simon, I don’t know if you ever saw that that exhibit up at the Skirball about Paul Simon, but he would go to a Chinese restaurant and just write down on a napkin. And that’s really like Emily. I mean, she just it just comes to her. It’s really extraordinary. Um, she wrote a few weeks ago, we were out in the sun too much, and she got a terrible sunburn on her feet, of all places… The top feet, the worst. She wrote the funniest poem,just like that about the sunburn. She gets moved. I mean, it really is amazing. It’s just a total gift.


VALERIE: A gift, isn’t it, Emmy?

EMILY: It is.

JEAN: So Valerie, can you tell me, um, what was your inspiration to write a book after you saw that Emily was really opening up to being able to communicate, it was like you pulled the lid off, right? I love the title – “I have been buried under years of dust.” I love the title. I know that Emily said those exact words to you…. And so what was your intention?

VALERIE: Well initially, my intention was to publish Emily’s writings and her poetry. And that’s how initially we approached various, um, agents and unfortunately, none of them or fortunately, I suppose, because we ended up with this great book. Um, they felt that the writings of an individual with autism would not be a sell, and nobody wanted to get involved with it. So I contacted some people that were pretty well known, actually, in the business, and they said, oh, what you should do is you should just get Emily published in as many places as you can, and then eventually her name will be known. But there was one agent, who I was referred to, who read Emily’s work, and he went, “oh my God. You know, this is incredible stuff.” But even more incredible, is the story of how you got there. And he said, I think that’s the story that should be told. And so we talked about it and we discussed it, and we figured a way to propose it. But my main proviso was that her work had to be included throughout the book. And that’s how the reflections came up. So it was, you know, that’s how her work is integrated, because that was important. People needed to hear her voice. It wasn’t just the back story of how we got there, which I think is the backdrop to me. It’s the backdrop, you know, all the work, everything that happened. It’s the predicate, you know, to what actually was developed. And I think it’s important, but more important, is that her words come out and that the light be shown on her, because that was my initial original intent. It wasn’t about me and it wasn’t about Tom. It was about her. And, um, you know, I mean, really, I have to be honest, and I’ve shared this with many people before, is that after so many years of people not recognizing Emily’s strengths and just how bright she was and how much she had to contribute, I wanted a light to shine very brightly on her, very brightly on her. And that’s why this, that’s what was my goal. I mean, that was my goal always. And so we accomplished that. I mean, you know, once Emily wrote those first words were so profound — “I had been buried under years of dust.” I mean, who writes that? Who says that the first time coming out of their mouth? And the interesting thing about Emily was that, you know, this methodology of communicating with facilitated communication or supported typing, whatever you want to call it. Um, what was interesting about it for her was that it wasn’t just a matter of communicating wants and desires, she could kind of do that, but it was full thoughts and very lyrical thoughts and beautifully put and so expressive and perfect typing. Perfect spelling. Uh, you know, everything in that book, that’s hers. We do have a note at the end, is all original writing. There’s no editing to any of that. Um, which is really important because here’s a person who did not communicate verbally and who really never, never wrote because she because they did not, were unable to measure her capacity in many ways. Um, you know, our testing of individuals is typically with verbal responses. And so it was hard to measure, I think, for people people knew that she was bright because she, uh, Emily was, you know, so responsive and and so capable nonverbally. I mean, her nonverbal, her level of nonverbal communication was unbelievable. And her way to accomplish things was nonverbal. And her way to manipulate was really very clear to people. But in terms of her expectations of her writings, she had, you know, she her she was never she never wrote a story. She never wrote an essay. She never did any of that all the way through school. Um, her testing was done really by multiple choice… Yes. No, that sort of thing. Yeah.

ALISON: What’s interesting is that it made me realize, uh, what a powerful listener you are Emily, you were listening, I guess, to be able to absorb and write in such a way, listening to teachers and people for many years and being able to to to take that in. I found that moving because I think so many times, unless people, um, I feel like sometimes people sell other people short in their daily lives. And you are such a lesson that to me that, um, people that are different than me, people that might–like senior citizens, you know, like my, my grandmother reached a point and sometimes people would think she couldn’t hear anything. I knew she was hearing every single thing because she was communicating with me, and I found that very profound for you, Emily. In your classes now, are you still in, did you graduate college? Are you still at, um, Santa Monica College?

EMILY: Still at a local school.

ALISON: Where do you see yourself in in 5 or 10 years, Emily? What what do you think about that? Like in terms of your future, where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years?

EMILY: I would like to have a degree and I know I will always be writing. Maybe screenwriting next.

ALISON: Wow, that would be great. I would love that. I would love to read one of your scripts.

VALERIE: Yeah. She’s, uh, she’s kind of been working on something, so. Yeah. That and continued poetry. Yeah. I mean, shout out to Valley College. She’s she’s going to Valley College now and she has been for a while and um, Los Angeles Valley College and. Yeah. So she’s going to just get her preliminary stuff out of the way. She’s a few more courses to go, and then we’ve got to figure out what the next steps are going to be.

JEAN: So Valerie, I know that your friends with the Asner’s. Yes, we did a little article on them on insidewink. And can you tell me how you got, uh, introduced to to the Ed Asner Family Center and how that helped you or if it did?

VALERIE: They had a camp that I sort of learned about through some friends. And then when they moved here into Reseda, I heard about the center and I went to see it, and I didn’t know Matt or Nava personally before that. But after we went over there and we we saw what a beautiful, incredible setting it was. Um, and the place is absolutely gorgeous and the types of programming that they were offering and that it appealed to, they had programming actually, for older individuals. It wasn’t just for, um, children. They were offering activities. They were offering um, uh, acting and hooking up with some with a miracle project and other acting classes and social activities. There was drumming. There were other things. And so that’s how, you know, we got started with them and we were with them. We but we didn’t start until right before the beginning of 2019, you know. So it went through until the pandemic and there were some great parties. I mean, there was a great Christmas party, I mean, an unbelievable Christmas party. And people came from all over, you know, the South, the South area, from Los Angeles, even people from the West side who don’t ever want to come into the valley, we’re coming into the valley because it was such a great party and they had food trucks and everything.

VALERIE: So that’s how I really met them. I knew Nava’s story, I knew the back story of Nava, and I knew of Ed Asner, and I knew, you know, through some professional connections. But that’s how really how I met them was really when Emily and I first went over there and she participated in their activities, and then we got to know them better and better, you know, as we went along and, and are really delighted to be part of their circle. Um, honestly, I mean they are fantastic advocates and the environment is beautiful and. Emily is now participating, there’s actually – they have the autism spectrum dating or something, you know, for kids on the spectrum to learn how to kind of socialize and to date and that sort of thing. So that’s a really nice thing for Emily. And that’s, you know, it’s hard. The activities for older individuals are fewer and far between or ones that are eaningful. And so they’re providing that opportunity. And I think it’s smart of them to recognize that kids grow up, you know?

ALISON: How long did it take you to write the book… Like how long was it, how many years was the process?

VALERIE: It was a two year process.

ALISON: I couldn’t put it down.

VALERIE: Oh, good. I’m glad you liked it.

ALISON: know, we get a lot of things to read and and talk to people, and you try to at least be familiar with it. And I have to tell you, I finished it in a day. I could not put it down. My husband’s like, are you going to eat dinner? I was like, no, no, she’s going to Ireland. I got to get through the Ireland part. You know, it just was really, really…it just made me cry.

VALERIE: Yeah. The Ireland part was crazy. I have pictures, we have pictures. Um, there’s some pictures on the website. I know when, um, Fox LA did the, um, the piece with Michaela Pereira, they had the picture of Emily actually kissing the the castle, which was the craziest thing. I mean, if you’ve been there, you know, it’s a difficult place to, it’s difficult to kiss that stone anyway, and probably isn’t the healthiest thing in the world but we couldn’t do it, because of the tour group coming in from the ship, the tour, the cruise ship that came in on the west coast of Ireland.

ALISON: So I liked your improv, like kiss over here, kiss this wall. And you know what? I believe that it’s all connected anyway. So, you know, make the castle the stone… Like kiss this brick, that brick. I thought that was great. I loved your, um, sort of like… All right, this will do.

VALERIE: Desperate, desperate measures.

ALISON: Right? We’ve all we’ve all been there. I think that was pretty great to improvise. Yeah., I was also very moved by what you wrote, Emily… Emily writes a section about, um, her parents that is so moving to me, and I want to read it to my kids and say, pick up a pen. It really was so beautiful, emily, what you wrote about about your parents. That was a beautiful, beautiful moment in the book.

EMILY: Thank you. And earlier talking about being a good listener. My parents, they really knew I was taking it all and grateful for that.

JEAN: Yeah, I love that you say that, Emily. I think it’s such a poignant and powerful acknowledgement –it’s that giving and receiving are one. That your parents saw you, saw beyond your challenge and um, and just never gave up. But they actually saw you… The truth of you. That’s one of the reasons why Allison and I talked about naming our website inside Wink. It’s the love, the goodness within everyone that comes out and, um, and we all need to do that for each other. And you know, I know your parents, um, that’s such, such a powerful act of love. And I’m so inspired by both of you. I’m going to start crying.

VALERIE: Thank you so much. Thank you.

ALISON: So beautiful. And it’s really that this book is a love story. And, uh, we really appreciate you being here, and I’m so happy that you two are being honored together.

VALERIE: Thank you. Yeah.

Speaker3: Valeie, is there anything you want to say before end?

ALISON: Or Emily?

JEAN: Or Emily, Yes of course…

VALERIE: There’s so much to say, I mean, we hope certainly that people, you know, will understand the importance of just never giving up and understand that, you know, just because a child each reaches that magical age of, of so-called maturity or 18, doesn’t change anything. I mean, there’s still a child, an individual who needs, could need possibly some more pushing and assistance. And I know it’s considered a magical date by many people and many parents of kids with challenges. But, you know, like you continue to grow and develop. I mean, I’ve always said to people, look, I feel like I continue to to grow and develop well, well past 18. And why shouldn’t our kids, you know, why shouldn’t we continue? I’m still I’m still developing. I’m still learning, constantly learning. And I feel like the elasticity of the brain is such that, you know, you have to really go in there and mine it and use it and, and keep at it. And I and I would encourage people to do that. All people, you know, you don’t just stop learning, you don’t stop developing. And I think that’s a big mistake for a lot of people.

ALISON: You kept going and kept trying.

VALERIE: And we still are. We still are. It’s not over.

ALISON: Righ…Did you know you had this much, um, strength?

VALERIE: Well, you know, I’m super stubborn and I’m super independent, and I think that I think it, you know, you don’t you’re not left with a choice. You know, to me, they’re, you know, it’s kind of like you have to rally because there’s no choice. What are you going to do? Nothing. So if whatever may have been lacking in me, was certainly pushed to the to the edge…there just is no choice, in my mind.

JEAN: Right. I have to just speak to that because people would say that my husband, when he was going through his cancer treatments and everything, he they’d say, oh, Alex, you’re you’re so strong. And he’d say, I don’t have a choice. I’m just doing what I need to do.

VALERIE: Exactly.

JEAN: And I think that’s such a recognition of the power of the human spirit that we just rise to the occasion, and there is a choice… Do we want to throw in the towel? Or can we just know that there’s something else we can do, something more, more expansive? Yeah.

VALERIE: Right. And that’s always been that next challenge for, for us, you know, as a family… what is that next step? You know, how can we raise the bar? I mean, and I will say that that was you know, that was one thing I think probably the biggest difference between my view of things and the school district’s view of things was that they wanted to lower the bar, and I wanted to raise the bar, you know, and that was always it. And I think that, you know, in many ways, the reason for wanting to raise the bar is that because I did see this extraordinary light in Emily and an extraordinary capability which they may not have seen, but I saw, that we saw, Tom and I saw and you know, you just don’t let that be, you know, no parent lets that be. Um, you can’t… It’s impossible to do that. Um, so, you know, that’s that’s kind of what has kept us going and still does. I mean, every day is, I used to say every day is a new dawn with Emily. I didn’t know who I was going to wake up to. I didn’t know who or what was going to happen. And this was, you know, when things were were kind of bleak. I didn’t know who, what was going to happen, who she was going to be, what was going to be our next…. And it’s still the case now. You know, I still don’t know who she is every morning going to be every morning. I have a better sense now because she can kind of communicate better. But honestly, I mean, it’s always a new challenge and I guess I like challenges.

ALISON: I guess, I guess…Well, you were presented with challenges. You know, you’re going to you’re going to like them or not, you know, and….

VALERIE: I think I figure things out a little bit later than I should of I, you know, I’ve sort of, you know, I sort of used to kick myself and say, you know, I should have known about things earlier on in the process than I did. And I had no excuse. You know, I was educated, I was a lawyer, I had access to things, you know, things that other people came to learn earlier about the disability. I didn’t know, um, and I don’t know whether it was because I was upset. I mean, my husband says I was very upset at the beginning. I don’t remember it being so that so, but maybe I was trying to figure it would, you know, it would it was just going to kind of disappear, you know, magical thinking, as I say in the book, you know, I was like a magical thinking. It’s like, if I think it’ll go away, you know?

ALISON: My favorite line of the whole book was, you were talking about something.. and then you said, “but first I had to make some mistakes.”

VALERIE: Yeah, that.

ALISON: Really resonated with me. Yeah. When I look back on my life, I went, wow, I guess I had to do all those, learn all those mistakes, go through all that.

VALERIE: Well, we all make mistakes. I mean, we all make mistakes. And, you know, you know, I always felt that none of them was irreversible. But you know, the thing is, time is really not on your side when you’re raising a child. You know, I always felt like every minute counted. It was like, every minute counted. Like, don’t tell me about giving me therapies in two years from now. I need them now. I need them today.

ALISON: I’m right there with you.

JEAN: Life is precious, Time is precious. It’s our gold….and what we do…. And we all know it goes by so fast. And we learn that lesson constantly. Now, whether what we do with that is, is another thing.

Speaker4: So do Emily, do you have any final thoughts.

EMILY: Just to always make your own path if there is not one for you?


JEAN: Oh you’re amazing.

ALISON: Emily….You’re really so spectacular.

JEAN: What a light!.

ALISON: Thank you. Thank you both for talking with us and taking up this this time. I really appreciate it.

VALERIE: Thank you. This was so delightful. You’re both are so lovely.

ALISON: Okay. Our computer is acting up right now…it’s not us.. Hahah

JEAN: It’s never us. We’re geniuses with TI…. I mean, people call us from all over the world to get help with this … HAHAH.

ALISON: It’s IT. hahahah. I really enjoyed talking to Emily and Valerie.

JEAN: Yeah, they are a lovely, lovely people. And I love that they really support each other. Valerie is just such a source of strength. And I know Emily feels so grateful for her parent’s support.

ALISON: That the last thing she said about creating your own path.

JEAN: Yes. Talk about being committed to your own life and not following someone else’s.

ALISON: Right. And you really, I couldn’t put this book down. It was a very fast moving read because their journey is so it’s so involved. And, you know, Tom and Valerie and Emily, it’s very involved and really has really deep highs and lows. But yet they never lost hope, which I really appreciated.

JEAN: And Valerie definitely has that, for me, that motto, “if where there’s a will, there’s a way.” So I am so inspired by both Emily and and her mom, Valerie.

ALISON: Me too. I’m inspired too.

JEAN: Okay…Well, we can both be inspired.

ALISON: I guess so…Hey, thank you so much.

JEAN: We hope you’re inspired.

ALISON: That’s right. Have a great day. Okay. Bye.

JEAN: Bye.

Podcast Episode 32: Stephanie Banks

Stephanie Banks is a highly sought-after intuitive channel, mentor and guide who helps people connect on the soul level. She channels from the perspective of any soul currently on the planet, souls on the other side, purely non-physical beings such as spirit guides, as well as trees, animals, and Gaia.


Alison: Okey dokey. Hi.

Jean: Did you do it?

Alison: I did it.

Jean: How are you doing?

Alison: I’m good.

Alison: It’s pouring here.

Jean: Yes, we’re getting our second big storm.

Alison: I know it’s kind of nice, so it makes me feel cozy.

Jean: Yes. Me too, me too.

Alison: And that’s a perfect way to start talking about Stephanie Banks.

Jean: Yes. Um, okay, I have to share that, um, she gave me a channeling session, which was so beautiful. I was living off the energy for a few days.

Alison: That’s right. So Stephanie Banks is a channeler. Her website is Soul Insight, and it says she is channeling wisdom for personal and global transformation. And I’m not really, at least I wasn’t that familiar with channeling or channelers or, you know, we were asking, what’s the difference between that and a medium? And, um, and yet when we were talking, she so when you hear in the interview, she’s so down to earth.

Jean: Yeah, she, she you’re you’re really talking to a friend. And the way, um, the way that she got this gift or I should say, revealed this gift is through her mother that she was trying to to communicate with her mother, who had dementia.

Jean: But, moreover, I was so impressed with the sincerity and the beauty of of her consciousness.

Alison: That’s right. And I, um, we both we both did readings with her so that we could talk to you more about that. And I have to say, the reading.. I felt I felt high afterward. I was so happy. Yeah. And I felt literally like one of the luckiest people, um, on earth, like, just in gratitude for the people in my life and the people that have gone before me and the higher their higher selves talking. And it just was so positive and wonderful that if any of you are interested, please go to Soul Insight and check her out.

Jean: She is the real deal and she, uh, she can channel people that are currently physically on the earth or people that have made their transition and pets. So if this, um, you know, calls to you, please reach out to her. She is the real deal. And what a beautiful soul she is.

Alison: So let’s listen to the interview, and then we’ll come back and talk more.

Stephanie: Are we recording???. Wait, wait. I have to look for chia seeds. Hahahah… hello, lovelies.

Alison: Hi, I’m Allison.

Stephanie: Hi, Allison, I’m Stephanie. Hi, Jean.

Alison: Thank you so much for doing this.

Stephanie: Yeah. No, it’s my pleasure. I love to talk about myself all the day long. hahaha.

Alison: All right, go ahead. hahah

Stephanie: No, I’m just joking. I know it’s definitely not something that’s comfortable, but I’m getting used to it.

Jean: Well, you’re excellent at what you do.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Jean: From everything that I’ve heard, you’re really fine tuned your your gift of channeling, so…

Alison: And can you just start by explaining to our listeners how you stepped into this? I think it was with your your mom?

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, I, I say that I came upon it out of necessity because I was losing the ability to communicate while my mother was losing her ability to communicate through traditional verbal communication. She had dementia, and it was a type of dementia that affects younger people, and many have not heard of it. It’s called frontotemporal dementia. And she started to have symptoms in her 50s. So with this type of dementia, it does um, that’s not uncommon. And it took a very long time for us to understand what she actually had, because they kept misdiagnosing it as depression or some other type of mental illness. So by the time we figured out what she had, we were already deep in it. And it was, you know, our interactions were frustrating. And, um, my relationship with her was suffering. And even though I have a clinical background in speech therapy and I know how to deal with cognitive disorders, um, it’s my mom. So I couldn’t just apply clinical information to her because we had a whole history of emotional connection. So at the time, luckily, as the universe always provides us what we need, I had a best friend who was a very gifted channel, and I’d never heard of channeling before, but I had seen her do it, and I asked her if she would please channel my mom’s soul for me because I was not getting it right, in terms of understanding what she needed and knowing what my what my role was with her so many times she channeled her soul for me, and each time I got to a deeper place of understanding that she actually her soul needed me to present very differently than I had been. Lo and behold, she did not need me to control her. Go figure??? hahah… Or to apply my clinical expertise to her, you know, daily experience. Um, and so I learned, actually, I learned a lot more than that. But I learned how to maintain my connection, my heart connection to her, and, uh, and let go and find our, our beautiful moments and our humor once again. And even though we might have an entire conversation that was completely empty of any meaning whatsoever, we could still smile and laugh about that and and just move on and not dwell and not try to correct things. So that’s that’s how I came upon it. And when I saw what a difference it made in my relationship to my mother and thus my whole family, because everybody benefited from this, I figured I have to learn how to do this more for myself and then eventually teach it. So that’s what I’m doing now.

Alison: It’s wonderful. In your in your, um, I think it was a Ted talk at and your mom said to you, “why do people keep referring to you as my daughter?” And, um, I had to stop the tape because I found that so emotional. And then I thought it was beautiful, that instead of arguing with her and saying, well, of course I’m. You said, what relationship do you think we have? Yeah, I think that is so. I was so proud of you. I really wanted to hug you. That was so beautiful. And then when she said, you’re my best friend….that was just, I don’t know,..  I have two children, and so it gets me very choked up… You you handle that so well.

Stephanie: Um. Thank you. Yeah. I actually, in that moment in the car when she asked me that dreaded question, which I knew was coming at some point, because that’s the nature of dementia, right? You you become someone totally different to your loved one, or totally disconnected and unknown to them. And it was my fear that she would not know me at some point. So when she asked why we were, you know, people were referring to us as mother and daughter, I actually said to her, what does our relationship feel like to you? … That was spirit coming through obviously, because my linear mind would have said, okay, let’s go through and trigger her memories and try to bring her back to an orientation. But yes, and so the gift that I got from that was hearing from her what I feel like to her. And I felt like her best friend. And I’ll take it. That’s an amazing promotion. Yeah.

Jean: So interesting to me. It’s almost like you drop the identities or the labels of being mother and daughter and sister and you just move into pure Presence, pure Love. And you met your mother where she was at. You we’re not trying to  like, like you just said, try to coax her… Come on, remember when you fed me Cheerios? You’re my mother!

Stephanie:  Yeah, exactly.  And that’s the beauty of soul… soul connection;   is that, if we’re willing to let go of some of these cloaks of personality and roles that we have, have always known with one another, and we we can do this worldwide. This is why I teach channeling, because I really do see a world in which we can relate to one another in the moment, with whatever is going on with compassion. So yeah, it allowed us to to have that beautiful depth and it allowed us to and it let me narrowly escape like this devastation of losing my place with my mom. Yeah. Um, it gave me a place with her that I could work on continuing to cultivate and yeah, magic.. Just beautiful magic.

Alison: Could you tell me the difference if there even is a difference between a channeler, a medium, and a psychic?

Stephanie: I will try. But honestly, these these words, they’re defined differently depending on who you ask. Okay. Um, I’ll just repeat what I’ve been taught, because it makes sense to me. Um, channeling for me is connecting to divine energy and wisdom and creating space. So, you know, if you if you if there’s a channel that means there’s space for something to move through. So when I’m channeling, I’m actually getting out of the way, the personality of me, um, moves aside so that what can come through is of, in the way that I work, of the highest living vibration and comes through what is called fifth dimensional consciousness, which is unity consciousness. That’s the way I channel. So that’s how I define channeling. Um, psychic readings in my understanding and I know there’s going to be others who say that’s not the right definition, but in my understanding, learning is, um, they are tuning to a lot of the three dimensional world and can also be predictive in quality, tell you what’s coming, help you to potentially prepare for what’s coming, give you advice around that. Tell you even what has happened specifically in the past by attuning to and reading what’s what’s occurring or has occurred on the three dimensional. Um, there’s other definitions to that. And then mediumship in my understanding is um, channeling or connecting to those on the other side, ancestors and loved ones who are no longer in physicality, but still very usually very present to support us on our journeys. And I do mediumship work as well. I kind of clump it into the channeling because I’m connecting to the ancestors and loved ones to bring forward whatever they want to share with their, with their beloveds. Um, but that’s in general a sense for how they can be distinguished.

Alison: Thank you. That’s because we were talking about and I was saying, I’m not even sure I fully  know understand. So thank you for that.

Jean: And I love Stephanie that you are alluding to the notion that people can learn channeling. It’s just not this gift that you have, you have solely and that you can actually learn to channel.

Stephanie: Yes, well I did.

Jean: Right, right.

Stephanie: And I feel like if I can really anyone. Well, I’ll say this. Anybody who wishes to who is willing to put in the practice and learn to channel. So I don’t believe one can just snap their fingers and tune in and say, well, this is coming from, you know, high vibrational consciousness. I actually have to do most of my work occurs between my sessions. That’s where I have to really, uh, tend to my energetic hygiene, I call it. I have to clear out a lot of this junk that I have just as much as anyone else. So fears or insecurities or egoic, you know, focus or repetitive thoughts or self-doubts, judgments, all that stuff. Because I’m doing a human thing and I can be pretty judgmental and have all those other components too, so that I can present in the highest with my own highest frequency and therefore allow in other high frequencies. If my self care sucks, then my connection is going to suffer. So um, so I do a lot to maintain that. And, and I do owe that to my clients. You know, I take this work is to me, it’s really important work and I take it seriously, even though there’s a lot of humor and joy that I experience with it. Um, I take it on as quite a responsibility because it’s you can create chaos and confusion if you’re not clear, and if you’re not maintaining that, you know, high level of of loving frequency.

Jean: So yeah. And you you mentioned that in a, something I read about the quality of self care. Can you talk a little bit more about what your practices are with around that. And yeah. Why is self care so important?

Stephanie: Yeah.. Well it’s important and we all know how we feel when we’re not loving ourselves and when we’re not doing what brings us joy and pleasure and delight of the heart. Right? We tend to, um, have a more diminished view of ourselves. We tend to undervalue ourselves. Our relationships suffer because we start to become more and more constricted and drawn away, rather than open and moving and warm and moving closer to. So that’s the reason why to do self care. Another reason why to do it is because, um, you were put here as a glorious, amazing, phenomenal, exquisite being soul being to have the gift of the human journey in the three dimension and the third dimension. And there’s so much here to be enjoyed and experienced. I mean, food is at the top of my list. I don’t know of a planet that has this great food. Do you? Um, and then our our relationships with others and for me, time with my dogs and nature and animals and plants and all of that. So it’s just you’re worth it. We are worth having the most joyful experience we can invite in and that we can appreciate. And then I call it radical self-care, because we are in a time where especially, uh, I’m going to generalize this a little bit, but I believe it, especially for women, we are not encouraged to take really to go in and take really good care of ourselves.

Stephanie: We are, most of us, trained to look outward, attend to the needs of others, make sure everybody else is okay, and then maybe if there’s a little scrap of time left over, okay, I can perhaps read a page of my book or take a quick nap or whatever, but we really need to flip that. Because, if the divine feminine is to, um, support us in the transformation of humanity, which I do believe she is, and we are to bring balance back to our suffering earth, then we need to, you know, we are men and women and anyone else gender, you know, identified as whatever gender are, we need to step up into that. And radical self-care is the best way I know to do that. So what’s on my list? And I’m not joking when I put dark chocolate at the top of it. That is absolutely necessary. Um, time in my garden because that’s where miracles happen. That’s where I’m reminded of life existing outside the walls of my home, and butterflies and dragonflies and bees and papayas.

Stephanie: And I grow bananas. And, I mean, it’s just it’s endless. The magic that happens, uh, while I’m in here doing other things, um, movement and exercise is essential. Self-care. Our bodies absorb a lot of energy and that can start to stagnate and become, um, really uncomfortable and also contribute to illness, um, or inflammation if we don’t move energy out. Um, I mentioned food, really, the, um, enjoying food and sourcing ourselves with good food, with high vibrational food, with food that, um, for me, it’s important to me to be, um, plant based with my diet because vibrationally that is in alignment with how I want to feel in the work that I’m doing in the world. Um, time with my animals always raises my frequency. Time with any animals, really. Babies are fun too, but I’m not going to have any more of those. hahah But if you can grab one, that’s good self-care. It goes on. You know that you’re it’s your basic needs and making sure that they are attended to. So that’s rest and hydration and excellent nutrition. Um, very good relationships, positive relationships, relationships that resource you with energy rather than deplete you from energy. So those are just a few.

Alison: And do you, when you are, um, channeling,… Um, is it tiring or is it like rejuvenating, like or how does it feel? I find it so fascinating and exciting. Yeah.

Stephanie: Me too. Um, I, you know, I used to say it depends who I’m channeling for, because sometimes I used to leave some sessions, very rarely, feeling exhausted and depleted. Then I started to get more clear with my guides about what types of, um, people I am best suited to channel for. I am not best suited to channel for everybody just because I can. So there is a certain frequency that certain people carry. A lot of people carry. It’s not like you’re you have to be a rare breed in order for me to, to be channeling for you. Um, but when, when the, when those are not aligned or close to similar, at least in the frequency that I tend to carry and value and cultivate, then I’m working really, really hard and I a lot of energy is going out, and it’s not this beautiful feedback loop where I am really connected to the person. And, um, and we’re, we’re kind of in a collective elevation together. So that’s, that’s what I’ve learned how to, how to get more clear about the, the right clients for me and the right people to join certain groups and how to say no thank you or just no without the thank you for those that for those that I’m not meant to serve because there’s someone better for them than me.

Alison: I love that. I love that you have sort of, um. It feels like a very helpful boundary.

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah, it took a while. It takes all of us a while. It’s trial and error. Same thing in our relationships, right? Like we can probably all identify where we’re still hanging on to some relationships that are not, like, feeling so good anymore, or maybe not even serving the purpose that they once used to. But it’s really hard to communicate that or to lovingly disengage from that. But I believe we have to if we are to, to really move around freely in our own energy fields.

Jean: You’re right, you’re right. Yeah. Stephanie. So, so can you talk a little bit about how you go about teaching someone to channel? Can you give our listeners like a tip, or if someone was so inclined to desire to learn channeling, what would you offer?

Stephanie: Yeah, the first foundational thing is what we just spoke of, which is the self care, because you cannot come to the work of channeling with a very low perception or value of yourself, then it’s kind of like martyrdom, you know, that will feel like you’re you’re pushing and and fighting and really efforting in a way that will not be regenerative. And channeling, I believe, is meant to be regenerative. So we talk about radical self care. It looks different for everybody. But can you commit to 1 or 2 things each day, even in a very busy schedule that will lighten your heart? Um, meditation is essential to being clear and but there’s also many ways to do that. It’s not just sitting in emptiness and oaming. So a lot of people are afraid of meditation, or they actively avoid it because they think they’ve done it wrong or they’re a failure at it. I’m not a very good meditator. I like,  in terms of, well, I don’t even know what that means, actually…Because who is? Okay, Michael Singer is and I’m following his work closely right now tp become a better meditator. But it’s not about being good or bad at it. It’s really just the process of showing up. So if you’re willing to show up and look for a little bit of space between your thoughts, that’s successful meditation, just showing up and getting a drop of space between your thoughts, that’s something to celebrate. Um, it’s also I teach a lot of specific strategies and tools, which I can’t easily go through in this format because there’s like a process to them and an experience to them. But something else we do in my, uh, in all of my workshops is we dance.. we, we, we bunch ourselves up and we take on so much and we become right, like, tight and just braced and, um, crusty. And so dance really moves that energy out. And you don’t have to dance on camera. I always give people the option, like you can let loose off camera, but it does shake off whatever we’ve absorbed during the day. It brings joy back to us. It improves our circulation. It makes us feel alive. And that’s a great place from which to channel.

Jean:  allison started a tap dancing class.

Alison: Nice.

Alison: I just decided that I always wanted to tap dance, and so I’m doing it, and I’m really having so much fun.

Stephanie: That’s amazing.

Alison: And it’s just it’s seems ridiculous to me. And yet I, I went last night. I just love it so goofy to see me with these tap shoes. Like, it’s like, doesn’t make sense, but it’s so much fun and I always feel so much better afterward, right? Yes.

Jean: I hear that dancing makes helps you move energy. Oh, yeah. You’ve been feeling stuck in your life? Yes. Start dancing.

Stephanie: It’s instantaneous. Mhm. You should see when I, when I have a group and I because I pick very particular songs that make us want to dance and so there’s like a pre, you know if I could like take a screenshot of all the zoom faces, you know, who are just listening and really intent on things. And I’m like okay, well here’s our song. So go dance. And we come back and everyone’s like ,,,,rather filled up and thrilled with themselves. Yeah, that’s what dancing does. So Allison, I want to know who else is in your class. Is there a variety of people?

Alison: You can’t even.. I thought, I’m definitely going to be like the oldest or the worst. Like, I had all these thoughts, …There’s, like, men and women and young kids like, like like I’d say in their teens and 20s and then people older than me and and everyone is just so, like, cheering for each other. And you know, some are really good and some are just bad and no one cares. You know, they’re having they everyone has big smiles that we’re like, we’re learning a song from Chicago and we’re all like, it’s like 7:30 at night. We’ve all had our day and we come in there and we’re trying to act all sexy in the song and we all just start laughing, you know, like you’re singing and we’re all like, good job on that. You know, like… And I don’t know, I have so much fun.

Stephanie: I love that so much. I may need to try that too.

Alison:  it’s so funny. You always keep thinking I’m just going to be like Gene Kelly, you know what I mean?

Stephanie: I don’think that ever of my dance life.

Jean: But what’s a song that you play? What’s one song that you really find when you’re scraping the bottom … Like, this group needs a really good song?

Stephanie: I’m looking to see if I have my pendulum. I think I do. So I teach a lot of work with a pendulum, and because that’s how I learned to channel, I learned to spell out the names of my guides that way, I learned to I’m sorry, I think my dog might bark in a second. I learned to ask questions of my higher self and get words spelled out for me. Um, so working with a pendulum is very, very useful. But it’s also not for the impatient. It takes a lot of focus, a lot of concentration. Um, and so I play this song to help us to get, sexy, Alison with our pendulums. This is this is just a Molly. It’s not a pendulum, but just for example. So we’re working and we’re working and we’re staring at the pendulum. We’re waiting for it to go to a letter and spell something out. And then we’ll take a break and I’ll say, or I’ll tell them, hold your pendulums. It’s time to get sexy with them and break up this dense energy. And I will play Marvin Gaye’s, Let’s Get It On.

Alison: Oh, yes!

Jean: I was going to say, is it a Barry White song? But Marvin Gaye, yes, yes.

Stephanie: people are like, uh, you know, and I of course I have to be on the screen really just letting it go and which I love. hahahah..Um, and then and then we lighten up and we’re like, oh, this is fun. This is, it’s a tool. This is great. we can stop being all serious.

Alison: Going to we’re going to play that, um, now together when we’re like doing something… I think like, fun and laughter is like the key. Do you?

Stephanie: Uh. It’s everything. Yeah. It’s everything. And you can tell quickly when you’re with someone whose humor has just gone offline for many years. Right? And it’s really hard. It’s very hard for me anyway, to, to connect there because humor is such a beautiful point of connection. Yeah. It also breaks up like, you know, I love I laugh at myself all the time. I think humans are ridiculous creatures. We we think some of the oddest things. We have strange behaviors, rituals, etc. and they’re funny. And you know, if if we can laugh with the joy and silliness of it, then we’re not inclined to be harshly judgmental of ourselves or others. Um, so yes, it is everything. And spirit itself is has a great sense of humor. My guides are hilarious. Um, yeah, we are I and oftentimes when I’m channeling, I will get I’ll see the joke right before the the words match up so that my client can hear it. And so I will start laughing. Before the message has really come together. Sort of like a cue for them, like, oh, something funny is coming. Pay attention here.

Alison:  so your guides sometimes, um, uh. Like, do you feel sometimes like your guides will be tapping you on the shoulder if they want to tell something? Is that what it feels like? Like? What is that experience like?

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, now it’s it’s kind of like a stream, a constant stream of conversation because I have learned how to be in conversation with them. Um, and so it used to be like the tapping would be like an event or what someone might call a sign, getting my attention over and over and over again until I would stop and then attune to it and then ask, what’s this all about? But now it just it kind of flows through again, back to self-care. If I wasn’t maintaining this energetic, you know, higher energetic hygiene, then I’d miss a lot of this. And and then it’s harder for them. But they don’t get impatient. They’re you know, our guides are always they’re just going to keep going, keep reaching us, keep trying new ways until we can pay attention to what we need to focus on. But yes, it’s, um. They come in at all interesting times too. I have a lot of visits in the shower, um, while I’m brushing my teeth, doing the most mundane of tasks. Sometimes I’ll be in the store and I will have a, um, like a hit on someone. More like not not a particular detail, but just their name or their face will come into my consciousness. And if it’s a friend or a client that I’m close with, I might send a text message that says, just thinking of you right now. I have no idea why. And every single time I do that, they say, oh my gosh, you… perfect timing. This is what’s going on. I need to speak with you or I needed I just needed to know that you were thinking of me. Thank you. You know, it’s so I encourage us when we have that. It’s not random. When someone comes into your awareness, it’s not for nothing. Reach out or send a message or make yourself a note to do so and follow through. Because this is part of how our guides are working with us all the time to keep us connected, keep us in the love with each other.

Alison: We just spoke to a Lorna Byrne and do you know who that is? What was so interesting is she was  really reflecting and reinforcing what you’re saying. And I, I think it’s so beautiful that we live in a universe of kindness and goodness and creativity that now whenever I get the idea, text someone or call someone, or do you know because it may not be coming from me.

Stephanie: That’s right, that’s right.

Alison: Which gives me chills. I think that’s so beautiful.

Jean: Do you think that, um, channeling and mediumship is has gotten more popular

Stephanie: Yes.

Stephanie: um and  from what I can tell, I mean, who knows how popular it was before we had all these technologies that would allow us to see them real time, right? Um, but I have no doubt that this, this work and what it has the potential to do for human potential and for growth in, you know,  transcending our small selves, um, is just going to need it’s it’s a necessity. And we look at what’s going on in the external world with violence and destruction and disconnection and, um, absence of love and channeling. You know, I, I feel that is going to be a very it’s a very powerful modality to bring us back home to the truth of who we are and to the truth of the fact that I we are no different from each other. We are actually part of the same, um, everything the inter beingness of all life  is what is true. So what I do to you, positive or negative, I do to myself. And that that’s across the board everywhere. So and you we’ve all heard that if if someone isn’t free then no one’s free. So there’s no way to enjoy true, um, privileges when others are without. And so the channeling is a way to bring us back into connection with, with each other and beauty and love, forgiveness and, um, acceptance.

Alison: How were you raised? Were you raised in a faith or how what what sort of childhood?

Stephanie: I’m a Jewish channel.

Alison: Nice to meet you.

Stephanie: Um, and I wouldn’t say I was raised religiously, but we did practice, you know, the weekly rituals of Shabbat with dinner with my family. Um, and I did raise my children with those rituals as well, but I’m not. I don’t consider myself religious. Um, so. But I love, you know, I love religions when they are practiced with inclusivity and love and compassion, care, kindness, generosity and service. And there is a lot of that in, you know, in many different religions. So, um, yeah, but that’s that’s my background. My I did not have any exposure to spirituality through my Jewish upbringing. I never felt spiritual in, in that, um, that’s something that I was able to access more as an adult.

Alison: And do your do your children have a proclivity for channeling?

Speaker2: So, um. By proclivity, do you mean that they do it for themselves? Because that would be, I’d have to say probably not. But they’re super open to it. And I put pendulums in their hands from young ages. I have a memory of my four year old, my youngest, holding his pendulum and saying, what’s for dinner tonight?

Alison: And so sweet, so sweet.

Alison: Um, but they, you know, they’re they’re intrigued by what I do. They’re incredibly supportive of what I do. And I can share with them these amazing things that come through that are that’s the other thing about channeling is when I’m channeling for someone, it’s there’s a universality to every message that comes through. So it might be for that client at that time, but I’m learning something. And if I’m channeling in a group, everybody present can avail themselves of the richness of that wisdom. That’s an insight that’s coming through as well. Um, so there yeah, I think they’re I know they’re proud of me. And, um, and they see how much delight it brings and I’ll channel and then emerge and they’ll, they’ll say, how was your session? And I’ll, I’m always like, oh my gosh, it was so great. It was amazing. And you know, and they they share in the joy of that.

Alison: I think that’s one of the best things a parent can say. I know my child is proud of me.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Alison: Yeah. Really so heartwarming. Right. Like that’s that’s really I know your kids are funny because you’re funny.

Stephanie: Yeah. They’re funny. Yeah.

Alison: Right. Right. I love that.

Jean: Stephanie, do you have a morning practice?

Stephanie: Um, I wake up.

Jean: Good job.

Stephanie: Ritual done. Right? I don’t have something that I do regularly. Um, and I really vary my practices constantly. So, um, some days I meditate and some days I don’t, or some days I don’t in a formalized way, but I might do be outdoors. And that to me is a meditation in itself. I’m always out walking and that because I have three dogs and so they keep me, you know, in the outdoors and in forward motion. And that is that that’s a morning practice. Um, I try. Sometimes I get distracted and I’ll be on my phone responding to emails, but other times I’ll say, no, let’s just notice the palm trees and look, look for coconuts. And, um, I’m blessed to live in a tropical subtropical climate. So a lot of things grow and I find treasures on the ground, and I tuck them into my arms and carry them home and eat them. Don’t tell my neighbors. So thank you for breakfast.

Stephanie: Thanks for the mango.

Alison: What are we having for dinner? Right, right. Mom’s going to go look for it now. I think that’s so… I like how, um, so accessible you are. Like, you just seems so open. Do you think you’ve always been that way, or do you think this has changed you?

Stephanie: Huh? Honestly, apart from the dementia, I also my mom also struggled with mental health for my entire childhood. I credit that with being a very sensitive, attuned, and relatable person. Um, I had to scan environments and her, you know, people constantly to read the energy and know is it, is it safe? Can I approach do I avoid, you know, do I give space to this, do I entertain? Um, right. And so, yeah, I think this has been part of my this is a part of my personality that I do love. I do I love being approachable, I love being relatable. I think that’s how I’m able to disseminate this work in the way that I am, because I’m, I don’t feel like I’m out there in the ethers hard for people to relate to. I’m very pragmatic and, um, and just as left brain as the next person. So, um, yeah, I think it’s been cultivated though, out of, you know, family dynamics and the need to, to create a safety within myself by managing what’s going on inside a home or family.

Jean: Right. That makes total sense to me. Mhm.  oh. So what are you up to now. So what what’s on your… What can our listeners look forward to, or are you offering a class or an event or something?

Stephanie: And yeah, I will. I have a class that’s starting tonight, which I’m excited to say is sold out. So that’s that’s that’s great. Yeah, I’m super excited for this. It’s a three month master class channeling masterclass journey of a pretty high level. So we will be getting it on with Marvin Gaye.

Alison: We’ll be thinking about you. Yeah.

Stephanie: But I’m also going to be offering, like, a weekend intensive to learn to channel. This will be like a beginning to intermediate level. That will be in March. I have March or April. Um, so that will be on my website. My website is Soul And really it’s great to experience the work through private session and that really helps people decide, am I the right teacher for them? Um, do they resonate with my work? Do they receive healing from their session? How how are they connecting with this? That’s the best way to go.

Alison: I love that and just I know we’ve taken more than a half an hour, but you’re so you’re so interesting. Um, could you just, you know, you talked a lot about, um, the circumstances that we’re all living through. Could you give a final just word of encouragement to our listeners about, you know, what your hope would be or any improvement you’ve seen in terms of relationships and spirituality?

Stephanie: Um, I’ll just say what works for me, because I do have a tendency towards despairing when I am paying a lot of attention to the events of the outside world. There’s there isn’t anything I can do at, you know, to to turn that to right, that this is what my mind says. And this is what most minds say. What can I do? What’s this? What can one person do? But then we bring it back to the micro. And if we bring it back, if I bring it back to what is in my reach in my world and my and and within the the heart of me. Because there are certain things that break my heart, much more so than other things. Not every cause is, you know, is a cause that I feel deeply connected to. And if I can be in service to that, then I actually am contributing to the ripple effect of healing worldwide. So it may not be stopping a war. Um, but guess what it is doing? It just fed a bunch of animals. It just supported some children in, you know, emotional health. It just, you know, whatever it is. So I always encourage people find what breaks your heart. It’s not hard to locate that and be in service to that. That’s why your soul is here.

Jean: That’s that’s so beautiful.

Alison: Thank you so much for that.

Jean: That’s beautiful. Yeah. You’re part of the the solution. And it doesn’t have to be the complete solution, but you’re adding your vibration to the cause of good. And that’s right. That’s all we can do.

Stephanie: And that’s huge. It’s not like that’s all…it’s So small… That’s everything actually.

Alison: Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much, Stephanie, for your time. You’re you’re just so you’re such a bright light. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Stephanie: And keep tapping there, alison

Alison: I will thank you, Stephanie. Have a good rest of your day.

Jean: Yeah. All the best.

Stephanie: Thank you. Bye bye bye.

Alison: I so thoroughly enjoyed speaking with her mum.

Jean: I loved it too. I felt, um, like she really wanted to offer this knowingness that if you really put the time and effort into it, you too can be a channeler. That it’s just not something that is so far reaching. If this is something that you really feel that you would like to cultivate, this like a muscle, you can do it.

Alison: And I loved that she was saying we’re all really the same, and that I think that right now that is so important to remind ourselves of this truth that we are we’re the same people. When you boil it down, people want to feel loved. People want to feel that they’re themselves and their families are taken care of. And that I think if really given the chance, one on one individual with everything else, they that compassion is our truth and that she just speaks in such a way that I found it very life affirming.

Jean: Yes, absolutely. I also love that she talked about energetic hygiene, which that  phrase isn’t really talked a lot about, but it’s it is important. It’s it’s, you know, we brush our teeth, we vacuum the rugs in our living room or whatever, but it really isn’t, um, taught too much about the energetic hygiene to clear your energy because we really are vibrational, energetic beings having this human experience. So, um, William Linville talked about that, about saying a phrase, uh, about clearing your day. I know Lee Harris mentioned to me that, you know, taking a shower is really important. So, you know, this Stephanie Banks is right on it.

Alison: What do you what do you do for that? Like, what do you do for that? Um, energetic hygiene. I love that expression.

Jean: Yeah. I actually only because of listening to these amazing pod people that were interviewing, do I do some type of energetic hygiene? But to be honest, Allison, I don’t do it every day, but I know it makes a difference. Mhm. It absolutely makes a difference. When I do it I fall off the wagon pretty quick.

Alison: I think for me I don’t do it as much as you do, I think. But I think for me even just taking a walk. Yeah. Do you know?

Alison:  I think that’s great right. Yeah.

Jean: You know to getting out in nature especially now with these all the negative ions from the rain.

Alison: Yeah. Cleaning it out. Well, we hope that you I hope that you are affected with with her love and her positivity the way we were. And be sure to check out Soul Insight if this interests you, because it really I think I’m going to do it again. I think I’m going to do another reading.

Jean: Me too. Yeah.

Alison: So we hope you have a great day. Stay dry if you’re in LA, if we’re not even sure when this air. So if it’s if it’s dry out keep dry– I guess. Right. Yes. And, uh, have a good day.

Jean: Bye.

Podcast Episode 31: Shari Alyse

Known as America’s Joy Magnet, Shari Alyse is a TV host, dynamic media personality, 2x TEDx speaker, and bestselling author of Love Yourself Happy: A Journey Back to You – who is on a mission to spread joy! With over two decades of experience in the entertainment and wellness industries, Shari is a leading voice in the personal growth and self-love space.

Alison: Hello? Yes.

Jean: Oh, yes, you did it. You’re so good. Look at you, Alison.

Alison: I’m learning this. Um. Hi, Jean.

Jean: Hello.

Alison: Uh, so today is a very special day for Jean and I. Because Jean is going to try to teach me how to make two desserts.

Jean: That’s right, I am, and I it’s my Christmas gift to you.

Alison: Right.

Jean: To teach you how to bake.

Alison: Right. Teaching me how to bake. So today we’re making two desserts. And I guess next time we’re sometime we’ll tell you how it turned out.

Jean: Okay, that sounds like a plan.

Alison: And today we are talking to someone whose book is titled, listen to this title… “Love Yourself Happy: A Journey Back to You” by Shari Elise…

Jean: Who is also known as the Joy magnet. And it is no doubt why she was named this, right?

Alison: She’s, she’s she’s amazing. She’s so joyful.

Jean: I mean, I’m like trying to think of some other adjective, but joy is really the perfect adjective for this beautiful woman.

Alison: And she’s had quite an interesting background, um, as a child. And if you get the book, you’ll read it. She went through, um, sexual abuse and just the testifying and just a lot. She’s gone through a lot. And so her, her coming to a place of joy and wanting to be vulnerable and wanting to be true to her passions is very motivating and very motivating and very inspirational. Right.

Jean: She is. She’s great. You’re gonna love the interview. And you’re also going to love, love her book.

Alison: Yeah. It’s beautiful. So here’s, Shari.

Alison: So happy we’re doing it. We’re now uncapped and it’s fantastic.

Shari Alyse: And you’re together.

Jean: Yeah. We’re together. And you are so worth waiting for because I know our listeners are going to absolutely love you and take away so many, uh, wonderful tips.

Alison: Love Yourself Happy: A Journey Back To You. Why did you… Could you just give our listeners an idea why you decided to write this book? What came up for you?

Shari Alyse: I think this book has always been in me. I’ve always, since the time I was a young girl. As I share in the book, um, sharing my truth, I shared it at seven years old, you know, on a witness stand. Uh, and so there’s always been this desire to whatever it is that I’m learning or I’m feeling. I’ve just always wanted to express it. And as time went on, it was this bubbling inside because I knew and I’ve always instinctively knew that we all go through similar things together. And so if I was learning and I was healing, I knew that my journey would help others.

Alison: That’s right. That’s beautiful. Yeah.

Jean: And can you talk about your journey? What happened a little bit?

Shari Alyse: Yeah. Of course. It’s like when I hear the word journey, it’s so big, right? So I’m like, oh, which part? But, um, yes. So at seven years old, uh, this is always for me, you know, where that starting line feels like, uh, there was of course, a lot before that, but that’s where the turn for me happened. Um, I was I was left in the care… Basically, my sister was going off with friends for the day, and my mom was like, can your sister tag along? I think my mom was a single mom. I know she was a single mom, and I think she wanted, you know, some time for herself. And so, uh, I went off with my sister’s friend’s family who were supposed to care for me, and then they left me in the care of somebody else who didn’t care for me. Um, and at seven, I was abused. Sexually abused, um, by a stranger. It’s interesting because I’ve had so much time, you know, I’ve talked about this so much and in depth and so much continues to come up, though, about, you know, how and why. And I shared what happened. So the man who had done it had threatened afterwards, myself and my family, that if I shared that he would hurt them and he would hurt me. But there was, you know, something inside of me that just knew to tell on him. And in that telling I told.. I tried to tell my sister on the drive home, but, you know, she was with her friends, so she of course, at nine, she was only two years older, at nine years old, didn’t know what was going on.

Shari Alyse: So when we got home, um, I still wanted to tell her. So I remember she was going to the bathroom and I was just in the bathroom with her. And my mom had sensed that there was something wrong with me. And so my mom was actually eavesdropping around the corner, um, listening to me tell my sister that. And in that process, they called the police. Um, and I, we ended up in court. It was 1981, so no one was talking openly about this. And they put me on a witness stand to testify against the abuser. And, you know, we put him in jail. But what happened for me, there was, you know, I ended up, what feels like to this day, having to defend why I didn’t do more at that age to stop this person, you know. Um, and so just from that point on, I learned two things. And those two things were that using my voice, telling my truth helped people because they found out he had done this to a lot of girls. And. You know, I was lauded a hero. But I also found out that using my voice also hurt people because there was a part of me that a big part of me that felt guilt for putting him in jail. Um, and for and for putting my parents… what I thought at that time, I thought my dad was ashamed of me. I thought my mom thought she didn’t teach me the right things, you know? So it really has been this journey of disconnection from that young girl of not wanting to feel that. Yeah. To finding my way back. Right to that young girl.

Jean: You know, I think it’s it’s so cathartic to to share your story as, as you were saying because it’s a part of soul retrieval. You know, that part where we, where we have disconnected from ourselves. And yes, you went through something horrific. But even when you’ve been yelled at by an adult as a child, I mean, the trauma forces the psyche to sort of split. So I do think that telling your story is medicine for soul retrieval. Um, and we can use different words. But I thank you so much because that, you know, sharing your story, sometimes it gets like, oh my God, but you’re doing it and you’re helping new ears here. And I thank you, Sherry.

Alison: Yeah. And I think to not to be defined by that is really something like, you know, you know, at seven years old, it must have been like, what a brave thing and a brave little, you know, or you know, something. There was a marker, a designation of you. And now how do you feel now? Because you have gone out of your way not to be defined by that.

Shari Alyse: Out of my way is a perfect example. I mean, a description of and I knew that. And again, you know, there were two things that I knew at that time for sure. Number one, while it was happening, I remember knowing that I was going to be okay. I there was just something inside that was just almost like, bear it. You’re gonna be all right. Um, but I also knew, too. I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong. Right. And I knew that I did not want to be a victim. And. That was good and it sent me on a different path as well, which was to not connect to what had happened and to deny what I think will I what I know that I was feeling and pushing that down. So then it was again, that journey to coming back to he feeling it, hearing it, sitting with it, and then still having that thing that I won’t be defined by it. Right?

Alison: And now you are the joy magnet.

Shari Alyse: That’s what they say.

Jean: You exude this joy and it’s contagious. Sherry, can you tell us the difference in your mind between happiness and joy?

Shari Alyse: Yes, absolutely. So it’s on, on in a basic way. Happiness is external. It’s those things that we define ourselves or that happen to us that, you know, we talk about the emotions and the feelings of happiness that makes me happy. Uh, and joy for me and people… What I’ve learned is that it’s internal, that it’s a state of being. It’s who we are, and it’s something that can’t be taken away. While it may not be sparked in that moment, for me, it just feels like our soul. It’s who we are as children. It’s why we relate when we look at them. We can recognize ourselves in that. Um, and I and I always I have this I don’t know if it’s analogy, but I always say it feels like, um, if life was a dinner table, happiness is what’s being served on the table, and joy is what we bring to the table.

Alison: That’s beautiful. I have to just say to every listener, this book, your book, Love Yourself Happy… what we’re talking about, is so great. You know, we read it the first time we were going to interview you, and then we did it again. And I have to tell you, every time I read it, I get something new. And the thing that impresses me the most every time I read it is how you are so much like me. And I’m sure everybody says that you’re so vulnerable. How was that to write something that’s so you so personal?

Shari Alyse: Freeing, uh, and definitely freeing because it felt like it’s why I create content actually every day… Videos…. It feels like this part of my soul that needs to be expressed. And once I do, there’s a lightness to it. Um, it was hard because there was so much. There was a lot that I blocked out. There was a lot that I had to sit with and really remember and put myself back in that place. But it was fun. Like so much of my book was written by audio. So I would as I was doing my morning hikes, I was just sharing, um, into my phone notes. And so which is always so interesting when people say like, it feels like I’m right in the room. When you were talking to me, I’m like, I literally was. I was just speaking it.

Jean: Your book is an easy read in that it’s very relatable and, and I do think this should be a required reading for high school seniors because you go through so much already by the time you’re 17 or 18. And many of us don’t even connect back to ourselves. And we live so much life, sort of disconnected. You use the word connection a lot in this book. Can you talk about? The meaning of connection?

Shari Alyse: Yes I mean connection, connection to me is what Joy is. I believe it’s why you both have said that I exude and radiate joy is because for me – Joy is connection to five things. Uh, connection to ourselves, connection to each other, to our creativity, our purpose and to nature. I feel like when we connect to each one of those selves, it sparks joy. And I spent many years, as I said, disconnected from myself. Which means, you know, I was using food to not have to feel it, to not connect with myself. I was in relationship. Toxic relationships with men just trying to feel loved. But I was disconnected from myself because if I was, I would have felt love, right? Um, there was just a lot of avoiding that so many of us do, whether it’s through scrolling, whether it’s through eating, drinking, shopping, binge watching television. It’s just that thing to not be still and to feel and to sit with ourselves. And I realized that I had spent a whole lot of my life like that. And I think we do that as like a sense of safety, you know, to not have to feel some of the stuff that we haven’t tapped into or dealt with. So the hope for the book really is that what people take away is that they stop and they slow down and they sit with themselves and they’re compassionate with themselves, and they realize that whatever it is that they’re feeling and going through, number one, it’s normal. And number two, it’s okay.

Alison: So do you recommend that people sit back and stop? I think I do the eating thing, I do the binge watching TV and I know I’ll be sitting there watching 5000 episodes of runway, whatever. You know what I mean?

Shari Alyse: Project runway? Yeah. I’m a fan too

Alison: One more dress. I could lose my mind, but I’m, like, stuck in it. What would you suggest to me? Just to stop? But that’s hard sometimes.

Shari Alyse: It is hard. But I think what’s really hard about it is almost the idea of, of the fear around what will happen. But once we actually stop and slow down. Yeah, there’s some challenges in there, but there’s so much. There’s so much like good and beauty and love. There’s life there, and we run from it for so long that we more fear what’s there than what’s actually there. Um, and so what I would say is, you know, there is healthy, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with watching TV. I don’t want people to think like, because they’re watching multiple episodes. It could just be a really good show, you know?

Shari Alyse: I know how to have fun. I binge myself. But it’s when, you know, when you’re avoiding something, you know, like there comes to a certain point, even for me, like every night at a certain time when things really start to slow down, like, I want to go and get a snack. And I’m not hungry. I just know it’s a sense of avoiding. And so. We could start easy. We could just in those moments that we’re feeling it, just stop and take a breath.

Shari Alyse: One of the most connecting things that I do for myself, and I do it every morning just to make sure that I’m there, is I put my hands on my heart and I just check in and say, how are you doing?

Jean: I love that, that’s it.

Shari Alyse: How are you? And so maybe in those moments at night when you want to watch another episode, maybe it’s just taking a breath. What do you need? How are you? And listening

Alison: That’s beautiful. Thank you. That’s what I’m going to do I’ll try that and I’m going to email you okay.

Shari Alyse: Okay! Then you can watch another episode if you’re called to!

Alison: Thank you. Also talk about being guided, which I am personally fascinated by because I think there are signs and moments that we all bring to each other. Can you talk a little bit about your thoughts on being guided and being open to it?

Shari Alyse: Oh yeah, I think we’re consistently and constantly guided. But it’s that thing about noticing… Of slowing down enough, and I will never profess that I know it all, or that I do everything perfectly, because I know that there are times that I don’t want to listen. There are times like it just seems it’s like, oh my God, I know I’m going to be told to do this harder thing or what seems harder. Uh, but I always feel like… An example – when I, when I… it was quite some time ago. I, for the first time, was really dealing with what happened to me at seven years old, I was taking a shower on my way to work, and all of a sudden the flashbacks came back. I’d always thought about what had happened. I never forgot, but it was always from this distant perspective, looking down like it’s a movie. But the first time I was in the movie and I broke down and I had to go. I was waitressing at the time and I had to go to work that day, and I remember I called my manager just bawling and was like, I can’t come in.

Shari Alyse: I’m having these memories. And she said, go take the time off, take whatever you need. And I went, I was driving and I went back home. Anyway, I turned the computer on and there was at the time, you know, pop up signs. There was a pop up ad to go to Sedona for Sedona, Arizona. I wasn’t open to signs… Like that was a literal sign for me now, I could have just ignored it and been closed it out. But there was that instant knowing that I needed to go there, and it was about trusting in that. And through that experience, I ended up going to Sedona and having never been there, didn’t know what was there except they talked about it was a really spiritual healing place. And in there I met my seven year old self on the top of one of those vortexes on the way out, which is another whole story, you know, in my book. And that changed the trajectory of my healing. Yeah. And if I didn’t trust that feeling inside that said go. I would have missed all that.

Alison: That gives me chills.

Jean: It is so important to trust and lean into those signposts.

Shari Alyse: Yeah. And it’s a deep knowing. And we can feel when we don’t listen like I’m sure we can look back. And there’s times where your gut, your intuition told you to follow something and you didn’t. And then the times when you do and there’s almost like… I, I was not connected to my body, you know, after what had happened, I very much disconnected. And the more that I have spent time with myself and really, you know, the self-awareness journey, I guess I can feel when things are an easy yes, I can feel the expansion. I could feel the openness and I could feel when something’s not quite right, a constriction. And I’ve learned to pay attention to that. Um, those are my physical signs to either do something or not do something.

Jean: I think your intuition does increase. It heightens. It gets more fine tuned when you do this healing work that you do. Because like you said, you’re coming back into the body that you separated from. So it makes sense that the more you tell your story that you accept it. You talk a lot about acceptance in your beautiful book. You’re sort of trusting the place of your body for your soul to be, and you become more your those six senses, the those spiritual gifts become online more.

Shari Alyse: Absolutely heightened awareness. I just said it the other day to my partner. I was like, I feel like I have this gift that I could go into a room and immediately know what everybody needs.

Shari Alyse: And by needs, I mean, you know, like what kind of energy they need from me where they’re at. And I realized that I learned that or became aware of that because of what happened to me at a young age, or the awareness of having to sense how everybody was, what the energy was in the room, a sense of safety. And also, you know, my parents went through a really terrible divorce, and I almost sometimes feel like that was more traumatic than the abuse, to be honest. Um, always my mom was always unhappy and you just never knew what the mood was in the house. And so I was always the entertainer and the peacemaker. So I was very sensitive to energies. Um, and so before it was all just coincidental. Now I use it as a superpower because now I know, like, I know how to make a room feel like that, things that they need. So I guess that’s there is that that awareness of our awareness.

Alison: You know, we saw we talked to Lorna Byrne and she speaks to angels. And it’s very much aligned with what you’re saying in that when you have a feeling or an idea…She used the example, give someone flowers. If you get them, do it. And so you’re saying it can be as simple as feeling the energy from someone. You don’t have to run out and buy something. And that’s beautiful because that means we could do that on a checkout line.

Shari Alyse: Oh, absolutely. It’s one of my favorite things to do is, well, first, to just gift people with a smile, like to just really look at somebody because we’re always all just so busy and in our own worlds. And back to waiting tables. I remember when I first moved to LA and I was working in Brentwood, and, uh, I was always just happy and “happy” I use because I didn’t understand it was joy at the time, because joy to me is full expression of ourselves. And I was always just me… That came easily to me. Um, but anyway, I walked up to this woman and she was like, what do you have to be so happy about? And from that moment on, there was this feeling of like, wow, not everybody… I knew that people were unhappy, but it became this thing where I really just wanted to take someone who didn’t give off the best energy and have them walk away feeling better. And I feel like I can do that. And I love doing that. And I feel like that’s a gift that I’ve been given that I love to give.

Alison: I think those type of moments are changing the world and keeping us afloat in times that seem very challenging.

Shari Alyse: And they’re simple and it’s simple to do.

Alison: I just want to read a quote that I think is my favorite quote of yours. “What if surrender has nothing to do with giving up something, but rather receiving everything?” And I pasted that on my wall… surrender…I’ve been taught it has a lot of meanings, but this meaning it’s not, you’re not defeated. You are powerful. Because it seems like, you know, dichotomy. Could you talk about that a little?

Shari Alyse: Yeah. So for years I held on. I tried to control and manage everybody and everything, to keep what I felt was safety for myself and what I realized that in doing that and holding on that I kept away so much. I blocked off so much, so many blessings, so many miracles, so many opportunities. And when I finally realized that all of this holding on, all it was doing was causing constriction and stress and anxiety and all of that within. And I loosened up. What happened is when I loosened and I surrendered, I then opened myself now to receive everything I had been blocking.

Alison: Is surrender the same as being vulnerable?

Shari Alyse: I think there’s a vulnerability in surrender. I don’t know if it’s the same, I think that when we surrender and we let go, it feels like we leave ourselves in this space of vulnerability. But I believe that it’s easy for us to be vulnerable when we trust ourselves.

Shari Alyse: And I think that’s what it’s always been for me, is learning to trust myself. And that took a lot of hindsight to look at how no matter what it was that I have gone through, that I always ended up okay. Yeah. So many of the things that I thought were really bad or that I would never get through, I became better because of.

Shari Alyse: And so you learn to trust that. And in that trusting I’m like, okay, it’s okay to put myself out there because I’ve got me.

Alison: Oh that’s great. My mind is equating vulnerability and surrender. Because surrender is like taking a leap and trusting also. Why do you think or do you think trust is hard these days? Or why do you think? Or maybe you don’t think that? What do you think about it?

Shari Alyse: Oh no, I think trust in are you asking for of ourselves or just anything.

Speaker4: Any trust…Because right now it almost feels a little bit like people are wary.

Shari Alyse: I think that’s I think that’s honestly, I mean, and I’m of course not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I think that’s all trauma related trauma response. Um, you know, I think everybody we all hold on to our beliefs and our perspectives and everything as a sense of, you know, safety again for all of us. And nobody wants to be heard. And we’ve all been hurt at some point, whether it’s let down by somebody or something. And I think the more that we have access to and see and the media and what they present to us, there is going to naturally be a weariness and a mistrust. Right? But work like the two of you do with Inside Wink and what I hope and am doing and presenting the good in the world. That’s where I think we begin to shift. And people don’t have to be so weary and mistrusting, right?

Jean: Yeah, I love that.

Alison: Me too.

Jean: I have one of many quotes to read from your book that I love. Okay, so you write. “When I gave myself permission to show up imperfectly, I found I could show up anywhere.”

Shari Alyse: So it was the most freeing thing ever. That’s like like suffering and honestly. And what I related to is like, so I have hair loss and I wear wigs. And I held on to that secret for so long because I was afraid that people were going to not love me or they were going to judge me. And the one thing that I held on to at some points when I didn’t believe in myself or love myself as much… I had to hold on to standards of beauty. I remember being at work, so I had hid the fact that I wore like first clip ins, and then I tried extensions and that just ripped the hair and then wigs. I hid it for probably like four years, and that’s a long time to hide it, especially when people just like go in to give you a hug and they’re hugging you and they’re pulling your hair back and you’re trying to keep it on… It’s a lot. It’s a lot. And I remember one night I was waiting tables and I was in the side station, and my manager goes into just take like a piece of lint off my hair. And I thought he was going to take my hair when he did that. I jumped so high and he was like, Shari, like, what is wrong with you? And I didn’t know what to say.

Shari Alyse: And the first thing that came out of my mouth was, I thought you were going to hit me. And he looked at me like I was insane, like, why would I hit you? And I share that because it was in that moment that I realized that I couldn’t go on, like hiding this thing that really didn’t make me who I was. And so that night, at that time, that’s when blogs were really, like, really big before, you know, social media. And I had one. Anyway, I decided I was going to write all of my followers and share the truth about my hair loss. And that night I wrote it, and I scheduled it to go out the next morning. And I remember I was so terrified. I ended up taking like a Tylenol PM so I could just go to sleep and not delete the blog. I woke up the next morning with a pit in my stomach, and I awoke to over 100 messages emails back from women, mostly thanking me for my honesty. And that was another time in my life when I realized that telling the truth helps and heals people and this idea of trying to be perfect and holding it all together is so much work and people so much appreciate when we are real.

Shari Alyse: And for me, you know, this perfection was always trying to do the right thing. I’m not perfect at being imperfect or, um, but it’s just so much easier. It’s just so much easier. And you end up with the people that ultimately love you and the people that you want to be around.

Alison: Right. And everyone is really connected in that.

Speaker4: Yes.

Alison: Like, you know, I did want to talk about. “Good morning, Joy”. Your show. Yes. Jean was on it and it, you know. So then that gets you hooked. Once I see that, I’m like, oh, watch more. It’s so wonderful. Can you tell our listeners how listeners how they can see it? And, um, what what have you enjoyed? Who have you enjoyed interviewing? Of course, besides Jean?

Shari Alyse: Well, Jean has been one of my favorites. So that is and I’m not just saying that because I’m on your show. Uh, because there was just I walked away from that show saying like these are more of the conversations that I want to have, right? Because there was so real and present and your soul was open. So thank you for that. But the show really is it’s I’m trying to put or I am putting something positive out in the world, in the media that really focuses on the good in the world. And that’s good, heartfelt, real conversations. It’s sharing the good news stories in the world, and it’s just having some fun. And, you know, we just completed for the first season and they can it’s it shows on Apple TV, binge networks, connect TV. The probably the easiest to do would be go to my YouTube channel is the easiest to find it. Or they could do. Good morning Joy

Alison: Do you have a motto that you live by? Something that or like maybe words of wisdom that someone said that you could share?

Shari Alyse: I do actually, and it’s by Mother Teresa.

Jean: Oh, I love that.

Shari Alyse: And I heard it when I was much younger. And it’s what I live my life by, which is let nobody ever leave you without feeling better and happier.

Jean: Oh my gosh, Shari, that is so you. You are the the demonstration of that quote. And I wanted to say I loved being on your show. You made me feel so relaxed. And it was very easy to open up. And I left when Alison and I drove home. I just thought… Wow. Uh, Sherry is an answered prayer. Your heart and your intention are so aligned with with joy and goodness. So, um, we’re going to do whatever we can to champion your show.

Alison: I love that I and and I think, um, I think what you said, these are more conversations that I want to have. And it’s great that you’re on TV and it’s great that we’re doing a podcast. But I’ve had very meaningful conversations with people I didn’t know, like at the dry cleaner. Do you know? It’s really just being kind, I think. And you are ultimately that. And so we really appreciate you and I hope everybody reads your book and I hope everybody watches your show.

Shari Alyse: Thank you so much. Thank you both so much. It has been a literal joy, uh, to connect with both and for having me on your show.

Alison: You’re fantastic. We are so.

Jean: Grateful. And we’re always here for you.

Alison: Yeah. And if you want to ever talk to us again, just say, let’s do it again, and we’ll do it again.

Shari Alyse: Let’s do it again. Okay?

Alison: Okay. We’ll call you in 20 minutes. Okay. Have a great day.

Shari Alyse: Thank you so much. Bye bye.

Alison: That was a very fun interview for me.

Jean: Yeah.

Alison: Right. And I, I love the topics we touched on and when we gave her our favorite quotes.

Jean: Yes.

Alison: And she really sort of illuminated what she was talking about. I mean, the idea of having to be in control and surrender, I think, speaks to so many people these days, don’t you?

Jean: Oh, absolutely. And I also love that all throughout the book, she somehow comes back to connecting with yourself. And, um, I think that is so important to really living a life of joy is connecting to yourself and that the joy is within us. It’s not an external event. Right? That to her is happiness. Which I totally agree.

Alison: I totally agree too. And I love at the end of every chapter she goes, “Pssst, go easy on yourself”. Yes, almost every chapter…Because there was some chapters, I thought, oh, I’ll never be able to do that, or oh, I have so much to work on. And then this end of just like, go Easy on Yourself was such a sweet remembrance for me.

Jean: And for me too. And so I just invite whoever is listening right now. If there’s something that is really bothering you or you’re it’s like a a thorn in your side, just go easy on yourself.

Alison: And you were you were on her show. She has this great TV show I think it’s on her YouTube channel. Shari Alyse. And, um, the show is called the show is called Good Morning Joy. I always want to say THE morning joy, but it’s Good Morning, Joy.

Jean: I wanted to make sure. And she could not have made it more beautiful for me to be there and talk about grieving and just my process through that. But she’s just. I just really love her. I could have talked to her all afternoon.

Alison: And I love that we’re introducing people like this to ourselves and our listeners

Jean: I didn’t know about Shari. And, uh, she is a woman on a mission.

Alison: Yes. That’s right.

Jean: God bless her.

Alison: And we all need to, like, embrace the women and the people that we know that are passionate about good.

Jean: Yes. Right.

Alison: That’s it. We got to go make a dessert now.

Jean: Okay, let’s do it.

Alison: Goodbye.

Podcast Episode 30: David Rosmarin

David H. Rosmarin PhD is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, a program director at McLean Hospital, and founder of Center for Anxiety, which services over 1,000 patients/year in multiple states. His most recent book is Thriving with Anxiety: 9 Tools to Make Your Anxiety Work for You.

Alison: Hello, Jeannie.

Jean: Hi, Alison.

Alison: Today we are talking to someone, um, that talks about anxiety in such a different way than I have heard before.

Jean: Same with me. He is a champion for not getting rid of anxiety, but actually transforming the way you feel about anxiety and not making it like an enemy, but more as a calling card to empower yourself.

Alison: That’s right. His name is David Rosmarin and his his book is called,Thriving with Anxiety”, which is a great title, “Nine Tools to Make Your Anxiety Work for You.” And while I was reading it, I was reading it like, at auditions and in waiting rooms, and I was stopped so many times. Like, what’s that book about? Because just the title, Thriving with Anxiety, um, is, I think, really touching people.

Jean: Absolutely. And it also kind of lets the air out of the shame around having anxious thoughts or, um, you know, having anxiety. Right? Just he’s like, lighten up on yourself. And he gives so many great ways to, to actually transform your anxiety.

Alison: And he’s very intellectual. He is right? He is the founder of the center for anxiety, and he’s also a Harvard associate professor, and he’s very intellectual. And yet, he has this very spiritual side and they really complement each other.

Jean: Yes. And I also love that he mentions his wife. Yeah. And the emotional connection he has with her… That that was beautiful.

Alison: He’s great. So here’s the interview with David.

David: I am so sorry… Oh, I did not mean to make you anxious.

Alison: I’m late and I’m driving here like, this is a great way to ….

David: I had, I had tech difficulties for the last five minutes. Perfect. Yeah.

Alison: I just got here and I’m like, this is a great way to start a talk on anxiety.

Jean: 100%.

David: I’m honored to meet you. Thank you. Thank you for making the time. I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation for a while.

Jean: Yeah, same. It’s great to meet you, David. I’m Jean …

Alison: And I’m Alison. Hi. So how did you deal with your stress with technical difficulties?

David: Let me tell you, I definitely got my own anxiety, and I use a lot of the strategies in my book on a regular basis.

Alison: That’s I think that makes me feel much better.

Jean: All of us, I, think it’s great to know that people that appear to really have their act together have anxiety. You know, it’s like what goes on behind the play…what goes on back stage..

David: Whats’s happening in the kitchen?

Speaker1: What’s happening in the kitchen while Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared.

David: All, oh my God, it’s all coming out in like beautiful platters and what is happening in the kitchen? haha

Alison: Right. What inspired you? Was it was it your work or was it your own anxiety that inspired you to write this?

David: All of the above.

Speaker1: Yeah.

David: All of the above. Um, I learned a lot from my patients and how incredibly high functioning many of them are, how amazingly talented they are. And I was always taught to see to see anxiety as a limitation, as a disorder, as a disease, even at some point, I’m like, you know what? Something’s not adding up here. These people are so high functioning. Yes, they have anxiety. And furthermore, when they use it in the right way, it can actually enhance their lives. Like we need a different lens and a different relationship with this ubiquitous emotion that every human being experiences. How many people have you met in the last month who had no anxiety, right?

Alison: No one, no one.

David: And if you did, if you did, they’re either super narcissistic, right? Or they have a drug problem or they are comatose or dead.

Jean: You know, especially nowadays, And your book is so relevant for… Right now what everyone is going through. Um, can you start off by telling. Allison and me and our listeners, what’s the difference between stress, fear and anxiety? Is there a difference? Are they all cousins? But what’s your take?

David: Yes, absolutely. Happy to start there. And it’s in my book. Um, so, uh, let’s start with fear. Fear is a healthy response that the nervous system has, um, in order to deal with an actual tangible threat. So if your body is threatened by something which is really in front of you, uh, an amazing process involving adrenaline. Will, uh, adrenaline, the adrenal glands will fire and release adrenaline into your blood system, and within nanoseconds, your body will transform. Into the fight or flight system. Also known as the fight, flight or freeze system, which can protect you and prevent you from experiencing harm or physical harm as a result of that threat. And that is a healthy, adaptive, positive thing that hopefully you don’t have to rely on too much in your life. But the couple of times that you might have to rely on it… it’s a gift. I think I think of it as a spiritual gift given my background. I will add. but it’s an amazing thing, that’s adaptive and healthy and and keeps us preserved and safe. Anxiety is the same thing, the same heart palpitations, the same secretion of adrenaline. In fact, the same, uh, breathing that increases the tachycardia, increased the breathing rate, the same muscle tension, the same stomach upset, all of the same things occur, those physiological changes with the fight or flight. But there’s one small difference. Any guesses?

Alison: It doesn’t go away.

David: Wow. That’s interesting. It depends on what you do with your anxiety and how you relate to it. Um, anxiety can be perpetual. That’s true. Um, but there’s a there’s a different, there’s another difference.

Alison: Um. I know, I know it somewhere. I know I read it in the beginning.

David: Are you feeling anxious that I’m asking? HAHA

Alison: Yes, yes, I feel like. Oh, where are my notes?

David: The teacher, you know, calling on the pupil. And he’s like, uh, I’m supposed to know this?

Alison: Exactly. Right.

Jean: Something about a smoke alarm.

David: Yeah, that’s true actually. Yeah. That’s right. Ask you a question like, what’s the worst case scenario if you don’t know the answer? Like, what’s really going to happen to you? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Right. That’s anxiety. Fear. If you get it wrong, something’s going to happen. Like if you don’t step out of the way of that bus which is careening towards you at 60 miles an hour, it’s not going to be good. If you unless you activate your flight system, you’re, you’re you’re flat. Now, when it comes to anxiety, there’s no real tangible fear. So you have that adrenal response. But actually if you stop and think about it, you’re like, whoa, this is a false alarm. There’s no real fire in the kitchen. There’s just smoke coming up from onions burning. Right?

Alison: And stress is also different.

David: It’s a little different. This is the cousin. So fear and anxiety are actually very close cousins. I would call them siblings. Mhm. But the one is a real alarm and the other is a false alarm. And by the way the false alarm doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s still intact. It means your neural system is intact. It means you have a fight or flight system. It means you’re aware of your surroundings. You’re not oblivious. Right, right, right. So there’s advantages of having a smoke alarm that goes off too quickly, that what’s really deadly is the smoke alarm that doesn’t go off at all. Right, exactly. So that’s not what we’re talking about here. So anxiety and fear are I would call them siblings, to use your analogy from before the cousin is stress. Stress is when your demands are greater than your resources. Right? I have too much money to pay. I don’t have enough money. I have too much. Too many things to do. I don’t have enough time, emotional resources. That person is coming to my home and I really can’t take it right now, right? Yeah. Don’t have the wherewithal to do so. We need to reduce the demands and increase the resources right back to a place of equilibrium.

Alison: So me being late is really stress. I’m supposed to be somewhere I’m not there.

David: Correct. But there could be an anxiety piece as well. Which is oh no, what’s this going to do? Like it might also trigger an anxiety response.

Alison: Right. And I think that for me is what the heck’s wrong with me. Oh no. Now you’re speaking with me. Why why couldn’t I have this be straight? So I see. So the stress was, you’re late. But then my mind goes to this, you know, catastrophe place. I’m. I’m losing my mind.

David: Yes. And something’s wrong with me is core. That’s the anxiety spiral. I mean, that’s where when we feel anxious, we start to judge ourselves. We start to go down this tube. I mean, this is why we have an anxiety epidemic today, you know, right. Start to feel anxious and then we upset about it.

Alison: I think it’s interesting that you also differentiate from worry.

David: That’s true.

Alison: And I thought that was so interesting because I thought worry was just anxiety. But you but you’re explaining that it’s some it’s not really. Even the way I understood it was that it’s not really even getting into the weeds. It’s just this sort of level. Right? Like you’re not really ever dealing with anything, like you’re just this constant. Like pebble in your shoe, right?

David: When I learned this concept about worry, it blew my mind. It changed my life, and I have shared it with how many hundreds of patients with similar, similar results. So the thing about worry is that it is a cognitive process, which is really a behavior. It’s something that we do, to cope with anxiety and actually keep it away. Yeah.

Jean: Mhm.

Speaker2: When you’re feeling anxious the number one thing that people will do is avoid, right? Yeah, I’m anxious about the height. So I’m not going to go in the elevator. I’m not going to fly. I’m uh that person makes me uncomfortable. So I’ll block them on my WhatsApp or whatever.

Alison: Right, right right right.don’t want to think about the fact that I’m not in control. So I worry at a very superficial level about just 1 or 2 things, as opposed to really going into the depths of it.

Alison: Right, right.

David: Worry is like a. We ask these very superficial what if questions like what if? I run out of money? What if I run out of money? But you don’t actually answer that question, right? What would it be like? What would actually happen? Mhm. And embrace the true uncertainty of like. There’s not a whole lot. There are certain things we can’t control. That’s usually what worries stops us from moving into. It’s a cognitive process which actually prevents us from experiencing anxiety.

Alison: Wow. Yeah, yeah. And that was my that was my mom, you know. And I loved her. And but I know that there was a source of, you know, my father was in a very risky job, and it was a constant like undercurrent. It was very interesting when I read that.

David: What did he do?

Alison: He was a he was an investigative reporter. So he would go to these countries and you wouldn’t hear from him for weeks or months, and it would be dangerous. And he’d leave. And it was just me and my mom. I’m an only child. So it was very interesting to be with that. And then, you know, so when I was reading it, I thought to myself, wow, that is really, you know…

David: You’ve had a lot of uncertainty to embrace with being alone, being terrified about what’s going on with her husband, not being having any agency over it because there’s nothing she could do. Right. And she’s alone with her daughter and or, you know, in different country and… And then having probably having to keep it together… So, the worry is a perfect process to just keep it at a superficial level without actually losing it. But losing it is in some ways a good thing, because once you actually embrace the anxiety and the uncertainty. It just scales us down to become so much more raw and in tune with ourselves, with others. And that’s where it poses us for growth. It’s not fun, but it’s a lot more emotionally, potentially a lot more emotionally healthy. Yeah.

Jean: I love that your take on anxiety, David, it really makes you feel… You come   away from your book, I came away feeling very empowered. You know, you’re really offering… (Oh, sorry. Because we’re like. Loosey goosey, loosey goosey. That was my daughter. Sorry.) You’re coming away, I came away from from your book feeling empowered. I’m already someone that does a lot of spiritual work. So this just, um, gave more credence to looking at things a different way and not shaming yourself. That’s such a big thing. Is, um, shaming ourselves when we feel out of control or, um, and not knowing the answer. And I read this quote the other day that said. We’re so conditioned to needing to know the answer, because we’ve been validated with love. So it makes sense when we’re in school and we know the answer, we get praise and feel good.

David: Yes,

Jean: And when you don’t know the answer, you kind of sit there and you’re like, mmm, you know?

David: Like at the beginning of our conversation.

Jean: Right..Can you talk a little bit about um, you talk a lot about connection and I don’t want to lose all our time, but talk about connection that you talk about self connection, Other connectio,. Spiritual connection.

David: Yeah. That’s what it’s all about I mean, you know, what are we here to do on this, on this earth with however many, you know, years we’re blessed with? We’re here to create a life that’s meaningful and connected to others, to have a self compassion and connection with ourselves and for those who seek something spiritual, too, I think that can be a great source of meaning and purpose and solace and and wonder and awe and and love and all sorts of other good things. Um, anxiety can help facilitate all of the above. I really believe it. I think it’s part of our. You know, ancestral heritage, which is, you know, optimizes our ability if we use it in the right way and if we frame it in the right way. If you run away from anxiety,A- it’s going to get worse and B- we’ll never find these opportunities. But. When you feel overwhelmed, that’s the time to, recalibrate to rebalance. To look at your priorities. To become more self compassionate. To understand that you have your limitations and not to judge yourself, not to get upset about it. You know. And it’s usually not what we do. Usually when I feel anxious, I’m like, how can you feel that way? You’re so weak. What’s wrong with you? I have to push myself harder. I don’t want to feel these feelings. I’m going to squeeze them out by working even more, by taking on another project and showing that I’m in control. And like all of those strategies that almost everyone takes, unless you’ve been taught otherwise, are exactly 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

Alison: And so. When you talk about having more compassion because you have experienced anxiety, could you go into that a little bit? Because I thought that was really, really interesting about how you’re using it as a, you know, a superpower for good? You know?..

David: I you know, I had some experiences recently, not even recent, the last couple of years of meeting some very well established, well known, um, wealthy, successful business folks, people in industry, people in, um, in entertainment, people in athletics. You know, in my practice, there’s some higher profile folks who have come my way and the way of my practice. And, you know, some of them, they literally have the car service waiting outside, you know, on, on, on the street and the, the whole nine yards and the private chef and everything. And going through a mental health crisis for them was so jarring, so shocking, so upsetting, because everything else in their life is going beautifully. Mm. They’re flourishing in their careers, but then emotionally, they’re really struggling. But through that process, they actually learn to, like, become more accepting of themselves, more accepting of their loved ones, more accepting of their own children. And it softened them. It made them more human. More. Relatable, more connected, literally more connected. It’s it’s a humbling process to experience the throes of anxiety, the panic. Yeah. The struggle. But that’s part of many times what we need to remind us of our limitations, which is good. We need to embrace that and to lean into it as opposed to leaning away.

Jean: .. That reminds me of when. My late husband Alex would say, “You know, Jeannie, before I met you and we had the the children, my life was just ordered . I was always in control. It was just me.” And he went on to say, “you and the children have introduced a new level of fear in my life that I never knew existed.” Except he had a dog. And he said, ” A deeper connection. A deeper connection with my mother, to you and the children, with other people.” Oh, yeah- when you have children, Oh my God you know, he said it brought a whole new level of connection. Yeah, Having a family will do that.

David: Yes, Because it actually means something. Like, what do you get anxious about? You get anxious about stuff that really means something to you.

Speaker2: Right? What else do you care? Why else do you feel anxious. Unless it’s something you really care about? So part of our anxiety shows that we’re actually invested in something other than ourselves- leaning into that, it’s hard, but it sounds like that’s what you did in your family.

Alison: And you talk about converting anxiety into love.

David: And oh yeah.

Alison: That made me cry a little. We have a family member with OCD. Yeah, very, um, a very interesting journey to to witness that. And just the love that’s come from that experience is really, um. So I was hoping you could just talk about that a little bit, because I think you don’t really hear that a lot, you know?

David: So this is something I did not get from my cognitive and dialectical behavior therapy training. I got this from the exposure and experiences I got with emotionally focused therapy. In terms of couples, it’s a couple a way of treating, and it’s based on the work of John Bowlby, who was an attachment theory. He actually started attachment theory. The concept of attachment theory is that life is for love, that people are born in order to have connection, in order to have bonds, especially bonds with other people. And those bonds, those love bonds, those connections are what make our life worthwhile. They make us. They make us tick. Um, legend has it that Bowlby was going to call his theory the Theory of love, but he was in he was a British psychiatrist in the first half of the first half of the 20th century. So he thought he would have been laughed out of the Academy, which probably would have happened. So he called it attachment theory instead. And it’s stuck ever since. Anyhow, part of attachment theory is that secure attachment is when – I care about you, and I’m anxious when you’re not there, but I know that you’re there for me, and I can show you that I need you, and you will be there for me. And that occurs both in romantic relationships and also with parent child relationships, also with friends. I mean, there’s other ways that. But this is the core of it. Will you be there for me when I need you? In other words, to the extent that I can be vulnerable, show you that I care about you and that I need you, be anxious, actually expose my anxiety, scale back the facade.. as you were talking about right at the beginning, what we were talking about right at the beginning, right? Go into the kitchen, see the mess, and have you accept me and be there for me. That’s going to make us extremely close, right?

Jean: Yeah. And you articulate that beautifully, or you write about it beautifully in your book about being vulnerable.

David: This is something I’ve learned from Being married for 23 years. My wife taught me this one.

Alison: I love that. Um, I wanted to also talk about the disconnection spiral. I think, I have watched people go through that, do you know. And I just want, I would I’d like you just to kind of sum that up for our listeners, because I’ve seen it.

David: Yeah. So this happens at the level of inter intrapersonal. So our relationship with ourselves.   When people start to feel anxious, what’s their response to that today? I’ll ask you, a typical person… they start to feel anxious, and then what’s their meta response, so to speak?

Alison: I think, I think people get angry. I think I’ve seen people get angry. I just watched it about a parking spot at Trader Joe’s, uh, two days ago.   I just was like, this is what he’s talking about, you know? It just escalated and it got worse and worse and worse. And then, the one person got in the car and just started banging the wheel by themselves. And I was just thinking, they’re going down and it’s about a parking space of Trader Joe’s. And it went really far down. So that’s what I think, that people get like very angry sometimes.

David: I’m just realizing now you meant the disconnection spiral, which is our relationship with others, not our anxiety spiral, which is our relationship with ourselves?

Alison: Right?

David: Okay, so I’m going to pivot. Um, yeah, that’s exactly it. I’m getting judgmental of the other person. They’re making me feel anxious. I don’t want to show them I feel anxious, so I show them I feel angry. I covered it up. You’re the wrong person. It’s not, I need you, I really need the space because I’m running late today. Right? I’m having a terrible day. I really need the parking spot. It’s raining. I’m here with my kid… whatever. For whatever reason, it made that person very anxious. But they don’t want to show that. So they’re on their horn, right? Cursing, banging, having a temper tantrum as opposed to, like… I really could use that space. Is there any way that we can work this out? Right?

Alison: And is that what you think we should all be doing? So you’re thinking that, okay, I’m just going to use the Trader Joe’s spot thing. So two people are pulling into the same spot and I’ve seen people go hysterical. So you’re suggesting either to- somehow do inner work to pull away and know there’ll be another spot. Or are you suggesting that we go up and say, hey, I thought I was here first? I’m late. Would it be okay? Like, what do you what do you do in that minute?

David: Good question. You know, probably for a parking spot. (interruption on David’s screen – I Keep getting these, you know, hand gestures. Kind of funny. That keeps happening. I gotta keep my hands down.) So it depends on the circumstance. You know, probably for a parking spot, it might not be worth it. And some inner work might be more worthwhile, calling a loved one. You know, you can be vulnerable. It doesn’t have to be with everyone. With a stranger. It could be with a loved one. Calling someone up saying, I’m so mad. Someone just took my parking spot and now I’m running late. And now I have to do this and I’m schlepping my groceries and I’m just having such an awful, terrible day, you know? I wanted to let you know because you’re my friend, so that could be a way of managing it interpersonally, which is not what the person in front of you. Um, but I’m thinking on an airplane, that’s probably a better example. It happened to me the other day. I’m sitting in a plane and the lady behind me was having a fight with the person to my right, I mean to my left. And I’m like, she was so irate and so angry. And I think in that kind of circumstance, she could have said like he did something. He spilled a drink and it went on her stuff and he didn’t realize. It wasn’t a jerk move, but it was an accident. But she got so nervous, I think that her space was invaded, or she perceived it that way, that she got really angry and started a fight with the guy. And I think she could have said to him, like, you know, I wish you could have said something to me or, hey, you messed up my stuff because you spilled my drink. I’m letting you know. Instead, she’s like, you’re an ahole. And like, the whole plane just was very uncomfortable. Yeah. So that there could be certain circumstances where you do have to say it’s good to say something, but showing your emotions, as opposed to covering them up with anger would be the approach there.

Alison: Why don’t we do that? Like what problem with what’s the problem with that? Like what happened?

David: It’s hard to show other people that you need them.

Jean: Oh. Wow. It’s hard to show other people that you need them because…

David: It gives them a lot of power.

Jean: and goes back to being vulnerable. Vulnerable has got a connotation of weakness, when it’s really not.

David: It’s not a weakness, it’s the reality. And the reality is actually strong when you embrace it. Why do I care what this person’s doing and sit in front of me? It’s because I’m a human being and they’re a human being, and what they do affects your choices affect me.

Jean: But I think that is changing. David. I think the connotation around being vulnerable is slowly changing.

David: Let’s see what happens later in this election year. Before you bring that up, before you count your chickens. Yeah. So let’s see what hatches. I, I am not anticipating a lot more vulnerability this year, but hey, I’ve been wrong before. I’d be delighted to be wrong now.

Jean: Well, we can start in our family units.

David: That’s worthwhile.

Jean: Right? You know, and then hopefully we be the change we wish to see.

Alison: What do you think started that, though? Where did this all begin of this idea that, this is your belief, this is my belief… And so I just don’t like you. I don’t think it used to be like that.

David: John Wayne, that’s the example I brought John Wayne, who staunch Republican, and when Kennedy was, uh, elected, he said, well, I didn’t vote for him. But he’s my president and I hope he does a good job. Right. You know, when’s the last time you heard someone say anything even close to to that? You know, it’s…. And I think it does have to do with anxiety. I think it makes us so scared that other people have power and they have control, and we don’t have control over them. And we are at vulnerable because of that. And we don’t want to face that reality. It’s so scary. But I think accepting it and expressing it ironically gives us as much control as we can have, and certainly brings us more into having into the sphere of humanity and having relationships.

Alison: And I thought it was really interesting the way you discuss uncertainty, because, you know, I have kids in my 20s, Jean has kids in the in their 30s, and uh, my kids are, um, shocked when, they don’t know something. When they don’t have an answer…the idea of uncertainty for this generation. And I think you even talk about the fact that there were so many generations where they lived with uncertainty in a daily way that they were able to cope with it.

David: Yeah. You know, here’s an interesting… Here’s my take on it. I think it’s interesting. I guess I think it’s interesting for what it’s worth. My sense is that we have actually a lot less uncertainty today. And because of that, we can’t tolerate uncertainty as much. Right? During the 20th century, people did not know what was flying. Two world wars. It was the Korean War, Vietnam. There’s the Cuban missile crisis. There was the Cold War. I mean, there was literally the world was at the brink of destruction at several key political points along the way. There’s no question. And I mean, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, things have been relative. I’m not saying there has been no war. I’m not saying there’s no famine. I’m not saying there’s no, uh, social inequities. I’m not saying there’s no socioeconomic inequities. Racial disparities 100%. There are definitely social issues, pressing social issues that must be addressed. And I’m not invalidating that, however. If you compare that to the level of uncertainty, that was the level of economic uncertainty. I mean, in throughout the 20th century, it’s not even a contest. It’s not even a contest. But we have become, I think it’s because we all have these amazing devices that can go to the moon and back in 10 seconds, You can call anyone on planet. And we can we have we have air travel. You know, how many adults do you know have never been on an airplane? Right. Right. How many? How many people do you know who’ve never been to a physician? Ever? So because of that, we’ve become used to a level of certainty, apparant certainty in life that. It’s not real.

Jean: I love that you you say in your book we’re we’re at a point now where we have to be uncomfortable with Uncertainty. Um, no. We have to be comfortable with uncertainty.

David: And this, I think, I think you’ll appreciate from a spiritual perspective. Is that so bad that a human being doesn’t know or control everything?

Jean: Right. That’s, you know, like the deep, the deep surrender the humility of true surrender into the Universe, God, whatever. You know, like whatever…

David: Whatever your language is. Yeah.

Jean: And David, you also talk about being a perfectionist. That adds to perfectionism.

Speaker2: Yeah, that’s another cousin of anxiety. Yes. Um, where people are focused on the small details to maintain an illusion of control over life. Where, Who are you kidding? I mean, how much can you really control? Um, but it’s something that we, many people do.

Alison: And I thought, when you talk about the, um, what would you really love to do? I don’t think we ask ourselves that enough these days. Like where, what, where is your love or your passion really taking you? And did you find in your life that you followed what you what you loved?

David: Yes and no. There are certain things that I pursued that I only realized many years later that weren’t really something that I wanted to do, truly did. And when I struggled with those issues, that was a, you know, sort of the anxiety catching up with me that I should have faced a long time ago and really focused on just what I want, which what I’m really good at. Um…

Alison: What you’re doing now?

David: I’m trying to. I’m getting there… You know, I’m I’m trying to take my own advice on that. Um, it’s scary though. There’s so much uncertainty. Like when I’m really pursuing a dream that I actually care about. Truly care about. What if I fail?

Alison: What if I fail? And then again, would that be so bad?

David: It would.

Alison: Why would it?

David: Well, it’d be a hard pill to swallow, but I have to embrace that. That I don’t know whether things are going to work out. Um, and that’s part of how anxiety can actually make us, show us what our direction is in life. What I’m really anxious about it, it’s probably like, oh, you know what, maybe I got to be doing this. Yeah. Mhm.

Alison: I love that story of the man whose partner cheated on him. And then he ended up creating a business that helped people. But he you know helped people be aware of any kind of, you know, malfeasance in their own businesses. And I loved that because I thought, wow, you really helped that guy figure out what mattered to him and how to move forward, as opposed to just living in that place of resentment and and blame and shame. You know?

David: That to me is where spirituality comes in, you know, why did this happen? Is there a is there a greater context? And if people can start to ask those questions in psychotherapy, I think there’s a lot of great things that happen when patients want to go that route. Of course.

Alison: I think that’s always a common thing. Jean and I have talked to so many people and they all seem to say something happened and I never thought I’d recover from it. And it actually was a blessing. And they actually learned something or it took them in a different path. We’ve heard that so often. Like, you know, Anita Moorjani passed away and, you know, and came back like there were so many people that have experienced that. And so I loved that you embrace and share your spirituality, your points on spirituality in this book.

David: Thank you. A lot of the patients appreciate it too. You know, the the industry of psychotherapy dating back to the the era of Freud has been very avoidant of matters of the spirit. Um, ironically, though, psychology is literally the study of the soul. I don’t know if you know that the Latin root of psyche is soul. The irony. The irony. But that’s changed in the last 20 years. The the sort of godless, uh, industry, if you will, has changed in the last 20 years with a much more open spiritual zeitgeist. Um, and I think especially since Covid, we’ve seen it in, uh, in a large way, a lot of people are asking these questions. Therapists aren’t so afraid to go down. They’ve had the whole movement of mindfulness, the movement of 12 step programs, and AA Alcoholics Anonymous, which is based on spirituality in the realm of anxiety. You don’t see it as much. And that’s sort of where I’m trying to move things along. But nevertheless, you know, these are that’s where the state of the Union.

Jean: Yeah. How great that, you know, here you are a doctor and you’re willing to entertain, even entertain metaphysical.

David: Thank you. Um, you know, it’s definitely part of my life personally and my culture and, you know, my religious background, and I think that’s certainly shaped it. Um, and, uh, it’s also the part of many patients lives, though, that’s really where it’s the main thing . I’ve done research on this and in, uh, in eastern Massachusetts, where I live, one of the least religious enclaves in the entire country, would you believe that 60% of our patients want to speak about spiritual matters, and they want spiritual care? Incredible.

Alison: Yeah, that is incredible. Where are you in Massachusetts.

David: Boston.

Alison: Oh, really? I lived in Boston for a long time. I didn’t know, I didn’t know you were still there. That’s great.

David: Yeah, yeah. Where’d you live?

Alison: I lived right in Back Bay.

David: Yeah. Beautiful spot.

Alison: Yeah. And my mom had a house on Cape Cod, so.

David: Oh, a real New Englander. That’s like, uh.

Alison: I’m from the Bronx, so I could relate to your New York office. So, you know, is your is your anxiety office in New York still incredibly active or…?

David: Sure. Yeah. There’s the Manhattan office, Brooklyn office, couple things out there

Alison: That was really brave of you to do. And I like…

David: Brave or stupid.

David: It’s, uh. It’s been a journey. Yeah.

Jean: Okay. Well, we I would love to hear some, like 2 or 3 tips from you, David, to help someone move through anxiety.

David: Sure. Number one piece of advice that I’m going to give here is to change our relationship with anxiety, as opposed to getting rid of it. You know, we think about anxiety as a disease. You got to get rid of it. It’s going to overcome you. It’s going to eat you alive. It’s going to kill you. You know, I’ve never lost a patient to anxiety and I never will, right? Yes, It’s uncomfortable, but embracing it, allowing it to happen and changing our relationship with this ubiquitous, ubiquitous human emotion that all of us have, let’s face that and accept it is the first step to dealing with anxiety, is to accept it, understand it’s going to be part of your life. Don’t let it rule over you by trying to get rid of it, embrace it, try to understand it, and realize what it’s trying to teach you. That’s sort of my first go to. Once we have truly accepted our anxiety, I’ll give you two and three. Have you accepted your anxiety?

Alison: Yes, I’ve accepted that.

Jean: Yes, right now I did. Yes, I saw my. My white flag is up. I surrender to my anxiety, I surrender.

David: Once you raise the white flag, I like that, once you raise your white flag to anxiety. Um, got a couple of things to say. You know, the number one. Uh, it was really number two. Um, I think it’s such a great tool for enhancing our relationships with others when we can express our raw emotions to them. Um. Part of what I learned. Part of what I was talking about my wife before Miri. Part of what Miri has taught me, She’s taught me many things… One thing she’s taught me is that it actually is a sign of strength. To be able to acknowledge when I’m having a bad day. As opposed to just, you know, pretending that everything is all right. And to be able to come to her and to be able to talk about my feelings and to be able to show her that I actually need someone to be there for me. Right? That’s an greatly enhanced our relationship. That’s converting anxiety into love. As we were speaking about a little bit before. So I don’t think you have to do this with everyone. I don’t think it has to be on your Facebook page or Instagram posts or it maybe, but I don’t think it needs to be a public image. But I do think they have to be 1 or 2 people in this world that you can actually convert anxiety into love with by showing them how you really feel and letting them be there for you. That’ll enhance your connection. And another one. I guess I told you I’d give you three years. Another one is when you’re pursuing a dream, you will feel anxious. Because you care about it. We spoke about this a little before two. Which means that the experience of anxiety in of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be an indication, actually, that you’re on the right route.

Alison: Mm. That’s great. Yeah. And I love I really appreciate you and I love all the work that you’re doing. I wish that I wish I was your patient.

David: It’s very kind of you to say thank you.

Jean: You wrote a wonderful book. There’s something for everyone.

Alison: And I was reading it in a waiting room, and I realized the cover is so great.. And two people were like, what’s that about? How do you do that? And I was like, you gotta, you gotta go get it. But it’s pretty great. Yeah.

David: So I can listen to your podcast. They can also get a 12 page free guide on my website, by the way, which all your listeners are able to get. Um, so that is available to anyone. And I can send you the link. You can put it in the show notes. DHROSMARIN.COM Is my website, and, uh, I think it’s on the home page. Um, there’s a link to the book, and you can get a 12 page free guide. Um, I’d love to hear from people. My, you know, I read the comments that come through on the website and respond to many of them. And so, um, I love engaging with people about this topic. It’s just a great topic and an important one.

Alison: If we think of more things or, or another book comes out of your wonderful mind, can we call you again?

David: Please do. I don’t know if I’m working on another book just yet. Don’t make me anxious or stressed. Um, but I definitely, um, so grateful to to meet you.

Alison: Great. Maybe after the election will give you a call or during. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Jean: Thank you, you’re a wonderful guest, and many blessings to you and your family. And say hi to your wife.

David: Thank you. We’ll do. Goodbye. Take care.

Alison: The really interesting thing about this interview was that I was late and David was having technical issues. And so we’re starting the interview about anxiety with anxiety, which was just like, I’m like, I’m almost there, Jean…. Hang on. You know, that’s right.

Jean: I did think I was like, wow, this is so interesting that that this is occurring. But you know what? We made it. And what a great interview. Um, David is, was really lovely to talk with. And, um, he’s got a gentle side to him too. Yeah.

Alison: And he, um, it was a very different interview in that he’s like that. He had that little quiz for us. He asked us that question and we both just sit there nodding and he’s like, well, what do you think? I’m right. Go ahead. Right. Pick up your pencils and begin. You know. So he was great I liked him. He was funny and, um, very relaxed and, um, I love that he’s taking a different tact and showing us that we all have anxiety and that it’s just a part of it and how you can work with it.

Jean: Right. And he he offers to anyone, as he said, “If the listeners want, they may reach out to me.” and that meant a lot to me. How gracious of him to to offer that. So if you are someone that would like to talk to a wonderful doctor schooled in anxiety, here’s your guy.

Alison: So thriving with anxiety. And you know, I’ve had some stressful stuff come up since we’ve interviewed him. And I have really used his tips about making connections, about being vulnerable, about having compassion for myself. And it’s very helpful. So I suggest taking a gander at Thriving With Anxiety. Yes, there I go. I feel very relaxed.

Jean: Wow, that was a mouthful.

Alison: It was okay. Bye everybody.


Podcast Episode 29: Dr. Norman Rosenthal

In his landmark new book, Defeating SAD, Rosenthal, who first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and is the foremost authority on the subject, offers an up-to-date guide to overcoming the miseries and that millions experience with the changing seasons. In his lively style, Rosenthal offers advice on how to identify, treat and overcome both winter and summer varieties of seasonal affective disorder, as well as the less severe yet bothersome winter blues.

Alison Martin: Jean loves our theme song.

Jean Trebek: I do.

Alison Martin: You really, really do.

Jean Trebek: It’s just happy. And speaking about happy…

Alison Martin: What?

Jean Trebek: We are talking to Doctor Norman Rosenthal about defeating SAD.

Alison Martin: And when I saw this book, I thought he just meant, like, sad, like, don’t be sad.

Jean Trebek: Did you know the acronym of SAD?

Alison Martin: I did, but I didn’t put it together. Seasonal affective disorder.

Jean Trebek: Yeah.

Alison Martin: Which is what happens when we don’t get enough light, right?

Jean Trebek: Right.

Alison Martin: Yeah. Which is so interesting because a lot of people really feel the difference in the winter.

Jean Trebek: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s why there are so many tanning beds and things like that, like up in Seattle, Washington, and up in the, uh, countries that are closer to the north.

And this book is so interesting because he talks about this in a very, um, accessible way. Like he’d never become so clinical that you’re like, what’s he saying?

Jean Trebek: No, he was a real delight to talk with. Yes. Well, said Alison, he was not so medical that you were just like, what? And he also gives great tips on how to move through the seasonal affective disorder.

Alison Martin: That’s right. And he, you know, the use of lamps and exercise and camaraderie and therapy. He just and he is so I loved talking to him.

Jean Trebek: Yeah.

Alison Martin: He reminded me of people that I love like family members, you know.

Jean Trebek: Yes.

Alison Martin: And he loves poetry.

Jean Trebek: That’s the other beautiful thing about this man. Here’s this highly intellectual human and he has time for that creative side, that beauty of poetry. And I think he really found his sweet spot. I think poetry really lights him up.

Alison Martin: Yeah. Me too. And he talks about it the interview. So. And the end is so special. Listen to the end where he reads a poem to us. It gave me um, I got teary eyed.

Jean Trebek: Yeah.

Alison Martin: He gave me the chills. All right, here he comes. Thank you. Norman, here you come.

Norman Rosenthal: Hello.

Jean Trebek: Oh, hi. Doctor Rosenthal.

Norman Rosenthal: So great to meet the two of you. Finally.

Alison Martin: Yes. How do you feel?

Norman Rosenthal: Oh, I am much better. Thank you. Um, you know, these post-Covid colds are, um, quite nasty.

Alison Martin: I agree, I think because we’ve not been outside with other people much.

Norman Rosenthal: Exactly. Our immune systems are, like, naive and they’re not used.

Jean Trebek: Yeah. They’re like what? What’s that? Yeah.

Alison Martin: I’m. Alison.

Norman Rosenthal: Hi, Alison. Hi.

Jean Trebek: I’m Jean.

Norman Rosenthal: Hey, Jean. Nice to meet the two of you.

Jean Trebek: Very nice to meet you, doctor..Your your book defeating sad is so interesting.

Norman Rosenthal: Oh. Thank you.

Alison Martin: Really? We both read the whole thing, and it’s very, very. You’re such an interesting, um, man, could you tell us how you got involved in in really taking on, uh, so much interest in sad. And could you explain what it is for our listeners?

Norman Rosenthal: Absolutely. You know, it’s been like a step by step process. It’s been a step by step process. I came to this country from South Africa, which is climatically, a lovely country, very sunny, uh, you know, very mild. The seasons are not radical from one to another and came to do my psych residency in New York City. And the first summer was wonderful. The long days. I never had such long days in my life. And then when autumn came, uh, when the daylight savings time change came, I just didn’t know what hit me. Mm. I came out of work that first day, and everything was dark, and there was a cold wind coming off the Hudson, and I thought, wow, this is something I have never experienced before. And so it went for three years. I had these wonderful summers and these really difficult winters, and I thought, something is changed here. Something is different compared to what it was in South Africa. So I came to join a research group here at the National Institute of Mental Health and that is, um, Bethesda, Maryland.

Norman Rosenthal: And once here, Once here I started working with rhythms, biological rhythms, mood, depression and light and came across an engineer who had experienced these same seasonal problems worse than me. And we took him during one of his winters, expanded his light and out he came from his depression. It was wonderful to to behold. And so I thought, well, you know, we’ve really got a story here. I have felt it myself. Now I see it in somebody else. And we need to find more people like this. But I checked around and psychiatrists had not seen it. Or at least they had seen it, but they hadn’t identified it. And so what I thought was, you’ve got to go straight to the public and ask them for if they’ve ever had it and seen it. And at that point, you know, advertising via the media for patients was like chasing ambulances. Yeah. So but nevertheless, we got thousands of people. And from the people who sent back their questionnaires, I pulled together the syndrome that we now known that we now know as Sad or seasonal affective disorder.

Alison Martin: Wow. That’s. That’s amazing. Do you, um, do you use. And in the book, you explain the use of a lightbox. And do you use one?

Norman Rosenthal: Yes, I definitely do. Every morning, uh, in this particular season, I come and I look at the news on the, on the computer and do my word games to make sure my brain is still working and, and, um, good news is that it seems to be. And and so, um, I use it every morning and, um, it really makes a difference. And my patients, I recommend it widely. Uh, and there are all kinds of people who can benefit from it, and we can talk more about that. This lightbox is like a computer, maybe a little bigger. And it sits in front of you and emanates a lot of light and much more than you’d get from a regular bedside lamp or a ceiling light. And this is what’s making the biological change. But of course, as you’ve read the book, you’ll see there are lots of other things that you can do that make a difference as well.

Jean Trebek: Right? Um, can you explain why light has such an impact?

Norman Rosenthal: Oh well, you can explain it in different ways. Remember, we evolved with light and dark. Um, you know, the early bird catches the worm. So it’s early because there’s dawn, there’s light around. It’s going to see the worm in the light of dawn. Now, of course, not such good news for the worm, but in any event, uh, we evolve with light and dark. And these were the time cues that enabled us to function in a world where light and dark are changing. And so just as they change in the day. So they change across the year. And so, um, maybe in the winter, we needed to be in our caves or in our dark places. Uh, there was very little food around. We needed to, uh, nurture our resources. And so the kind of hibernation that you see in animals happens in a kind of attenuated way, in a sort of weakened way in humans. And so with these, the day, the day and night rhythms of dark and light and the seasonal rhythms of short days and long days, we have evolved to incorporate these rhythms into our biology so that we function as best we can in a changing world.

Alison Martin: So that so interesting, because that’s what I was thinking when I was reading. If if we’ve evolved with this, why aren’t our contemporary brains used to it?

Norman Rosenthal: Well because we evolved over thousands and thousands of years, and our contemporary brains are geared to a society that’s only been working in this way for hundreds of years. And so we are still left with our old biology. However, we’ve tinkered with it, and the arrival of indoor lighting like the electric light has greatly changed how we live our lives. And even if you read reports of letters written in the Civil War time, before there was light all over the house and everywhere, um, you will find that sleep has changed over the time since the Civil War. However, um, for people with Sad, there is a decreased sensitivity to the light so that the ordinary indoor light may not be enough to keep them functioning well all year round.

Alison Martin: And did I understand correctly that in this book that there’s a difference between, uh, like a blue toned light and a yellow toned light? Did I understand that correctly? And could you explain that to me? Because I’m like, like, is the sun a blue tone?

Norman Rosenthal: No, no. Um, the sun generates full spectrum light because our spectrum that we’re used to is calibrated around the sunlight. Uh, so you’ll know if you go into a store to buy clothes and you want to see what the real color is, you want to see it in full spectrum light, right? Because if you see it in light that’s toned with a blue or a pink, it might look like this and that and then you buy this, by the outfits, and you take it out. And this isn’t what it looked like at all. So people have to sell it in the, in the full spectrum sunlight. Uh, so it’s it’s not blue. It’s not pink. It’s a nice balanced spectrum. In our attempt to replicate that with our ceiling lights and other lights, um, we create lights that are a little shifted this way or that way, but the light that we use for therapeutic purposes is the ordinary full spectrum light, or, um, it’s not loaded towards the blue or any particular color. It is just, um, an ordinary white light.

Alison Martin: Oh that’s interesting.

Jean Trebek: And so, doctor, can you also share with our listeners some other tips that help boost your the serotonin and the dopamine in your brain if you don’t have a light box readily available?

Norman Rosenthal: Definitely, definitely. Well, the one that is easiest is right at your front door and that is exercise. If you go walking…this is something I add in my own program. I add this to, I sit in front of the lights like I told you, and then I, I go walking fast up and down hills and I get a lot of light and an aerobic effect. And that’s a potent thing that you can do. Um, I work out and not only is the aerobic exercise helpful, but the strength training is helpful. These have got it now. Turns out very strong antidepressant effects. Mm. So that’s another thing you can do that’s very easy to do. You can have a room in your house. That’s your Florida room or whatever you want to call it that is painted light shades on the wall that’s got colored throws and colored scatter cushions and you just want to be there. You put bring a couple of plants in it, a couple of orchids, and wow, you’re already feeling better. So these are just a few little tips. And of course we can go all the way from there. There is, um, a special kind of therapy called cognitive behavior therapy or CBT, which is wonderful for Sad.

Norman Rosenthal: And and studies have actually shown this. For example, you know, when you’re feeling in your winter mode, you feel like a stick in the mud. You don’t feel like going out. You don’t feel like doing stuff. Um, maybe you even feel a little sorry for yourself. And that’s actually not good for you. I mean, I’m not talking in any absolute or moral sense, but it’s not good for your well-being. Because if you can maintain your connections with people, your social engagements, your activities, that’s much better. So that’s the behavioral part. You make lunch arrangements, you go see friends, uh, you go places, you do good things, and that keeps you feeling more cheerful. And then, of course, there is working with your thinking, the cognitive part of cognitive behavior therapy. Because a lot of times people think, uh, thoughts that make them depressed. Um, an example that I like is, let’s say I call a friend out and I say, hey, would you like to come to dinner this evening? And they say. Sorry. No, I can’t come this evening. And they don’t say, well, what about another evening? Or I’d love to, or why don’t you join us wherever we’re going, they just leave it at that. It’s kind of neutral.

Norman Rosenthal: It’s not bad, but it’s not really encouraging. And then if you’re in a depressed mode, you can go and say, wait a second. That person doesn’t really like me. They don’t really want to go to dinner with me. And, you know, come to think of it, I don’t think anybody really likes me. And I don’t think people are going to want to come to dinner with me, and I’m going to be all alone. You see how you’re going off to the races like that with negative thoughts and cognitive therapy says, wait a second, what are the other reasons why this person might not have come or be, you know, maybe they’ve got another arrangement, maybe they’re feeling lousy, maybe something awful has happened in their lives and they just didn’t want to tell you about it. So many things could be happening that have got nothing to do with you. And so what do we do about it? Well, try a couple more people, see if somebody might want to come put your hypothesis to the test that nobody wants to come with you. And sure enough, you call a couple of people and somebody says, wow, that’s great. I’m sitting miserable here at home and I’d love to come to dinner with.

Alison Martin: Um, I was wondering, you talk about females having SAD, a propensity for SAD, more than males, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that for our listeners.

Norman Rosenthal: Yeah, we’ve seen it and everybody’s seen it. Um, quite, uh, commonly is 3 or 4 to 1 females to males. So it’s quite a big difference. That is very likely due to the female reproductive cycle because one can speculate that in times gone by, when we didn’t have central heating and lights and all kinds of things, people had to be in their dark caves, and maybe the women had to be there when they were pregnant, giving, holding on to their babies. And the men had to be out in the fields. And maybe it evolved in such a way that the women were more inclined to be slowed down and in a more hibernating like mode in the winter, and the men less so. And maybe that’s just what was best for the survival of the group.

Alison Martin: Right! You know, when I, when I first, when we first came across you and I thought, oh, this will be interesting because I definitely don’t have this. That’s what I thought. I really look forward to the winter. I look forward to the summer. I love it all. But then when I read your book, I have so many of the symptoms. So is it possible, like I gain weight in the winter. I just want to stay inside. I want to be cozy. I could binge a series and be happy. And I’m wondering, could you have Sad and still be happy at Christmas and still be looking forward to the season? You understand my question?

Norman Rosenthal: I do, I do it’s a it’s a very interesting point because, you know, some people are happier people. There’s no doubt about it. They’ve got friends, they’ve got activities, they like things, and they may still have some of the vegetative symptoms slowing down, needing more sleep, eating more, gaining weight. And other people may have those plus the mood symptoms. Yeah. Um, so I’ve seen both kinds. And then what also happens is there’s another major factor in the mix and that is stress. Um, because that person who’s happy, who’s bingeing on the series, if all of a sudden they were settled with a deadline and some very heavy work that they had to do, and they’re not really on top form, and they’ve got things that they’re going to be judged and found wanting, you could change and become quite down. Yes. And that’s why one of the pieces of advice I give people is don’t work on a deadline that expects you to get your product in by the end of the winter. Rather, I gave myself a deadline here at the end of August. I didn’t give it the end of December because for various reasons, but a lot of it was I didn’t want to be stuck with a serious deadline when I was feeling slowed down.

Alison Martin: That’s great. Yes.

Jean Trebek: That’s a great act of love.

Alison Martin: Yes. Yeah.

Norman Rosenthal: As they say, you’ve got to be kind to your future self.

Jean Trebek: That’s so true. That’s exactly right. So I just want to switch gears for a moment and leave Sad and move into your love of poetry. Um. You wrote a beautiful book called The RX of Poetry. Did that evolve out of a way for you to be creative and help your your Sad, you know, the feeling of hibernation? Or were you always someone that was interested in in poetry?

Norman Rosenthal: Yeah. You know. As I’ve been talking, um, with people, more and more people have asked questions about my poetry RX book. And to me that is so thrilling. And I’ll tell you why. Because that book was roundly rejected by editors, uh, agents. They said there’s just no money in poetry and we’re not interested in it. And, um. I just had a feeling because I knew that poetry always meant so much to me, and I just had a feeling if I could just write it in the right way, that it would be accessible to people, they could really gain something from this, just as I have. So at that time, Jane Brody was the columnist, very prominent columnist for The New York Times, and she had written some very nice articles on my different books. And I contacted her and she said, poetry doesn’t do anything for me. I said, well, would you at least take a look at my manuscript? Well, you can send it, but I can’t get to it any time soon. You know, I was getting yes, I know we’ve done work together, so I’ll be polite and I’ll just give you the time of day. But don’t expect anything from me. So I didn’t even have a PDF. I had a Xerox copy of this book and I fedexed it to her. All the old technology coming through, I fedexed it to her and it was within half a day and I got an email back. Change of plans – I want to interview you tomorrow… It’s poetry Month and we’re going to we’re going to do this. And she wrote a column. I’ve never had anybody write such a loving column. And she said, look, I, I thought poetry meant nothing to me. But then I realized that my late husband was a lyricist and words were his daily diet. And, um. I just want to tell you that I’ve really, totally changed my mind on this subject, and I mean that to me, to get that from somebody I respected so much. And then I had to figure out a way to do it. So what I did was I divided it up into five sections. Have I sent you a copy of my poetry book? Do you have one?

Alison Martin: We got it. We just bought it

Norman Rosenthal: Oh my goodness. I’m I’m sorry to incur the –

Jean Trebek: No, no, we we just were so interested in it.

Norman Rosenthal: But there are five sections. The one is called Loving and losing. The one is a response to nature. It’s called that inward eye. Uh, then there’s the human experience. Then there is design for living, uh, and, uh, the search for meaning. And the last piece is aging and dying. Mm. And they’re 50 poems. And, um, I, I have heard so many people say – this means a lot to me – I keep it at my bedside. I read this, I read that. It’s been like one of the great, um, rewards of that I’ve ever written, because every poem I put out, the poem, I like the poem to be right up front so that nothing is there to distract you. And then I write – this is what I think the poem means. But you may be different. These are the takeaway points that you can get specific takeaway points from this poem. And um, then you know, who was the poet? How did she or he come to write this particular poem? And, um… each one. It makes sense that this one wrote this poem, that that one wrote that poem. And the whole sweep of human experience in my mind is encompassed in these 50 little gems. And, um. If ever you felt like doing another podcast or even just chatting, I can’t even tell you how moved I am that you have found this to be so meaningful. It makes me so happy.

Alison Martin: It’s so beautiful. You know, the we get the New Yorker, my husband and I, and there’s always little poems in the New Yorker, and it’s like a lost art. My parents were newspaper reporters, so I’m so used to that type of writing. But these and the way I love that, I think you say, um, read it out loud. Mhm. And um, that is so important and that advice really. I went back and read some of the New Yorker poems that way because when, when you read it. Allowed. It really changed the meaning. I thought that was a beautiful piece of advice that you gave.

Jean Trebek: Absolutely right. I to you. And you gave more than just reading your poem out loud. Um, the tips you give to really embrace the poem, the poetry and the author. And you close the gap of separation. You’re you. You help the reader become part of the experience of this poetry. It’s so beautiful.

Norman Rosenthal: Thank you. Yeah.

Alison Martin: Are you a poet?

Norman Rosenthal: You know I am not a poet. I did try and write poetry way back when, but. That wasn’t how my mind worked. I was more a scientist and I was more analytical. And that’s why I’ve taken my analytical skills and I’ve combined them with my love of poetry. But I can say I am in awe of what these people did in so few lines. Yeah, um, I don’t know if you remember, but this one just comes to mind. You know, when the challenger shuttle exploded. Peggy Noonan – the speech writer – gave a wonderful line to Ronald Reagan to give to commemorate the people who died. And what he said was the line – they have slipped the surly bonds of earth. Mm. And, um. The poem that the poem from which that comes is called High Flight, and it’s one of the 50 poems, and it is a young pilot in the Second World War who basically is so thrilled at the sensation and experience of flying. That he pushed his limits too much. And that was the last flight, or at least very close to the last flight. And I actually interviewed a pilot asking him, what is this experience? How do you feel? He says, it’s a wonderful feeling to be just on the top of the clouds and bumping up against these big, white, massive things and so each one, if you’d read this poem, um, apparently the TV always used to close with this particular poem being read late at night. That was how they would close routinely. I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.

Alison Martin: It’s beautiful.

Jean Trebek: I really appreciate when you read or hear a piece of poetry that makes you pause. Because everything’s so quick lately, you know, we’re expected to do so much and answer so quickly with our texts and, um, emails. But poetry really helps me kind of take a breath and take in what’s really going on most. So I want to say that I really admire that you are this scientist…You’ve really developed the analytical brain and you’ve really given so much back. And at the same time, you have this great love for the arts.

Norman Rosenthal: Well thank you. I actually feel enormously privileged to have had the opportunity to do some of these things. It’s like, you know, I came from South Africa, I came to America because I thought that’s where I could really make the biggest contributions. And this country has been really wonderful to me, and I am endlessly grateful.

Alison Martin: That’s so good to hear, because I think we’re living through a time where, um, there are so many opposing views. So to hear somebody say that the country has been good to them gives me chills. Was that line of one of your favorite poems or do you actually have another poem that is your favorite?

Norman Rosenthal: Well, you know, it’s like and I always think of it as like, if you have several children and somebody says, which is your favorite, right? You know, I’ll tell you something that I’ve realized lately, because I will read a poem to a friend or to somebody. And what I’ll feel is the emotion that’s embedded in the poem. I experience it every single time. It’s like, what is this magic that it doesn’t get stale, it doesn’t get old, it doesn’t get hackneyed? Yeah…if you read the same poem every single day, then okay. But you come back to your favorites and, and, you know, they have a, they have a deep way of getting deep inside you. I even, you know, I find even sometimes a tear or two come into my eyes and I think, oh my God, are you getting old and sentimental? Then I say, it’s just emotions. It’s just feelings. They’re not going to hurt anybody, you know?

Alison Martin: That’s sweet. What do you do? Like, do you have any sort of, um, any sort of grounding practice or spiritual practice that you could share with our listeners?

Norman Rosenthal: I do. I do I meditate every single day and it’s transcendental meditation. And the way it works is that you think a mantra, and you’re taught to do it. You think a mantra and in such a way that it takes you into a deep place in your mind. And it’s a profound rest, but it’s also a renewal. Uh, it’s not mindfulness. You don’t have to concentrate or focus on anything. Um, and it’s just in the meaninglessness and the glory of this space, you can renew yourself every single day. And when that happened to me, I’d first learned this as a young man in South Africa and, um, from a pretty young woman. And, um, I and I’ll tell you more about it because there’s a history there. And, um, I didn’t take her very seriously. We were all doing it. The Beatles had just gone to India. They’d gone to Maharishi. We all thought it was cool. And then I let it drop. 35 years later, I’m sitting in my practice and talking to a young man with bipolar disorder. And he tells me, you know what makes me happy most of the time is this practice, and you need to learn it. And he kind of nagged me. And, you know, I thought, sometimes the universe talks to you. Yes. And it can talk to you through a strange person. You wouldn’t even, you know, you can learn from anybody. I thought this man is really telling you something you need to pursue. And I renewed my technique. And this time it stuck. And I was so excited by what the potential for this technique is that I’ve written two books on that subject – Transcendence was the first one and Supermind was the second one. And in Supermind, I interviewed about 600 people who had been long standing meditators just to think of what was it that… How did they stay with the meditation? What did the meditation do for them?  I was fortunate to be able to talk to some amazing people – a Prima Ballerina in the New York City Ballet who was having fainting spells that were jeopardizing her career. She learns the technique and now she can dance. She doesn’t need to take a medicine. She stopped having fainting spells. Her physiology steadied and stabilized and on and on and on. A baseball pitcher that I worked with who fell off the, uh, postseason roster because his baseball, uh, floundered, got back onto his meditation again and got into the next postseason game and was able to be part of the winning team. And he had been crucial in helping them win the World Series. And one time I was visiting LA, he was there and he called me and he said, look, are you in your hotel room? I said, yeah, he said, can I just stop by? I said, sure, stopped by with a World Series ring. Um, one of these rings that they celebrate. And so, so, you know, out of the blue, marvelous things happen and wonderful things come if you just do the right thing, you know, that’s beautiful.

Alison Martin: That’s amazing. Yeah.

Jean Trebek: Yeah.

Alison Martin: Do you, you know, we just something funny that you said that the universe sometimes speaks to you through different people. We just interviewed Lorna Byrne, who, um, talked. Do you know who Lorna Byrne is? She talks to angels, and she’s been doing it all her life. And it’s so interesting. She’s in Ireland and just this beautiful, this beautiful person. And, um, she said exactly what you said. And it’s interesting hearing it come from scientists like you. And then someone that’s, you know, speaking to angels that sometimes the universe really can speak to you in ways through other people, and just to be open and receptive and curious, it sounded like you just went back to your curiosity about what this could do for you.

Norman Rosenthal: Yes, yes. That’s right. And and you’ve got to have a kind of an innocence about you, a sort of humility. I went back to South Africa. And for a visit. And there. I saw the young lady who had taught me originally. Now – an amazing, uh, powerful woman who’s taught probably more people TM than any other person. Probably, I don’t know, I haven’t counted, but she’s been there like 50 years teaching TM in Johannesburg and, um. You know. So I’m coming down to the TM center. They had a little event. And I’m sort of just, you know, sometimes you get into a little glum mood and I’m thinking, why do you work so hard on these books? Who reads these books? You know, it’s a bit of a pity party, as they say that I was having an open my email. And there is a letter from this woman, Vickie Broome, and she said, I just want you to know, we’re all having a sort of seminar on your poetry book this evening.

Alison Martin: Wow.

Norman Rosenthal: And I just wanted to share with you that we were all chatting about it, chatting about you, and we thought you might want to know. Isn’t that amazing?

Alison Martin: Beautiful. That’s great.

Jean Trebek: You know, that’s lovely.

Norman Rosenthal: So, um, you know, the world can sometimes be a very astonishing place, can sometimes be very harsh. But here in our space over here, uh, you’ve recreated some of the joy that you can experience just from being curious or being creative or or the joy of people talking to each other in ways that feel meaningful and fun and mutually creative and supportive.

Alison Martin: I know that I would like to, I think Jean would to like to, take you up on after we finish the entire poetry book, maybe we could take you up on going through it and having another discussion. Would that be something that you would be…?

Norman Rosenthal: Well, yes. With one. Small caveat don’t feel you need to go through the whole thing, okay? Because you’re setting a big goal for yourself and then you’ll feel, well, we haven’t really gone through this and we haven’t really gone through. Just as soon as you feel like it, okay, that’s the time to contact me.

Alison Martin: Perfect. And I’m not going to say I’m going to do it by the end of winter.

Norman Rosenthal: No… do it whenever it’s not one of those. It’s not a sort of obligation. It’s got to be a pleasure, you know? And, um. I would just love to read you anything just so that we have a poem to to close the.

Alison Martin: Oh, I would love that. That would be great.

Norman Rosenthal: Would you like that poem High Flight?

Alison Martin: Yes, please.

Norman Rosenthal: All right. It’s not very long. It’s a it’s a sonnet. A lot of these poems are sonnets because they’re short. Um. The chapter heading is The Enduring Thrill of the Moment. High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth. And danced the skies on laughter, silvered wings. Sunward, I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sunlit clouds. And done a hundred things you have not dreamed of. Wheeled and scared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long, delirious burning blue. I’ve touched the windswept heights with easy grace. Where never loch or even eagle flew. And while with silent lifting mind, I’ve tried the high and trespassed sanctity of space. Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Alison Martin: Thank you.

Norman Rosenthal: And that is his legacy. You know, I call it the Enduring Thrill of the Moment because it was just a moment and he captured it, and he mailed this poem to his parents, and he didn’t live much longer. But his poem and his mind and his spirit live forever. Really.

Jean Trebek: Yes. So true.

Alison Martin: Yes. That is… You’re so… You’re so gentle. Thank you so much for this. You’re really so wonderful.

Norman Rosenthal: Oh, thank both of you. It’s been such a treat. And, um, have a good evening.

Jean Trebek: And we’ll reach out to you again soon.

Jean Trebek: Yeah. Please do, whenever it works for you. Okay.

Alison Martin: Thank you so much. That was bye bye. Have a great day.

Norman Rosenthal: You too. Thank you.

Alison Martin: I so enjoyed him because even if you don’t suffer from Sad, he gave us so many tips in the book and in the interview and how to just feel comfortable in your own shoes, right? You know, through it all.

Jean Trebek: Yes. I mean, I noticed things that he talked about that I do on my own just walking in nature, or I do like to sit out in the sun a little bit or talk to my friends. And, and I always feel better. So, um, he was he was wonderful.

Alison Martin: And and the beauty of wrapping it up with that, with that poetry at the end, I found, I found that so moving. And since speaking to him and he, you know, he suggests you read poetry out loud, right? Which I think is such an excellent tip because since I’ve been doing that, we get the New Yorker in the, in the house here, and there’s always poems in it, and when you do it out loud, you say it out loud. It really hits you a different way.

Jean Trebek: Right? Well, you even taught me that, Alison, when we would write emails together to somebody, you you would say, let’s read it out loud. And it does tt helps.

Alison Martin: You see you see what the people are hearing. I just loved him. And, um, me too. I, I, I hope that you got something out of it, even if you don’t have sad.

Jean Trebek: Exactly. And his book on poetry is beautiful. He has it, uh, organized in a wonderful way that you can, um, look up, let’s say, grief. And then he offers a poem that relates to grief. I mean, it’s very generous of him.

Alison Martin: Yeah. Really beautiful. Look him up, Norman Rosenthal. And that’s it. We hope you we hope you aren’t sad.

Jean Trebek: Are not sad. I hope you’re happy.

Alison Martin: That’s right. We hope you’re happy. Have a great day. Thanks for listening.

Podcast Episode 28: Brad Aronson

Brad Aronson is a husband, dad, teacher and all around great human. He is the author of the national bestseller – HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act a Time, “which is full of true stories about how one small deed can make a world of difference.”
“Outside of family, Brad loves teaching entrepreneurship in Camden, N.J. He believes in hands-on learning, so everyone in his class starts their own business, which has led to many adventures in entrepreneurship. Brad also loves volunteering on the nonprofit boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters and Hopeworks.

Alison: Okay. Is this recording?

Alison: Oh, it is, it is. Yay, yay! Here we are. Hello, Jean. Hi. It’s been some time.

Jean: Yes.

Alison:  We’ve been on a little break. And, um, you went to New York to see family?

Jean: I did, it was beautiful, I loved it, I love going to New York, visiting my son Matthew in Harlem, New York. And, uh, then I hung out with my sister and my mother. So it was a beautiful trip.

Alison: That’s lovely. And, uh, and I pretty much hung out with my family here, so it was great. I loved it. And today we’re talking about someone amazing.

Jean: Okay. His name is Brad Aronson, and he really is, uh, a champion for spreading kindness. And look at his book, Human Kind. It’s beautiful.

Alison: Changing the world, one small act at a time. And that’s what it is. Just a, um, a bunch of stories about people doing good in the world, from small to big, right? To like, you know, driving a kid home from school to, like, doing large organizations.

Jean: Exactly, and he’s so fits our insidewink motto, just sharing the good in the world. And you know what we focus on increases. So this is a great interview.

Alison: It is  wonderful. And I think, um, I think what I was so impressed by him is that his family had started from a very young age with him to impress upon him the need of kindness and helping others, which I think is great because you can see that now he’s carried it through in his life, right?

Jean: Absolutely. And he talks about that in the book and in the interview.

Alison: So let’s listen right now.

Speaker2: Hello, Well I’m Jean, I’m Allison.

Alison: It’s so nice to meet you.

Brad: Great to meet you guys as well. Thanks for having me.

Jean: Thank you for being with us today, Brad.

Alison: What an Amazing book.

Brad: Thank you.

Alison: Oh, my gosh, it was just. I read it so quickly because your stories are so beautiful.

Brad: Well, thanks, I appreciate that.

Jean: Yea..and I have a list of people that are going to receive this for the holidays, so, um it’s great. Beautiful. So, Brad, we thought we would start out with a question about how you were raised. How was your family life that you became this champion for kindness?

Brad: So, you know, I was really fortunate. Uh, my dad is probably the nicest person I know. So when we were kids, I remember going to the supermarket and someone stopped me and being like, are you Joe Aronson’s son? And, you know, you’re always taught, like, not to talk to strangers. I’m like, hey, uh, he’s like, your dad is the nicest guy. And that was all. I have no idea who it was, but like that, that stuck with me from from that supermarket, uh, experience. And I remember, like, one of our neighbors would always come over and give my dad tools, and I had no idea, like, my dad is the least handy person ever. But we had all these tools in the basement. And I asked him, like, dad, why is Mister Shukto bringing over all these tools? And he said, well, you know, I help him out with his taxes because my dad was an accountant and I don’t charge him and he wants to do something. So he brings tools. And, you know, I accept them as a gift because he’s really happy that I accept them. And I feel like I just learned so much through watching my dad. Uh, and, you know, that was a big part of my upbringing. And then there was a point, I think it was junior high where my mom told my brother and I, she said, you guys have it too good. You have no idea. You both need to start volunteering. And I started volunteering at this program called Buddies. It was for kids who had lost a parent or had some sort of really serious family trauma. And it’s when I realized, like, oh my gosh, there’s there’s all these people who had really bad luck happened to them, and it was so unfair. And that kind of got me passionate about being engaged in service and specifically with mentoring with kids like that. That is my passion. That’s what I love doing, and I think so my parents really played a huge role in letting me see the opportunities there.

Alison: And is your brother similar to you?

Brad: Yes. He’s very involved in service. Uh, and a very nice, nice person.

Alison: You’ve done so much and I’m and God bless you and your family and your friends. Your your personal story about your wife’s journey is so  beautiful because it’s so vulnerable. And I think sometime we live in a culture, I think sometimes that is afraid for people to ask for help. And and here in your book, I felt, um, that you allowed that to happen and people offered. And it opened up a whole world for you. Could you describe that a little bit to our listeners?

Brad: Absolutely. And I’d say I was really bad at asking for help. Uh, like I’d always been a helper. And that was the first time I felt like in my life where I really needed help. Uh, and people would come and be like, like, let me know what I could do for you. And I was like, yeah, I’ll get back to you. And I would never call them, right? Uh, like, I was just felt like I was so drowning. I didn’t know what to ask. And I felt a little bit guilty also. Uh, which there was no reason to feel guilty. Like people wanted to help. But I still felt bad. And then people just started stepping up and doing things, and that’s when it clicked. It was like, I really need this, right? So, you know, someone called and said, look, I’m picking your kid up from school. I realize you’re making the juggle. So Mia (Brad’s wife) was in the hospital. She was in the hospital inpatient, uh, for a month. So I would go stay with her in the hospital and then be running to try to pick Jack, my son, up from school and not lose track, you know? And then I taught as well.  So I’d be teaching, and, you know, I’d forget what day it was…and you’re just like, you’re in this like nonstop. And  people just reached out and I’ve talked to a lot of people who are going through really rough times, obviously, because the book is about people who were this small act of kindness changes their lives. So they’ve been through a rough time. What I hear quite often is that when people just do things, it makes a difference. There’s this whole group of people who are like, don’t know how to ask for help. And what we also all saw is that, like when we went through our traumas, people just came out of the woodwork. It didn’t have to be someone that I was close with, just someone I knew, someone I worked with was like, hey, here’s what I’m going to do. And it just changed our lives. And it really made me such a more thoughtful helper. Like, I changed how I help other people because I realized, oh my goodness, like, I’ve been doing it this way all this time. And I found a better way through, through people’s kindness and generosity.

Alison: So what is the better way? Like, what would you use to do? And you just said, I found a better way. What is that better way?

Brad: So a few things, uh, you know, one thing is a lot of times when people are going through a hard time, we don’t reach out to them because we think, like, maybe they don’t want to talk about it, or it might be awkward. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know them that well. And I was always in that boat of like, should I reach out? Should I not reach out? And what I learned is, when you’re in that really emotional state, the smallest little contact could give you strength. Like, we got an email from some woman who was a mom and her kid was in Jack’s class and she said, you don’t know me.  I can’t remember her daughter’s name, but I’m her mom, and I heard what’s going on and I just want to let you know I’m in your corner and, like, talking about it now. Like I feel myself tearing up a little bit, like that note from a stranger when you’re at a difficult time gives you the strength to keep going. And so I learned that. And when I talk to people for the book, what I heard repeatedly was being seen mattered. And being seen wasn’t talking about what they were going through. A lot of people didn’t want to talk about it at all, and I definitely fell in that camp. I did not want to talk about it, like I was dealing with it all day and like that’s the last thing I want to talk about and sometimes I’d even want to talk to people. But having that reach out where someone sends a text message and they send a joke or, or like they dropped off, like a little magazine. And I remember one of our friends, Mo and Mindy, dropped off like a magazine in the mailbox. Like, thought you’d find this cool to read.  And, like, I wasn’t going to read it, but they were thinking of me, and that felt awesome. So I think knowing that someone’s thinking of you is the first thing. Uh, the second thing, which I, you know, alluded to before, is just doing something. So I was someone who would always tell people like, let me know what I could do for you because I thought, I don’t want to make an assumption. I don’t know what they need. Like they’ll tell me and then I’ll do it, otherwise I won’t. What I found out is it was just such a blessing when someone like our neighbor stopped by and like, hey, you know what? We baked an extra lasagna here it is, like, awesom like, I don’t have to figure out what’s for dinner tonight. Uh, and, like, all these people at school signed up to pick up Jack, and it was it was just beautiful.  I mean, I just couldn’t juggle. And I remember the receptionist at school being like, wow, like, your kid has the biggest pickup list I’ve ever seen. And I was like, I know we’re really lucky. Uh, so also just doing it. Uh, and then one other thing is, is like when you greet people going through a rough time. Like something that we do when we greet people. We’re like, hey, how are you?  And we don’t even expect a response. It’s just we expect to hi or I’m doing great. And when you’re going through a rough time, someone’s like, hi, how are you? What goes on in your head sometime? Well, for me was actually pretty awful. You probably don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to talk about it. So should I be like, oh, I’m great. And just, like, be lying or say it’s awful and instead just saying, hey, it’s awesome to see you because it is great to see that person. Uh, and that way we’re you know, acknowledging that. And I want to say like, everything helps. Like I don’t want to come across like, hey, you have to be really careful, but these are just some things I noticed that I think have made me a better helper. And it’s because I went through that.

Alison: I love that…. It’s awesome to see you. I think that’s better than, How are you?,  no matter what.

Brad: Yeah. Right. Right.

Jean: And I absolutely can relate to doing something. When I was, uh, when my husband passed away three years ago. People would say, let me know what I can do for you? Just give me a call. And the best ones were when someone would call and say, we’re taking care of dinner Saturday and Sunday night. And like you said, Brad, I was thrilled. Thank you so much.

Alison: Exactly.

Brad: Yes.

Alison: When my mom was in our house and going through hospice and dying. And I’m an only child. And I had two little kids at the time and I never knew what I needed. I was only so in the moment of like, oh, I have to do wound care. Oh, I have to do that like I was. So in the moment I wasn’t even thinking, oh, we have to eat later, you know? And so when someone showed up, Sue Pastorius showed up with this big tray of chicken, like, just amount of cooked chicken. And I was like, oh my gosh, like, thank you. And I didn’t have to call. And that’s the thing, because I don’t even think I know what I needed for those months.

Brad: I totally did not know what I needed and it’s like a chance, like all of us have a chance to be a superhero for someone. And it’s not that hard. It’s just like taking that little step.

Alison: Yeah, and you don’t have to do something big… This is going to sound so funny, but I think the story that touched me the most was the teacher who figured how to tie shoes with one hand. Oh, I think his name was Don Clarkson.

Brad: Yes.

Alison: And I was like, I don’t know but that made me cry. Like, all the stories are so beautiful. How did you find everybody? How did you find all these stories?

Brad: So it was a mix. I started asking everyone I knew… Was there, like something small that changed your whole life, or that you knew changed someone else’s life? And because I do so much work with youth and nonprofits, like I had tons of people to ask and I heard amazing stories. And sometimes it was like a friend of mine, I had no idea. So I was out picking pumpkins with my friend Alex’s family, and I had known him since grade school. And I’m asking he and his wife and his wife’s like, oh, well, you know, Alex, every day goes jogging with this doctor. And it changed this doctor’s life. And I was like, really? And they told me this story. It’s in the book. It’s the story about Wally the physician and Alex who ran with him. And I was like, Alex, like, you never told me this. He’s like, well, you know what? It’s not something I do to tell people.  And so I found, which is beautiful in and of itself, but I found when I was asking so many people had these stories and then because it’s what I was excited about…So the example of Jim Abbott and his teacher, Don Clarkson, who learned how to tie his shoes. I read Jim Abbott’s autobiography memoir, which was amazing. It’s imperfect, it’s a great read. And there’s probably like three sentences about, oh yeah, my teacher, like learned how to tie a shoe. And that was really meaningful. And I read the whole book. I was like, I love that. I need to learn more. So I tracked down Don Clarkson’s wife and then I, you know, talked to like, Nick Newell, who had been impacted by  Jim Abbott and was able to through someone on Jim’s team like communicate with Jim and be able to put that story together. So like I do so much reading and then I pick out like that’s the part I love and I want to know more about. And then I’ve also because I was posting it online, amazing people would just be like, you wouldn’t believe this story, and they’d be emailing them into me. So there’s there’s so much out there. It matters what we look for.

Alison: Yes. Right.

Jean: Uh, Brad, can you please talk about what inspired you to write this book? I think we should have started with that.

Brad: So there were a couple inspirations. One was the, uh, high school graduation of a mentee of mine. So she attended Girard College, which even though it’s called Girard College, it is a high school in Philadelphia. And at her graduation, like on one side of me was this 70 something year old guy. And he told me, he said, like, I came down from New York, I graduated from Girard, and the school changed my life. So I come back every year to like, say thank you and support the next generation. And then on the other side of me was this mom who was crying, and she told me she thought her daughter would be dead or in jail. But here she was graduating. And there’s like a part in the ceremony where you sing the school song and they pass out like the sheets, and the dude next to the guy next to me. He stands up and is like bellowing the song. He’s so proud. And and the commencement speaker gets up and talks about how incredible these young people were. They statistically, they were from areas of Philadelphia where their success was not expected. It was expected that many of them would drop out of school, expected that very few would go on to college. And the commencement speaker talked about how every single young person had gotten into college. And then he said, but unfortunately, there are inheriting a world of of negativity where the negative is what is so pervasive. And that’s why tomorrow you won’t see anything about this graduation in the news. And, I like, I love inspirational movies and hallmark movies and all that type of stuff. And I felt like I was in one. I was alive audience member at this graduation and I so the next day I was thinking, it has to be in the news, like, how could they miss this? So I get online, I look everywhere and there’s nothing. So then I get our daily newspaper, which is the Philadelphia Inquirer. Look at every page and there’s nothing. So I think, man, like people would be so lifted up by this and they need this type of news… And it’s not there. And I thought, if I want it out there, I should put it out there. So I started writing more and more about people and organizations that inspire me. So that was the first inspiration. The second was when Mia was in the hospital. The nurses suggested that we go to this conference for young cancer patients and their caregivers. And, you know, my first reaction was, no way. Like, we’re here all day dealing with cancer in my free time, I do not want to be at a cancer conference. Uh, and Mia was like, definitely not. And then we talked about it that the nurses we found, and I’ve heard this from lots of other people as well. The nurses are just angels. We would not have gotten through that experience without them. They were amazing. And we decided that if they thought this was a good idea, it probably was a good idea. So we went and one of the speakers there had been through the same treatment as Mia, which is basically two and a half years of of chemo and treatment. Uh, so you’re in the hospital for about a month, and then after that you have two and a half years of outpatient where almost every day you’re going to the hospital to get treatments, but you can live at home.

Brad: And one of the speakers who had been through the same treatment said, when you have a treatment that’s that long, you need a project. Because a project gives you a focus, it gives you a purpose. And I thought, you know, my project is I’m going to write about, like, all the good stuff that’s out there, uh, starting with the amazing people who helped us. And I’m just like, that’s what I’m going to write about. So that was kind of like, I didn’t realize it would take me so long. Like it took longer than her treatment to actually get the book out. But that was kind of the one of the impetuses that got me writing. And boy, it was amazing therapy for me to just like, think about all the good out there. Yeah, uh, changing the narrative from, you know, why me? I mean, when Mia was first diagnosed, I remember there, like, you know, this is very unusual. She’s very healthy, and she’s she doesn’t have any comorbidities. And she’s young, which just adds to, like, what? Why is this happening to me? Right? Like I’m getting cheated, which is not a fair way to look at it. Like this happens to lots of people. But that is what was going through my mind and the whole time, like, you’re just feeling awful. And when you read about and then write about and participate in the good, it helped. It helped me. It helped lift me up and have a better perspective on everything.

Alison: And now Mia is and your family is doing great?

Brad: We’re doing great. I’m going to knock on wood because, you know, I’m suspicious.

Alison: Uh, I totally agree. And I’m wondering now that you’ve written this book, how did this book.. Because you seem to be very open and you were always doing volunteer work. So how did writing this book change your life? Like, now? Like, do you understand my question? Like, did it have an impact on your life that you’re feeling the repercussions from still?

Brad: I, so the impact for me was so when I finished the book and it was supposed to go to publication, I suddenly thought, oh my goodness, this is awful. It shouldn’t go to print.  I just read it so many times and I was like, went through this crazy like, oh no, stop the presses. And I reached out to like five really good friends who would tell me the truth and who also liked feel good books. Because if I asked people who didn’t like it, of course it’s not a good gauge. And I said, please be honest. Tell me, is this okay? Uh, should I print it? Because I’m having second thoughts. And they were like, you should absolutely print it. And I’m so grateful they, like, in that short period of time, read the whole thing, gave me their feedback because I just didn’t have confidence. I like I’m telling people’s stories and I really wanted to do them justice. These are amazing people that I admire. Uh, in addition to my own family members. Uh, and then it came out and the feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, I felt great.   And, uh, probably should not have doubted what I wrote, but I did. So it gave me a lot more confidence that my story could help people and that my story was, you know, had that type of value and getting feedback. So I’ve heard from nonprofits, one nonprofit called, and they said, we’ve got this huge donation from someone, and they told us it was because they read your book. Like, I have no idea who made that donation, but that was awesome. And getting people to randomly email me and say, I read your book and here’s what I’m doing. And they’re sharing like the goodness they’re putting out in the world. That has kind of kept me trying to get the book out there more and more, because I feel like it does have an impact, which is awesome to see. Uh, and, you know, I love writing, so I plan to write more stuff, but I’m having fun right now, getting the word out there and trying to, you know, make more good in the world.

Alison: I love that you’re so honest, saying you had self-doubt about it, because I think that’s what a lot of people face that they like here. I think, oh, of course, you just knew this was great and took off. So I love the fact that you because I, we talked to a lot of people and they’re like, well, I don’t know. And so hearing you say, do it or you know, that you had self-doubt is very encouraging, I think for a lot of people.

Brad: And, and I think a lot of people do have self-doubt because after I shared that with people, other people are like, oh, yeah, after writing this book, I got to meet some other authors. Uh, and I would ask them, they’re like, yeah, that’s that’s natural. So for anyone who’s listening, it is natural to doubt your own work. That’s okay. Find people you really trust, uh, and get their opinions.

Jean: And and Brad, I also love the fact that not only do you share these beautiful, simple stories that make such an impact on people’s lives, but you also give you share little tips. You know how to think outside the box. You know how to do something that one wouldn’t normally consider. And I after every chapter, you you give these little, uh, send a note to somebody, take a jar and put little, um, affirmations or something that you admire about that person. So every day that person can, when they’re having a need a little boost, they can put, pull out a, a, um, you know, something good about themselves. Do you have a favorite?

Brad:  I do have a favorite, actually. I feel like so often for me, if I sit down and write someone a thank you note, right? There’s so many people we could write a thank you note to, I feel amazing. So maybe it’s a little bit selfish, but like if I’m if I write a thank you note, I’m reliving those kindnesses and I feel so good about it. I love sending people thank you notes because I also love mail. Right? We don’t send enough mail anymore. Enough cards anymore. So it’s it’s fun. Uh, so I, I personally love that, uh, I also like, uh, you know, I think of one that I learned from my neighbor when, uh, when Mia, you know, was was in the hospital, our neighbor Vicky would call up and say, oh, I’m going to Trader Joe’s. What can I get for you when I’m there? Which was different than being like, hey, do you need anything or can I pick anything up? It’s like, I’m already going. And that wording was just so beautiful. Like, I’ve internalized that and I try to use that as well. Uh, and it’s interesting. So the idea for, uh, that little section of the book was I was talking to an agent who was super helpful, and she’s like, what’s the goal of your book? And I said, I want people to know that you don’t have to be a millionaire of an army of helpers like you can make a huge difference just on your own. And she said, well, you have to spell that out for people. You should have a little section at the end of the book. At the end of each chapter, it’s like, here’s what you do, because I had thought, like people would get it out of the stories. And, uh, that was just brilliant. And it, I think, made the book so much better.

Jean: Yeah.

Alison: It’s it’s excellent. All those little tips and, and also I’m, I reached out to the Senior Project. Uh, I had never even heard of that in your, uh, Hall of Fame, which is great, because I would love to be a grandparent to some body. Do you know, and help some child so that that Hall of Fame, uh, are those organizations that came to you or did you reach out to them or how did that come about?  It’s such a great group of organizations.

Brad: Thank you. So it’s a combination. I knew a bunch of them, uh, because just being in in the nonprofit space, uh, and then I did a lot of research. So trying to find, it’s really hard when you’re a nonprofit, like, a lot of times you have so little staff you can’t even handle volunteers. And, you know, that’s okay. And I made it my mission to find nonprofits that could handle volunteers and had a meaningful way that we could participate at different levels. So there’s the writing letters to seniors, which could be a one time event. And then there’s being an ongoing mentor, which can be, you know, years of participation. And I’ll also throw out there one that I think you might like foster care to success, where that’s for foster kids who are in college because unfortunately they have such a high rate of dropping out of school. And there’s just a lot working against you. Like if you’ve been in a foster home when you go to college, someone else takes your spot and suddenly there’s no home for you. Uh, outside of school, you might be on your own. I know a lot of the students I’ve taught have been foster youth and just the mental stress. I remember the the number one question I get is like, oh my goodness, what do I do if my roommate asks me about my family? Like, I don’t want to tell them that my mom is a drug addict and my dad’s in jail.

Brad: So they have all this stress. And what foster care to success does is they just match an adult with each foster youth that they serve in college to kind of be that person. Like, we’re going to send them a care package on their birthday. We’re going to talk to them once a week when they have the bright idea of like, I’m going to take an extra class, I can finish college early. We’re going to say, why don’t you get first you’re through your first semester first. Yeah. Uh, and like, and there was one woman who she had a scholarship that she almost lost because the business office made a $500 mistake that they blamed on her. And she was young and had no way to navigate the system was pretty much like, forget this place. But, her mentor was able to kind of call up and get through the red tape and help it work. So, I mean, and that’s a way deeper commitment than writing letters. But from what you said, I thought that might be one that was of interest to you. So I thought I’d toss it out there.

Alison: Foster care for success.

Brad: Foster care to success.

Alison: Okay.

Brad: And you could probably find it in the index of the book.

Alison: Okay, perfect.

Brad: If not, email me and I will email you their info.

Alison: So, my father and, um, you know, he had a life changing moment. And I used to bring coaches to elementary schools in LA USD, and it was this very small nonprofit. Jean helped me with it. And, um, you know, I was doing it and I felt like it was me and two other women, and Jean and I thought to myself, like, are we is anyone really care about this? And then one day, this little boy, I don’t know who he was, ran up to me and said, did you get the coach? And I said, yeah, I helped get the coach. And he hugged me so tightly and said, I always wanted a coach… Like, and I don’t know. That changed the course of it for me because it became personal, like it was this. It was faceless before, and then it became like personal because, you know, and that that was such a beautiful moment that he squeezed me so tightly. You know, it just moves me, you know, so little things like that really can change the movement.

Brad: And it should move you. I mean, that’s beautiful. Like, and every kid should have that.  Every kid should have a coach in their life, like a family member or an adult at school or someone in the community. And something that I think is important to mention is like, so often we don’t know the impact we have. And you’re wondering and like, I find this so, you know, I teach 18 to 25 year olds and the majority of them have had significant trauma in their lives. And I’ll ask them, like, there’ll be a class where I’ll ask them, like, is there something small that like, changed your life? And they’ll mention these things. Someone said, like, my fourth grade teacher knew that I didn’t have enough food at home, and she gave me the job of cleaning the blackboards, and I didn’t realize it until years later. It was because when I cleaned the blackboard, she had all this food out that I could eat, and that was her way of like, feeding me. And whenever I hear the story, I’m like, did you tell this person? And they’re always like, no, I never did, but that’s a good idea. I should, and I think so often people don’t hear it, but we’re having that impact, uh, even in the book, like a lot of the stories that are, the people didn’t realize at the time how this was changing their lives and they can’t find that person to say thank you.

Alison: Uh, what do you teach?

Brad: So I teach entrepreneurship.

Alison: Oh, that’s interesting. And, um, and those those the the mentees that you have, what what does your class give them besides just, like, steps to be an entrepreneur. Like what? What do you think it gives them self confidence or what do you think that most of these young adults need right now?

Brad: So it’s not a traditional class. Uh, so, you know, I don’t lecture. It’s not like graphs and charts. Uh, really, it’s so the young people, the young entrepreneurs I serve are very entrepreneurial. Many of them have had to be entrepreneurial to survive. They have side hustles, like, and if you’re entrepreneurial and you join this, this program, uh, basically you’re either going to start a business or if you have a business, you’re going to grow it. And, uh, what happens is like some people have a little side hustle, maybe they’ve sold 1 or 2 pieces of jewelry they made and they want to grow it. Or they love doing hair and they want to do people’s hair, or they’ve got they’re great with lashes and they want to do people’s lashes. Uh, and in the class every week, they have to commit to what they’re going to do that week, uh, to push their business forward. It’s about taking a big idea and making it doable. So one woman wanted to start a restaurant. Well, she didn’t have the money, and she wasn’t going to get the loan to open a restaurant and get the equipment. But she was great at making pies. And people loved her Kool-Aid pie. That was her specialty. So it’s like, all right, well, bake Kool-Aid pies in your house and sell it to people.

Brad: And that went really well. So then after selling it out of her house, she starts selling it to food trucks, and the food trucks would sell it. And then her next step is to sell it to restaurants. But what I try to do is take that big dream and boil it down to something really small that we can start with, and force people every week to make a commitment of what they’re going to do. And what I hear is, I’m so happy because having being forced to do something every week took it from a dream to something I actually did. And then when they’re. Applying for jobs. They have a story to tell, like so. For a lot of these students, the business isn’t going to be what supports them. But when you’re applying to jobs and you say, I have my own t shirt company and I’ve sold $5,000 worth of t shirts like that, that’s meaningful. You have a lot to talk about, and you’re learning how to sell and you learn how to be uncomfortable. So I want them to be around different types of people. We teach about business networking, and I bring in a whole bunch of old people like my age who don’t look like them, who they’re not going to be comfortable around.

Brad: I’m like, all right, we’re going to do practice some networking, and then they’re prepared for that. So and so the purpose of the class is like you’re taking these steps towards your dream, which might be you want to write a book. It might be you want that restaurant business. And we’re tracking it. And every week we have a lesson where you’re learning and implementing it towards your business, and you’re building this support network like everyone in the class gets really close. And we have these alumni events where the alumni from from years, like, you know, you get to see each other and support each other. So it’s about for some people, they have their full time gig out of it. They built a business. It’s what they’re doing. We’ve got one young man who employs six of the other kids in our program now. Uh, for some people, it’s it’s a step to a job, and for other people, it’s learning resilience because businesses don’t always succeed. And you learn that, okay, well, you’re going to try something else and you’re going to keep going. And there’s a way to learn and grow from it. Mm.

Brad: You are so inspirational. Yeah.

Brad: Oh.

Jean: Thank you. We really are. I want to tell you that I was in, uh, Canada last week, and I gave a little speech at my husband’s alma mater, which is University of Ottawa. And I cited a little quote that you said about we have its fundamental the opportunity to transform someone else’s life. I don’t know if you know that you wrote that, but I cited it to the group that I spoke to, and, um.

Alison: That’s beautiful.

Jean: People like are saying, yes, yes. And it is no small act. Like you say in your book. There’s no small act. It’s it’s all these little, small acts are really changing the world. A they go un unsung, but people like you, what Alison and I are doing. And by the way, if you’re going to do a second book, Alison, mustbe interviewed. She does so many good things. She is like an angel here. She does so many kind acts of kindness she put together, like her friend’s spouse passed away, and Allison organized and setup dinners and meals for this family.. So I could spend all evening talking about you, Alison.   But anyway, uh, are you working on another book, by any chance? Are you collecting more stories for another?

Brad: So I do have, I have I have a lot of I have tons of things. I have tons of projects that I love and want to work on. Uh, you know, the two, two books that I’d like to write next, uh, and that I’ve started, one is, you know, like stories about inspiring kids because there are so many kids who have started their own nonprofits who are making this huge impact, and there’s so many lessons we can learn from them. And I think they can inspire other kids as well. Uh, you know, from writing humankind and talking to some of the kids that I interviewed in the book and what they did, I feel like what I came away with was like, as a parent, when my child brings me an idea, sometimes I’m like, well, have you thought about this obstacle? What are you going to do if this happens? And really, what I should say is, that’s an awesome idea. What’s the first thing you can do to take that little step and get started? Uh, so so that’s one book that I’d really like to write and will write. And then another book is the the title in my head is Do Something Awesome, and it’s a book about, kind of, the little things you can do in life to get ahead. Uh, so kind of like the nuggets at the end of the book with the advice, but going beyond that to a whole bunch, like how to be a better listener, a better communicator, and that comes from so much of what I do when I’m teaching and, and, and bringing that together into a book.

Alison: I love that. I think I think those would be I think those would be great. And I find this book, uh, very spiritual. Um, I really find it. Do you have any sort of, um, um, and yet you never mention anything about, you know, typical religion or God, but do you have any sort of spiritual practice or anything that you could, you know, maybe share with us?

Brad: Absolutely. So my spiritual practice is, is, uh, and I’m laughing because it seems so minimal. I meditate for ten minutes every morning.  I feel like it just it’s funny because I’m the person who in the morning, I’m like, I got so much to do. Like, I just should just not do it. I don’t need to do it this morning.

Alison: Right.

Brad: But I feel bad if I don’t do it. It’s like it’s there’s something there that is grounding. So I do ten minutes of meditation every morning. I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, and, uh, I led the services in our temple as, as a kid. And I remember at some point what went through my head. Of course, this isn’t right for everyone, but this is like my thinking was, I spent all this time in temple. The world would be better off if I spent that time in a hospital volunteering, and for me, that’s where I wanted to be. And, I guess so that.. I remember my mom saying to me,  you were watching TV and the news was on about all this bad stuff that was happening. And you’re like, I can make more of a difference if I go out and I do something and I want to do stuff. Uh, and that’s been my outlet. And it really is just so, I find it so rewarding. I love doing it.

Alison: And you said that nurses are angels and I totally agree with that. But I think an angel is love in action. I think an angel is someone who really…and I think that’s what you are.

Brad: Oh thank you.

Alison: I really think, I really throughout this book, I felt such gentleness and vulnerability and you and, um, you know, we read a lot, a lot of books like this, you know, for our interviews and things. And what I really loved is you never talk down and you just sort of very, very much relating, um, and, uh, I was wondering, do you think this has worn off on your son?

Brad: I, you know, I don’t know. He you know, he’s a teenager now, so he would never say if it did. Right. But I think the service has worn off on him. So you know when. And I think about like, he got to be more engaged probably than than he otherwise would have been when Mia was sick. Uh, you know, I still did a lot of the service work, but if she wasn’t going to be babysitting him, I was just bringing him with me. And he was way younger than, like, everyone there. And I think it was really good for him. You think that as a little kid, they might not absorb it, but I think he absorbed a lot of it. And, uh, and so I think it was really what was going on in our life introduced him to more service than he would have otherwise seen. Uh, and I think that has had a positive influence.. As far as the book, I was shocked that, like, he has no desire to read it like his dad wrote it- when he was little, I used to tell him the stories like, oh, and there’s this person and he enjoyed hearing them, but, you know, no desire to read it. Uh, because, you know, I’m his dad, so I’m definitely not cool. And, uh, but but I think for kids like, we could tell them all we want, but for they have to see it. They have to see us living what we tell them, and they have to be engaged. And they have such a beautiful way of being engaged because they are carefree. No hesitation. Like you have a feeling as a kid you’re going to go up, right? That kid who just gave you a hug, right? An adult probably wouldn’t have done that. But the kids, they just. And that’s what people need.

Alison: Yes.

Alison: I totally I totally agree. But you know, I agree. When when my kids were teenagers, you know, they could they didn’t really even they they believe they didn’t know me. You know sometimes. But now that they’re older, I think this is a beautiful legacy that  he will have and be able to share with his with your grandchildren and his children. It’s really you did such you did such a fine job. And I’m so happy we got to meet you because you’re so nice. You’re just downright nice, Brad.

Brad: Thank you.

Brad: You guys are making me feel so good. This is this is this is a great, great end of day for me.

Alison: It’s true.

Alison: We really, um. We really just appreciate we both, while we were reading it, were like, wow, I love these stories. So thank you.

Jean: And I love that they’re not long. You can just open the book to something beautiful.  So beautiful. And, you know, I,  just thank you for taking the time to write this.

Alison: I hope when you  write the next one, we’ll talk to you again.

Brad: Absolutely. When I write the next one and I have my advanced copies, you will get some of them.

Alison: Oh, I would love that. Thank you, thank you. Really. Thank you so, so much. And, uh, give, give our love to your family.

Brad: Yes, I will.

Brad: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it, and thank you for spreading good news. Like we share that mission of getting good news out there.

Alison: Share the good.  I think there is so much power in that. And I think it’s just, I think it’s like a balm for the soul. And I really feel like that’s what people need. I know I do, you know?

Brad: Me too.

Alison: Thank you. Have a nice night.

Brad: Thanks. Have a great night.

Alison: Bye bye. Bye.

Alison: He was such a nice person, wasn’t he? Just from the minute he came on. We do these over zoom and the minute he came on, you just saw his face. Gentle, very gentle, very kind. And really, um, just wants to help. Just wants to help.

Jean: And yet he’s very passionate. He’s he’s just not as, um, you know, very I mean, he is very. It seems to me on the interview easy go lucky. But he has a very strong passion within him. So.

Alison: And I you going to read something from his book that really impressed us.

Jean: So he writes, why not think bigger than our daily routines and crossing items off our our to do list? Each of us has the power to be awesome every day. If you say to yourself, I’m going to make someone’s world better today, it will happen. All it takes is looking for opportunity, following through and that resource we all have within us. Love.

Alison: Isn’t that wonderful?

Jean: Yeah, he just has such a beautiful perception.

Alison: And also when you remember that we’re, um, my son Brady and my and my eldest child, Em was saying, um, that the thing about me that they can’t believe is that wherever we go, I just start talking to people, you know, and, um, they like that because then it shows them they were all really connected. It’s all the same, you know? And today we were going through the drive through of Walgreens, and there was a rainbow, and the man and I were talking about looking at the rainbow. And Brady was just laughing because he was like, I think you made that man’s day, like treating him. And I think that’s that’s what I think Brad is saying. Yeah, that you can do it at any moment.

Jean: That’s true. We all just want to be seen and heard and it doesn’t it doesn’t take a lot. That’s the beauty also of his book. And he offers amazing charitable organizations that that are doing excellent work. And, uh, like you said before, just a very small acts of kindness.

Alison: And you’re right at the end of his book, he has sort of like a Hall of Fame of of resources, if you are interested in helping out. And I actually looked at them and I’m, I’ve contacted one of them and I hope that over the new year I can I can do more.

Jean: So yeah. And he lastly he gives these little tips like when you think of your when you’re thinking, oh, how can I, um, do something for someone else? And he gives, he offers all these tips that just help you think outside the box.

Alison: That’s right. Which we spend a lot of time, you and me outside the box, I think, I think that’s where we live in our own box. Like outside the box. Well, we hope you enjoyed this interview. Please read Humankind. It’s it’s a real pick me up. It’s beautiful.

Jean: Right. It is indeed.

Alison: And have a great day. Bye bye.

Podcast Episode 27: David Hoffmeister

David Hoffmeister has touched the lives of thousands with his consistently peaceful state of mind, radiant joy, and dedication to Truth. He is a modern-day mystic and non-dual teacher who has been invited to 44 countries and 49 states to share the message of Love, Oneness, and Freedom. His journey involved the study of many pathways culminating in a deeply committed practical application of A Course in Miracles. David’s life is a living demonstration of the Awakened mind. This is an invitation to join him.


Alison: Okay.

Jean: Are we rolling?

Alison: We are.

Jean: Are we recording?

Alison: Yes. We’re recording. I didn’t have the microphone in, I blew it, so here we go. We’re going to do it now.

Jean: We are. Okay. Great.

Alison: It’s gonna be excellent..we’re professionals.

Jean: Not. haha

Alison:  That should be our theme at the very end.

Alison: Hi everybody. Here’s insideWink podcast. You know what we were just talking about, which I think is great, that we’ve had the opportunity to talk to so many wonderful people.

Jean: We really have…what A blessing… Yeah.

Jean: We Just do this podcast as a hobby. And it has been such a benefit to Allison and I to  meet and talk with these amazing people. And we really hope our, audience get’s some, just get something beautiful and inspiring because you know, your life just gets more elevated, more enriched and more expansive when you just allow love in. Yeah. So, that’s the the message here.

Alison: Exactly Right.

Jean: And speaking about love….

Alison: Oh my gosh, this was such an exciting interview…David Hofmeister.

Jean: Who I love. Yeah yeah, I’ve been reading his books and he’s been to my home a couple of times. So he a mystic. He is a fantastic teacher on The Course in Miracles. And I just think he is so dedicated to communicating the truth about love and how love is real. And it’s a living vibration that each one of us embodies and how to exude it. And it starts with the mind. It starts with your thoughts.

Alison: Right. He’s so he’s really so powerful. And his books are amazing. And we were just so lucky to be able to talk to him. So here he is, David Hofmeister.

David: Hi.

Jean: Hi, David. It’s so great to see you.

David: It’s great to see you again. Wonderful to come on your podcast.

Jean: Thank you.

Alison: Yes. Thank you so much for being here.

Jean: This is such a treat.

David: Oh, beautiful. Beautiful. Well, it’s always a joy to come together. I always have such fond memories of our joinings and. And all the love and joy that we’ve shared with so many people over the years. So it’s it’s great to come together.

Jean: Yes, I was just. asking Alison. I said, oh, when was the last time David was  here, was here in Los Angeles that I remember seeing you and it’s it’s been some time…

David: Yea, it has been.  I was doing a lot of world travels and then I’ve kind of… well, I’ve formed a Course in Miracles monastery about 2010. So that was like yeah 13 years ago. And then,, I mean, yeah, all six continents and 44 countries and, but it’s more just working with a smaller community… You know, how Jesus kind of settled down with the apostles and the Women’s Corps and, you know, went way down into the mind to get clear of any debris. That’s kind of what I’m I’m doing. So I’m kind of got a devoted community around me that’s, you know, kind of a little mystical community now.

Alison: Wonderful.

Jean: I love that.. I think, um, David, can you talk about for people that don’t really know The Course in  Miracles.. What is it about the Course in Miracles that really hits it home for you?

David: Well, I think it is so direct. I think I’ve just studied so many spiritualities and many different metaphysics and spiritual pathways, but it’s, it’s just so direct and focused and it seems to be the, the whole package for we’ll call it mind training or coming to that state that Jesus called judge not ..just a state of non-judgment, where you have a, you have a metaphysical system or a theology, and then you have a workbook, which is basically your practical application to practice a lesson a day. And then you have a manual for teachers. And really it  is so direct with the practical application and bringing the those metaphysical ideas into a living experience, where you feel consistent peace and you, you laugh a lot, you feel joyful a lot, a lot blissful states of mind, and then they just seem to become more and more consistent as you don’t make any exceptions to the the lessons, to the practice of the day. So I would just say it’s kind of like a spiritual psychotherapy, that’s extremely practical, and it’s very metaphysical. And even though it uses like psychological terms and educational terms and Christian terms, it’s really points at a direction that that really doesn’t fit into the boxes of typical religions. It doesn’t fit into typical theologies that would involve sacrifice and suffering, those kind of theologies. It actually is taking us toward a state of pure innocence. So it’s I found it very helpful in my lifetime..

Jean: Me too. I have been studying it over over 30 years. And it is my go to. And there is so much, uh, there’s a huge spiritual smorgasbord out there, and, I really feel, David, that after Alex passed away three years ago, that I took a deeper dive into The Course In Miracles and like you said so beautifully, that it is about no compromise. You know, I can’ judge this, but that I can judge. And I think also, that it is possible to have peace and joy consistently, even though we’re in a human and physicality, we can perceive, always choose to perceive with innocence. It’s not always easy, but that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Alison: And could you tell me what your idea is of, no private thoughts?

David: Well, I would say, there’s a part in the early part of the workbook where Jesus says, you have no private thoughts, and yet that’s all that you’re aware of. So when we think of the typical stream of consciousness, of the human being, of the average human being, it’s a stream of timeline thoughts. Stream of consciousness, and basically the private thoughts, the characteristic of them are those of the ones that that have been judged and have been judged to need to be kept hidden. And that’s why they’re called private. Um, and yet when we talk to most anybody in Spiritual Journey, they talk about authenticity. They talk about being candid, being open, and particularly in relationships, when you expose these thoughts in a place of reverence and sacredness in a, in a state of, I’m just going to allow them up and, and allow the space to allow them up and give them over to the spirit or the Holy Spirit. Then that’s where the the release comes in. So it’s not like a strict rule. It’s not like. You know, for our communities, we have two guidelines. No private thoughts and no people pleasing. And that’s just be aware if you are hiding something or protecting something. Because when we protect it, we will either try to project it and see it in the world instead of our mind, or we’ll try to repress it and and push it down in the unconscious mind.

David: And both of those dynamics, projection and repression are egoic dynamics at keeping the separation belief system alive. So that’s why we we just encourage people to feel safe enough. I mean, use discernment. You know, you don’t. It’s not about sharing every thought you have with everyone you meet. But but use the dissernment. And when you feel a trusted friend or a someone that you can feel confident in and feel that they’re they’re sharing the same purpose of, of healing in the mind, then that allows a spaciousness for these thoughts to come up and and really be released. I think for most people, they they can obviously do this directly with their higher self, with the spirit within, but sometimes they feel like the certain thoughts are highly protected and they, they need maybe a mighty companion or a trusted friend to just say, you got a moment? Can I sit down with you and just tell you some of the thoughts that are going on in my mind, and somehow that helps to loosen it to, you know, it helps to take the pressure off of of those thoughts. You’re less likely to hide them if you can share them with a trusted friend.

Alison: Even if they’re about the trusted friend, or especially if they’re about the trusted friend.

David: Yeah, I think that’s what happens in relationships. I think that’s the context for healing that The Course in Miracle you know, will call on us to meditate and to still the mind. It actually uses relationships for healing instead of just kind of say, get away from certain people or go live in a cave or, you know, live in a tree house or something. It’s saying, no, use those relationships with the spirit to to accelerate your healing.

Alison: Love that. Yeah, I get I get stuck in this loop, David, of people pleasing and feeling like it’s almost like I feel when I read A Course of Miracles, and I’m very feeling very in tune with it, I think to myself, oh, I’m not even really here. There is no separation. We’re all one. And then that leads me to maybe go… So I don’t really have needs. I don’t really have needs. So my whole goal would be to please somebody else. And yet, when I hear you say no, people pleasing and a lot of the people we talk to really are saying no, be true to yourself. And sometimes that gets a challenging loop for me. Did that make sense?

David: Yeah, yeah. I think we’re so used to growing up with, with either like a focus on our personality self or a focus on others. And sometimes when we focus on other people, like obsessively, people say, well, you’re really like, extroverted and you, you know, you’re you’re so concerned about approval and what other people think. And then the flip side is when there’s such a focus on, we’ll say, the personality self. You know, some people would say that’s like narcissism and extreme selfishness. And then you get into almost a sense of like isolation and, and who cares about anyone or anything. And I think the course is really calling us to say there’s a state of mind where you can feel connected. And it’s not really personal, you know, mystical experiences. When we have those little glimpses, we we have a direct experience that, wow, it’s so vast. It’s so huge. I never knew it was so huge. So I think that’s pretty common, those loops. But it’s great that you notice them because that’s the first step in escaping them.

Alison: Uh huh. Thanks. Well, that makes me feel good. Thank you. That’s good.

Jean: Oh, well, David, can you please shed some light on the difference between the average way of forgiving and what Jesus talks about forgiveness in The Course of Miracles. Because it’s beautiful. Very liberating. Not always, what we think, so that would be great.

David: Yeah, well, I think typical forgiveness has it’s been practiced and talked about throughout the centuries. Is very much focused on there is a behavior that is judged as a wrongdoing. Either it’s a it’s a behavior of a mission, like you should have done something that you didn’t do or that you did something that you shouldn’t have done. So it’s very personal. It’s as if the error is in the behavior, it’s in the action, and then you have to acknowledge it. But it’s still very much of a personal forgiveness. It’s like one person forgiving another person, one person who perceived they’ve been wronged, another person who seems to be the one who perpetrated the the crime or did something wrong. And so it’s a very personal sense. So in that sense, it’s acknowledging something wrong has been done. And then an attempt to let that go, to overlook it, to say, I’m going to give you a free pass here, I’m not going to hold it against you. Whereas with A Course in Miracles, it’s saying you have to forgive your brother, your sister for what they have not done in Truth. Being a purely spiritual being. Whatever behaviors have been held against them is part of a misperception of their identity. It’s like saying, you’re not spirit and and you’ve done something, and I’m interpreting a sense of abuse or victimization. I’m interpreting a mistreatment.

David: And the grievance is arising from the interpretation of the grievance. So we look at somebody like Gandhi, you know, who was always on to non-violence. And the truest nonviolent state is a state of forgiveness, where you you come to a higher interpretation of yourself, of your brothers and sisters and of the whole world. And from this higher interpretation, you actually see from above, from above the battleground that there there was no, there was no grievance, there was no trespass. There was it was a misperception. It wasn’t something that was actually real and true. It was just a misperception. And then you you let it go. So forgiveness in this sense,  a Course in Miracles sense,  is always a gift to yourself, meaning to your mind. You’re just releasing judgments and misinterpretations from your mind and coming back to this pristine presence. That is how we were created. The I am Presence. And as we move into I-am-ness then of course, Jesus is a good example of that. Before Abraham was I am. Look at the grammar of that sentence,  before Abraham was I am. He’s he’s actually saying that when you forgive you, you go prior to the belief in the offense, you go, you go into this pristine state where all is one, all is connected, all is unified. And of course, that’s  the ultimate goal is to remember our love, our oneness, our spirit.

Jean: That’s beautiful.

Alison: That is beautiful. I think when you say that some of the people that we’ve talked to, have the perception that they’ve experienced something heinous and they’ve had really, on an egoic sense, some very traumatic experiences of abuse…. One mother’s child was in a shooting and didn’t survive. So when when I hear you say that, I want to know that  is so. And yet, I wonder what they would say? Do you know..?? And what do you do with that sort of thing? Like if a woman’s being literally physically abused by something,  the challenge there for them to say, I’m rising above it and it’s not really happening, I think must be very difficult?

David: Yeah. I think the biggest thing that people have to face on the spiritual journey is, is we’ll just call it even definitions.  Because when we take what our five senses present to us as a fact, then right away, it gets difficult immediately, because Jesus is teaching us in The Course that perception is a mirror, not a fact. It’s giving meaning to something like that’s the the second lesson in the workbook– “I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me.” So, when you go for healing, you have to start to realize that when I perceive anything– abuse, neglect, mistreatment in any shape, in any form, could be something that’s happening to a child. Could be the Holocaust, could be, you know, any scale. It could be on a global scale like, World War one or World War two…and it could be something like even somebody who frowns at you, you’re going through life la la la la, you’re having a happy day. And then around the corner and then you get a look and a frown and then that kind of throws you off. Your day is not so happy when you see the frown, but that’s a perception, that’s an interpretation. So what I work with people on is, is basically saying, don’t try to deny the body, don’t try to deny what you’re perceiving. Your five senses were  made up by the ego to keep you asleep, to put a veil of images. You know, like the Bible said, “hold no graven images for the Lord thy God.” Well, he wasn’t just talking about gold and totem poles. He was talking about the whole cosmic image thing that we’re dealing with, you know, the whole cosmos. But but what it is, once you start to see, wow, I’m never reacting to what I’m perceiving with the five senses. I’m reacting to what my mind is interpreting ABOUT what’s happening, what what the five senses are showing me. So A Course In Miracles is just saying, you always have a choice of your interpretation. You can always choose to line up with the Holy Spirit, with your higher self and intuition in any moment, no matter what the situation is. You always have that option, and it takes so much mind training to do that. It’s not like we’re trying to gloss over anything we’re saying, wow, this is a lifelong journey of training your mind to that higher perspective to say, help me see it with you, Spirit.  Show it to me through your eyes. So we’re not trying to deny what we’re perceiving, but we are saying that that we want to train ourselves on how to interpret what we’re seeing. So for me, it was one thing to read The Course, I read it for like, I read it for like an average of eight hours a day for like two and a half years. And then when I really started traveling and following intuition and guidance and going to all these countries, some of the countries, I didn’t even speak the languages…

David: It was a walk of trust. I didn’t know how I was going to have my next meal or where I was going to sleep, but what it did was, it really helped me focus on my interpretations. What am I judging?  Where am I coming up with fearful interpretations and then being willing to release them and just trust that everything was going to work out? And so, it’s not about trying to reach people and basically say that your perception or your belief that you’ve been harmed is the problem. It’s really bringing it back to your own mind and, and saying, If I’m not peaceful, then I need to look at at my interpretations and judgments and hand them over. So when I traveled, basically, I kept hearing Jesus telling me over and over, it’s your lesson, It’s your lesson… I’d say, but but yeah, yeah.. It’s your lesson. It was like a broken record. It’s your lesson.  Is it ever not my lesson? No.  It’s always your lesson. And that actually helps you speed up with the forgiveness, because then you’re not trying to figure out what somebody else should have done or shouldn’t have done, or should have said or shouldn’t have said you. You’re inner directed that way and I think that helps you take responsibility for your state of mind.

Alison: It’s so funny you brought up that up..the first time I did the workbook, I had such a hard time with that lesson about looking at a picture of my children and thinking like, you know, when it says, look around the room. And I would look everywhere except on the bureau. I’d be like, yeah, that lamp. Okay, that thing. And then, it took the second and third time to be able to look at a picture of something that I thought was so meaningful And let it know that that’s just my perception that I remember that that makes me laugh that you brought that up because that was hard.

David: Yeah, yeah…the first time doing that lesson, everyone remember that..yea. hah

Alison: Looking everywhere else. Oh, shoes. Okay. You know this that, but not you know.

Jean: I think David, you gave a great story of a nun, doing A Course In Miracles… And she says, okay, the habit doesn’t mean anything, and this bracelet doesn’t mean anything, but the statue of Jesus on the table , well that does mean something… hahah

David: Yeah, just skip over that one.

Jean: Right.

David: That’s just assume to be real.

Alison: Yeah. David, living in your community with these people, that sounds so wonderful… Does conflict ever arise?

David: Oh yeah. I think when you start to see the depth of how deep this ego belief system is…. somebody recently asked me that. They said, do you ever have any conflict in the community? I said, oh, it comes up on a daily basis because we have a number of people. I think by the time we all come together into one place, it’s maybe around 40 people or so,  but basically it’s not just with within the community, of course, you have interactions with, with neighbors, with at grocery stores or at laundromats or, you know, at the market or whatever. And these things are just the unconscious darkness coming up for healing release. So, yeah, I think a lot of times people try to idealize it. And, and there is a strong focus on forgiveness because it’s a very strong shared purpose. But I think when you have a shared purpose, then the unconscious darkness can come up even faster. It can be more accelerated. So instead of being just la dee da dee da dee da, it’s it’s can get very intense. But the willingness to choose again, the willingness to choose the miracle gets stronger and stronger.

Jean: Yeah. I love that you said that. Choose again because, I think Jesus says In the Course, I’m not sure David, the ego speaks first and loudest?

David: Yes, yes.

Jean: So you get that hit.  And then it’s like, if you’re advanced, just go, whoa… That was that was a thought. And to pause. Take a breath. And if you are a Course in Miracles student, right away you’re like– Okay, this is coming from my mind, my interpretation. What’s going on here?  Otherwise most people just move into– Hey, what are you doing… and there’s conflict..,

David: Defensiveness.

Jean: So I like that you say shared purpose. Because I know if I’m working on my healing of my mind. And it’s a shared purpose. And I can share with Allison. Oh, this is what came up. And I feel so yucky that this came up.  Alison is is a great companion for me. And we’re so blessed to have a friendship that we can celebrate, you know, the healing that we’re both going through and support each other.

Alison: That’s right, that’s right. I had a question about…I don’t know how to really put this, so that I don’t seem stupid to you, but there’s a perception, right? There’s a judgment.  When someone gets sick, what is that? And did they?.. You know, we hear two schools of thought– stuff happens and God and Forgiveness and Love gives you a way of healing, of dealing with it and healing through it. And you create everything. Everything. So almost sick mind, sick body. Could you explain what you think of that?

David: Yeah. I think well, the context for looking at that is that the workbook of A Course in Miracles is, is really focused on helping there be a recognition or a realization between what’s perceived as an inner world of thoughts and beliefs and an external world. So when the question comes in about internal states of mind or internal sickness, unhappiness, jealousy, envy, whatever sadness and external sickness which can seem like a cancer or heart disease, you know, a broken leg, so on and so forth, that the mind training of A Course in Miracles is designed to bring about a realization that my thoughts are images I have made, and that what seems to be an internal world of thought, cognition and thinking, and an external world of images are actually identical. That there is no gap between that internal and external. There is no gap between the observer and the observed, or the subject and the object. They become completely unified in this unified state of awareness. And that’s where the healing is. So healing is really it seems to be a process in time, but it’s actually just the state of being, where you come back and you go, Ah, and you, you feel the connectedness. And in that connectedness, that unified awareness is the healing. So when we… There’s a great line in the course of miracles that says, where Jesus says, “The mind was sick,that thought the body could be sick.” That’s a very deep line. The mind WAS sick. There’s the past tense word. The mind WAS sick. The thought the body could be sick.

David: So what he’s teaching us there, is sickness is a wrong minded perception. He’s basically teaching us there’s two-   a split mind, which is what the separation is. The split mind… Ego and spirit. He calls wrong mindedness and right mindedness. Right mindedness sees that everything is in the mind, and all is whole and all is complete and all is well. Wrong mindedness fragments the world into pieces and then it tries to take a piece, Let’s say this pen and it tries to say, oh, this pen is today is showing symptoms, you see. It’s just first of all, it’s generated a pen apart from other images. And now it’s saying that the image, we’ll say the body having symptoms, is is how the world defines sickness. And of course, our medical model then would go into trying to study what’s wrong, what’s what’s going on internally. Is it cancer? Is it, you know, is it a virus? Is it the flu? Is what is it? So basically, it comes back to what I was talking about earlier, is you start to realize, that what needs to be healed is just perception. You want unified holistic perception instead of fragmented perception. And when you already perceive a sickness as being, we’ll say in a body or having to do with symptoms, that’s a wrong minded perception. And it’s always healed through a miracle, of a holistic way of looking at the world. So the key thing is to start to realize is that there is no world apart from the perceiver.

David: There’s a workbook lesson 132 where Jesus is saying, “There is no world apart from what you think.” And then he actually goes even one step further and says, “there is no world.” It’s a perceptual hallucination based on fragmentation. But the way we heal it, is we have to see it in a holistic way. And so Jesus just saw the world in a holistic way. And, the dead rose up, and the blind could see, and the lame could walk. Those are symbols. But when people go, wow, Jesus, raised the dead and healed the sick. And I say, well, even with Lazarus, yes, Lazarus was his friend. He raised him. He literally called him out of the the grave. He said, “Lazarus, come forth.” But I said, what you don’t read around in the Bible is that, even though Lazarus came out for Jesus that day with Mary and Martha his sisters there, later on he died. He died again. You see, nobody talks about that… Oh, Jesus rose him from the dead, and then he died again.  Because bodies come and go. Symptoms come and go. But it’s the holistic perception that is really what the healing is. So it just shows it’s not really ever about the symptoms. It’s about what am I thinking and what interpretation am I giving to the world? Is it a holistic, miraculous perception or is it a fragmented perception? And that’s the key. That’s the key right there.

Alison: Okay.

Alison: So do you think Covid the pandemic was really saying something about where as a collective, the world’s energies are?  Or do you think, it was like, well, there is no individual. But like what did you what did you make of that? That we all lived through that..that  we went through that? Or was it just like another.. that’s just our perception?

David: Yeah. For me, it was it was just okay, I can just flow through this in a guided way and follow my intuition like I would with anything else. Even if a war breaks out in the Middle East, even if a pandemic seems to sweep across the globe, I still am responsible for my interpretations and my perceptions. And then you start to see, it’s really about following the guidance, because there were people, obviously, that felt to do a little bit of traveling if they could, if they weren’t in lockdown and then they had to be guided. Sometimes they had to have a little vaccine card to get into a country, or you start to see they’re all just symbols, so you don’t jump on a bandwagon and say, oh, this is good, or this is bad, or this is evil and this is good. You know, you just start to say, I’m going to just keep flowing with my inner guidance here and let the spirit use the symbols for me to extend love wherever I go. And it takes it away from the pandemic being like a thing because there was the Spanish flu, you know, right at the turn of the century there there have been regional conflicts, world wars, even during the World war. And Fatima, you know, Mother Mary appears in Fatima to these three children and basically tells the children, “pray!” Jesus and Mary are saying, please pray…there’s there’s a war going on here. And please, please use your mind, the power of your mind to to come into peace and radiate that peace. So to me, I don’t see it so much in terms of the specific things that happen. It’s more just, okay, I need to follow my guidance. That’s what’s here. And now for me.

Alison: Thank you for that… That’s great.

Jean: Yeah. I also think that that following your guidance is so beautiful because you have to be still and listen to  that still small voice. And also, you’re not giving your power away. You know wha might be right for Alison, might not be right for me. I was guided to travel to help my mother in New York. So, you know, you were not guided to travel during the pandemic, you know, and  I think that really underscores the fact that we are all of God, that that we all have our innate divinity, sovereignty, and of, The Course In Miracles honors that.

David: Yeah, yeah, that the curriculum is highly individualized. And of course, because of that, that the guidance has to be highly individualized.  While we believe in separate individuals, then we need a practical way to reach us spirit, and that is through inner guidance and intuition. And then as we keep practicing, we can go into vast mystical experiences which transcend the personal and give us a glimpse that there’s something more than this mask, than this little suit of flesh. There’s something much greater. But we have to come toward that. And I like how Jesus says, you know, you have to go through the darkness to the light. And he does tell us, he says, bring the darkness in your mind to the light within. He’s not really teaching us to spiritualize matter. Even though we have a whole history of trying to spiritualize sacred rivers, sacred people, you know, sacred ceremonies, you know, we always try to bring the oneness into the form and say, oh, this is sacred. And then wars break out over sacred temples.

David:  All this belongs to the Muslims? No, it belongs to the Jews. You know, the when we try to spiritualize matter, we’re going in the wrong direction. Jesus is saying, bring your beliefs and your concepts and your false ideas to the light and they will disappear. Don’t try to bring the light into the darkness. Bring the darkness to the light. So if there’s one thing that anyone gets from the course, if they just got that, yeah, that would be a great practice. Then they can just live an intuitive life and practice bringing the darkness to  the Light, you know, and and wake up. Yeah.

Jean: Right. That’s so funny you say that, David, when Alex and I took our  last family trip..Well, second to last family trip.. we went to Jerusalem. And we were in the Old City and following where Jesus, you know, the sign of the cross, right? And then someone would say, well, over here is where the Greek Orthodox feel he was buried. But over there is where the Israelites felt he was buried.

David: Competing death sites, burial sites.

David: Well, sounds like you had some fun. That’s the best part. When you can go and have a good laugh, right? Oh, my God, this is ridiculous.

Alison: Yeah.

Jean: David, one of the things I really love, how you teach A Course in Miracles, because it can be a little intellectual, which I do like that part. But you also have a beautiful way of making it fun by showing movies.  And taking a movie, breaking it down and showing how the ego is, weaving its way through. That’s such a great way. Are you finding that to be still what you’re doing? Because you did that once at my home.  And I’ve seen you do a few online. I saw you do, Harry met Sally and…

David: Yeah.

Alison: Any good movies lately?

David: I have, I came down here to Mexico and I started to get this intuitive feeling that I was to go see this movie, but it wasn’t here. And then when it came, it was dubbed into Spanish, which doesn’t help me because I don’t know Spanish. So I waited patiently a few days, and then it was in English with Spanish subtitles, and it was called, Hypnosis with Ben Affleck, Ben Affleck in Hypnosis. And it was such… I went to the movie theater with three friends and it was so mystical.  We could barely walk when we were leaving. We  kind of went into such a state of mind, because it was all.. Speaking about a child being abducted or kidnapped, a father’s love for his child, the pursuit of trying to to find the child. You know, it was it had all the action adventure. But but as it as the movie moved along, it brought in the the topic of hypnosis, of the power of the mind and that that what was perceived through the senses is, is a distortion or deception, and that hypnosis can be used to bring artificial constructs to make it seem as if things are happening and seem as if things are a certain way. So it was, you know, using the whole idea of hypnosis. And as he went deeper into it, we started to realize that the main character starts to realize he has powers of the mind that he’s shocked and surprised about, and the woman that he meets  also does.

David: And then it goes all the way. It goes all the way to the daughter that he believes was taken. She ends up having to have this extremely powerful mind. And it’s a reunification of the family scene of the father, the mother and the daughter at the end, through the the daughter’s powerful mind of her wish for connection, her wish to go past the distortions, brings everybody really together, brings the family back together, even through the power of her mind. But she was very, she was young when she was taken, and then she some years passed, a few years passed, and then her powers, Psychic powers. So it gets into not only telepathy, which is kind of reading people’s thoughts, but it gets more into psychokinesis, too, which is people talk about moving objects with the power of their mind. There was one time when I was reading this book that Ken Wabnik wrote called Absence from Felicity, and Helen Schucman, the scribe of A Course of Miracles, was just pondering one day she was pondering with Jesus.. Like she said, I don’t understand where astrology meets with the power of the mind?

David: She said, what does the the movements of the planets and the spheres have to do with the lives of men and women and children on the planet? How how are the the movements of the planets tied in with the movements and the interactions of human beings? And Jesus said, well, your mind is so powerful. It’s moving all those 6 billion people, and behind it it’s moving all the spheres and stars in direct proportion. I just, I rolled off the bed when I read that, I just fell on the floor. I was like, oh my God, the mind is that powerful. And when it believes in the ego, it projects a world and it moves the spheres and the people in very much a synchronized way. So that’s why astrology, astronomy correlates with the lives of men and women. It’s because the mind underneath.. And this movie Hypnosis really had that feeling. Toward the end, you could start to see that the bodies were all moved around and all the the circumstances were just like movie sets that the mind had set up, and it had to escape from this interpretation of them being real. So it turned them to be extremely deep movie. I probably could watch it five times and do commentary on it five different times. It was so good.

Alison: Let’s watch.

Jean:  Yeah.

Alison: Thank you. Thank you so much for that.

Jean: David, do you have, after all these beautiful years of you teaching and Being Love, do you have a favorite Course in Miracles line or lesson that you love, or that you always go to? 

David: I think for years, the one workbook lesson that I would just kind of go back to and I even I made a YouTube video of it. It’s called, “I Rest in God.” And it’s so mystical and deep that a lot of people tune in and I think they just watch that, that meditation I did on that one because it was so helpful. So and of course, the introduction of the course, “Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists, herein lies the peace of God”, that is so powerful, because it just pulls you inward, toward the Light, away from these imaginings like imaginations of of fear and terror, just takes you into the to that which cannot be threatened to our spiritual reality. So I always loved the the introduction too.

Jean: Beautiful. I love that too. I will share with you that when Alex made his transition, I was there with him and I said that very prayer.

David: Oh, beautiful. That’s beautiful. Yeah, that’s so sweet. So what a beautiful idea to share prayer. Yeah. That’s beautiful.

Alison: Well, thank you so much. You’ve been such a treat.

Jean:  I have a couple of your books, David. But I want to just let you know that  this book that you wrote, Awakening through a Course of Miracles”… it really read me. I woke up, it called me every morning, and it was really so helpful. And your life has been such a blessing to my life and I really appreciate you.

David: Oh.

David: Thank you. And it’s just you’ve been such a blessing in my life. And  it was just beautiful to meet you both here in this way, with such a beautiful topic of , The Course in Miracles and healing and generosity and happiness, wanting to extend that with everything and everyone. So that’s that’s a very high calling. It’s fun to talk about.

Alison: Thank you so much. Yeah.

Jean: Anything, You know, David,  if you would like to say anything to close out and also David you if you’re in LA, I would love to see you and watch a movie ..

David: Great. Yeah.

David: Get put on a movie we can rent… Rent a movie or download a movie and have a good time..

David: Right now, It’s kind of like I’m down in Mexico, but I’m going to Mexico City on the 25th, I think it is, and down over to Monterrey on the 18th. But so I’m, I’m doing a couple things this month that I haven’t done for quite a while, which is just walk into a big metropolitan city and, and just open up and show going to show a movie, both like an all day thing with a movie in the evening. So that’s just a great joy for me, because I really love to to be there and just feel the questions and interact with everybody. And so it’s kind of a treat for me to kind of get out and be amongst the people and have good Spanish translators with me. So can I can survive. That helps.

Alison: That’s funny. That’s so great. I think that sounds like that would be so much fun.

David: Yeah, I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to it because it’s I just like to be out there among the people and, and and it’s like a revival. We they share their emotions and the tears and we, you know, we’re all in the healing energy, the healing vibe and and that love and connectedness. And I love that. Yeah.

Alison: Well, you are that…Just talking to. I feel like talking to you, I feel like I’m in a nice warm bath. Very comforting and beautiful.

David: Oh that’s beautiful I love it. That’s that’s my function to be the Light of the world. So, just let it come through me, you know, that’s… I try to just let it come through.

Alison: Yeah. And when you were talking about Jesus earlier, I don’t know if you could see it, all of a sudden, your screen, all these balloons went up..

David: I did- I don’t know how that that happens to me occasionally now. And I’m kind of pleasantly surprised, but I think that’s that’s a nice special effects -that I’m not planning.

Alison: Jesus liked what you were saying. Yeah.

Alison: He sent the party.

David: That’s it… Balloons like a big like a big party.

Alison: That’s right. Thank you so much, David.

David: Yeah. Thank you.

Alison: Have fun in Mexico City.

David: Yeah, I will, I will.

David: Beautiful. God bless you. If I get to LA, I will definitely make contact. Okay.

Jean: Great. Bye. Bye bye. Thank you for everything.

David: Oh, you’re so welcome.

Alison: So what did you think, Jean?

Jean: Well, you know, he hits it out of the ballpark. He’s just so clear about the mission of A Course in Miracles — which is forgiveness and being non judgmental.

Alison: And I love the fact that he talked about the private thoughts.

Jean: Yes. And people pleasing.

Alison: Right. People pleasing. Yeah.

Jean: I think it’s hard. It’s hard even to recognize if you’re a people pleaser and it takes– you have to really develop self awareness to go, wow, did I give my power away? There was I, why did I do that? And it takes, I think, courage sometimes to to look at that and actually to change it. And because we don’t want to disappoint people, especially people we love.

Alison: Right. You don’t want to disappoint them. And sometimes we act not in our best interest, you know, not to disappoint somebody else. And there’s really a balance that we can achieve. And I love that he talks so much about forgiveness and that you the it’s your it’s your perspective. It’s your perception, you know, and and love and that we’re all really connected, you know. Yeah. Truly. It’s so and right now in the world I love hearing that.

Jean: Very much so. And he talks, like when he says, you know, we we join together right.. When the because there’s only one mind. It looks like it looks like there’s what 7.5 billion or something. I don’t even know the number but it’s we’re really one. So there are no private thoughts. And certainly we all have thoughts and things in our life. But inviting the power of love to shift your perception of a situation and is so powerful, and you can feel that if you’re feeling off in your day, if you’re feeling resentful or blame, shame, regret, really take a moment and try to acknowledge what you’re thinking about without judgment. Give yourself that gift too and invite in your angels or the Holy Spirit you know. Just invite them in some help to help shift your perception..

Alison:  And scene.

Jean: Thank you.

Alison: That was beautiful, Jean. I think that is so true. That’s a great that’s a great way to put it. Just let love shift the perception. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Well that’s a good takeaway.

Jean: On that happy note. Yeah.

Alison: Thank you. Thank you so much for joining in. And we hope you enjoyed David Hofmeister.

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