A dream with encouragement and a message about Wonder Anew

I took this photograph at Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL in August 2015.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Today I saw "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," film about Fred Rogers and a journalist who profiled him and was changed by his journalistic relationship and then friendship with Fred Rogers. Simply, the movie is an adult version of the children's program, Mister Rogers. Watching reminded me of a dream I had that inspired a larger aspiration for my Wonder Anew listening work. Four years ago, I wrote about that dream.

August 2015, a new direction for Wonder Anew

I have a pair of well-worn swamp-walking boots to traverse some of the richest, deepest muck of my life. (And like all others, I know life’s muck.)

What is special is my view of muck as a mysteriously beautiful invitation of possibility and growth. 

It's a view with boundless expansion.

Rather than getting stuck in fearful flailing, I decided to practice putting one foot in front of the other towards goodness and growth without the luxury of knowing results. I married process. I aspire to live like everything is okay, that everyone and everything is my friend. When needed, I open cracked doors of unresolved experiences using the new Wonder Anew process, a process that provides a better understanding of my stunting beliefs, thoughts, words, and behavior patterns. I am open to seeing myself anew.

I commit to any unresolved muck walking in conjunction with updating my website. I join a group of others creating their own projects. On a group call, one asks, “What if you ask your future self to write a testimonial of the new Wonder Anew as if you were Mister Rogers?”  

Mister Rogers? I felt Jungian synchronicity.

Because about the time I received that Mister Roger's question, my husband's sister, my sister-in-love Mariclare (Clare) Barrett, passed on after an arduous, brave wrestle and dance with metastatic breast cancer. (In the last year, Clare and I recorded audio memos including a few stories about her friendship with Fred Rogers.)

Clare visits in June. 

So Clare was on my mind and in my heart. As was Mister Rogers. Now, it will make sense when I tell you that Mister Rogers visited me in a dream and suggested I shift Wonder Anew’s focus. Really.

But it gets better.

Guess who was with Mister Rogers? (You’ll never guess.)

Leonard Cohen.

I know.
Mister Rogers looks me in the eye and then as if he’s adapted a private message from his US Senate appearance, says something like adults need help caring for themselves. 
And then, as if they rehearsed this, Cohen leans over Fred’s shoulder singing, “Forget your perfect offering, There’s a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” In an antiphonal duet, Mister Rogers in his familiar slow-cadence voice empathetically says, “Everyone has cracks. Your cracks are special. No one has cracks like yours,” while Cohen punctuates the message with other lines from the Anthem tune.
After the song, they glance over at me, where I then turn around thinking they're looking at someone else. 
They’re looking at me. But behind me are all these other people. Like I'm the woman in the front row of that flash-dance Back Eyed Peas moment that surprised Oprah. It feels like the others are also waiting to talk to Fred and Cohen, which helps hasten my clarity: listen to peoples’ stories and light up their tender hearts. Start with your heart.
Mister Rogers, who apparently reads thoughts, says: "That's right, Susan. Light up your heart first, and let your heart continue to lighten as you listen to others." 
(I think he’s saying that growth is a lifelong process of facing our hurts as a way to reconnect with our basic inner goodness. Helping others feel their illumination starts with my own heart.)
Remember, this is a dream.
And a duet. 
Cohen sways around with his guitar and sings, "Every heart to love will come."
Oh my gosh. Pinch me. I know that lyric. Is he, will he?
Cohen’s gravelly, old-as-time voice sings Hallelujah.
The entire song, I kid you not.
The dream ends.
I lie in bed reflecting on this gift of a dream. Maybe ongoing personal change is living hallelujah to hallelujah. Hmmm. I think that thought could only be possible after a Rogers and Cohen dream.
So, hallelujah, Wonder Anew is changing.
Rather than others saying and illustrating one-line statements of personal change, people face, write, and share short stories about the process of personal change. 
Stories and images from people willing to be gut-honest and spunky-real about what’s happening in their lives, what works, what’s not working, a willingness to be with feelings, especially the tough ones, and getting clear about what they notice about their relating patterns, habits, and responses. Listening to people who are just beginning to process a difficulty or something new or unfamiliar, some who are in the mucky middle, and some who tell from confidence and wisdom that can only come from study, reflection, and unraveling experiences in transformative ways.
The telling heals and unveils and ultimately makes space for new.
And sharing? The act of submitting a personal process acknowledges the willingness it takes to see ourselves just as we are and the flexibility to transform what we learn to change our lives. Sharing in that regard epitomizes benefitting others.
With love and wonder,

Notes, 11/29/19
Though I attribute "Every heart will come to love" as a lyric in Hallelujah, it's a line in Anthem
Leonard Cohen's Anthem inspired my use of Wall Photographs throughout my website. 

Pema Chodron introduces a talking + listening practice activity

Image: young children talk and listen. Susan Michael Barrett, photo credit.

At a meditation retreat, Pema Chodron invited us to practice listening fully and talking genuinely from our heart. 

I'm sharing the activity here because if you're like me, practicing helps me be a better partner, mom, and grandmother. I know the struggle to listen and talk openly and honestly and the effort it takes to quiet my mind in order to hear myself or another.

I believe there are no greater gifts we give than to listen and talk with genuineness. 

It takes tremendous staying power to listen. So I want to practice. 

Pema's activity is meant for groups. This is how it works:

  • A leader invites participants to pair up. 
  • Preferably, choose someone you do not know or do not know well. 
  • Decide who will be the listener to begin. The listener will ask a question and the answerer will answer. 
  • After 4 minutes, stop and switch roles. Now, here is the important part, There's no response from the person listening (which is a good response in itself).
I realize the potential in this exercise. Listening helps us become familiar with habitual responses. I get to practice not fixing another, or composing my own response while another is talking and I'm pretend-listening, or zoning out if what the person says is too hard to bear or hear. 

The goal is to be there and listen. 

When it's my turn to talk, I get to practice talking from my heart (not necessarily disclosing secrets). Genuine talk.

The leader says, "The conversation does not begin until you find a partner and you can see I am skillfully not giving you the question you will talk about yet. She reminds us of our tendency to talk to each other, back and forth. This activity isn't that type of exchange. The listener just listens and doesn't say anything. 

Now that we're ready, here is the question: What are you afraid of?"

Participants begin the practice.

After 4 minutes, a noise to stop is made by the leader and participants shift roles.

There is another 4 minutes of listening and genuine talk practice.

The exercise concludes by offering 3 minutes for both to say whatever needs to be said.

(Note: Writing originally published 10/7/10 after retreat at Omega, 2010.)