New offerings from Releasing the Force!

We are very excited to offer three new experiential programs to fit your needs.  These are:

  1. The Something Squad 
    1. For people who want to do something about the current state of our country (state, city), but may not yet know what.  Or maybe you have some sense about the what, but don’t know how to go about it – or how to fit it into the circumstances of your life.
    2. Or people who are already doing something, but want to do something more.
    3. Look at the Something Squad page for more details.
  2. The Jedi Training Camp
    1. For people who want to pull out the stops, really go for it.  Appropriately demanding to meet the requirements of being a Jedi.
    2. Also, though, you make a commitment to keep intact the Big Four:
      1. work
      2. family
      3. exercise
      4. sleep
    3. More details at the Jedi Training Camp page.
  3. No Charge Recharge offerings
    1. Recharge social hour
      1. at an appropriate beverage house, open to
        1. participants in the first two offerings
        2. comrades – people out in the trenches doing the work, who would like the social support and recharge
        3. interested others who want a taste of what we are doing
    2. Comrades in arms
      1. Facilitated connecting and recharge time for people already doing the work
    3. Details on both of these at the No Charge Recharge page.

Kinship with All Life

If you believe that our connection with other species keeps us in balance, read on. If you experientially know that the dogs and cats in our lives offer us healing, see the movie The Shape of Water. shape of waterThe moviemakers also know these truths and display them in a powerful and beautiful way. (The movie is up for several Oscars and should be playing in most major markets until the Oscar show on March 4.)

If all this speaks to you, I would also encourage you to read Kinship with All Life, written by J. Allen Boone . 798828 (Originally published way back in 1976 – and first read by me in 1977 – it has been nicely reprinted and is available on Amazon and at many independent booksellers like Malaprop’s in Asheville.)  The writer was a free-lance journalist who frequently dog sat for Strongheart the famous movie”Wonder dog”.

Strongheart – born in Germany in 1917, died after a movie studio fire in Hollywood in 1929.

He became convinced that Strongheart sent and received psychic communication and went on a national journey to discover and describe animal-human communication.  He’s a very good writer.



Women’s Power

I’ve heard that some right-wingers have complained that the most recent Star Wars movie (#8 – The Last Jedi) “has too many women”.  There sure are lots of powerful, skillful, heroic women on board – probably more than in any previous Star Wars movie.  They include:

  • the seasoned, wise Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher regrettably in her last movie role), now grown into General Organa Carrie Fisher 2
  • Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) – grounded, powerful, wise, heroicLaura Dern
  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) – the young woman, the rise of the new generation of Jedi.Daisy Ridley 2

The time is right for this movie – we need women’s power more than ever. Another recent movie character. the quintessentially evil Richard Strickland (played by Michael Shannon) in The Shape of Water, demonstrates what awfulness can happen when unbalanced white male patterns run out of control – unchecked by women’s power.  (See the movie if you can – preferably on the big screen, it’s so beautiful – to see how this works out. It will probably be around until the Oscars,)  We have examples all around us of this out-of-balance men’s power: Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, John Kelly, Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein.  The list goes on and on.

We need women’s power and wisdom to get us as a society back into balance.  We also obviously need courageous and wise male leaders like Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, John McCain (on a good day).  But we especially need leaders like Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama
The new official portraits of Barack and Michelle

Elizabeth Warren2012 Massachusetts Democratic Endorsing ConventionOprah WinfreyOprah Winfrey Kamala Harriskamala harrisand Ellen DeGeneresellen 2to name a few – people who do not carry our out-of-balance male conditioning.

My non-denominational church has for 25 years been led by two white men.  They have done fabulous things – have been heroic leaders in their own right, have created a very beautiful spiritual community and kept it vibrant for 25 years.  But I believe that the leadership that will take us into our next chapter is going to need to be female.

Our regular minister is on sabbatical right now and last week our service was led by two amazing young women:

Cathryn and Lauren

  • The radiant, adorable, extremely funny Lauren Fortuna (on your left) as celebrant
  • The brilliant, powerful Cathryn Zommer doing the preaching.

Give yourself 60 minutes to feast on the attached audio, in one sitting if you can, it will be more coherent – but that’s not necessary.  Listen while you are walking the dog or on the treadmill, while you are cooking dinner, etc.  Enjoy.

Jubilee 2/11/18

Liberation among co-workers

Today, at a rare slow moment in the store, three of us grocery workers were kibbitzing at the front desk.  I had actually missed the first part of the conversation, but as I came up one of the workers who I really admire was saying, “The company may treat us like shit, but we love each other.”

I sometimes think it’s a good company and sometimes less so, but it is clear to me that my co-worker relationships make my experience what it is.  My customer relationships too, but the co-workers is the real base.  And, blessedly, in our store we mostly love each other.

The obvious topic here is “Power to the People” – and I will go into that in some depth in another post – but here I want to follow up on my last post about men and women to look at men and women working together.

Tom and Bob
Tom with his dying brother Bob, who passed a couple of weeks ago.  Tom was devoted to Bob, who taught him a lot about dancing and performing with people who have huge physical and speech limitations.
with Tom
At my 71st birthday party.  Tom is one of the best and least homophobic friends I have known.

My friend Tom Kilby likes to talk about “creepy old guys”, which we agree we both are, him 60 and me 70 working with a lot of attractive young women.  Each of us has horniness, each of us is susceptible to sexual thoughts and feelings about co-workers – and here we are working in close proximity to each other, bumping into each other, exchanging sometimes extended hugs.  What to do with all this?  What keeps it from crossing into a toxic zone?

Four things I have learned from Tom:

  1. He sees women’s inner beauty.  He has described women as beautiful that I would not have thought of this way – but I then started to after he said it.
  2. He loves to use the word “brilliant” to describe a person or something they did or something that happened.  He frequently will describe a female co-worker as brilliant.  He affirms them.  He sees their intelligence.  He admires them.
  3. He wants to know more about them – he craves opportunities to learn more about them.  He soaks up everything he can in little two-minute encounters in the grocery aisles. He will leap at any opportunity to go watch them perform (many of our co-workers are poets or musicians or dancers or artists).
  4. He is the least homophobic straight guy I know.  The creep factor is kept tamped down because he is as interested in guys as women.  He wants to know about us, wants to play as we work together, wants to support our art.

Oh, there’s so much more to learn about us working together, men and women. I don’t want to stop writing about this yet, but I think it actually is a good place to stop.  I love Sherri Lynn and Pierce and Kelly and Sepi and so many more.  I think there will probably be several more blog posts about this.

Oh now, working and being friends with transgender colleagues – of which we have several at work, just the ones I know about…there’s a learning edge for me.  Let’s save a blog post for that :).


Appreciating a woman’s appearance

(Why, in a post about women’s appearance, have I included no pictures – no images?  I think I am scared, nervous about this whole topic, a tad defensive.  But I love adding photos to my blog posts – they make the text come alive.  What might be a helpful image – non-oppressive, opening?  I’m going to search around.)

When, in a customer service role, is it appropriate – or even helpful – to validate a woman customer’s appearance? I think I’ll save co-workers, which has been the focus of so much national news, for a whole other post.  I think there are different dynamics here.

I know there are lots of women and probably some men who would answer this question with a very strong “Never!”  I’m not one of these.  I actually think that done with some thoughtfulness, subtlety – and even intuition – complimenting aspects of a woman’s appearance can be a valuable tool in my affirmation toolbox.

When I’m trying to ascertain what I should affirm about a person, I first reach for something meaningful, lean into that area.  Today, after driving into work rehearsing a somewhat defensive stance on this topic, I decided to more than ever lean into affirming something meaningful about women, rather than reaching for the low-hanging fruit of appearance – find something more significant to engage them with or to, by thoughtful questions, stretch out the conversation on that topic, maybe take it deeper.

Affirmation 1
So many ways to affirm a person – where to start?
  • “Talk to her about her art, not her hair!”
  • “Talk to her about her dancing, not her eyes!”
  • Go with her topic of the craziness of the EBT foodstamp program.
  • Talk to her about this blog or my grocery store blog, if the time seems right.
  • Talk to her about the plusses and minuses of coffee: she seemed to want to talk about this and validating her topic is a way of validating her.

But sometime they only have a few groceries and there just isn’t a chance to connect on a more real level and when I reach for “What shall I validate here?” what I come up with is:

  • “Your hair”, especially if they have done something unusual with it or if it’s very wavy or curly.  It’s a hit if they get to say “I did it” or also if “It’s totally natural – that’s just what it does.  I didn’t always like it, but now I love it.”
  • “Your glasses”, especially if it looks like like they might have stepped out of their comfort zone into some funky frames.  Again, lots of proud responses.
  • “Your sweater.”
  • “Your eyes” – clearly riskier here, but less risky if I can say something specific like “so big” or “so dark” or “so bright”.  If they try to shrug this off as just a body part, I like to say something like, “They’re the windows to the soul – they say a lot about you.” And if I know I am free of any seductiveness and it is simply given freely and lightly, it has only once ever not had a good effect – and that time I think I hit a nerve of some unhealed experience.
  • “Your beauty” – obviously way more risky, and I don’t teach it when I run my class on customer service, where I show the first five minutes of the Parking Attendant video.
    beautiful women
    What makes a woman beautiful?  Do I know how to see it?  Do I need to see my own beauty first?
    • I try to get really grounded before I appreciate a woman’s beauty, and listen to see if my inner voice says “Do it”.  If I get a “No” or just no answer, I leave it out.  I have a rich background of working male-female issues and being an ally for strong women.  And I’m an awesome communicator who can read very subtle body language and facial cues.  I want to wear a t-shirt for my male colleagues that says, “I’m a professional – don’t try this at home.”
    • I don’t do this with really model-style beautiful women, who already probably know it and may in fact often have been objectified about their appearance.  The only two times I have ever had a woman show a negative response to my appreciating her beauty – after probably a couple hundred times – it was a woman who, in fact, was classically beautiful.  I now leave them out.  I reach-reach-reach for something else – maybe “your glasses” – but if I can’t find something I just bless them and let them go.
    • The overwhelmingly positive response I get to these offerings – especially with women who may not be typically attractive or may not think about themselves as attractive – make me want to continue:
      • The woman the other day who said – obviously touched by me saying she was beautiful, “You know, as the mother of a young child and a baby, my day-to-day reality is sleep deprivation.  I never think that I might still be pretty – thank you for that.”
      • The woman who was quite overweight but also very pretty, who immediately welled up in tears and said, “You don’t know how much I needed to hear that today.”
      • The unusual-looking – and beautiful – woman who said, “Me? Well you just made my day – no, my month.”
      • If a woman says, “My momma gets all the credit for that”, I will often say something like, “To me, beauty is less about your physical features and more about what you do with those features – your facial expressions, your emotions, your attitudes.”  This usually provokes an attitude of thoughtfulness – “a new way to think about myself and my appearance.”

I know the Harvey Weinsteins of the world and the powerful and long overdue #MeToo movement have greatly – and necessarily – raised our sensitivities about male-female interactions.  One thing I have going for me in the grocery store checkout is that we both know the interaction is going to last 2-3 minutes max – there’s no real chance for it to go beyond the confines of the grocery store.

And I’m old, which definitely helps me to get away with stuff.  At 71, women just assume that I’m harmless and don’t mean anything by it.  And they’re right – I am and I don’t.

Now I want to write about male-female co-workers.

Validating your customer

I was taught early in my career – and my evolution as a person – that to think something nice about a person and to not share this with them is usually a wasted opportunity. Not always – there are certain considerations that will say “Leave it out” and I always honor that voice in the workplace, even if I don’t know why it is speaking to me.

More recently I have been influenced by a customer service video called Validation – the Parking Attendant, a charming fantasy in which people bring their parking tickets to a guy in a little kiosk who, along with validating their parking ticket, validates them.  One after the next after the next, in such minimal encounters that he has no chance to pick on something “meaningful” about them. (Watch the first five minutes, even if you don’t do customer service for a living!  It’s about how to be a better person.  You may get hooked and watch the whole 16 minutes, which is well worth it.)

When I stand in front of a customer, I much of the time am asking myself “What shall I affirm about this person?”  If they are buying a lot of groceries and we get some chance to talk with each other – and especially if there is no long line with its pressure to push people through – there is more chance to come up with something meaty.  I especially love to affirm:

  • Their kids and/or their parenting.
    • “What smart (or interesting) kids!”
    • “What a wonderful parent you are!  I so much admired the patient way you handled your little one’s meltdown.”3ba7ce57f083e1cbccb3ed5c60ca1966--children-painting-mother-and-child-painting
    • This mother had a maybe six-year old who was being very restless and she was obviously very irritated with him.  I just followed my intuition when I said
      • “This little one is very special, very smart, very thoughtful.”
      • “Yeah, well right now he is being very disobedient and I’ve had about enough of it.”
      • (Totally surrendering to Spirit here, as I described something on her part I had not really seen), “I’m sure he can be very difficult at times, but you are doing some really great things with him.”
      • This stopped her in her tracks, her eyes got really big and she asked “You think so?” There were tears in her eyes.
      • “Yes, I’m sure of it.” I didn’t know why I said it, but I trusted it.

I also really like to validate people’s sense of humor – it is more and more clear to me how linked this is to their intelligence, and I think on some level they know that I am also telling them they are smart.  I especially love doing this with couples: when I tell them they are funny together, it’s like I am telling them they are good together.  In our brief encounter together, I may actually have been the one to first begin the merriment – and they then joined in – but there’s no need to focus on me.

What shall I affirm about this person?  Maybe they’re being funny!

Why include this topic of affirming the customer in this blog, rather than just the grocery store blog, where it is obviously relevant?

  • Because this blog is about making the world a more peaceful place.
  • Because it is about relating to each other non-violently.
  • Because it is about love – especially about learning to be a more loving person.

Is this project “political”?

In my last two pathetically depressed weeks, I made no attempts to promote this project and blog.  Friday, with my spirits finally floating back to the surface, I started to talk about all this – at the right time, with the right person…maybe 6-7 people in an 8-hour shift.  Some of them already knew the grocery store blog I had been writing, on and off, for two years.  I tried to contrast the two blogs.  A couple of times I put the two business cards in front of them.  “This is the blog you know – ‘Real Life in the Checkout Line‘.  It’s about the interactions I have here with you all.  This new blog ‘Releasing the Force’ is more political.”dont-give-up-amanda

This characterization of the two blogs felt wrong.  Some of my new blog posts clearly come out of my experiences in the grocery store.  Is it fair to say that my new blog posts are “political”?  They don’t all deal with politics – maybe most of them don’t. Some of them are very personal.  Out of fumbling over all this with a few people came some more clarity.

Some of this new clarity came from turning over my “Releasing the Force: Activism with Heart” card to show the tagline – “Making our country a better place by doing that which is meant to be done by me.”  I started saying things to these select customers (somehow they felt like a good person with whom to be talking about all this) like, “It’s not about what you think you should be doing – or what anybody else, including me, is trying to get you to do.  You – what’s coming out of you? If you were to do one new thing – and maybe the genuine answer to that is no, that you don’t need one more thing on your plate – what might it be?  What would fit in your life, with your skills and interests, with your family situation?  What if you had more support – maybe from a group of people, maybe from one confidante, maybe from this blog?”

The last guy of the afternoon with whom I had this conversation – not with all the words above, but some shorter approximation – was a very engaging 35ish guy.  When I parted with him with my classic Friday question “What are you looking forward to this weekend?” he didn’t hesitate with his answer.  “No question – making Valentines with my four-year old daughter.  She’s been all about this for two weeks now.  We have all her art supplies out in one area.  She’s amazing.”valentines-day-comment-009

I gave a genuinely delighted laugh and wished him well. Then, before he had taken two more steps, I got it and called out to him: “That’s it! That’s your contribution!  That’s what you’re meant to do this weekend to make the world a more peaceful place!  You making Valentines with your daughter is growing her up to be a more loving person – and it’s bringing out peaceful, benevolent, loving feelings in you.  And in some mysterious but real way it’s radiating peace in all directions.”  OK, I didn’t have the presence of mind to say all this yesterday, but I do believe it.

What’s your light saber?  How are you meant to make our country a better place?  It could be a little thing, mundane, unexpected. Give yourself time for this to come.  Let yourself be surprised by the answer to that question.