Rev. Edie Weinstein: “Be a safe person with whom they can share their feelings”

Front- line workers, deemed essential are being lauded for their service. Medical professionals, store clerks and cashiers, teachers, sanitary engineers, therapists, delivery people, and food service workers are receiving the recognition they deserve with parades, serenades, donations of meals, discounts from local merchants and banners placed in front of their workplaces. As a part of […]

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Front- line workers, deemed essential are being lauded for their service. Medical professionals, store clerks and cashiers, teachers, sanitary engineers, therapists, delivery people, and food service workers are receiving the recognition they deserve with parades, serenades, donations of meals, discounts from local merchants and banners placed in front of their workplaces.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rev. Edie Weinstein.

Rev. Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, ordained interfaith minister, journalist, author, editor, event producer and speaker and opti-mystic. She assists people in living rich, full, juicy lives as they navigate sometimes unpredictable waters. Her greatest joy is bringing people together across all divides.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I was raised in a loving, nurturing family with parents who modeled integrity, a solid work ethic (to the point of workaholism, the tendencies I inherited, to my detriment at times) and the value of education. My father was first generation American born of Russian Jewish immigrant parents who came here to escape persecution in their native land. He and my mother raised my sister and me to be accepting of diversity with a mind toward unity. At our holiday dinner tables were friends from all aspects of our lives and theirs. I selected social work as a career because I knew it would afford me the opportunity to have a positive impact. I chose the ministry when my husband, who had been enrolled in The New Seminary, died while engaged in his studies. I took his place in the class, completed the course requirements and graduated six months after that. I decided to become a writer, with no formal training in journalism, when he and I published a magazine called Visions from 1988–1998. I continue as a freelancer to this day.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle was a pivotal read in my teens. It presented a world in which good overcame evil, despite appearances, that we are all unique and valuable and that love conquers all. I re-visit the book at least once a year and I am now in my 60s!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  • I have seen people take care of their family, friends, and neighbors by going grocery shopping for them, cooking for them, or taking care of their yards. I have been the beneficiary of that type of kindness when a friend contacted me to ask what I needed at the store, since he was going anyway. I half- jokingly told him I needed toilet paper. He laughed and said that a local grocery story actually had some in stock. This was early on when people were hoarding. He got me a 12 pack. I have never owned 12 rolls of TP before. I felt like a wealthy woman. Relationships are becoming more valuable since people are recognizing that we are all on loan to each other. A new barometer for the strength of a partnership is if this is someone with whom you would want to be quarantined
  • Front- line workers, deemed essential are being lauded for their service. Medical professionals, store clerks and cashiers, teachers, sanitary engineers, therapists, delivery people, and food service workers are receiving the recognition they deserve with parades, serenades, donations of meals, discounts from local merchants and banners placed in front of their workplaces.
  • People are beginning to recognize how much we genuinely need each-other. Communities are rallying around to check on older or ill neighbors. Folks are boosting morale with street parties and physically distanced celebrations. Graduation and birthday parades are occurring as people are driving down streets, honking horns, with banners and balloons flying. Those with sewing machine talent or who have been willing to learn, have made masks. Companies have repurposed their factories to make PPE. I have a chiropractor friend who, along with her husband has manufactured face shields using 3D technology. People are being respectful to each other and caring about each other by maintaining physical distance and wearing masks in public.
  • Entertainers are joining forces to participate in fundraising concerts and comedy shows to support hunger relief organizations. Other gig workers are performing on-line because their audiences can’t see them in person. It is a win-win since they are remaining visible, earning some money, and entertaining their fans. Broadway producers are allowing people to watch the shows streamed on-line for free for brief periods of time. I was thrilled to be able to see Hamilton when I had not been able to afford a ticket to see it live. This serves the purpose of providing comfort in the midst of deep fear and heightened anxiety. It helps bring far-flung people together over a shared love of culture.
  • We are learning how adaptive and resilient we are as a species. At the beginning of the year, the idea that we would be sheltering in place for months at a time, was inconceivable. We never imagined working from home, schooling our children, not maintaining our pre-pandemic routine, having to learn new ways of doing things rather than what we were accustomed to, curtailing social activities, using unfamiliar technology, essentially relinquishing control of many of our choices. Rather than referring to what we are experiencing as the new normal, I am calling it the NOW normal. The one constant is change.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Since anxiety is fed by fearing the uncertainty of the future, it is important to have the person stay in the present moment, even while speaking about their fears and potential outcomes. One phrase I use with my clients to reinforce their resilience is that they have survived everything that has ever happened in their lives since they are here to tell about it.

  1. Be a safe person with whom they can share their feelings. Listen with the ears of the heart without judgement.
  2. Don’t feel as if you have to come up with a solution, rather assist them in designing their own.
  3. Ask what has helped in the past to move through anxiety.
  4. If they are open to hearing it (ask first), you may want to share what has helped you.
  5. Sit and breathe with them, whether it is in person, over the phone, on a Zoom or Skype call.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

The most powerful is their own breath and sense of presence. The only moment that exists is this current one. The past is a memory and the future is yet to be. Depression lives in the past and anxiety in the future. I would recommend mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, listening to music that soothes them, spending time in nature, literally grounding themselves by walking barefoot on the earth, journaling, coloring, creating some work of art, dancing, yoga, prayer, reading books that inspire them, watching TEDtalk. I suggest doing an inventory of all that is well in their lives, all that they have accomplished, all those who love them and who they love.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Two, actually, were important pieces of advice. One came from my father Moish who reminded me that, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.” My mother Selma advised me, “Walk in like you own the joint,” with head held high, shoulders back, making eye contact. Both bits of wisdom that I called ‘Mom-isms and Dad wisdom, assisted me in interviewing some of the most amazing notables on the planet. These included Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Shirley MacLaine, Ben & Jerry, Grover Washington, Jr., Richie Havens, Pete Seeger, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I like to think that my Hugmobsters Armed With Love passion could help bring that to fruition. It began on Valentine’s Day Weekend of 2014 when I gathered a group of friends at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia for a FREE HUGS flash mob. In an hour’s time, a dozen of us asked travelers if they wanted a hug. We estimated that we embraced a few hundred people. One was an Iraq War vet who told us he was the only survivor of his platoon and he had survivors’ guilt and thought about ending is life. “That is, until I met you people.” He asked if he could join us. We gave him a sign and he was off to the races, hugging people. It was then that I realized that hugs can be lifesaving. A few months later, I tested that theory unwittingly when I had a heart attack on June 12, 2014 at age 55 on the way home from the gym. As part of my cardiac rehab, I walked through my little town of Doylestown, PA and thought to combine the hugging with the walking, since hugs are both cardiac friendly and emotionally heart healthy. Since then, I have hugged thousands of willing participants (it has to be by consent, of course) in PA, NJ, NY, DE, VA, MD, DC, Ontario, Canada and in May of 2018, I hugged my way across Ireland. I am also part of the Free Mom Hugs movement founded by Sara Cunningham in Oklahoma City. She had a personal and spiritual reckoning when her son came out to her as a Gay man. As a devout Christian, she felt she had to choose between God and her son. Once she determined that was not necessary, she was determined to offer hugs to LGBTQ+ people in a gesture of support that they may not have received from their own parents. I have hugged at Pridefests, street fairs, farmers’ markets, sporting events, vigils, rallies, parades, at my polling place on Election Day, 2016, in front of the White House and at the Viet Nam veterans memorial. All that is now on hold in the face of COVID-19. When the danger has passed, I will be out there hugging it out again. When people are hugged, they know they are valued, they belong, and they matter. Hugs bridge all divides. I have come to accept that even if we can’t hug, we can still love.

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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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