Bette’s Inspiration: Three Variations On Hope

Mister D: The other day I received a letter from a good friend of mine down in Louisiana, Mark, a BetteHead. Like many others, he and his family have had plenty of burdens to bear over the last month or so, but, typical Mark, well, he sent me this spirited letter addressed to Bette. He always seems to find the positive in the most dire situations. Something I should at least halfway aspire to do, ya dig?! I mean, I find it hard to be positive even in positive situations…so you see the problem, don’t ya??? 🙂 Okay, I’m not that bad or else I couldn’t be this witty! Anyway, I thought it was a beautiful letter and so uplifting that I asked permission to share and I got the old “okay.”

I also ran across a speech from a school administrator and a “remembrance” concerning the death of M. Scott Peck (who wrote “The Road Less Traveled”) So I thought I’d just combine all of these wonderful messages of hope that were inspired in some degree or another by our own Divine Miss M.

Hope you enjoy!

Thank You Bette!

Bette inspired me to give back to the earth by planting a butterfly garden this summer. This is my first butterfly.

We lost many catepillars during the hurricanes. This little guy hung in there and today he emerged. It was fun watching the process. Next year the garden will be bigger and better.

I hope you enjoy.

Love , Mark from Louisiana

Click Here To See “How To Make A Butterfly Garden”

The American Association of School Administrators
The School Administrator
October 2005

President’s Corner
Measuring Your Force
By D.E.G.

Several years ago, Bette Midler recorded a wonderful song written by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar titled “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Now a staple at weddings, graduation ceremonies and other celebrations, the song’s lyrics recognize the positive influence a seemingly unrecognized leader had over another’s life. The chorus embodies the essence of the song’s meaning:

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.

Whenever I hear this song, I think of a good friend whose true passion was boating. Let me explain: He was a purist and although we often traveled over the same seas, he always referred to me as a “Stink Potter,” for I would use an outboard motor to move about and he preferred traditional wind power. When he was steering his boat on the open waters, wind blowing his hair and his sails, he always had the biggest grin on his face.

But despite the fact the wind gave my friend so much pleasure, he was a hostage to it as well. When the wind was right, his boat glided easily through choppy waters, but when there was no wind, he was at the mercy of the currents and tides. When the winds turned violent, he had to battle the very wind he yearned for, searching fervently for a safe harbor.

My thoughts now turn to you, the education leaders of our nation’s schools. What or who provides the wind beneath your wings? To whom do you turn for support and inspiration?

Maybe more importantly, what kind of wind are you for your school systems and for all the children you serve? Are you that gentle, uplifting wind that seeks continuous improvement and lifelong learning? Or will you run out of wind, causing your organization to flounder, stay in one place or simply struggle to stay afloat? Or are you a destructive force that whips through a school district, intent on tearing down structures, causing doubt and distrust, inflicting pain and suffering on both staff and children?

With all the challenges facing public education today, it is difficult to remain focused and to remember why we chartered this particular leadership course for ourselves. Perhaps someone we respected encouraged us to take this path long ago. Perhaps this kind of service to our nation and its future generations is simply in our blood. Perhaps some of us even stumbled into this career without realizing how truly satisfying it is to be able to serve young people every day.

Whatever the reason you are where you are today, realize how important it is for you to be a positive force in your school district. You can be the wind beneath someone’s wings, whether that someone is a fellow staff member, parent or student. You can be the wind that blows in positive change, positive attitudes and positive outcomes. You can be the wind that keeps everyone on a steady course toward continuous improvement and academic achievement.

Yes, the seas can be rough, as my sailing friend knew all too well. But knowing that the wind might not be blowing in the right direction did not ever dissuade him from shoving off. In the words of French poet John Petit-Senn, “True courage is like a kite; a contrary wind raises it higher.”

Be the wind beneath someone’s wings. Help them soar as high as they can go. Even if you stand back in the shadows, your efforts will not go unnoticed. In this day and age, we need you to be an active force in public education and in shaping our democracy.

Psychiatrist As Spiritual Healer
Religion used to be taboo in the mental health field–Freud thought it was pathological–
until M. Scott Peck declared otherwise.
By Anne Simpkinson

“Life is difficult.”

No appreciation of the psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck, who died yesterday at the age of 69, can begin without quoting the famous opening line of his record-shattering best-seller, “The Road Less Traveled.”

Peck not only made publishing history–his book was on the New York Times’ best-seller list for an astounding 13 years–but, within the mental health field, he heralded a significant development. He was one of the first to recognize and publicly declare that human beings’ religious instincts were not pathological, that they were in fact vital to an individual’s health and sense of well-being.

When Peck first published The Road in 1978, religion was taboo in the mental health field. Sexual fantasies may have been the grist for psychotherapeutic sessions but, thanks to Freud, religious yearnings were suspect. At best, the father of psychoanalysis and modern psychiatry viewed religion as a necessary evil, an illusion functioning as superego, controlling and restraining the individual and the collective id, the surging impulses of the unconscious. This dismissive attitude toward religion and spirituality infiltrated the practice of psychotherapy.

Peck countered that stance, chastising fellow therapists for considering “any passionate belief in God to be pathological.”

“I grew up in a tradition where science was value free and psychotherapy was supposed to be a science,” Peck stated in a 1993 interview. “But the practice of psychotherapy has never been value free. Therapists have been practicing with a value system of secular humanism and have been unconscious of it. It’s not a bad system,” he added. “But I don’t think it is enough.”

The public, and gradually his profession, began to agree. Other psychotherapists like Thomas Moore (“Care of the Soul”) and Clarissa Pinkola Estes (“Women Who Run with the Wolves”) wrote best-sellers. Professional meetings began to offer sessions exploring the interface between psychology and religion. In 1996, a psychology textbook written by Edward F. Shafranske and published by the American Psychological Association showed that psychologists were beginning to incorporate spirituality into professional training and clinical work. It was one of the association’s best sellers at its convention that year.

Today, research funded by The John Templeton Foundation, a grant-making institution that focuses its programs and resources in the area of religion and science, explores among other things the health aspects of forgiveness, the role of religion and spirituality in recovery from cardiac surgery, and the impact of love, while other colleges and universities support a wide range of psycho-spiritual studies. There are institutes for psychology and spirituality, and social workers have an association whose members explore this relationship. Today, you can easily find a Christian psychologist or a Buddhist social worker. And you could very well find yourself meditating, praying, or doing yoga with your therapist.

Peck’s book didn’t create this explosion of interest in the relationship of psychology and spirituality. But he was a bellwether, a pioneer whose thinking tapped into America’s collective desire to bring religion and spirituality out into the open. He made it safe to start a conversation that eventually changed the profession.

In the late 1980s when Common Boundary, the organization that I co-founded, first began holding conferences that explored the relationship of psychology and spirituality, most of the therapist-attendees had read Peck’s book. They told us over and over again that they had been thinking about these sorts of issues for a long time, but hesitated to bring them up at professional meetings for fear of appearing foolish or unprofessional. Repeatedly, they expressed their relief at finding an arena in which they could speak freely of their own spiritual interests and discuss how to appropriately deal with their patients’ beliefs and yearnings.

In the years after “The Road Less Traveled” first began climbing the best-seller charts, Peck became a familiar speaker at professional meetings, urging psychiatrists to learn how to take spiritual histories and calling for them to be trained in the different stages of spiritual growth. But to be fair, the apples were ripe for the picking. Scott Peck was the guy who plucked them and passed them around.

Peck, who had a Quaker background, eventually quit his private practice in favor of writing, lecturing, and leading workshops. He drew large crowds and developed into a unique and somewhat odd blend of psychiatrist and evangelist. He could, in any conversation or public speech, go from talking about counter-transference to declaring that: “Effective healing is a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

At the end of his keynote address at the 1993 Common Boundary conference, Peck began to croon Bette Midler’s ballad, The Rose, to a ballroom full of initially bewildered mental health professionals. But as he moved deeper into the song, the audience settled down, realizing the profundity of his message. It was the same message he had sent out 15 years earlier, though now tempered with tenderness.

Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed
That with the sun’s love
In the spring
Becomes the rose.

Peck’s legacy and greatest contribution was that he reminded mental health professionals–psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, counselors–that they were healers, and that the process they dedicated themselves to–helping clients and patients face themselves–is painful. Life is difficult. Yet Peck went a step farther: he also reminded each of us that at our core we have the capacity for love and greatness of character. Pain, love, and hope are naturally woven together, he told us. And all of it is a gift of Spirit.

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