Transcription of Love Maine Radio #308: Elizabeth McLellan + Robert Atkinson

Speaker 1: You are listening to Love Maine Radio hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at
Dr. Lisa B: This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 308, airing for the first time on Sunday, August 13, 2017. Today’s guest is Elizabeth McLellan, the founder and president of Partners for World Health, and Robert Atkinson, author of The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. Thank you for joining us.
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Dr. Lisa B: My next guest is Elizabeth McLellan who is the founder and president of Partners for World Health and who has spent her career working in nursing and healthcare administration. Thanks so much for coming in.
Elizabeth M: It’s great to be here.
Dr. Lisa B: Partners for World Health. You’ve been doing a lot of work over the last 10 years. Talk to me about your organization and what you are doing.
Elizabeth M: Partners for World Health is an organization that I started in 2007 collecting discarded medical supplies from hospitals here in the Portland area. In about a year and a half, I had about 11,000 pounds of discarded medical supplies located in my house before I moved it to its first warehouse. Our mission is to collect the discarded medical supplies and reprocess them, repackage them and then, ship them to various hospitals and clinics in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In addition, we also run medical missions in Bangladesh, Uganda, Senegal, Cameroon, and Turkey to take care of the Syrian refugees.
Dr. Lisa B: You’ve been working in this area, in the Portland area, for quite some time. How did you get involved with world health? Why did this show up on your radar screen?
Elizabeth M: Well, I spent many years living in the Middle East working in Saudi Arabia for the Arab-American Oil Company, in nursing administration there. I had the opportunity to travel all over northern Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia and visited hospitals and met various people in the healthcare industry, only to realize that they didn’t have any medical supplies or not enough medical supplies. I decided, when I came home, that I was going to begin that effort of carrying them and acquiring them and then, packing them up in my suitcases and traveling two or three times a year to different places in the world to deliver these supplies. One thing led to another and when I was working in nursing administration at Maine Medical Center, I decided to start collecting them and just put a few bins out at various units and one thing’s led to another so that now, we have four warehouses here in the state of Maine and one coming onboard in Burlington, Vermont for the University of Vermont Medical Center. It’s really grown.
Dr. Lisa B: You also spend a lot of time working with nursing students, students in the allied health professions, so it’s not just bringing the supplies over, you’re actually bringing people over with you.
Elizabeth M: Well, in our medical mission program, we bring doctors, nurses, nursing students, medical students, and other healthcare professionals to provide either surgery or primary healthcare or community-wide education. Predominantly, our workforce at Partners for World Health is a volunteer effort. I’m a volunteer, I’m not paid for anything. We have a bookkeeper for 15 hours a week, that’s the only, currently, the only paid employee. We’re hoping to hire, in the next couple of months, a program director for our distribution center which is where most of the small things come in like bandages and dressings and catheters and needles and syringes and also hire a volunteer coordinator so that we can expand our workforce. We could use 25 volunteers a day, five days a week in order to process all the medical supplies that are coming in from all over the state of Maine, from New Hampshire, Vermont and five hospitals in Boston.
Dr. Lisa B: These medical supplies, even though they’re technically used, they’re not really used. There’s a lot of waste that actually takes place within the medical system.
Elizabeth M: Right. Our other warehouse here in Portland, we have two locations, one on Canco Road which is our shipping center and that’s the place where all of the beds, the wheelchairs, the walkers, the crutches, all of the biomedical equipment are stored. For example, EKG machines, defibrillators, anesthesia machines, incubators may have been used but they have an extended life. We have them checked by our volunteer biomedical people to make sure that they’re in good working order before we ship them. Other medical supplies can come in that have never been used that might still be in the original package like dressing supplies and Foley catheter supplies and many other items that are in the package. Some items are coming in like adult diapers that might have been opened but only one or two were used and then, the rest are still in the package so we have to go through everything to reprocess it and repackage it to make it acceptable for shipping.
Dr. Lisa B: Are there different regulations that you have to deal with depending upon the countries that you’re sending things to?
Elizabeth M: Yes, there are many, many regulations depending upon the country. For example in Uganda, to ship a medical container 40 feet long that would hold about 12,000 pounds of medical supplies involves a pre-inspection here in the United States. In addition, you have to change all the electrical cords, put an adaptor on them and provide a mini-transformer for every electrical piece of equipment. We ship a container load of 12,000 to 15,000 pounds once a month out of Portland, out of our shipping center and the next one leaves tomorrow on the 21st of June to head for Syria.
Now, Syria doesn’t really require a pre-inspection, also doesn’t require that transformers be sent but a variety of different regulations are implemented in different countries, all depending on what their rules and regulations are. Predominantly, most of them require that you do not send expired items so we have to check all of the items that come in.
For example, a four –by-four gauze could have an expiration date on it of August, 2016 and that means in our reality, in the United States, in our healthcare system, that is expired and we cannot use it. What we do is take it out of the package and then, repackage it in a zip lock bag and send it as non-sterile gauze. We always try to find another alternative way of repackaging it and sending it so that it doesn’t end up in the dump. If you were to come in and visit our distribution center which is at 40 Walch Drive, you would see a huge space of 15,000 square feet of boxes and bags of medical supplies that have been discarded from nursing homes, hospitals, private individuals and all of that needs to be reprocessed.
Dr. Lisa B: What is it about your background in nursing administration that made you so interested in the logistics of this process?
Elizabeth M: Well, there are many logistics in this process and it’s not anything that I learned while I was in nursing school or graduate school, absolutely nothing. It’s really been learning by the seat of your pants and trying to figure it out which is something that we do learn in nursing school which are three very valuable words: Figure it out. We’ve managed to do that and I’ve managed to do that over the past several years. My big interest, especially when I lived in the Middle East and did all those traveling, was to try to figure out how you can make a difference in other people’s lives. This is one way to do it and also save our environment at the same time. All of the items that are located in our warehouses are basically considered trash and they would have all hit the landfill. We can have a major impact on improving our environment and then doing the right thing which is to provide services and something that will help to make a difference in people’s lives especially those people that are less fortunate than we are.
Dr. Lisa B: You’ve received multiple awards from organizations and the community including The Hanley Center Leadership and Humanitarian Relief Award in 2010, the Red Cross Real Hero Award in 2011, the Outstanding Non-Profit Award in 2012, the Northeastern University Social Impact Award in 2014 and the Patriots Myra Kraft Community Service Award more recently. There are a lot of people who are paying attention to the work that you’re doing, has it enabled you to expand to the extent that you would like to?
Elizabeth M: Well, those awards, first of all, that I may have received are, really, they’re not for me. They’re really for all of the volunteers that have spent thousands of hours making this whole organization, Partners for World Health, succeed. I could never have done this without all of them. Last year alone, we had over 25,000 volunteer hours that were documented, let alone all the thousands of hours of donation that people made that were never documented. Those awards were absolutely wonderful, thank you very much to all of those great organizations that talked about our accolades and supported us but really, we need to remember that the success of this organization is because of all the volunteers from young to old that have dedicated many hours.
In reality, these awards have brought to a lot of attention to us, a lot of attention to Partners for World Health and they’ve helped to increase our volunteers, the number of volunteers. People sign-up on the website with a volunteer application and then they come in for an orientation and they’re absolutely, totally surprised about the volume of medical supplies and all of the different things that we can do. Many times, these awards have brought attention to other major donors that have helped to support us from a financial perspective. That’s our biggest challenge is, as it is for many non-profits, to find enough money, to raise enough money at an annual appeal, to find grants that would offer support from transportation of these containers and also, to find individuals that might want to make a major contribution that could help.
A major contribution would be a big deal to Partners for World Health because it would allow us to hire a few more people, we need to five to six full-time employees in order to make this hum and we’re not there yet. Partly, it’s because of the need for financial contributions. If someone wanted to make another huge donation, we would be able to send two containers a month to, especially, to countries that are not able to raise the funds to pay for the processing and shipping fees. For example, Malawi which is one of the poorest countries in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world is in dire need of simple, basic medical supplies. We have everything that they could need, however, they have no source of funding so if someone could come to the forefront and help to provide a donation for transportation and processing fees, that would be a big help.
Dr. Lisa B: Well, from your lips to, if people believe in a god, God’s ear, how does that sound? We’ll see if people who are listening …
Elizabeth M: That sounds great.
Dr. Lisa B: Yeah, so let’s see if people who are listening can come forward and make this possible for you. Where did you grow up, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth M: I was born in Maine and grew up in Camden. Yeah, with a great family. Two brothers and two sisters and a father who was a physician, anesthesiologist up there, Pen Bay Medical Center, and a mom who was a nurse.
Dr. Lisa B: You have this medical background almost in your DNA, I guess. What types of things did you learn from your parents when you were growing up about the need to care for other people?
Elizabeth M: Well, the need to make a difference in other people’s lives and to help those less fortunate was instilled in us a long time ago. I can remember at Christmas time, wrapping up Christmas presents with my mother and dropping them off at various houses in the Camden-Rockport area especially for those individuals who are far less fortunate than we were. Also, there was something my father always said at nighttime at the end of grace which was, “Keep us ever mindful of the needs and wants of others,” and that has stuck with me my whole life.
Dr. Lisa B: Why did you decide to become a nurse?
Elizabeth M: Well, that’s because my mother wanted me to be a nurse. I graduated from college in Washington D.C. and moved to Boston and was working in a retail store in the Boston area and my mother didn’t like that idea of her daughter selling jewelry for the rest of her life. She managed to pull a few strings and I entered nursing school that fall and finished a couple of years later. I am a nurse because of my mother and actually it was a very good decision on her part because it’s offered me incredible opportunities, first of all, to make a difference in people’s lives here in the United States but also, to learn about the world and different cultures and to make a difference in so many other people’s lives. Nursing is a profession that can take you anywhere, whether it’s here in this country or anywhere in the world, so I really would advocate and talk to anybody about how great it would be for them to become a registered nurse.
Dr. Lisa B: What are some of your favorite memories involving Partners for World Health? Specifically, the people that you’ve met.
Elizabeth M: Well, a really recent memory was on our medical mission to Bangladesh. We do a surgical and primary healthcare medical mission each year in March and we’ve been going there for the past seven years. In one of our primary care settings which is in the Tangail Brothel in Bangladesh, about two hours outside of Dhaka, the capital, where 950 sex workers live with their children. These are women and children that have been trafficked or women that have been born in the brothel, that have stayed in the brothel as sex workers and ended up raising their children there. We arrived this year, this was our fourth primary care mission in the brothel and we were welcomed by 150 of the sex workers who were cheering and singing when we came through the doors into this brothel area. It was really quite emotional to see all of them there.
We are their only source of healthcare, they can go to the hospital during the year, however, they’re ostracized so many times. When we show up, it’s just a welcome, a big huge welcome, by all of them for us and it really meant a lot for us to be there. It meant a lot that they so much appreciated us coming. There had been other instances where we have definitely made a difference in people’s lives only because we just happened to go. One of those instances was in Senegal last year when we were in a primary care clinic that we were running outside of Dakar, about three hours in the desert inland in the country, in remote areas where we provide primary healthcare services. This particular clinic was the first one, in this site, was the first one we have ever done.
A five-year-old, little deaf girl came into the clinic. She has never had a hearing test so there was no way that we would know whether or not she had the ability to hear and there was no way that she was ever going to go to school unless we could figure out how to have a hearing test and put her in a deaf school located in the capital in Senegal. This year, we’re now in the process. We raised a little bit of money and found some people over in Senegal that can help support this young girl and they’re taking her to have her hearing test next month which is pretty exciting. If she can hear or has some way of hearing, then we can help her with the hearing aids and then, she’ll be able to go to the deaf school. Otherwise, she would have spent the rest of her life living in this little, thatched hut in a rural village never having the opportunity to learn anything or communicate with anyone. That’s pretty exciting to be able to make a difference in somebody’s life just because we showed up.
It was just by chance that we ran into her that day. There are lots of stories like that, lots of stories. The medical supplies make a big difference too because if you think about what doctors and nurses have to do and how they perform their jobs, you need sutures, you need scissors, you need cast material, you need dressings, you need bandages in order to put people back together again. If you don’t have your supplies, then doctors and nurses aren’t able to do their jobs. Collecting all of these medical supplies that are going to be discarded, that’s fine, we’ll be happy to try to figure out how to give them another use especially for those people. There are so many of them in our world that are less fortunate.
We also do a lot with big, local give back program. We provide personal care items, we provide diapers and briefs, food pantries to homeless shelters here in the Portland area, Augusta and Bangor. One of my retired nurse colleagues is very much into our local give back program and has contacted a variety of different agencies and pantries, etc. that have come down to pick up truckloads of items that we’re willing to give them for free so that they can take them out and donate them or give them back to people in the community. In addition, this nurse by the name of Marie Keller, has been known to stop on the side of the road with cans of Ensure and protein drinks and give them to the people that are standing there asking for money instead of giving them a dollar, giving them cans of nutritious drinks for them to drink which I think is just terrific. I need a photograph of that happening in Portland, Maine of her handing out these cans of Ensure out of her car window to all the homeless people.
Dr. Lisa B: How do you find the people that need you? How do you find the people that are looking for supplies in Bangladesh, say, or primary care or even the people that need the help that you offer here in Maine through the give back program?
Elizabeth M: The first people that I contacted initially to see of their interest in receiving medical supplies were people and organizations that I met when I was living in the Middle East and traveling. Those were the first people. Now, what happens is that individuals and organizations find out about us through the website. Really, predominantly through the internet and the website when they type in looking for medical supplies and Partners for World Healthy might popup in there in the search engine.
Then, other individuals like refugees and other people that have immigrated from different parts of the world to the United States and who live here in Maine or in Massachusetts want to do good for their own country and so, they’ve contacted us and have asked that we provide a container of medical supplies to them. For example, a church group in Massachusetts supports a physician who lives in Monrovia, in Liberia who visited here several months ago.
They’re helping to raise the funds for the shipping and processing fees for a full container for her 25-bed facility which is one of the only hospitals that remained opened during their Ebola crisis. This physician in Liberia is very dedicated to helping the people in her country especially the poor people to provide services so it’s those kind of individuals that find us and contact us. Sometimes it’s me doing a little investigating on the internet or hearing about other organizations like orphanages.
Once somebody started an orphanage, then kids get sick. Eventually, there’s a clinic that will popup very near to an orphanage and then that clinic will need or that small hospital will need beds and other different types of medical supplies to take care of these children. We have a lot of requests coming in. In fact, we could ship 20, 40 full containers, right now, if we have the funding to ship them and we have 20 places where we could send them to. That could rattle off a list of people and organizations that need these items.
Dr. Lisa B: What about the people that are needing primary care, for example, how do you find out about them?
Elizabeth M: Primary care in Africa or… ?
Dr. Lisa B: Primary care services in general.
Elizabeth M: Overseas?
Dr. Lisa B: Yes.
Elizabeth M: Part of what we do with a container program is that if you’re interested in a container, then we ship a container. We usually try to follow up with a medical mission following the shipping of the container, not when the container arrives but at some point in the following year. We’ll try to work in a medical mission like we want to be able to go to Liberia and help this woman out. With the services that we would provide, because it’s a small place, we probably wouldn’t do surgery but we would do primary healthcare. We would work with those partners that we would identify and tell them that we’re bringing nurse practitioners or primary care docs, other nursing professionals to run a primary care clinic and then they would put the word out and find the patients. When people know that you’re coming, there’ll be 400 people lined up on the first day because people will put the word out. For example, we implemented the project this year in Senegal when we were there in May called Project Ten Thousand.
The goal is to interview 10,000 pregnant women in different countries in Africa and provide education and training to the women on the complications of pregnancy because none of them are given any prenatal care. They don’t understand what could possibly happen to them when these complications occur so they wait until it’s too late which would result in their death or the death of their child. After they’re finished with the education, we give them their own birthing kit full of items that they would ordinarily have to purchase before they go into labor to take to the midwife. We’ve saved all those items, from the dump here, and we packaged them all up and we actually give them everything that they need to have a normal delivery. We interviewed 350 pregnant women in Senegal and we’ve partnered with three nurse midwives from three different facilities who will follow up in four to seven months with all of these pregnant women to determine the outcome. To see if they did develop complications and if they did, did they go immediately to the hospital?
This will help to look at the maternal mortality rate and the infant mortality rate in different places in Africa. We’re heading back to Uganda on a medical mission in August, August 25th. We have 13 people going with us and we’re taking nursing students from Kaplan University and five other RNs along with a couple of non-medical people. We could take a few more nurses if anyone is interested in participating. During that medical mission, we will work at two hospitals providing primary health care, doing nursing education for nurses and nursing students in NICU on how to take care of the critically ill baby, as well as interview 500 pregnant women for Project Ten Thousand. This is something that the students have been involved with from the beginning, making the supplies, writing the power points on what are the complications of pregnancy and they will be the ones, also with nursing supervision, providing the education to these pregnant women. It’s a real, total give back from start to finish. It’s pretty exciting so stay tuned. We still have 9,000 more people to go.
Dr. Lisa B: I’m sure that you’ll all be able to reach your goal because I’m impressed with all the work that you’ve been able to put into this and the goals that you’ve already met over the last 10 years.
Elizabeth M: Right, thank you very much.
Dr. Lisa B: I’ve been speaking with Elizabeth McLellan who is the founder and president of Partners for World Health and who has spent her career working in nursing and healthcare administration. Thank you so much for all the work you do and for taking the time to talk with me today.
Elizabeth M: It’s been a pleasure, thank you for having me.
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Dr. Lisa B: My next guest is Dr. Robert Atkinson who is an internationally recognized expert on life story interviewing, personal mythmaking, and soul-making. He is the author of nine books including The Story of our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. Dr. Atkinson previously taught at the University of Southern Maine. Thanks so much for coming in today.
Dr. Robert A: Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Dr. Lisa B: This is a really interesting time that we’re in now, this time of upheaval within our governmental systems and there’s a lot of shifting and changing that’s probably been going on, I want to say, at least, the last maybe 20 years or so but you may extend it out further into your lifetime. Why did you think it was time to talk about oneness?
Dr. Robert A: Well, it’s been a piece of our evolutionary process that’s been moving toward that for, I would say, at least a century, maybe a century and a half or three quarters. It all depends on the perspective we take on it and the book takes a big picture perspective of the whole process that we’re in the midst of right now. I stepped back and look from a distance pretty much and there were signs and a real need, for bringing into our conscious awareness, the need to shift our focus. Actually, it’s been a really long process of evolution. One of the ways I like to look at the whole process is in terms of spiritual epics and those are defined by each individual prophet who has been the founder of a major world religion.
We go back way back in time to 4,000, 5,000 years ago in the time of Abraham and then, Krishna and then, Moses and then, Zoroaster and then, Buddha and Christ and Mohammed and then, in the middle of the 18th Century was Bahauallah, the founder of the Bahai faith. Each of those represented a leap of consciousness. We started out way back where the focus on and a need to create oneness in the family. Then, that expanded to a need to create unity and oneness, harmony and the tribe and it went on to larger and larger context, city, city state, nation. Today, the need is to turn our focus to humanity as a whole, the world as a whole because we are becoming a global community.
That’s been a long process in the works and even though the teachings of Bahaullah came into existence in the mid to late 1800s, it’s taken the world about that much time ‘till, say, the 1960s or whenever you want to start thinking of the real shift to occur. Part of the way that that shift has been made, I think, is through the advancement of technology as well. One of the key events of my early adult life was the moon walk in 1969 where, not only the country, but the world was fixed on the TV screens. It was not only a matter of one small step for man and one leap for humanity but it was the photographs that were sent back from the moon, of Earth, where we could see for the first time, literally, that the Earth is one planet with no boundaries.
Then from that point on, a number of other things kept happening to confirm that new reality for us and that also happened to be the time, in my own life, when I was in the midst of a series of adventures that became my spiritual adventure, my quest. That same summer, 1969, was also when I was in the right place at the right time to attend the Woodstock Festival and that was one of those rare experiences where everybody really did feel like humanity coming together in harmony. Then a few months later, that winter, I met Joseph Campbell who actually became a mentor for me. It was the 1970s was when I met him and there’s one piece from the book here that I would just read because it’s a quote from his book.
I met him after one of his talks in 1970 and he took me under his wing. On one of my visits to his home in Greenwich Village, he gave me a signed copy of Masks of God: Creative Mythology which was the final volume in a series that he had written. In the preface to the last volume of that series, he wrote that the series confirmed for him, “A thought I have long and faithfully entertained: of the unity of the human race of man, not only in its biology but also in its spiritual history which has everywhere unfolded in the manner of a single symphony with its themes irresistibly advancing to some kind of mighty climax.” There was another expression of one planet, one people, basically, concept.
My own quest and study of the world’s religions continued from that point on. It just became clear as it went along and that particular quote from him became the center of my emerging world view. It has been a long process and now, 50 something years later from the moon walk, we’re seeing that it’s turning out to be, the evolutionary process toward oneness, is turning out to be a much more difficult struggle than we might want it to be. That’s also a part of the process. I have a chapter on the book on opposition as the catalyst for transformation. What we are seeing today is also a part of the process of needing, for whatever reason, needing to go, basically, deeper into our collective shadow. To emerge from that, to then get even closer to our sense of oneness.
Dr. Lisa B: Give me some examples of what you are describing as our collective shadow.
Dr. Robert A: Well, that could be a loaded question but there’s a section of that chapter that I want to talk about, “The Dark Night of the Collective Soul.” That’s what I was referring to. Of course, the dark night is a key part of the mystic journey, on the individual level as well as a key part of the hero’s journey from Joseph Campbell’s work. Each individual journey has that part where we face our own difficulties and after learn, somehow, how to overcome the greatest difficulties that we have in our lives in order to let go of those parts of ourselves that may be holding us back from the essence of who we are as a soul on a journey from God and returning to the creator.
We also carry those aspects, those elements are referred to as the shadow side. We all carry those within us too and sometimes, they emerge to the surface. We’re seeing that more now with the greater distinction between oneness and duality emerging. It’s heading in so many ways. Probably the easiest example to use right now is in the political realm with all the debates and beyond that are happening about what our values or should be or that kind of thing. It’s a matter of opposites coming out, becoming evident, apparent and that creates a real struggle between the opposites.
It’s a process of that struggle playing out and there’s a number of ways of putting it but eventually, what happens is the light overcomes the shadow and through that struggle, the process of gaining a better understanding of what those two forces are really about happens. The force of light eventually wins out and the progress moves onward towards that unity and oneness. I didn’t really give you a specific example but there are many from our recent political realm that have brought out that shadow. The interesting thing is the more that that shadow side comes out, the greater the other side becomes as well.
It’s always a matter of one fueling the other and making both even more apparent. In terms of how they juxtaposed each other, one interesting moment recently was one day we had the inauguration of the new president, the next day we had the Women’s March. Some might say that the inauguration itself and all it represented was about our collective shadow side. The next day, the Women’s March worldwide, globally, totally, not totally, but mostly spontaneous seven people in seven continents in harmony asserting really the oneness of humanity by bringing in, to that one march, all of the human rights issues of the last 50 years or more.
Dr. Lisa B: Some might say that one of the reasons we have had this issue with duality is that maybe people on either side aren’t really listening to one another. No matter what one’s political bent is, if people are surprised that a certain president was elected, then maybe they weren’t paying attention to what was actually going on in the other half of the population. We saw this within our own state.
Dr. Robert A: Yeah. Paying attention is a really important part of the whole thing. First of all, our collective conscious evolution is not a straight line from one point to the other. It is more like a process, from one point to another, that incorporates cycles within it. When we lose track of what’s going on or don’t pay attention to what is going on, that allows an opening for the shadow side to popup maybe a little easier than it might have.
That whole process is like our own individual, spiritual practice and whatever we have, as a spiritual practice, whether it’s meditation or yoga or whatever it is, if we don’t keep that up on a regular basis, other things happen and take over. It’s the same process on a collective level and moving toward our collective goal.
This is all in the context of all of the world’s sacred traditions having in common, not only things like the Golden Rule and various versions of the 10 Commandments in each spiritual epic, but also having in common the need for some kind of regular practice to keep us on the path and without that, we open ourselves up to other kinds of troubles.
Dr. Lisa B: When you were a professor at the University of Southern Maine, what was your focus?
Dr. Robert A: My field?
Dr. Lisa B: Yes.
Dr. Robert A: My main field was cross-cultural human development. I came to that from a number of other approaches. I majored in philosophy in college, then I got a master’s degree. My first master’s degree was in American folk culture and then, I got a second master’s in counseling, and then my doctoral work is in cross-cultural human development. I merged all of those interests into a way of approaching and understanding human development from a cross-cultural and spiritual perspective. Integrated all of those into my courses. I taught in the counselor education program at USM and so the graduate students that I had over the 27 years, because they were coming from their own personal experiences that brought them to counseling, they appreciated that broader cross-cultural, spiritual approach to human development.
Dr. Lisa B: I’m going to read a paragraph from your book that speaks to me because it speaks about the way that we develop as humans, as individuals. “Usually a gradual process, most children start out with limited access to reality as our sensing, feeling and mental capacities develop and mature. We grasp greater levels of complexity, think symbolically, understand other points of view, apply logic, weigh dichotomies, make difficult decisions, think abstractly and hypothetically and eventually, become theoretical about life and our experience of it. As our thinking matures, our consciousness expands and we see what was once hidden.” If we are, all of us arguably, on individual continua, we’re all evolving in different phases. We’re never going to all be in the same place at the same time, we may not be children anymore but even as adults, I think that we evolve. How do we move towards oneness with that?
Dr. Robert A: It’s a long process and you’re exactly right that not everyone is going to get to that goal or point at the same time. We notice, clearly, how there have been throughout history, pockets of resistance or not moving on at the same phases on other parts of the population. That is part of the process because it’s a relative process, it’s a progressive process and not everyone is at the same place at the same time. As I said, how we will all get to that place of living with a consciousness of oneness, at some point, is that it is a very gradual process. It’s one of those processes or movements that is definitely not short-term.
It is a process that gains a little traction by little steps at a time. It’s of the same kind of process and then the other kind of setting. The more individuals who make progress, the more they create a greater force beyond the resistance level. The more they get the collective closer to what some think of as a tipping point at which point, once that’s reached, then many more will come to that point more quickly. The tipping point, in terms of our collection evolution, towards that is not that great.
It’s not 50%, it’s not 40%, it’s more like maybe closer to 20% of the population. Once that happens, then the process overall will quicken and once that quickening of the process starts, then everyone else will get there quicker. It’s like once we got to the point of realizing how important unity is within the city, then it gradually, eventually became easier to understand how and why unity is important in the nation as well. We’ve been at that point for a few centuries and from that big picture perspective, we are getting closer to realizing how important it is for humanity, as a whole, to think of ourselves in terms of a global community rather than any individual nation.
Dr. Lisa B: How will we know when we’ve reached that tipping point?
Dr. Robert A: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I’m not sure if anyone has written a definitive explanation of that. If they have, I’m not quite aware of it but my sense is that we may know because the resistance put up around it is less. Right now, it’s clear that we’re not there yet because the clash of opposites is so strong right now, today, that who knows how much longer it’ll take for us to get closer to that tipping point and for the resistance to lessen. That’s the way the process happens. It’s a two-fold process. One thing that’s happening is the unfolding of a new world view, a new way of seeing the world and being in the world and at the same time, the other thing that’s happening is the breakdown of the old way of seeing things.
Those are dual processes happening at the same time and they haven’t gotten far enough apart yet for the building of the new to be a smooth ride. There’s still a lot of resistance from the old world view which really a main part of that old world view is seeing the nation as the center of focus for the world. At the same time, there are many others and this has been true, ever since or before, the United Nations came into existence 70 some years ago. That dual process has been happening for a long time and even though there is that strong resistance to hold onto, the need to have the nation at the center of the focus, there are other forces that have been in the process for so long that eventually that will overcome the resistance.
Dr. Lisa B: I’ve been speaking to Dr. Robert Atkinson who is an internationally recognized expert on life story interviewing, personal mythmaking and soul-making. He’s the author of nine books including The Story of our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. He previously taught at the University of Southern Maine. It’s been a very interesting conversation. Thank you for coming in and having it with me today.
Dr. Robert A: Thank you.
Dr. Lisa B: You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 308. Our guest have included Elizabeth McLellan and Robert Atkinson. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show signup for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. We’d love to hear from you so please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here, we are privileged that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your day. May you have a bountiful life.
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