REV. EDIE WEINSTEIN, MSW, LSW Is a Love Ambassador, Opti-Mystic & Bliss Mistress
Edie delights in inviting people to live rich, full, juicy lives. She is an internationally recognized, sought after, colorfully creative journalist, interviewer, author and editor, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, licensed social worker and interfaith minister, BLISS coach, event producer, certified Laughter Yoga Leader, certified Cuddle Party facilitator, and Cosmic Concierge. Edie is the founder of Hug Mobsters Armed with Love, which offers FREE HUGS events world- wide on a planned and spontaneous basis. For more than three years, she was the host of the Vivid Life Radio show called It’s All About Relationships.
She speaks on the subjects of wellness, relationships, trauma recovery, addiction, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, loss and grief.
Edie is the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary and co-author of Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Power, Passion and Purpose. She has also contributed to several anthologies and personal growth books, including Taming the Anger Dragon: From Pissed Off to Peaceful.
Over the past 30 years, she has had the honor of interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Judith Orloff, Debbie Ford, Arielle Ford, don Miguel Ruiz, Wayne Dyer, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr., Dan Millman, Ram Dass, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Mariel Hemingway, Ben & Jerry and SARK.
In the last four decades, she has worked with those who have been diagnosed with life-altering conditions, she focuses on her clients’ resilience and assists them in developing a solid toolkit of coping skills. As both a clinician and a patient, she is aware of what it is like to be on the other side of the treatment relationship and can be of service to the patient, their caregivers, as well as the treatment team.
Please share a bit about your early life experience
I was born in Philadelphia to parents who adored each other. They met in a serendipitous way. My mother had been dating a man who I thought of as ‘on again, off again Freddy,’ since the story goes that they broke up and reunited several times. The last straw was when he stood her up for a date on New Years Eve. Soon after, my mother went to a party hosted by a friend of theirs and he was there, but so was my father. Freddy beckoned my mother over and she stood her ground and said, “If you want to talk to me, you come to me.” My father, who was also friends with the hostess, took note of their interaction and thought, “This girl’s got chutzpah.” That’s Yiddish for guts or Moxy. He walked over to her and began a conversation that lasted hours and he asked if he could drive her home. She agreed and when she walked in the door, she told my grandmother, “Tonight I met the man I’m going to marry.” Their first date was at a Chinese restaurant and her fortune read, “You’d better prepare your Hope Chest.” The cosmic coincidence of their relationship was that their paths had not crossed until that pivotal moment, despite their mutual friends and the fact that they both worked out at the same Y in Philadelphia.
Shortly after, they were married, and my father moved into the house she shared with her mother. Her father had died when she was 18. Two years later (the day before their 2nd anniversary), I made my entrance. She loved telling the story of my birth. Chinese food for dinner that night with a hot fudge sundae for dessert; she clearly believed in indulging her cravings. In the wee hours she had what she thought was heart burn, but it was me about to arrive. While in labor, she was pacing the hallway and ended up in front of the nursery gazing at the newborns. All of them were crying and quite active, except for one. A doctor came in and took the diaper off the little boy. At that moment, he joined in the chorus, wailing. My mother, relieved, started laughing and then noticed that her water broke. A few hours later I was born. I cascaded in on a wave of laughter. No surprise that I became a clown and a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader.
A year and a half later, my parents, grandmother and I moved across the river to Willingboro, NJ. When I was 2 ½ my sister Jan was born with vibrant red hair that made her unique in a family with darker locks. People would ask how that happened. You know the old joke that she must have been the milkman’s daughter? Guess what my dad did for a living? He worked for a dairy at the time. When we went to the Worlds Fair in New York, the women at the India pavilion were fascinated with her and wanted to touch her curls.
My early life was idyllic and then when I was four years old, my beloved grandmother who was like a third parent, suffered a stroke and died. I have no conscious recollection of her death or the funeral, but my mother told me I had been there. That same year I was diagnosed with asthma which, according to Louise Hay, is about grief. That was when I also made the unconscious decision to become a people pleaser and earn my place in others’ lives. I felt like a burden, since I would wake them up at night in the throes of an asthma attack and my mother would sit with me in the bathroom with the shower running, so I could breathe in steam. Countless hours were spent in our family doctor’s office for exams , allergy tests and injections. My grandmother’s death shaped my development because I witnessed my mother keep on keepin’ on in the face of becoming an adult orphan in her 30s. I wanted to make life easier for her, so I was the consummate good girl, getting the grades and pushing myself to excel. That, in part was due to the asthma. I bless my parents for getting me into swimming as recommended by our family doc, to help with my breathing. I was on a swim team from 11-18 and then I became a lifeguard who taught swimming and coached teams.
My parents have since passed; dad in 2008 and mom in 2010. They left me a legacy of resilience and love.
Please share a bit about your career journey
I am professionally polyamorous as I refer to it, since I have never in my adult life had just one job at a time. I am a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, journalist, interfaith minister, speaker, workshop facilitator, book author, editor, and PR professional. Unlike most kids, I had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. It wasn’t until high school that I knew it had to be something in the human services field since I had always been fascinated with what makes people tick. I graduated from Glassboro State College (now called Rowan University) in 1981 with a BA in Psychology and took a few years from educational pursuits and waited tables, was an artists’ model, was a lifeguard at a health club, and a practice patient at a local hospital. In 1985, I graduated from Rutgers University with an MSW.
A few years later, under serendipitous circumstance that in some ways, mirror that of my parents, I met a man who would become my husband. After we married, we founded Visions Magazine, a monthly publication that focused on holistic health, spirituality, environmental concerns, New Age concepts and social justice. It was where I cut my teeth on journalism and had the joy of interviewing movers and shakers in the transformational fields such as Louise Hay, Judith Orloff, Debbie Ford, Arielle Ford, don Miguel Ruiz, Wayne Dyer, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr., Dan Millman, Ram Dass, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Mariel Hemingway, Ben & Jerry and SARK.
Writing is my passion and I say that The Muse is my persistent lover who often won’t let me sleep unless I do its bidding.
As an experienced journalist what are your thoughts at present with how women’s voices are represented and how can women be better positioned to champion change?
As is true in most fields, women’s voices are under-represented and most especially women of color. I honor the words of women who set the tone for positive change. Maya Angelou inspired me to live as a Phenomenal Woman and Alice Walker grabbed my heart with her raw and real expression of life in The Color Purple. Madeleine L’Engle penned one of my perennial favorites, A Wrinkle in Time which taught me that women can be the sheroes of our own stories. Mary Oliver’s poetry inspired me to dream big, with her line, “What is it that you plan to do with your own wild and precious life?” Erica Jong titillated by senses with Fear of Flying. I got to interview her when she spoke at an eating disorders conference in my area, since she struggled with the condition in her teens. Eve Ensler who wrote the shows The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body unveiled the horrors of sexual abuse and the legacy of body loathing and shaming. Her recent book, The Apology is a rip the scab off the deep wounds of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by her father as she offers the apology to herself from him that she never received when he was alive.
I encourage women writers to discover their own unique voices and let them ring out unabashedly. For too long, we have been silenced and told not to make waves, to be ‘ladylike’, not to overshadow men. I know many talented female-identified wordsmiths who have a treasure trove of wisdom. I pass on the wisdom of a writer friend who recently died. When I was in the midst of writing my book The Bliss Mistress Guide to Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary, which contains anecdotes from my life including two chapters about the hospice journey I took with my mom in the last six months of her life. I had hit a proverbial wall, and Jim told me, “This book isn’t doing anyone any good in your head. Finish the damn book!”
Inspiring others to be champions in their lives makes us all a greater force for good in the world.
What are your thoughts on the current trends we are seeing in terms of the inability to communicate and share differences and the potential harm this can cause to women empowerment movements?
We are each born on purpose, and I firmly believe there are no accidental people, and we come into the world with a mission. Sometimes it gets squashed, minimized and twisted by those who fear the power it implies. I am now in the seventh decade of my life and have been part of marching for the ERA, for LGBTQ+ rights, for civil rights, for the environment, for No Nukes, for immigrants’ rights, for re-productive rights, for all manner of peace and social justice causes for much of my adult life. We are not a monolith. There are some who disagree on the manner in which change happens and the means to get there. Hard to do, but we need to speak from the heart and listen with the ears of the heart. If we are fragmented, we are less able to achieve our most heart felt goals. Nobody has all the answers. Together we are stronger than we are apart.
You are very positive and upbeat, how have you managed to stay positive and grounded during these uncertain times we are currently in?
I come by it genetically and I practice it daily. My parents installed it and instilled it. No matter what happened in my life, they modeled resilience. I can still hear my father’s voice saying, “If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’ll be okay.” I have experienced loss, as has everyone. In 1998, I was widowed at 40 with an 11-year-old son to raise, six years earlier we had lost our home to Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida. I few months prior to that, I had an ectopic pregnancy and almost hemorrhaged to death. My parents are now on the Other Side and still are my most ardent cheerleaders. In 2014, on the way home from the gym at age 55, I had a heart attack. Three years ago, a dear friend who was like a sister to me, died of metastatic breast cancer. I held her hand as she took her final breath on this side of the veil. I have lost jobs, had other serious illnesses, had financial challenges. What sustained me then is what sustains me now. I have a deep and abiding connection to what I call The God of My Understanding as is referred to in 12 step parlance. I spent time in an inpatient co-dependency treatment program in 1993 and another six years attending CODA-Co-dependence Anonymous meetings. I still work the steps. I have God-versations all day long in which I express gratitude and curiosity about why things happen and ask for guidance and the ‘next right step’ to take. My friends and family are my treasures and I value them immensely. As hard as it is to live in these tumultuous times, I sense I was born to be a catalyst for positive change. There is a concept in Judaism called Tikkun Olam which translates to ‘repair of the world.’ We are all called on to mend the rend.
Sometimes even the Bliss Mistress gets the blues. When that happens, I listen to music and podcasts. I write to remain sane and vertical. I glean inspiration from other writers. I spend time with kindred spirits even if through the marvels of modern technology since I believe that even though we may be apart, we are always a part of each other. I trust the messages that come to me. This one woke me up this morning: “May everything we think, say and do benefit the whole of the world. May our actions be conscious and intentional. May we come together to mend the rends” I trust that ultimately good will prevail.
What has been your biggest failure, how did you overcome and what did you learn about yourself?
I didn’t live up to my potential in my marriage and business. It was what I call a paradoxical relationship in which love, and anger were factors as his wounds spilled over into our lives, and I couldn’t heal them. My co-dependence contributed to the dysfunction, and I was as he described it, “An emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people, a deer caught in the headlights when it came to making a decision and was always looking over my shoulder to see if the propriety police were watching.” That combination did not bode well for successful partnership in either realm. The woman I am now would never have stood for the behaviors he exhibited and would have spoken her mind assertively. The woman I am now would have been in integrity in her actions rather than taking the easy way out.
What created the evolution of Edie was the support of family and friends who reminded me after he died that I will never fall into those destructive patterns again. I did a lot of inner work on the causes and gained strength from the challenges. As I was at his beside in the ICU when he was taken off life support while waiting for a liver transplant that never occurred, I heard ‘The Voice,’ tell me to “Call the seminary and finish what Michael started.” He was enrolled in The New Seminary in NYC on track to be ordained as an interfaith minister. In the first of a two-year program, I assisted him in his studies, since the end stage liver disease was taking its toll, reading to him, typing his papers, listening to the audio recordings, little realizing that I was preparing myself. A few weeks after his funeral, I enrolled and completed two years’ worth of work in six months and was ordained in June of 1999. Since then, I have married over 300 couples. I have learned more about relationships in that role than I did in my nearly 12-year marriage. I have learned that I am worthy of love and the partnership that will enhance the self-love that I have showered on the woman in the mirror. I celebrate my rich, full, juicy life.
In your opinion, what are the greatest threats to relationships at present?
Dishonesty, entitlement, going into it with eyes, mind and heart closed. Multi-generational family dysfunction. Addiction. Abuse. An unwillingness to be flexible. The Jerry Maguire ‘you complete me,’ mythos. No one is less than a whole person and no one needs someone else to complete them. Seeing the other person as utilitarian, as in ‘what have you done for me lately?’ Shaming, blaming, bullying. Out of control jealousy. Withholding. Not being on the same page as to what relationship means and what each person wants. Selling your soul for love.
What have been your proudest moments in life and what did those moments teach you about life?
Graduating from college and grad school as the first person in my family to do so. Completing an Outward Bound Course in 1981. Raising my son as a single parent after being widowed when he was 11. He is now a happily married father of my adorable grandson who I call my little joy boy. Graduating from the seminary. Interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he came to Philadelphia in 2008 as one of two local journalists to whom he granted an audience. Oh, and hugging him. Writing for publications worldwide.
They taught me that we must never give up on our dreams and visions, that most things we do require seed planting, cultivating, watering and weeding to come to fruition.
What has been your greatest learning working with individuals going through hardships?
That people are tremendously resilient and when we focus on our strengths and not just our challenges, we can prevail. I am in awe of what many of my clients over the years have survived. They are resilient thrivers. They are my teachers.
What tip can you share with the readers to see through the eyes of possibilities despite the challenges they might be facing?
Make a list of all the life events that you have survived and realize that you have what it takes, since you are here to talk about it. Then journal about what tools, resources, people, inspirations, faith, ideas and creative interventions got you from there to here. You will be amazed at how powerful you are. Seeing that seemingly impossible challenges are also ‘I’m possible’ opportunities.
What was the thought behind Hug Mobsters?
I wrote this story about it for my website:
“Once upon a time, a woman decided to make the world a more welcoming, embracing place, since she saw that often, people felt alone and disconnected from those around them. They didn’t always know how to ask for the nurturing, platonic touch, by consent that they needed. She pondered how she might help meet that need. An idea came to her that she would gather a group of playful and kind friends at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia which is known as ‘The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection’. They would carry with them signs that let passengers know that they were offering hugs.
Amazingly, most of the people accepted the hugs and love they were sharing on a cold Valentines’ Day weekend in 2014. She smiled as she imagined that they carried that energy with them back into their daily lives.
Because it was a FREE HUGS Flash mob, friends began to refer to them as Hugmobsters. She added the tagline. ‘Armed with love,’ so it counteracted the violent image of mobsters. She estimates that she/they have hugged thousands of people in the interceding years It warms her heart, and she has been told, that it does the same for those on the receiving end, although, she realizes that the hugs are mutual.”
Since 2014, I have hugged people throughout the U.S., Canada and then in 2018, hugged my way through Ireland when on The Muse Juice Tour. Sadly, since the pandemic, the hug events have temporarily been put on hold. I do virtual hugs as I stand in front of a person and wrap my arms around myself and ask them to do the same. I invite them to recall the last hug they experienced with a treasured person and the first hug they will share once they feel safe to do so. Even though we may not be able to hug as we had ‘in the before times,’ we can still love.
What is love to you?
What I’ve Learned About Love
Love without limits begins with self-love.
Love is not a commodity to be traded in exchange for security, comfort or companionship.
It is an energy and an essence that has always existed and always will exist.
The source is love is not another person. It is within you. You are love incarnate.
Love with abandon without fear of being abandoned.
You are not incomplete without the love that you thought you needed from someone else.
What legacy would you love to leave behind?
One of love and encouragement for people embracing and living out their potential full out. A reminder that we are all worthy of love, by virtue of being here, and need not earn it.
How would you want to be remembered?
As a force for good in the world. As someone who made a difference, touched lives and opened hearts.