Season 2
43 Minutes

E60 | Lisabeth Reynolds | When A Spiritual Emergency Unlocked My Creative Self


It took a spiritual emergency for Lisabeth Reynolds to fully embrace her creative gifts. In turn, Lisabeth ended up working for decades as a clown under the guise of her alter-ego, Lizzie the Clown.

Lisabeth is also a beloved private writing and journaling teacher, has authored 3 books, and has spent many years teaching writing workshops in South Florida’s Senior communities. She divides her time between homes in Boynton Beach and Western Massachusetts where she is fueled by the gifts of nature and the presence of brilliant artists.

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These show notes come via the Otter.ai service. The transcription is imperfect. But hopefully, it’s close enough – even with the errors – to give those who aren’t able or inclined to learn from audio interviews a way to participate.

Lisabeth Reynolds  00:00

A spiritual emergency can happen anytime, to anyone can be caused by any number of crises. For example, many yoga instructors learn coaching for spiritual emergency week because people who do a lot of yoga often have Kundalini release its energy, which brings about this spiritual emergency.

Achim Nowak  00:37

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. If life is a five act play, how will you spend your FOURTH ACT? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected fourth acts, listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening on. Let’s get started. I am so completely delighted to welcome Liz Reynolds to MY FOURTH ACT podcast. It took a spiritual emergency for Liz to fully embrace her creative gifts. In turn. Liz ended up working for decades as a clown under the guise of a wonderful Alter Ego, aptly named Lizzy the clown. Liz is also a beloved writing and journaling teacher. She has authored three books including an epic novel The purple bowtie, and she has spent many years teaching writing workshops in South Florida senior communities. Liz divides her time between homes in Boynton Beach in Western Massachusetts, where she is fueled by the gifts of nature and the presence of other brilliant artists. Hi, Liz.

Lisabeth Reynolds  02:02

It’s so good to be here. I’m delighted.

Achim Nowak  02:06

Yeah. Do I have your permission to tell the story of how we met because we had this wonderful, I want to say chance encounter but I don’t believe in chance encounters. So let me tell you a story about over 10 years ago or so with the person I was dating at the time and I we had an I rarely do this. We had box tickets for a dance performance by the Mark Morris Dance Company at the Art Center in Miami, which is the big opera house. And as it turned out, there were two other people sitting in that box. And it was Liz Reynolds and her wife Jean. So of course we immediately ended up chatting with each other. I think Liz was the first clown I have ever met. I am a writer and I was delighted to discover that Liz is a prolific writer and a writing teacher. So of course we ended up establishing a relationship. And I think in hindsight night, we love Mark Morris, but we didn’t love that particular performance. But something that’s true. Something much more wonderful came out of it because I I made a friend

Lisabeth Reynolds  03:14

when it was a great serendipity. I loved it.

Achim Nowak  03:19

It was completely. I’m curious. When you were a young girl growing up, Liz. You know, most of us mom or dad asked us who do you want to be when you grew up? Or what do you want to do with your life did? What were your thoughts about what you want it to be?

Lisabeth Reynolds  03:37

Well, initially, when I was very young, I want it to be Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, a what? The Swamp Fox he was famous in the Revolutionary War. Uh huh. attacked the British. And he was a fascinating character who hung out in the swamps. And I also wanted to be a cowboy. I grew up with boys. I had three boys next door. Who are my brothers, Jimmy in between and Doug, and two boys down the street, Victor and Kenny, so all of my play was with boys. So I was really a tomboy. So those were my first fantasies.

Achim Nowak  04:35

What were these your secret ambitions or did you share those with mom and dad?

Lisabeth Reynolds  04:39

Oh, I shared them. When one mother wanted me to go to town, she would try to get a dress on. Yeah, and I would always put my holster on over the dress with my cowboy boots and my cowboy hat. So there you go.

Achim Nowak  05:02

I love that story. And I want to share when it’s related to mine. I was very rebellious, especially my 20s and 30s. And I prided myself on. I said, I’m not going to spend stupid money on department store clothing. I’m going to buy thrift shop clothes, which was sometimes a little raggedy, and it drove my mother crazy. But she learned to tolerate those eccentricities at the time. Right.

Lisabeth Reynolds  05:26

Yeah. Right. They do. They do. They’re not, you know that. My mother was very traditional. But she was very creative. And so it was okay. But we still had our fights over the dress. I can

Achim Nowak  05:48

only imagine. Now. At that time, did you have creative yearnings? Were you already thinking of I want to write or I want to perform or did all that emerge later?

Lisabeth Reynolds  06:05

Well, I was very shy. So my mother gave me dramatics lessons. A woman by the name of Irene Mara mind, taught me she was a theatre director. And I loved it. I was I turned out to be a real ham. She scheduled me in various places. For example, I played the lion in Androcles. At the Schenectady Museum, and I did a television short with a good friend of mine, John Dykstra. At the time, we had a ball. And then I went on to try out for the miracle worker at the Schenectady Playhouse. And I got the role of Helen Keller, I give out the understudy for Patty Duke. How about that? Wow. So I have loved and I loved working with the actress than see Moray, who played and, and we blocked out our scenes together. It was amazing. So since I was about 12, I had wanted to be an actress.

Achim Nowak  07:38

As far as I know, however, and please correct me. You did not go on to pursue being a professional actress, which might be the natural course of action based on what you said, what, what prevented you from saying, Hey, I’m going to go to New York, or I’m going to go to LA, and I’m going to have an acting career.

Lisabeth Reynolds  07:57

Yeah. Well, my mother saw thought that it would be too tough, that it was very difficult career. She gave me a book on acting and how difficult it was. And so I did learn to love languages. And that’s what I ended up majoring in college language. But I still loved perform. Yeah.

Achim Nowak  08:29

No, I, I know you spend quite a few of your early years doing sales, right? Doing sales for radio programs. And what I love to get to though is, you used a phrase the other day as we were preparing for this conversation, and sometimes hard to prepare for conversation with a person, you know, but you said, I had a spiritual emergency. And that changed so many things in my life. And I realized I didn’t know what a spiritual emergency was. I loved the term I had my ideas. Right, would you explain to our listeners, so what is a spiritual emergency? Sure.

Lisabeth Reynolds  09:17

It’s a non ordinary state of consciousness and a spiritual awakening. But for some people, when they have a spiritual awakening, like myself, it comes so quickly, that if these stabilized Newseum, all of this energy hits you at once, and you engage in very bizarre behaviors. You might have some hallucinations, the world around you becomes very synchronistic Everything seems to be a coincidence. And some of the things are that you become very, very creative. You channel writing, you’re receiving images that you want to paint. You can write songs, it’s an amazing creative experience, you get into a creative flow, that is just spectacular.

Achim Nowak  10:34

I would imagine if this goes to the dark side, people put you into an institution, right? And if it goes to the positive, you have this expansion of self and discover new forms of expression. Am I Am I saying that correctly? Or am I best? Yes,

Lisabeth Reynolds  10:52

it is a transformative experience. And in some cases, it is misdiagnosed as a mania or a psychosis. And yes, people have been hospitalized, but really didn’t have to be if someone was there to support them. Yeah, and knew what was going on. It is not a mental illness, it’s time of instability.

Achim Nowak  11:33

Do you have a sense of what invoked the spiritual awakened in you, like what in your circumstances in your life caused this to happen?

Lisabeth Reynolds  11:44

Well, I had done very well, in reading. And also, I started a consulting firm, a sales consulting firm. And I happen to hit cable when it was just started. So I was hired as a consultant to train a lot of salespeople all in once, and I made really good money. What I really wanted to do was to write, after doing well, I decided to take a year off and write. And I did a lot of meditate. And I went very deep into my writing, I would write five or six hours a day. And that may have prompted a spiritual emergency can happen anytime, to anyone. It can be caused by any number of crises. For example, many yoga, instructors learn coaching for a spiritual emergency, because people who do a lot of yoga often have Kundalini release its energy, which brings about this spiritual emergency, the same is true of meditation, that can happen, or it could be sexual assault. It could be death of a parent, or it could be drugs. I did have a sexual assault experience several years prior. And in the book of the purple bow tie. I do bring that out. But I’m really not sure why it occurred. But I’m very glad that it did.

Achim Nowak  13:50

Yeah. Just just want to add, from my experience, I’ve spent over 30 years in exploring Hindu spiritualities a big part of some of those traditions are you have a kundalini awakening, and then initiate Yes, literally changes. How we experience everything because there’s a level of energy that is released and flows through us that here to four we didn’t know, and it changes the world. So that is my version of the experience that you describe. We’re going to talk a little bit more about your writing in a moment, but I already talked about your work as a clown, your name, Lizzie the clown. I’ve seen photos of you as a clown. It’s just it’s a completely different version of the person I’m speaking to right now. So for our listeners, at what point like how does one get the instinct to okay, like I think I want to be a clown. And if you do, do you go to clown school? Or you get a clown mentor? Or how does one explore that part of oneself?

Lisabeth Reynolds  15:09

Well, first of all, the spiritual emergency pointed me in that direction. Because I channeled a lot of writings, I could write automatic poetry for kids like little poems about. So I wanted to pursue it because clowning is one of the most creative things you can do. It’s up if you have face painting, so you’re an artist, you have physical comedy, you can be a comedian and joke with kids. You have comedy magic, which is so fun. I played a really ignorant clown, who didn’t know my color, stirs. I thought a skunk was a rabbit, so that I could get kids to teach me things kids love to teach. So there is music, there’s storytelling, and all of that was part of my ritual emergency.

Achim Nowak  16:22

I don’t want to play psychoanalyst, but obviously, I know this is a form of theater director is when we act, we have an I was an actor to not a very good one. But an act that a lot is we have full permission to express parts of ourselves that in normal everyday life, we wouldn’t dare Express, right? It’s this permission to just let it all out. Right? Is that Is that what happens to you so

Lisabeth Reynolds  16:49

true? Yes. And it was wonderful. Because when I express myself, the people that I’ve worked with, and I worked with both seniors and children, most particularly challenged seniors and children. I was a caring clown. It was expression that brought out the motion and feeling of the children and seniors.

Achim Nowak  17:21

I would very much wearing my, my former theater director hat is I’m assuming the character of Liza Lizzie the clown emerged and you shaped the character? Or was did you instantly know who Lizzie the clown was?

Lisabeth Reynolds  17:39

No. Actually, there’s a famous clown in Hollywood, Florida, mamma clan. And she was wonderful. She gave me a face. It was a very simple face, and a good face. So the whole face was not covered. The makeup would only take me about five minutes to put on. I had a big nose and white around my eyes and my mouth, lips with a heart. So that was it. Like blue. Above my eyebrow. She taught me face painting and makeup. Then I went on to the world clown Association, which has conventions twice a year and learned comedy magic, physical comedy, storytelling, using music, etc. I also went to the University of lacrosse clown school twice. Wow. And I studied with Priscilla moose Berger, who is a Ringling Brothers clown, who has her camp in Minnesota. And I went there twice as well. So it was a fabulous experience. I didn’t want to leave clown camp. Because world famous clowns who were so funny. We would have breakfast and lunch and dinner with them. And we were just constantly cranking and gagging each other and having a blast. So before I went home from these places, I would take myself to Disney World, and then go home.

Achim Nowak  19:39

A word from your sponsor. That’s me. I invite you to go to the website associated with this podcast www.my Fourth act.com You will find other equally inspiring conversation with great humans. And you will also learn more about the my fourth act mastermind groups We’re cool people figure out how to chart their own for Zach’s. Please check it out. And now back to the conversation. So Disney World was your transition home from now know this may be a stupid question, but this just popped up is when you perform as a clown. And I hear what you’re what you’re saying a lot of it is you have it you have some repertoire, but the rest of it is you’re engaging in the moment with people. Yes. Do you feel an inner pressure to be funny? Or is that does that completely go out the window and you just trust the moment?

Lisabeth Reynolds  20:50

It’s comes naturally. My grandfather was a wonderful jokester, he built a huge insurance agency by going around and selling people with jokes, corny jokes. And he taught me magic card tricks, jokes, all sorts of fun stuff. And he’s been like an inner ally for me. So it comes kind of natural way. But the things that I do are so dumb, that the people will laugh. Good. I’m making fun of myself and my vulnerabilities and laughing with the crowd.

Achim Nowak  21:38

Beautiful. No, as you’re describing it. I get a sense of how physical clowning is, yes, how you worked on that. Now when you and I met over 10 years ago, and I want to get a little personal now as you you were starting to have some tremors in your body and as a clown, your work with the body. I know there is a medical term for it called cervical dystonia. And it’s notable. So when people meet you for the first time they’re going to see that Liz has some tremors. And people will have reactions to it. And they’re probably make up stories of what those tremors mean. I’m curious because it’s it’s something that showed up at a certain time in your life. You didn’t always have that. When did you first notice that you had cervical dystonia? And how? How did you manage your relationship to having these tremors?

Lisabeth Reynolds  22:40

So it started when I was selling radio time. I noticed that when I would go in and pitch and client. And so I went to the neurologist. And at the time 30 years ago, 40 years ago now, it was diagnosed as essential tremor. And they said there’s nothing we can do. We just have a glass of wine in this social situation. So that lasted for like 20 years. And then they said, Well, you can go on to drugs that will calm you down for your tremors. They’re strictly for tremors. I was on those. And then, about two years ago, I was told I had cervical dystonia. But I thought I had cervical dystonia and essential tremor. Recently, the doctor did a fabulous exam on me and discovered that I only have cervical dystonia, which is involuntary muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders, and that can cause the shaking, and it’s treatable with Botox. So I’m hoping to get that soon. And it’ll it’ll calm it down a little, which is good.

Achim Nowak  24:23

What, if anything, have you done so far to besides taking those two medications to to manage these involuntary spasms or tremors?

Lisabeth Reynolds  24:35

I do a lot of exercise. I do yoga, strap stretch. In the morning, I do postural work. I’ve had some physical therapy, and they’ve taught me how to do that. I walk and swim. But the thing that has worked the best is that I now say to myself You cannot control this thing, just leave it alone. And that has worked so beautifully. Because I no longer obsess about worrying that I’m going to be shaking. And it helps to relax these muscles, and they, because they over fire, there’s a lot of excitability so that also, if I just leave it alone, and I don’t obsess, it’s much better.

Achim Nowak  25:40

That’s such good advice for so many aspects of our lives, not just muscular motion, I think, what a wonderful piece of wisdom.

Lisabeth Reynolds  25:49

It happened to me in a zoom session. And of course, that I’m taking on called calming anxiety. Kathleen Adams is the professor. She just wrote the book about it. And she asked us to write about self compassion, and then do a quick reflection. And that was when the insight came to me. Stop control. Yeah, at the time I said tremor. Now I’ll say, the muscle spasms. Yeah. But it was a tremendous insight, as it has really helped

Achim Nowak  26:33

me. There’s so many ways to talk about your writing. But maybe let’s start here. Because I, I, when I first met you, I knew that you were doing work as a clown with seniors, but also with children. But you were also doing in South Florida. There are lots and lots of senior communities. Yeah, if you’ve never been to it other parts of country, there’s lots of them here. And there are activities for seniors, including wonderful people like you who go in and do some writing work. Could you give us maybe a little glimpse of what it’s like to be a writing teacher, and do a writing workshop in a senior community. And if you may share a story of Gosh, this is why I love doing that work. This is what’s cool about working with seniors in the senior community in writing.

Lisabeth Reynolds  27:29

Yeah, it when I first started at West Brook, which is in it’s in Fort Lauderdale. The people were a little bit timid, to do the writings. But once they started writing, some of them couldn’t read their readings, but they could explain them. They loved it, because I did fun writes, like, tell us the history of your hair. Well, they talked about all sorts of hair dudes, it was so fun. Tell us the history of your shoes. Yeah, um, I had them do a lot of captured moments about their past, which they seem to relish. It was as if they were sharing themselves, sharing their legacy. And they became it became a group that long for the class, we had so much fun writing about these great topics. And I would always put it in a funny one, and we would have a good laugh. So it showed these people’s outlook, they were very positive. They were resilient in what they had been through with the depression, war and cetera. And some of them even brought in poems that they had written. One man wrote a poem about his mother for Mother’s Day, that was just beautiful. Another wasn’t doctor who had written volumes of poems. There was a woman who had been in the war in England, and had she sought shelter in a church. And she was always there when the bombs came. So she wrote this beautiful poem called Paradise, all about the safe place where she could go, that was sacred, and beautiful things like that wonderful experiences.

Achim Nowak  29:49

You know, I have a 97 year old mother now and I’ve been in her senior residents. I’ve had the privilege of visiting some senior residences with you, itself. Whatever, we did some cool stuff together. But what what just hits me is you’re working with seniors, but you’ve also become a senior yourself. Right? Yeah. And when you’re working with seniors, you’re faced with aging, you’re faced with all sorts of things. What’s it like for you, as I’m gonna call you, a modern elder to work with other elders? What does that trigger in you?

Lisabeth Reynolds  30:28

Well, it’s very fast. People come up to me, and let us say, I’m 98, they tell me, I’m 98, I’ve got all my smart. The other day, a woman came up to me and said, I’m 102. And you don’t have to worry. You’ve got all your smarts, you can do anything you want, at 102. And really, they’re very positive about their lives, they’re happy. They are, they have this very strong outlook. That shows their strength, knowledge, the fact that they’re living every day to the fullest. So that’s what I get. Now, as far as I’m concerned, the senior thing kind of snuck up on me. But I feel energized. And I want to work with seen earns URLs as long as I can. So I’m back in some of a residence at the moment. But I’m going slowly, because as you know, these places were quarantined during code. And so I started with only a few I’m doing I think I’m in for right now. But it’s so fun. And they are so appreciative. And I encourage people to work with seeing is because you become a rock star to them. They are just so grateful for anything you did. Well, you remember when we worked at several facilities? How happy people are working with you?

Achim Nowak  32:21

What have you learned about yourself through the clowning because I just listened to you I get so much. You’re such a giver, you are nurturer, you your focus is on bringing out the best in other people. You call yourself a caring clown, which is a wonderful way of describing what you do. And you’ve been doing this for decades now. Yes. What has Liz learned about herself through this work?

Lisabeth Reynolds  32:50

Well, I’ve learned that by expressing myself. People relate and they want to express as well. I love to encourage self expression. I think that’s why I’m, I’m a big fan of this. Because people feel confident about themselves. And they speak out. Now I have a lot of news programs that I do with seniors, they can express their opinions. And it’s wonderful, because we can go back in history and talk about the wars of the past versus the Warren Ukraine now. So I’ve learned a lot of historical information that I never would have known because of the personal experiences that people share. And I think it has helped me understand compassion, empathy for the disabled. I worked with very challenged kids. And also with autistic kids. Yeah. And they love it. They love the energy. They love the pantomime the storytelling, so I’m just thrilled to be able to bring some joy to these people and help them express themselves.

Achim Nowak  34:37

Since since you and I met in that box seat at the Art Center, you and your wife Jean, you know, you know have a second place in Western Massachusetts and the Berkshire’s. It’s a hub of amazing creativity theater dance. It’s almost like it was vortex of creative energy and you spend half of your year there are half of the year in South Florida. At a time in your life, where financially you don’t have to work, you don’t have to do anything. What are some things you that give you the most joy and that you are continuing to explore for yourself?

Lisabeth Reynolds  35:21

Well, I love spending time with Jean gardening. For one we didn’t we love the gardening of yarn. And we also love ushering at Englewood, the music venue for the Boston Symphony. And at various theaters, including the Berkshire theatre group, it’s really special, to do something with your spouse together. And we do a lot together, we attend MIT, there’s so many speakers up here and concerts. It’s, it’s a wonderful environment, we are always if we wanted to eat, we can be busy. But if we don’t want to be we can sit down by the lake and read. So it depends on what we want to do. And as far as other things that I would like to do, I would like to probably become a coach for spiritual emergency. There’s a spiritual emergency network. Wow, it’s an international network. And they actually train individuals who have had experiences to help others. So I would like to do that. And I’m working on a book that say, a legacy book with two phenomenal photographers, Carolyn ANSYS. And Eileen Sokol, we’re putting a book together for our grandkids, and we want them to be stewards of the environment. So it’s a picture. It’s a book with photos, beautiful photos of the Everglades, and the wetlands of Florida. And poetry. My poetry is that it’s one of the things that I did, immediately after the spiritual emergency, I went down to the Everglades, and wrote poetry at sunrise, many times. And it was very inspiring. So I had all these poems. And now I’m combining them collaborating. And it’s just a wonderful feeling. And it’s a give back, we want to give it give donations to friends of the Everglades or another environmental organization. So we’re doing right now.

Achim Nowak  38:01

That sounds beautiful. I’m wondering, and this is not a rewrite my life kind of question based on what you know. Now, if you were to whisper a few words of wisdom and to young Liz’s ears about life and the journey she faces again, not to change anything but But what would you want her to know that you have learned along the way?

Lisabeth Reynolds  38:31

I would want her to know that she should stop people pleaser. That’s number one. Number two, that she should focus on exploring and discovering more of herself. And just to be lives. Yeah.

Achim Nowak  39:00

And it sounds so simple, but Oh, yeah. But if I think of my own life, because we do so many things about pleasing others, impressing others, we think we’re not we think we’re cooler than that. Right? But that’s still the hidden animator. And once I realized, and I was be turning 60s, like I’m not going to, I don’t have to prove anything to anybody anymore. Like and stop it. And then all these other beautiful doors open. Yeah.

Lisabeth Reynolds  39:37

Yeah, you have to be open to what comes to you. There’s so many opportunities, but you have to, for me, I consult my inner L I, who is my grandfather, grumpy Johnson. I dial I would and that sometimes help For me to guide me, where I want to go in the right directions, because there’s so much going on, and you can only do so much. Yeah, I would

Achim Nowak  40:13

imagine our listeners are curious about finding out more about your your books and your writing and the work you do, where would you like to direct them? And where can they find out more about your lists?

Lisabeth Reynolds  40:27

The purple bow tie is on amazon.com. So you can just go to the Amazon site. I will have the book on the nature poems, and photographs, probably done in a few months. That book is called everglade sunrise too. And I have a book called psyche when key the monkey saves the animals, which is about a Saki monkey, who I befriended on the Amazon. And I wrote a kind of funny story about this monkey who fell in love with a marmoset monkey, which is a little teeny monkey. And then she was carted away to that animal exporter to do and he uses the capabilities psyche when he uses the capable abilities of the other animals to help mini Marmot said, escaped from the zoo. So that is also on Amazon. And the kids love the bathroom humor, because the monkeys get swallowed up by Anaconda in order to escape from the zoo. And then he regurgitates them, and the kids love that. So I don’t know, I’ll stay here. Anyway. It’s a fun book for your grandkids.

Achim Nowak  42:03

I have read both and the sucky wiki is a fun book. And the purple bow tie is really his sweeping big novel with a big narrative and beautifully written. Thank you so much for the gift of this conversation, Liz. And we talked about serendipity. But I’m, I’m grateful for the serendipity that stuck us into a box at the Arsenal opera house together many years ago. So

Lisabeth Reynolds  42:29

I’m online. And it’s been a joy to be here. And you always brighten my day and you’re always so full of energy. It’s such a pleasure to be with you.

Achim Nowak  42:42

Thank you for those kind words tonight. Like what you heard, please go to my fourth act.com And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us a review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao

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