Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Velveteen Rabbit & Coaching

The Velveteen Rabbit
More Than A Children's Book

By Jeff Wasserman

On the weekend of March 30th through April 2nd, the childrens production at the Holly Theatre in Dahlonega Georgia presented " The Velveteen Rabbit." This play was based on the book first published in 1922 by Margery Williams.

The book follows the life of a stuffed bunny, made of inexpensive fabric and filled with sawdust. The bunny arrives in a well-to-do little boys nursery. Along side of more expensive toys, the bunny feels naturally shy and insecure. The bunny longed to fit in with his peers. Actually he hoped to become special to the boy.

Abandoned after the excitement of Christmas, the rabbit befriends, the wise old skin-horse. He explains to the rabbit that the boy will eventually love him and make him real. As the story goes, the horse is right, the Velveteen Rabbit is selected to keep the boy safe and secure during a serious illness.

A special bond or relationship develops between the boy and the rabbit. Along with the experiences the two share together, the rabbit transforms from a toy to something Skin Horse calls "real." Skin Horse claims that real is what happens when you become your true self, not a contrived, shiny, pretend thing and are loved despite, and maybe even because of, your imperfections.

The Velveteen Rabbit is much more than a children's tale, it is a classic metaphor. This story has the power to provoke our deepest desires, inspire reflection and remind us of the basic truths in life.

In the children's theater production of the Velveteen Rabbit, at the Holly Theater, Valerie West, the director, adapted the play to include a little girl as Andrea, instead of Andrew and a female rabbit spirit. Adapting in life is the key to a happy and successful life. As the old saying goes, " if you have lemons, make lemonade."

The play was wonderful and the entire cast and crew did an excellent job. Both of my daughters were in the play, Sara playing the rabbit spirit and Rachel playing a wild rabbit in the woods. Denali Hazen played Andrea. On Sunday, after the play, Denali presented my daughter Sara with a book by Toni Raiten-D'Antonio, titled The Velveteen Principles.

When we returned home, Sara started to read the book. Sara read one chapter and came running into my office to explain that the book closely resembles Life Coaching. I opened the book and immediately noticed the similarities. Life Coaching is all about seeing yourself in the mirror of life, or seeing yourself as others see you. It is like a reality wake up call.

In the Velveteen Rabbit, story and play, the reality wake up call is called being real. Being real is truly being yourself and not a version of something you think you are suppose to be. In coaching we call this, living your authentic life.

This theory is based on our own individuality. Being real is different for everyone. Whether speaking about living an authentic life, living the coaching lifestyle or being real, one thing is the same. We are all striving for a feeling of happiness and contentment. We are always looking for work that is engaging, relationships that feel satisfying and genuine love so we never feel alone in this world.

As in the book and play, once you are real, you know that everything you say and do matters to others. It helps you understand pain and pleasure. You will want to help ease others pain and bring pleasure to your loved ones. It helps you strive to leave your mark on this earth.

In the book, the Velveteen Principles, Toni Raiten-D'Antonio lists 12 principles. This is especially interesting since my healthy life program using 12 similar principles which I call coaching strategies.

# 1) Real is Possible. - Being real is a quest to resolve your doubts and clarify your own identity and self-worth. In the play, as soon as the Rabbit learns what real is and the Rabbit believes it is possible, he/she starts to show signs of being real.

# 2) Real is a Process. In the play, the rabbit looks up to Skin Horse as a role model. Skin Horse explains the process of becoming real. He describes it with such authority, with such precision. In life, many people hire a Life Coach to help explain the process of living your authentic life. Change and transformation is a process in the play and in real life.

#3) Real is Emotional. Individuals have feelings and emotions that keep them from being real. In the play, the Rabbit maintains an emotional longing for being real. Skin Horse explains that you must have a clear understanding of your emotions, in order to be real. In Life Coaching, the coach explains the dynamics which hold you back from being real or living an authentic life.

#4) Real is Empathetic. When you are not real or not living a real life, you have difficulties understanding and relating to others. In the Velveteen Rabbit, the other toys all see their imperfections and are living their life as a toy. Skin Horse on the other hand, is real, he is able to express his kindness and caring.

# 5) Real is Courageous. In the story, Skin Horse explains to the Rabbit to have courage, to expect a little pain, to face his/her challenges. In real life, achieving what you want in life, living a authentic life requires you to overcome challenges, ridicule and resentment. Like in the play, you might even shed a real tear or two along the way.

#6) Real is Honest. Skin Horse is honest and real when it comes to talking to rabbit. The only reason the Rabbit leaned on Skin Horse is because he is so honest throughout the entire story. If you want to be real, you need to be honest to yourself and to others.

#7) Real is Generous. Generous is more than just giving material possessions to those who need. Generous is about caring for others health and happiness. In the story, the Rabbit is more concerned about the boys health than the fact that he is being taken away to be burned. Being generous is not about gift giving, it is about offering your support, caring for others and lending encouragement.

#8) Real is Grateful. In the Velveteen Rabbit, the boys love played a huge role in the Rabbit becoming real. The Rabbit understands that he should be grateful. Being grateful is more than saying thank you, it comes from the heart.

#9) Real can be Painful. Transforming into being real, or living an authentic life is a complex process. The Rabbit learned from Skin Horse that awakening in life, to becoming real is sometimes painful. In our lives, moving toward an authentic life, living the life of your dreams can be a painful experience, but once you reach your goal, the pain becomes part of the process or journey.

# 10) Real is Flexible. In the play, the Velveteen Rabbit sees the wild rabbits playing in the garden. The Velveteen Rabbit is not sure he can hop like the other bunnies. Once he forgets his limitations, he is able to hop just like the wild bunnies. You must release your self-imposed limitations and be flexible and accepting to change.

#11) Real Love Endures. The Velveteen Rabbit becomes real due to the boys love and affection. This entire story is based on endless love both from Skin Horse and Andrew, the little boy.

#12) Real is Ethical. The story demonstrates that in order to become real, to live the life of your dreams, to live an authentic life, one needs to be ethical and content with ourselves.

The story of the Velveteen Rabbit is a terrific example of why we should all live an authentic life, based on our own self worth. Being real is living a life that reflects the values and principles outlined in the Velveteen Principles by Toni Raiten-D'Antonio.