Janet Bray Attwood: The Miracle of Self-Love
By Kicki Pallin
She has just launched her new program, Mastering Self Love – Magnifying Your Greatness and Manifesting Wealth. But this is by no means the grand finale of a life mission. Janet Bray Attwood says she is reinventing herself every few months. She is a famous author, the co-founder of The Passion Test Certification Program, the founding member of the Transformational Leadership Council and has received several awards for her important work. For her work with the homeless and kids in lock down detention centers, Janet has received an award from the president of the United States, and for her work in promoting peace she has received the World Peace Flame Award from the Life Foundation International. Janet has dedicated the biggest part of her life to passion and love, but many of her childhood years were affected by severe trauma. This has colored her life in a special way, and as Janet says, success isn’t all important, what really matters is, “How much love did I give today?”
Today you are a well-known Transformational Leader, and this life path of yours has evolved from very personal life experiences. Could you please share what happened during your childhood?
When I was little I had the most beautiful relationship with my mother. I had two older siblings, a sister, Mickey and a brother, Johnny. Both of them were a bit jealous of my relationship with my mother. Who could blame them, our relationship was pure love, it was totally magical! My mom loved being with me so much that she would write to the principal of my school and ask for time off for me to go to a dentist appointment, and then instead, we would just hang out together and spend time together laughing, eating, singing, planting flowers, etc. Then at 7 years old, everything in my life changed. It was a defining moment in my life, the very first crack in my existence. I heard our car come screeching into the driveway, it was a horrible sound, and out stepped my very drunk mother, looking and acting completely crazy. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I immediately asked myself, “Did I do that?”, “Didn’t I love her enough?” My mother, my best friend, my everything, had turned into a hard-core alcoholic.
What happened to your family when this trauma happened?
My dad, after trying everything to help my mother, finally left. He took my brother and sister with him, but I couldn’t leave my mother. I was afraid that something terrible would happen to her if I wasn’t there. Sometimes, I ended up staying alone late into the night, waiting for my mom to come home. My dad, of course, came and picked me up once he found out that I was being left all alone. I remember reading the obituaries in the local newspapers at that time, again, I was only 7 years old. Because we never knew where she was, I thought maybe she had died. From that point on, I became a very weird child, and my brother, sister and father were so broken by what had happened, that even though I was little, no one paid any attention to me. I became the little dirty, shabby kid and because of that I got bullied. It was a really tough time for me. I developed really low self-esteem and that defined my choices moving forward.
Didn’t you get any support from your dad?
My father remarried, but I didn’t get along with my stepmother. I called her the stepmother from hell, she was so jealous of me. To make things worse, because of the trauma from my mother becoming an alcoholic, I started wetting the bed and this continued up until I was 12. Around that same time, my dad and my stepmom, along with me, my brother Johnny and sister Mickey, moved to a new town and I started to blossom. I then became Doug’s girlfriend, Doug was the most popular boy at school, and then through Doug, I met Melissa, and she was the most popular girl in school. Finally, I felt my life was taking a turn for the better.
I was so ashamed of wetting my bed, I used to hide my sheets and one day when Doug and Melissa came to visit me, my stepmother comes running into the room, screaming at the top of her lungs at me as she holds the wet sheets for everyone to see, “What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you!?” Doug and Melissa were so shocked by my stepmothers screaming and the fact that I was wetting my bed, that they both said a quick goodbye. And, without looking me in the eye, bolted out the front door, never to come visit again. I was mortified and ashamed that they had left me. I was heartbroken that my beautiful new “happy” world was now over. From that point on, I did everything I could to sabotage my relationship with my stepmom. During that the real war began between us. When I was only 17 years old, my dad, feeling like he had to choose between me and my stepmom, handed me $ 200 and said, “I need you to move out. This war between the both of you can’t go on. Good-bye.”
What did you do, did you have anywhere you could go?
Yes, I moved into an apartment in Hollywood with my girlfriend. One night my brother´s two friends came over, I had always had a big crush on both of them. That night, I wanted so much to impress them. They asked me if I wanted to take this pill that they had. Wanting desperately to please them, I said yes. Once I took that pill everything became a blur until I finally passed out. When I woke up the next morning, I had been raped. It’s strange, but because of my low self-esteem, I never really blamed them, I blamed me. I felt like I had been so stupid, and I couldn’t understand why I had done what I had done. I was so ashamed. After that experience, to numb my pain, I started taking lots of drugs, and I became an LSD addict. LSD led me to venture to the mecca of the drug world, and I ended up living with the biggest drug dealers in the Bay Area. In order for narcotics agents not to bust us, we moved to Berkley, California. No one but the Hell’s Angels, a biker gang in Berkeley, and the ones we dealt drugs with, were allowed to know where we lived. For those two drugged out years I devoted my life to taking as many drugs as I could ingest, snort or smoke. And then, as abruptly as it had started, it ended. Later in life, when astrologers would look at my chart, they would always ask, “How did you manage? How did you endure? There was so much pain.”
So how did you survive, how could you leave this destructive lifestyle?
When I was 18, I moved in with two girlfriends, Pam and Marcia, who were also sisters of the drug dealers I had lived with in the Bay area. I also had a boyfriend at that time named Walt. Walt was a Christian and never took drugs. One day Walt and I were talking, and I said to him, “You know what I think Walt?” And Walt quickly replied, “Janet, you don’t think, you don’t have a brain.” With Walt’s words searing through my heart, I immediately ran out of his apartment and called my brother, Johnny. Choking through my tears, I told Johnny what Walt had said to me. “It will be okay Janet, don’t worry, I’ve learned something I think can help you. Don’t worry, everything will be ok.”
Four days later my brother Johnny knocked on my apartment door, walked in, went to my bedroom, packed up my clothes, and put me in his car and on the way to Santa Barbara, California, (where we both had decided would be a great place to live) told me about Transcendental Meditation. I remember thinking, “This is what I have been praying for.”
Once we arrived in Santa Barbara, I went straight to the meditation center and learned how to meditate. From the first meditation, my life changed. I had always been searching for something, I didn’t realize that something was this deep inner peace I experienced from the very first meditation. Today I have been a practitioner and teacher of the Transcendental Meditation Program for over 45 years.
What kind of changes started coming into your life with meditation?
I became clearer and stronger from within, little by little I became happier and life started to get easier. And yet, looking back, I can say that my life wasn’t what you would call an “easy path.” When I first started to be a transformational leader, I felt like a total imposter. I mean, no one I knew had come from a drug laden, sexually traumatized background like mine. Then one day, something very special happened that created a huge change in me. I was contacted by this organization in Florida called “Butterflies of Hope.” They invited me to come to Florida to speak to 200 homeless women. They said to me, “We are going to put them up in a 5-star hotel, feed them on china, give them gifts, and we would love for a transformational leader to come and speak to them, and we’d love that transformational leader to be you, but one thing we need you to know, we can´t pay you.”
I didn’t know why the feeling was so strong, but I knew I had to go, payment or not. When I flew to Florida and met the woman overseeing the event, the first thing she said to me when I met her was, “Prepare yourself, it’s going to be the absolute worst group you have ever talked to, they are all at 4th grade level or worse, many of them are coming off drugs, they won’t be interested in what you have to say and they will be in and out of the restroom the whole time, smoking cigarettes or weed.” Listening to her words, I felt more passionate than ever to make her wrong. All I could think of all night long was, “What the hell am I going to say to those women to get them to listen? I know what I have to share with them could save their lives. How am I going to begin?” I knew the first few minutes of my talk would make it or break it.
Before I headed to Florida, I shared with a friend of mine who was also a famous transformational leader, that I was going to go and teach homeless women how to find their passion. “You can’t do that, passion is a luxury”, she said matter of factly. As I tried to sleep the night before my presentation, her words kept going through my mind. “What if she was right, then what?!” Tossing and turning all night long, exhausted, and not knowing what else to do, I prayed. “God, tell me what to say. You be my voice God. I hand everything over to you.” And with that, I finally fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning as I was giving my presentation, I looked out into the audience of homeless women and began telling a story about a little girl who had had a beautiful relationship with her mother. “But then one day,” I continue, “her mother came home drunk and crazy, and that little girl’s world cracked. So many things happened that were hard on that little girl, and she later became a drug addict and was raped by her brothers´ two good friends.” At the end of my presentation, I looked out into the audience and said, “That little girl was me.” Before that moment, I had kept my rape deep inside of me, I was so ashamed and I had never told my deep dark secrets to anyone. With tears streaming down my face, all of these homeless women jumped out of their chairs and gave me a standing ovation. And with that the tears flooded down my face and try as I might, I couldn’t stop crying. I realized, as I looked out into the audience that all these women were all my mother. And in that moment, whatever anger I had, whatever I had not forgiven my mother for, and whatever I had not forgiven myself for, in that moment, all was forgiven, so much was healed.
That is so utterly powerful, but what happened to your mother?
By the time my mother died, she had been sober for 7 years and had become a Seventh-day Adventist. She passed away while holding her best friend´s hand, reading the Lord’s prayer. Even though she was really poor, my sister and I discovered, when going through my mom’s papers after she died, that she had been donating to no less than 13 charitable organizations. Our mother, who had been on welfare, was giving almost all of her money away.
Why did your mother become an alcoholic?
When my mother was five years old she was kidnapped by her father, and taken away from her mother and baby brother. Until she was 17, she was sexually abused by her father and told that her mother and brother had died. And it wasn´t until she was eighteen and had finally run away from her father, that she found out that her mother and her brother were still alive. Around 19, when my mother met and married my dad, she still had so much trauma inside of her. On top of that, she would get really painful periods. When she consulted her doctor, he told her, “You should drink whisky during your cycle and then it won’t be so painful for you.” My mom was part Choctaw Indian, and unbeknownst to her, alcohol was like poison to her physiology. She found that when she drank, she came out of her shell and started to enjoy the world that she normally was so petrified of. Around the same time, she got a job as a beautician and started to drink beer at work with the other beauticians. It was downhill from there. My mom soon became a raging alcoholic. Nothing I or my dad or anyone else did, could stop my mom from the downward spiral she was in.
How did all this influence you?
When I was 16, I would get calls from her in the middle of the night, screaming and crying and begging me to come pick her up. Of course, she was always drunk. I would get in my car and take her out of the filthiest $ 4.00 a night hotel. I saw things a 16-year-old shouldn’t have to see. And yet, looking back, there’s not one moment I would change. My past helped me to be able to work with other people that have had a similar path as mine and my mother´s. Because of those experiences, I can say, “I know how you feel, I have been there too, I´m just like you.” So, I am thankful for the path my life has taken. Without those times, I don’t think I would have the tools necessary to do the kind of work I do.
Did you get a chance to reconcile with your mother?
Two weeks before my mother passed, I was with my husband Chris while he was getting his Vedic astrology chart read. When Chris’s reading was over, I asked, the astrologers, “Can you tell me anything about my chart as well?” They quickly answered, “You must go see your mother immediately. We can´t tell you that she is going to die, but you must go and see her. You must go and give her gifts, you must tell her all the things you love about her and you must ask her for forgiveness for anything you may have done to her. You must do this immediately”. So, Chris and I flew to California where she was getting some tests done in a hospital. When we walked into her hospital room, she looked so healthy and happy and I immediately thought, “I am so stupid, why did I believe those astrologers and fly all the way from the Midwest to see my mother when it’s obvious she’s fine?!”
Still, I did all they told me to do. And then Chris and I flew back to Iowa where we were living at the time. “Janet, my mom said happily, calling me two days later, “The doctors told me I’m doing so well, I can go home now.” I was happy my mom was healthy, and at the same time conflicted because I was so angry with the astrologers for telling me something that wasn’t true and was very expensive for me to do. I immediately sent them a fax asking them, “Why did you tell me to go see my mother?! “ Their only reply was, “It is always good to go see your mother”.
Two weeks later, my sister Mickey called and said, “Janet, get on a plane, mother is dying.” While I was meditating on the plane to California I had this deep knowingness that my mother had died. Once hearing the news from the hospital when I arrived, to my amazement, try as I might, I couldn’t cry. I realized later that because I did everything the astrologers had told me to do, I had completed the cycle with my mother. “Avert the danger before it occurs,” is a Vedic astrological saying. I knew by bringing my mother gifts, asking for her forgiveness for anything I had done in the past and telling her how much I loved her, had completed our relationship. There wasn’t anything I had regretted. What also happened when my mother died was that I felt like I could feel her happiness. I could feel that she was relieved to let go of her body that had for so long been in so much pain. Now, when I close my eyes, and I think of her, she is always right here. This experience helped me to understand that the only thing that dies is the body, the soul never dies.
So, how would you describe the human essence?
Our essence is love. We came into the world as love. And, then, as life happens, we are tested. Maybe we lose a loved one, maybe we are bullied, maybe we get raped, or are physically abused, or so. Then to protect our precious heart, we put a veil of protection over it. And as the years pass, we continue to put these veils of protection over our heart and then one day, we wake up and realize, “I can’t feel anything, why can I feel anything?” And then with all of the trauma and drama, we create all of the stories about what people are doing to us. What I’ve realized is that no one can do anything to me. That’s my job. The other truth is that everything is happening for me, not to me. So, Mastery of Self Love, is all about bringing us home to our true nature, which is love. We came in as love, our story and our limiting beliefs, is not who we are. One thing I have learned while travelling all over the world and talking and sharing with other people from other countries about how one can live their passions, is that, the one thing that keeps anyone from living their passions is their false beliefs, false ideals or false concepts. These limiting beliefs, “I’m too old, I’m too fat, I’m not educated enough, etc., are like brick walls that stop us from being able to live our passion. And that’s why I started Mastery of Self Love. Passion was my main message before, but now, self-love is my main message. I saw that in order for anyone to live their passions, a prerequisite for a passionate life was to know yourself deeply.
You mentioned before that you are a transformational leader and you are also part of the Transformational Leadership Council, I know you had a special experience there some time ago. Can you please share a bit about this?
Yes, one-time Doreen Virtue came as one of the speakers. I was sitting in the front row and I was thinking as she was being introduced, “I can’t believe it, now we have come to an all-time low, we invite people who talk to angels! Omg. Then within two minutes of listening to Doreen’s talk, I am sure without a doubt, this woman talks to angels! Later that day, I was lucky to have a private chat with her. As she was leaving, she turned and said to me, “The angels want you to teach women how to be soft”. I blurted back, “What? How can that be? I am so tough!” Doreen then looks me straight in the eyes and says matter of factly, “No you are not. And, the angels want you to know, you need to teach women how to be soft” and walks out of the room.
In what way did this experience transform you?
I have always wanted to teach about love. I´m a musician as well, and I have written two albums and every single song is about love in some form. My job is to share with others how to love themselves deeply. There is this saying, “I meet no one but me.” What this means is that the only person you are ever talking to is you, there’s no one out there, everyone is just a reflection of yourself. Because of that, the teacher always learns the most. And, that’s why I started my Mastery of Self Love certification program. So that we can grow fast and with that knowledge share it with others, so they can grow fast too.
Do you believe that Mastery of Self Love will be what you will be doing for the rest of your life?
Yes. And, with that said, having talked to a Vedic astrologer about my life, I know I have something very special coming up in 2023, involving writing, speaking and world-wide travelling. Self-Love will always be a big part of my message. What I know for sure is that if you want a great recipe for success in life, learn to love yourself deeply.
To learn more about Janet and to find out about her courses, go to www.thepassiontest.com