Effie Baldwin is a U.S. Army veteran, Positive Discipline Educator, Associate Member of the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation and the founder of Believing in a Better World LLC. After earning her Kemetic Yoga Certification in Egypt, she became an instructor for Veterans Yoga Project then later a board member for the nonprofit. She’s also an End-of-Life Doula and facilitates Emotional Emancipation Circles to promote healing caused by race-based discrimination within communities of African-descent.
Prior to becoming her own boss, Effie spent almost 30 years working in high-level positions with the state and federal government in Senior Policy, Grants Administration, and Program Management—and despite this long list of accolades, she admits that her greatest accomplishment is raising two life-embracing adult children.
In this conversation, Effie explains the similarities between Kemetic Yoga and golf as two activities that people can do “from cradle to grave,” and the virtues and ethics that are necessary for both: patience, honesty, mindfulness, focus, discipline—all with the result of self-regulation and self-responsibility. Effie came to yoga through, running, of all things. That is to say, she literally ran herself into the ground and yoga was prescribed by a nurse practitioner as a way to rebuild her immune system and ease her pattern of intensity throughout life. It changed the trajectory of her life, and for the last six years, she’s added that to her repertoire of service-oriented work.
She’s a self-proclaimed optimistic realist, a way of viewing the world through practicality and positivity, giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt. She also recalls questioning the “rules of engagement” very early and crafting a life of learning, growing and independently investigating the truth—as she calls it—to decide what made sense for her own happiness, not what was projected onto her from society.
We end by highlighting the importance of nurturing the children of our communities and pouring love and energy into youth, whether they are your own kids or not. The next generation need us to show up as positive, responsible and whole-hearted role models just as we need them to carry on the legacy of our families and improve the impact we have on this planet.
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Effie Baldwin (00:00:01):
Every year, I literally find something that I do not know how to do, and I figure it out. And then for me, I consider myself a conduit. I learn it, and then I try to put it out into the world. It’s not for me to keep; it’s for me to share. That’s how I feel. So that’s what I try to do with any knowledge, any wisdom. And I tell people, if you hang around with me long enough, I’ll convince you that you can do anything—and I believe that you can.
Andy Vantrease (00:00:43):
Welcome to the Dandelion Effect Podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that helped them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community, and empowerment.
Effie Baldwin is a US Army veteran, a positive discipline educator, an associate member of the US Golf Teachers Federation, and the founder of Believing in a Better World, LLC. After earning her Kemetic yoga certification in Egypt, she became an instructor for Veterans Yoga Project then later, a board member for the nonprofit. She’s also an end-of-life doula and facilitates Emotional Emancipation Circles to promote healing caused by race-based discrimination within communities of African descent. Prior to becoming her own boss, Effie spent almost 30 years working in high level positions with the state and federal government, in senior policy, grants administration and program management. And despite this long list of accolades, she admits that her greatest accomplishment is raising two life-embracing adult children.
I met Effie briefly at the Feathered Pipe Ranch in 2021 during Veterans Yoga Project’s, annual teacher training, and she loves the Ranch so much, she’s even thinking about hosting a retreat here in the near future. So you’ll have to follow along with our Feathered Pipe offerings to find out how that pans out.
In this conversation with Effie, we were able to dive into many topics within the health and wellness realm. She explains the similarities between Kemetic yoga and golf as two activities that people can do “from cradle to grave,” and the virtues and ethics that are necessary for both: patience, honesty, mindfulness, focus, discipline, all with the result of self-regulation and self responsibility. Effie came to yoga through running, of all things. And that is to say, she literally ran herself into the ground, and yoga was prescribed by a nurse practitioner as a way to rebuild her immune system and ease her pattern of intensity throughout life. Well, it did change the trajectory of her life, and for the last six years, she’s added that to her repertoire of service-oriented work.
Effie is a self-proclaimed optimistic realist, a way of viewing the world through practicality and positivity, giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt. And she also recalls questioning the rules of engagement very early, crafting a life of learning, growing, and independently investigating the truth— as she calls it—to decide what made sense for her happiness, not what was projected onto her from society. We end this conversation by highlighting the importance of nurturing the children of our communities and pouring love and energy into youth, whether they’re your own kids or not. The next generation needs us to show up as positive, responsible, and wholehearted role models just as much as we need them to carry on the legacy of our families and improve the impact we have on this planet. Effie is a force. She’s magnetic, she’s clear in her intentions and navigation of life, and her positivity is contagious. You’ll see. So without further adeui, help me welcome this wonderful woman and our second to last podcast guest of season three, Effie Baldwin.
One of the things that stuck out to me the most just about your outlook on life and who you are was that you called yourself an optimistic realist. I wanna start the conversation there and just ask you to tell me what does that mean to you? And perhaps like reflecting back on where that mindset may have begun in your life.
Effie Baldwin (00:04:54):
For me, I coined that phrase, I’m not sure if there’s anyone else out there using it, but for me it’s that I choose happiness. I choose peace. I choose being optimistic because I believe what we look for in life, we will also see. So in every situation I try to see the positive side of it. I don’t try to change it. So I start with the reality of the situation, whatever that situation may be. But I do try to be optimistic in it because we don’t always know the outcome. You could be saved from something. For example, we’re all about time in this hemisphere. Everything has to be on time. And I was getting ready to leave and I got delayed by five minutes. And so in that delay, I ended up, as I’m getting ready to rush to go to my appointment, I come to a railroad track that does not have signage.
So there’s no lights, there’s no bells and whistles, which we’re accustomed to. And it just so happened that a train was coming and there was a car in front of me that stopped, you know, that five minute delay. And the car in front of me could have saved my life because when you’re rushing, it might have been a little bit easier to just, Hey, there’s nothing there. I can keep going, you know. I choose optimism to say, Hey, in that situation, I feel as if my life was spared. And so that’s part of it when it deals with time. And even dealing with people, whether people admit it or not, we are all most likely working on something, struggling with something, addressing a challenge. When we’re interacting with someone, they’re dealing with other stuff and they’re trying hopefully to be present. So in that optimistic realism, I may give someone credit or grace for an interaction when I can tell it’s not me. <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:06:49):
Effie Baldwin (00:06:50):
If I’m showing up with dignity and respect, and then I’m getting blow back from you, I’m thinking, huh, that person might be struggling with something. I’m going to hold my peace. I’m gonna be optimistic and I’m gonna keep going. The reality of the situation is still the reality of the situation, but I don’t have to react in a way that’s negative or anything like that. I can choose optimism and try to see the best in that situation. And sometimes people have circled around and said, You know what? My cat died, my dad died. I just heard X, Y, and Z. So these things happen. I’m not changing any of the reality of the situation. I’m choosing my perception at that moment. I don’t get to decide everything in the world, hardly anything, but I know I have complete control over how do I choose to engage at that moment. Where did it all begin? I think probably for me in my childhood, when I realized that adults are making up stuff <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:07:50):
<laugh> When did that start to happen?
Effie Baldwin (00:07:51):
It was a combination of, um, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. Because it just blew my mind—I kid you not—why a bunny was delivering chicken eggs <laugh>. I would’ve preferred a bunny. That’s what I got caught up on. If a rabbit is gonna deliver something, I think bunnies are cuter than chicken eggs. So it’s like, this doesn’t make any sense at all. But as I look around, a lot of the adults are going along with it, and it just made me think that, You know what? I’m gonna have to define for myself what’s real and how I choose to engage in it. So, things have to make sense to me. And so that started early in my childhood.
Andy Vantrease (00:08:32):
Yeah. Yeah. And I remember you saying in our conversation before this, that something like that happened to you when you were looking at college students and looking at this kind of trope of a starving student and, you know, having to work three jobs and study and eat ramen noodles. As a kid you’re looking at this and thinking like, I don’t actually want that to be me <laugh>.
Effie Baldwin (00:08:58):
Andy Vantrease (00:08:59):
How do I kind of start to understand how the world works in order to have a different experience and to choose a different path than these things that I’m seeing that I’m like, Eh, I’m not really into that <laugh>.
Effie Baldwin (00:09:15):
Yeah. And like I said, it started really young, and so it just continued. I just continued to develop that capacity. And by the time it was time for me to launch myself into the world, I knew for sure when I became a senior that I was not gonna be a starving student. Now, you know, after starting with the Easter Bunny and I was solid on, this doesn’t make sense. I enjoy eating. I didn’t know what ramen was, and I had never had macaroni in a box. And so a lot of the people that I knew who had gone to college or were in college were talking about this whole ramen thing and being hungry and sharing meals and I’m thinking, Oh, I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound… I mean, I know we’re going for the education part, but I didn’t hear many people, students talking about the educational point.
And so I thought, for me, how am I going to get an education and not be a starving student? And so that’s when I decided to go into the military because at the time they had educational benefits, the Montgomery GI Bill and the College Fund. And I thought that’s a better route. And in addition, you know, my love for my mother was not gonna allow me to have her work a second job or use her savings or any of her money. I mean, once again, that doesn’t make sense to me. I’m young, I can go out there and work. I can go out there and figure out these resources and that’s what I’m going to do. And so, the reality of the situation said, You know, college was expensive, and therefore with the optimism, how am I going to do this? Well, I’m gonna trade some time for some money later in order to go to school. And so that definitely got me into the military. And then it also enabled me to get my bachelor and master’s degree.
Andy Vantrease (00:11:08):
Your love for your mother, your mother’s situation, not wanting her to have to work more, work extra. Tell me about your relationship with her. It sounds like maybe she was an important role model and somebody that really has been there to guide you.
Effie Baldwin (00:11:24):
Well, absolutely. In retrospect, I see that my mother was my biggest star and advocate. If only all of us could just realize that earlier in life. But I knew she was always in my corner. And from childhood, she always told me that, I’m gonna make sure you’re able to make it in the biggest city, you know, wherever you want to be. I’m gonna make sure you have the capacity to make it—more than survive; you’re gonna thrive in that. I had a lot of opportunities and freedoms just by having her support and knowing that you have someone in your corner. It makes a big, huge difference, you know? Some people would look back and say, Oh, you know, my parent was at every game because they needed that.
I just needed to know that she was in my corner—and I knew that. As I’ve traveled around the world, if I moved to a new location, she was always the first to buy a ticket to come make sure I had everything, to check out the environment, make sure it’s okay. Just having that level of love. It’s love, but it’s also… it’s unconditional. And you know, we say these words, but it’s a feeling. That’s what I’m looking for; it’s a feeling to know that someone will drop anything and everything if asked, to do whatever needs to support you. And so, I have the benefit of that and as I live, I try to carry forward her legacy.
Andy Vantrease (00:12:50):
Yeah. Did you have brothers and sisters?
Effie Baldwin (00:12:53):
I did, but at the time I was—I am—the youngest and so that leads you to have your independent time. Like the oldest might have time before the next one is born, but there’s a (and this is my opinion) a different relationship between a parent when they know this is the last child. You know, there’s a different kind of, let me pour myself into this child because this is it. And so I think I had the benefit of that. I mean, I can remember her asking, Are you going to go to college? Are you going to move out? Are you going to get a job? It was always kind of like, you don’t have to…
Andy Vantrease (00:13:29):
<laugh> You could stay here forever if you want to!
Effie Baldwin (00:13:34):
Exactly. Whereas that’s probably not the same message that the oldest gets or the middle child gets. But I think, you know, there’s a special kind of relationship there that they see it as this turning point and transition in their life that, you know, this is it.
Andy Vantrease (00:13:50):
And then, so how was it for that relationship when you did go into the military and move out of the house? It sounds like no matter where you lived, that relationship was strong. But I’m curious of what that transition was like for you and then also looking back on that part of your life and part of your career, like what values were instilled? How do you feel like that propelled you forward?
Effie Baldwin (00:14:16):
Yeah, that’s a lot. So starting with my relationship with my mother, I still have the letters that she sent me because she was big on writing and sending cards and connecting. Well, I think everybody probably was in those days. But you know, you actually wrote letters and you received letters and you did that. So that continued on throughout my adulthood, the exchanging of letters and cards. Coming from her guidance and into the military, whatever people’s feelings are about armed services and things of that nature, I think for younger people that two years or four years of service helps to expand who you are. So we’ve all been raised in totally different environments and the military has this goal of getting us to think as one in about eight to 12 weeks. And that’s major <laugh> regardless of whether you grew up with your biological parents or without parents or whatever, that has no bearing.
They have you at this point and they need to get you to this point. And they do and they will, or they kind of let you go <laugh>. So with that, it takes away all of our excuses or our justifications for where we’re at. They just test everybody. Here’s where you’re at, here’s where we need you to be. And your drill instructors get you there. So it does take a huge amount of perseverance. There are things that you do that you have never done in your life. It’s a strengthening of your mind. It’s a strengthening of your body. It is getting you to work as a team, once again, regardless of whether you were a single child, if you are a middle child or a younger child, big family, small family—you’re gonna learn how to work as a team.
It’s not even optional, you’re gonna learn that. So all of these things of developing your capacity, bringing out the courage within you to get you to do things that you never thought were possible, you were capable of doing all of that. And I carry it forward to this day. It’s well-documented, the collegial attitude that veterans have towards each other. They migrate almost always—it doesn’t matter if it’s at a university, corporate America, they’ll find each other. We find each other always. And it’s because you give people credit because they succeeded in something that you know was very difficult because you succeeded in that area. You know it was tough and you know it was hard, but you’re still here. And so I think just having those colleagues in the military, you know. I tell people that basically I’m a soldier for life. That level of perseverance helps you get through things. Those skills stay with you.
Andy Vantrease (00:17:12):
They’re so translatable. There’s so many opportunities that come up in life where you have the chance to do something that you’ve never done. And if you’ve been instilled with this confidence or these experiences that just because you’ve never done it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how, or that, you know, trial by fire. Like just do it and see what happens. Those types of skills are absolutely translatable to every other area of life.
Effie Baldwin (00:17:42):
And you sit there and you can reflect and go, Well, it couldn’t be worse than ____. And you can fill in the blank on a lot of different things. It can’t be any worse than doing live fire. You know, where the military does live fire as a practice so that you get accustomed to hearing rounds whizzing and things of that nature. So can’t be worse than that <laugh>. And so you have those “can’t be worse than” situations and you are willing to almost try anything. And I think that’s one of the things is that it gives you the courage and the fortitude and the desire and the wisdom to believe that it’s possible because you’ve had levels of success and milestones along the way.
Andy Vantrease (00:18:21):
I think there’s a bit of a flip side to this as well. It takes a certain type of person to succeed in those environments, and you were telling me that you’ve just been this person that’s like super active, super proactive, and just really good under stress and craving that high energy life. From what I know about your story, that kind of took a turn at a certain point, where it was either your mind or your body or just kind of your being as a whole hit a limit that you hadn’t hit before. I know that this happened later in your life, but I wanna bring that up now because it seems like it really opened the door into a different level of operation than what you were used to and a different level of function and navigation of the world than you were used to.
Effie Baldwin (00:19:17):
I was active in a lot of sports. So you name the sport, I was in it—if it was gymnastics, baseball, track and field, I was involved in a lot of sports. So going into the military, the physical part of it—of course it’s gonna be challenging for everyone—but at least I was like, okay, I’m up to this. So I’ve always known that I’m physically active. I can do this. If it’s something physical, you know, and then running into the fray, the excitement of it. Everyone’s not gonna run towards the level of danger, so to speak, that you need to be trained to do in the army or in the military. They have a job to do, which is to protect and defend. And so some of us will lean in knowing that we have the physical part done, no problem with that.
And then they strengthen you mentally. So the thing about the military is they train you to go from zero to 60. We got that, but we never learned to come back down. And we don’t even think about coming back down. It’s just: I can go, I can go, I can do, I can do, I can do. And so that’s kind of hardwired. After a while when I got into the civilian sector and started working, every last one of my jobs happened to be high stress. I started using walking at lunchtime as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress, being optimistic, you know, dealing with the reality. It wasn’t my situation. I knew that I needed a break in the middle of the day to make it through the next four hours. And so I started walking, then I started running <laugh> and then the distances got longer and longer and longer.
And, um, I ended up getting up to the point where I could do 15 – 20 miles. And I actually went downtown to DC where they were actually hosting the Marine Corps marathon. And my oldest son at the time was a Marine and he was working the event. I saw individuals who were single double and triple amputees participating in the Marine Corps marathon. I’m on the side with my snacks, saying, Oh, go, you can do this, you can. You know, I’m thinking, what a hypocrite! How can I stand on the sideline totally able-bodied and not do this? And so I said before I ever go to another event like that, I’m going to go run a marathon and then earn my right to be back on the sidelines. That’s all I wanted to do. Just run one and do it.
So of course I ran one and it was like, okay, <laugh> pretty good stuff. I’m gonna do another one. And I trained myself. I ran one the following year. I ran it, and I said, Okay, that’s enough—two. I’m not just doing these events to be doing them. But, I’m very practical. I have two children. I want to give one medal to one son and one to the other. Didn’t want ’em to fight over them after my death. <laugh> I’m such a realist. And so after I did the second one, I thought, It wasn’t that great. It was a rainy day. I think I had blisters 24 out of the 26 miles. And so I said, I don’t want that to be the last one, and I can do another one. So, what do you do with that whole zero to 60 when you keep knowing that you can do?
The minute I got home from that marathon, I looked up another one and there was another one in two weeks. I was like, I’m in good health. I’m gonna do this. And so I did. And what I ended up doing was blowing out my immune system. After that, I caught a cold that lasted about six weeks. I’m going back to the doctor going, Oh my God, I think I have the flu. She tested me. She’s like, Uh, no you don’t. I go back again. I think, Oh my God, I think I have the walking pneumonia. She’s like, You don’t. She said, It’s actually the same cold. She said, Your immune system is just not functioning well. And so it literally took about six weeks to get rid of that cold. I was healed for about two weeks. I got a second round and then that lasted like another five weeks.
And these were the worst. I mean, I literally I thought I had the flu. I thought I had pneumonia, I thought I had respiratory. And she just kept saying no. She said, Your immune system is gone. You can’t even fight the common cold. You know, she said, You’ve overused running as a coping mechanism. So she said, I’m gonna need you to do something different. She said, You used to be my healthiest patient. You don’t smoke, you don’t drink, you’re a vegetarian. I was vegetarian at the time. She said, You’re exercising three times a week. She said, You’re doing everything that I try to get the rest of my patients to do, and now your health is like at the bottom. And she wrote me a prescription to do yoga. I was dumbfounded. I’m like, What is that? Is that where they’re like on a mat, and they don’t go anywhere? She was like, That kind of sums it up. But I’m gonna need you to do that until we can build back up your immune system.
Andy Vantrease (00:24:19):
And what year was this, Effie?
Effie Baldwin (00:24:21):
This is about 2017 or 2018.
Andy Vantrease (00:24:26):
I have a naturopath friend that is always a little bit skeptical of people who just run marathon after marathon after marathon. She’s like, What are you running from <laugh>? Your body needs a break at some point. But it’s so great that you had a doctor that was that tuned in with your normal and then like being able to say that you really have to slow down because this is what’s going on with your immune system.
Effie Baldwin (00:24:54):
And in all fairness to her, even though I always call her a doctor, she’s a nurse practitioner. They get to practice in this area, it may be different in different places. So she’s a nurse practitioner, but she serves as my primary care doctor. Just to give credit to all the nurse practitioners out there who are doing a wonderful job. So with that prescription to do yoga, I thought, I can’t do this, you know? So of course I went in and I found a yoga studio that had unlimited classes for 30 days. So I thought, Ah, that’s my ticket around this <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:25:26):
So funny how the intensity presents…
Effie Baldwin (00:25:29):
Always! It was so painful for me to go to the restorative yoga because I wasn’t used to just stopping and being present. I couldn’t really, really settle in. I just couldn’t get, I said, There’s gotta be something to this. He’s prescribing this. She’s not going to okay me to do anything else until I get this <laugh>. And so I thought, There’s a couple of modalities that did work cuz trust me, I was going three times a week. If this is all I can do then I’m going three times a week for hours. And so I tried to settle in and find what could work for me. But I struggled with the breathing part. So I started doing more research and then I came up on Kemetic yoga and that’s Egyptian yoga.
The “rule of four” breathing. I’m like, I knew I needed that. That’s the thing I struggle with constantly. And so it leads with that and the geometric progression that you’re focusing on the breath to bring you into and out of every position. It’s not about the contortion of yoga as some of us can do. That wasn’t it. And I didn’t get that before. Because being who I am—not gonna blame anybody else—being who I am, it was about getting into all of those positions, you know, getting as deep as you can. And that’s what it wasn’t. And my body was telling me that, cuz I just couldn’t settle into it. But then when I started researching Kemetic yoga and it was like, Focus on your breath and then see where your body takes you in that position. That connected with me. And so when I reached out to Yirser Ra Hotep, who had done the research back in the seventies about Kemetic yoga, he was planning a research and certification program in Egypt in 2018.
Andy Vantrease (00:27:18):
Effie Baldwin (00:27:19):
I was in! <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:27:20):
Like, Sign me up, I’m going to Egypt! <laugh> Because by this point, you were also a big traveler as well, right?
Effie Baldwin (00:27:29):
I’ve been a huge traveler most of my life, yeah. We’re all part of the human family. Wherever you are, you are. I mean this is our planet. I realize the lines are made up. You cannot see the lines from space. So this nationalism that we have as Americans, you know, as Africans, as someone from India or someone from Britain… that all kind of like, Eh, it doesn’t really matter. The lines are made up. If we didn’t give it a name, it’d still be the earth. So for me, I’ve always traveled. Instead of going to his studio here in the US, I decided I’m going on a research and certification trip. Because I also knew that with the awareness of Kemetic yoga, most people associate yoga with coming out of India. But it’s documented in Egypt about 2,500 years even before that. So I wanted to independently investigate it for myself, and to see if I can see and find the same documentation as has been purported. And it’s true! We have the ability in this day and age to independently investigate almost anything that’s said. So I’m not repeating a sound bite from somebody else; I know it’s true for myself.
Andy Vantrease (00:28:39):
I haven’t done any study into yoga in Egypt. I did my yoga training in Thailand, which was really interesting cuz it was with four different teachers that taught a different style and actually all of them were from different countries, which was really cool. Like there was a German, a Thai man, a Dutch woman and an American woman. And so it was really cool just to hear the cultural differences of teaching and all of that. But I’m so curious, give me like one or two big takeaways that you learned as far as yoga coming out of Egypt.
Effie Baldwin (00:29:16):
What began the research for Dr. Yirser Ra Hotep was that there was a chair that was in the tomb of King Tut. And as they looked at the engravings on it, they saw a position in it. And you know, it’s a position that nobody sits in. Nobody stands in. So why is this position engraved on a king’s chair? So they started to go from, How do you get into this position? And so they were like, This is yoga. Whether they called it yoga back then, most likely not. We’re calling it yoga today because we’re labeling it such. But it was a position that they knew was one that you had to work to get your body geometrically into. So they then start to copiously, look at the hieroglyphs and to see and look at all the positions and try to pull out which ones appear to be what we call yoga.
And that’s where Kemetic yoga goes. Like, looking at all of those positions and then working your way into them, geometrically aligning your body so that you’re able to allow your fluids to flow throughout your body. You’re talking about making your body as good as it can be. Well you have to make sure you’re sitting a certain way and standing a certain way and extending your body—cause we don’t do stretches, we extend. So you’re extending your body so that your body can work at its maximum capacity along with enlightening your mind. Because breathing, as automatic as it is, it’s about the only body function that we can do manually for a short amount of time. So you can control it. But at night you go to sleep, you wake up in the morning, you haven’t thought about breathing at all.
During the daytime, when you’re doing yoga and things of that nature, you can then control your breath to control your emotions. And that level of self-regulation is important to me because as we interact in this world with each other, I think we need a fair amount of self-regulation. And for me, I’ve just looked at all of the different activities that we can do from cradle to grade. And for me it’s yoga, but specifically Kemetic yoga and then also golf. Those are two self-regulating behaviors that you can do once you figure out your balance. As young as a year or 18 months, you can do these from cradle to grade. And that helps you self-regulate as an individual. And I believe it helps you show up in the world, hopefully as your best possible self. That’s part of the reason why I’ve incorporated those into my lifestyle as I interact with children and adults.
Andy Vantrease (00:31:54):
Let’s kind of start to bring that wider lens of these self-regulation practices into how they are in your life today. You mentioned golf, which is also a big part of your life. When did you start golfing and how did you get into that?
Effie Baldwin (00:32:12):
Well, I got off the couch (where I was) watching golf and started playing golf! <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:32:16):
<laugh> Which I’m sure there’s a huge population of people that just watch golf and they never play golf.
Effie Baldwin (00:32:22):
And if you wanna maintain your sanity and think you’re the best at it, you should stay on the couch. <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:32:27):
Yeah. Not an easy sport
Effie Baldwin (00:32:29):
That’s funny you should say sport because before I just thought it was like entertaining. But once I started to get involved, I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is a real sport. I was like amazed, and I’m like, I’m exhausted. My entire body hurts. But it started in 2013 when the federal government went on furlough, with a real long furlough. I think it was like three weeks or something like that. I was always in a grind; if I wasn’t grinding at work with the stress and then the running. I thought, You know what? This is the first time that I’m gonna actually have time and money. And so I went out in October to go to a driving range. I watched a five minute video on YouTube. So, of course I knew I could do this.
Andy Vantrease (00:33:14):
<laugh> Yeah. Gotta love YouTube for that.
Effie Baldwin (00:33:17):
Exactly. YouTube University! I literally showed up at the driving range in College Park, Maryland. Gotta give them their shout out for that. And the pro was like—well, he didn’t say anything to me at the time. He was like, This lady must be serious, because I didn’t realize that nobody else was on the driving range. It was cold, it was drizzling and it was windy. <laugh>. Later he told me, he said, You took a bucket of balls and you just stayed out there. You didn’t come back. <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:33:46):
Like, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you come here <laugh>?
Effie Baldwin (00:33:50):
Exactly. And so literally, you know, he gave me, after I came back in and everything, like cold and everything, he was like, Let me give you the business card of this golf instructor. He was like, You probably should check him out. He said, I watched you, you’re doing really good, but contact this person. And then he said, Do you have any clubs? I said, I don’t. This is my first day. And he says, You know what? My wife has a set in the garage. I’m gonna ask if she’ll let you use them. And I literally used those clubs for a year!
So, I had a golf instructor, got lessons, and from 2013 it just went full range. And then I was so excited about golf cuz all it takes is a good hit every now and again. And you get so hooked that I decided that I also wanted to bring more non-traditional, you know, women and children and people of color to the game of golf because, I mean, I’ve done a lot of stuff before sports-wise, but for me, your self-regulation has to be on point. You have to be present: Where your eyes and your mind goes, so does your ball. And so I ended up getting certified through United States Golf Teacher Federation, becoming a certified golf instructor. As much as I can, I try to introduce people to golf.
Andy Vantrease (00:35:12):
Effie Baldwin (00:35:13):
I always try to incorporate service into my life, along with living. And I went down to the 2016 Olympics, but I went down as a volunteer and it was the first time they had reintroduced golf in 112 years. And I got to be on the field play as a golf marshal. Even though they had like 150,000 applications for like 75 positions, I got one! Optimistic realist <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:35:41):
Effie Baldwin (00:35:43):
Like everybody, I watched the Olympics from the couch. I didn’t know that they had like teams of volunteers there. I didn’t know the behind the scenes workings of the Olympics. And so I just mentioned it. As I tell people, just mention to the universe, the people who are willing to listen, mention some things that you want to do. And I was literally volunteering at one point with a gentleman and we were doing gardening and I mentioned that I wanted to go to the Olympics, but I just didn’t wanna go to be a spectator. And he goes, Oh! And he mentioned some connection with someone who volunteers and had done the coordination for it. I’m like, really? The universe sometimes has doors swing open when you just kind of relate and talk and mention. And so I ended up going to Rio. Well, that was pretty amazing.
Andy Vantrease (00:36:31):
I don’t really know much about golf. I mean, I have friends that play it. It always seems to me kind of like a good old boy sport, you know? Like I worked in North Carolina for a while and all of like the old sales guys would go and play golf with their clients, and it was just a thing that they did. So I feel like there’s kind of a stereotype or like, historically, this is who plays golf. So it’s amazing to hear that you were a big proponent of bringing other people into the sport and really reaping the benefits of that self-regulation. But yeah, curious just to hear like what are the similarities between golf and yoga as far as presence, mindfulness, self-regulation?
Effie Baldwin (00:37:18):
Your perception is the reality of what golf is. And the optimism is bringing others along into this space. So for me, the mindfulness of it, you truly have to, once again, self-regulate your breathing. In golf and in yoga, it’s all about, from head to toe, your mind, your body, your spirit. You use your entire body in golf, very similar to yoga also. For me it was just bringing this reality of I want my mind, my body, my spirit, all to be together. And um, golf allows you to do that. Because it takes all of that. It takes the breathing, it takes being present. It takes the physical aspects of it. All of that is there. And then you’ll see people who end up, like you said, older. You can still do these things as long as you have your balance.
And then you have to work on your balance. And that’s also yoga. So you know, these are the things that are so intertwined. And you have to be mindful. You can’t be making a grocery list in your head and thinking that you’re gonna get that ball straight down the fairway. That level of mindfulness that’s needed to be able to make contact. You’re swinging this club at a high speed and you’re hitting this tiny ball, maybe two inches. And you’re trying to get it into a four inch diameter hole, 200 to 300 yards away. If that doesn’t require mindfulness, <laugh>, you know. And then along with that, there’s the honesty, the virtues that are associated with golf. You have to tell the truth about how many times you hit it and whether that ball is yours or not. You may not want it to be yours when it’s off course. <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:38:57):
<laugh> The movie that keeps going to my head is Happy Gilmore. I’m sure you’ve seen this movie, when the ball’s landing in the alligator’s mouth and they have to hit it out of that or there’s like the forbidden swamp that you don’t want it to go in because there are gators in there.
Effie Baldwin (00:39:15):
So you have all these virtues that are also associated with it, that help you in a team environment cuz you usually play in fours, whether you show up by yourself or not, they usually will put you in a group of four. You’re meeting new people, so how do you show up? You’re nice, you’re polite, you’re respectful, you’re honest. I mean all of those virtues that tie into the actual sport itself. And having the patience because you’re going to be at different levels. If I just show up, I may not know who I’m playing with, so I’m gonna have to be patient. There’s a lot of virtues that help us as human beings that come out as you’re playing the sport too. So we don’t know that we have these virtues until they’re tested. Are you really patient? Are you really honest? You know, did you really tap that and hit that ball and didn’t go that far? <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:40:04):
Effie Baldwin (00:40:04):
So all of those things come out.
Andy Vantrease (00:40:07):
With golf and with yoga you’ve brought in such a big service and community component, mentioning that you are doing a lot to get more women and people of color and children into the game of golf. And then with yoga, you started working at the VA and teaching at the VA and then became an instructor with Veterans Yoga Project, which is how we know each other because Veterans Yoga Project does a training at the Feathered Pipe Ranch every year. What has been the importance of bringing these modalities and bringing these practices to your communities?
Effie Baldwin (00:40:49):
Veterans are a package: We’re all the good and we’re maybe some of the bad too. The reality of it is there are alcohol and drug issues, there are anger management issues that can come along. There’s some domestic violence issues. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re taking individuals and you put them in war environments or you put them in extremely hostile and and stressful environments. It can compound some issues that were there and/or become present. And so with that, when I saw that the VA is willing to do this so that we might be able to offer something in addition to medication and therapy, adding this self-regulation. Then Veterans Yoga Project popped up. I like the mission. I’m looking at services they provide, the mindfulness training. This is an organization I can get behind. It’s not just a nonprofit. They really did from the outside look like a family.
Andy Vantrease (00:41:54):
Effie Baldwin (00:41:55):
I just started out at getting certified to be an instructor for the Veterans Yoga Project. And then once you kind of get into the organization, you start just really leaning in. And so when I ended up at the Feathered Pipe Ranch, I had taken on responsibility of being a board member. And so I was a board member, I was doing the Mindful Resilience for Caregivers. So I was just like really in there because I believe in what they do. And so with that, as veterans connect, when they see another person who is a veteran, because keep in mind I was also that person that was like, I’m not doing yoga. You know?
Andy Vantrease (00:42:35):
<laugh>. Yeah. Yeah.
Effie Baldwin (00:42:37):
Had I met another veteran who was doing yoga as a coping mechanism, I might have done it, but I had never met that person. I also wanna lean in and bring in as many veterans into it so that they can see I was in the military and I’m doing yoga and this is how it’s helping me. When I say I’m a veteran, people just like, Oh wow. Really? Like it’s a shocker type of thing. Definitely all of that has helped—the mindfulness and the self-regulation and being present and being able to do the yoga. I mean, all of it matters. The more resources you have available to you, the better off I think we are as individuals so that when we interact with people, we are showing up as our best possible self. I want as many veterans that want to, to be involved in receiving the yoga as well as becoming instructors, which the Veterans Yoga Project actually does. They train actual veterans to be yoga instructors. And we’ve expanded with helping family members, the caregivers as well as children. It’s a whole dynamic. You know, the research on trauma, it can go down a couple of generations if it’s not tended to.
Andy Vantrease (00:43:49):
Effie Baldwin (00:43:50):
It can also be reversed in a couple of generations if it is tended to.
Andy Vantrease (00:43:56):
Amazing. I wanna squeeze in some chat about your certification as a death doula, as an end of life doula because so much of your perspective on life and so much of this positive outlook that you have and this motivation and drive to really seize time, seize the time that you have and seize the opportunity that you get to be here now—that is directly linked and woven into your willingness to accept that, Uh hey, we’re gonna die someday. And I wonder even—I’m just thinking about this in real time—I wonder if part of that also came from time in the military and came from facing things that made you realize that mortality is a very tangible thing.
Effie Baldwin (00:44:53):
Two things I know for sure: I know I was born, and I know I’m going to die. Everything else falls in the gray of it. And so with that, a majority of individuals, they say, the number one fear right now is death. It used to be number two, but thanks to Covid, now it’s number one. Public speaking has now been downgraded into number two.
Andy Vantrease (00:45:12):
Effie Baldwin (00:45:13):
I had a professor in college, she actually had us write our obituaries. It was a psychology class. We thought that was kind of odd, but she did it to get us to think about the life we wanted to live. So at the end of our life, what would we want our obituaries to be? Of course it’s something that in your twenties you kind of don’t think about. But it gave us that opportunity to think about it. And so you begin with the end. If you want all of these things to be your life legacy, that means you have to fit it in somewhere between now and then. And we don’t know when that then is. So that’s why it’s very important to live in the present no matter how long you live, whether, you know, 20, 30, 40, 50, whatever, 60, we don’t know when that is.
So why roll the dice on putting things so far off in the future and not living that life now? And that’s why I’ve had, from my twenties, no fear of death cuz it’s gonna come and you know, I’m already in because I already know I need to live that life. I also had these opportunities when several people that I cared deeply for passed away. And I wasn’t afraid, but I would hear people, you know, say, Oh, I’m not going to the hospital. You know, I’m afraid of death. I’m looking down the hallway, and I don’t see death. Like it’s not the building. Or, they’re afraid of hearses. If a hearse came by or was behind them, they would freak out because it was a symbol of death. I didn’t have that fear because my belief is that it’s going to happen.
So I’m not gonna have a fear of it. What I’m going to do is live my life and enjoy my life every day so that when it happens, it happens. But also prepare for it so that it’s not a shock. It is painful, and the level of grief, you know, I tell people hopefully is equivalent to the level of love that you have for that person. But at the same time, let’s live and not be fearful of that. I leaned in, I got the certification. Let the people you know and love, let them know what you want. You prepare all of that. I took pictures in my thirties for my obituary. So, some of you may not even recognize me <laugh>. You may think, I’m at the wrong funeral! <laugh>
Andy Vantrease (00:47:32):
You’re like, This is the picture I want. This is timeless. I’m having this on my obituary, thanks!
Effie Baldwin (00:47:37):
You know! Or even the music… what music do you want? I jokingly tell people, not so jokingly, I don’t want any flowers at my funeral. I can’t smell them. You’re not doing that for me. Realistically, I can’t smell. If you’re gonna give me flowers, give them to me now. You know, so we’ll see. Look at our practices that we’ve incorporated into our life on everything. Just question them and just see if they really are holding up. And so that whole process of just getting people to think about it. Do you wanna be cremated? Do you want a huge funeral? Do you just want a grace? I just think about all of those things and we forget about the piece leading up to that. We might be sick for a while. Where do you wanna be? Most people wanna be in their homes, but most people may not feel comfortable with the level of caregiving that’s needed. So are you doing their wishes or are you dealing with your fear?
Andy Vantrease (00:48:34):
Effie Baldwin (00:48:35):
And your stuff. Do you want people to go through that after you’re gone or do you wanna give it to ’em now? So just having these conversations, no matter what your age is. I think I’ve had a will in place since I was in my twenties. You just kind of do it and then you can kind of be done with it in essence. You know, it won’t be a burden on the family. They’re not scrambling to figure out what you want. Our brains don’t really function that well when we’re under a lot of trauma. We don’t make our best decisions. When you can at least do that as a favor to your loved ones, is to have all of that done and taken care of.
Andy Vantrease (00:49:11):
Effie Baldwin (00:49:12):
So they can at least just be present and enjoy their final moments with you.
Andy Vantrease (00:49:18):
Absolutely. So special. And like you said, there’s such a stigma and fear around it that I really see people missing those special moments. And then it’s just perpetuating the cycle of not really learning and not being present with this. When India Supera passed away, the founder of the Ranch, that was actually like the closest person that I had been to as they were dying. Like both my grandparents died pretty suddenly and I wasn’t there. Like I had never been with somebody who was dying. And I was definitely like that awkward person of like, What do I say? How do I act? I’ve never done this before. And just being able to be there, you know, with Crystal and Johnny and Eric and Tom and just all the people that were continuously going to the house to visit her. I went in and read to her a couple times, and I wasn’t there when she passed, but we went shortly after because they just allowed her to stay in the bed and put flowers all around and her cats were on the bed and we just did this whole ceremony and beautiful honoring, just helping her soul transition.
And it was so beautiful and it felt to me like it was a really big moment in my life to then understand how it actually could be done. Because with everybody else that I had known who had died, I never got to be with them or see their bodies. My relatives got cremated and then they’re just physically gone. And then you’re like, Okay, now we’re in a church, but these people never even went to church. What are we doing here? You know, it’s just the whole thing, like you said, tradition that isn’t really questioned. So that was a really big thing to be a part of India’s death. And then the other thing I think about is like when my grandmother died, she was cremated so I didn’t see her body or anything, but we waited a couple weeks and planned this really cool honoring, really cool celebration.
And she was this prolific artist, so we rented out a big house in southern Delaware where she had lived for a while and we said, Bring all of the artwork that she made for you over the years. Cuz she wasn’t an artist by profession, she just did it and she gifted it to people: sculptures, paintings, sketches. And so we set up these two galleries on the bottom floor of this house and everybody brought the stuff that she had created and we filled these galleries. And for us it was like, we had never seen any of that artwork, you know? And people got up and talked and we kind of partied a bit. And it was so colorful, nobody wore black. And it was not sad. It was like, this was such an amazing person and this is how we wanna celebrate. And I actually don’t know how my mom thought of that. I don’t think my grandmother had it written down or anything, but I think she just couldn’t imagine going to a church <laugh>. She was like, My mom would not want this super stuffy funeral. And so maybe that is right for some people and for others it’s like, How do we step out of the tradition?
Effie Baldwin (00:52:47):
Exactly. How do you celebrate that person’s life? Because that’s all I heard you say. You guys celebrated her life. To be able to do that in something that honors them and brings people together.
Andy Vantrease (00:53:00):
Effie Baldwin (00:53:00):
All of that, always trying to bring us together so that we lean in, you know. We’re having a common experience, which is that someone we love transitioned. So how do we come together and make this moment special for all of us so that we can continue to heal and grow? And that’s a very good example of something that could be planned out, but I’m so glad your mother was in that space to say, This is how I want to represent and to celebrate. And also you brought up black, which I was going to leave alone, but I always tell people, if anyone wears black to my funeral, I’m gonna figure out a way to come back and haunt them <laugh>. You know, we are just falling into these things. The vibrancy of life. That’s the big piece, you know? How do we continue to convey that? And our willingness to realize that we’re interconnected. All of you were connected by her art and her love. That’s a beautiful thing.
Andy Vantrease (00:54:01):
Yeah. It really was. Before we wrap up, is there anything that I didn’t bring up that you wanna touch upon or just give voice to?
Effie Baldwin (00:54:12):
The only thing I think we have not talked about in detail is the leaning in for our next generation, which are children. Looking at how we interact and relate with children. Whether the child is yours or not, they’re our next generation. How do we lean in so that they become the people that they were designed to be, the leaders that we need them to be? That’s all through positive parenting, coaching, mentoring, leading. And so that’s why I do the work so young, you know, yoga and golf and whatever else—to lean into them and to pour into them. Because we need them. I don’t know who the next nurse practitioner that’s gonna be fabulous is. Thank you to all the people who supported her. So we can’t look at things just one off, that I’m just gonna do for mine or just the ones in the immediate area and things of that nature—no!
They all deserve to have some positive adult in their life that’s pouring into them, that’s helping them self-regulate to help them grow. You know, if we can take a concrete example from nature it’s that they’re seeds. Every seed has everything it needs within it, but not all of them flourish. And they can grow in pretty hostile environments. They can grow in cement, side of a mountain, so the environment they can persevere in. So when we look at children, they have everything they need inside them. It’s for us to pour in, you know, the sunshine and the nutrients and the water so that they can become the best people that we need them to be. So in all that we do, let’s not forget about the children.
Andy Vantrease (00:55:55):
It’s like an exact analogy for the Dandelion Effect. I mean, some people think of the seeds as ideas through the world, but I often think of people as the seeds and who is watering them and who is giving them sunlight and where are they blossoming and where are they not blossoming and you know, sometimes blooming in the most unexpected places. I’m glad you brought that into it. I do really well with nature metaphors and nature… not even a metaphor. It’s just like a very direct analogy. And I think I read in one of your bios, you know, it had all of these different accolades and this is the career you’ve had and everything. And then it says something like, “however, her greatest achievement so far is being the mother of two life embracing adult children.” And so I know you take that very seriously within your own family and within the greater human family. How are you showing up to that today? What does that look like as far as your work and your service and your energy?
Effie Baldwin (00:56:57):
So what I do out in the world, I start at home. As always, if we start at home, work on us, work within the confines of our family, and then go out from there, community and everything else. So, I do have two life embracing children, and now I have another generation. My granddaughter got her first golf clubs at like a year and a half. I think I got it for her first birthday or something like that.
Andy Vantrease (00:57:21):
Oh my gosh. They had to be like so tiny!
Effie Baldwin (00:57:24):
<laugh>. Exactly. And safe and plastic. I also started her with yoga. As I meet other children, I just try to constantly pour it into them. I have a grandson, his birthday was this week, and his celebration’s coming up. He’s not watching this—he’s getting clubs too. <laugh> So, you just start with the children that are around you, if you have children in your immediate family, you do that. If you have children in your neighborhood, I always say aunties make the best moms. If you’re an auntie, if you’re an uncle, you guys are always the coolest. And so we’re all parenting these children that cross our path. And so let’s just take that little bit of time to the ones that are around you. They all need somebody.
We know the research says as long as they have one person, one positive person, you want them to have more—but at least one positive person, they can be outside of the family, doesn’t matter—that pours into them, that sees them, that hears them, that just lets them grow and develop and talk. You know, the quote from Maya Angelo that talks about, “When children enter the room, they’re looking to see how we’re looking at them.”
Lean in, make them feel welcome. And you know, hopefully we’ll get that return that we need from them to help carry forth this ever advancing civilization. We need the children.
Andy Vantrease (00:58:48):
Beautiful. So the last question that I typically ask people: The tagline of our podcast is The Magic of Living a Connected Life. But I’m gonna take a little bit of a spin on it because we’ve talked so much about leaning in today and so much about what the things are that you lean into that, that make your life magic and connected. So, yeah, when you hear that phrase, the magic of living a connected life or even thinking about this idea of leaning in and what that leads to, what comes up for you? How is it that you stay connected? How is it that you continue to lean into life?
Effie Baldwin (00:59:31):
So for me, I continue to lean in by learning and growing. And so I don’t wanna be the same person I was last year. I take it upon myself every fall to do something and learn something that I have not done before. It might be learning to build something, but every year I literally find something that I do not know how to do, and I figure it out. And then for me, I consider myself a conduit. I learn it, and then I try to put it out into the world. It’s not for me to keep, it’s for me to share. That’s how I feel. So that’s what I try to do with any knowledge, any wisdom. And I tell people, if you hang around with me long enough, I’ll convince you that you can do anything—and I believe that you can! I wouldn’t leave without encouraging people really to live their best life, whatever that looks like. Because we need you and you’re important. And I don’t know that we hear that every day or that we believe it. I see you, I believe in you, and you can do this because I’ve done it and I’m just an everyday person living an extraordinary life, on purpose.
Andy Vantrease (01:00:54):
Effie Baldwin, a positively magnetic woman whose path I am so glad I crossed. I love the assignment given by her professor in undergrad to write their obituaries as a way to get the students to think about their legacy. It doesn’t matter what you decide you wanna do or be or see or learn. Whatever you wanna be remembered by, you have to fit it in between now and then. And we don’t know when “then” is, by the way, which is a scary reality to most people. But to Effie, it’s been a catalyst to use her time wisely and with plenty of passion and purpose.
I enjoyed learning about golf, surprisingly enough, in this conversation, as I’ve never given it much thought before now. And I love that she’s bringing more women, children, and people of color into the golf community as she teaches people about the benefits of the sport and the similarities between golf and specifically Kemetic yoga. This whole idea of finding activities you can do from the cradle to the grave is pretty appealing to me as I’m always looking for practices that withstand the test of time.
To learn more about Effie’s work, find Believing in a Better World on Facebook, or reach out to her directly at email@example.com.
A big shout out to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how these ideas and people move throughout world.
This podcast is brought to you by the Feathered Pipe Foundation. Help support us and donate at featheredpipe.com/gratitude, and leave us a review on Apple Podcast with your feedback on this episode or the show as a whole. Also, share this episode with your friends when you think it can be helpful. It’s the most organic way that the show grows, and we even get to meet people at the Feathered Pipe Ranch who first heard about us through a friend sharing a podcast. So keep this Dandelion Effect going. We only have one more episode left in Season Three. Follow along and have a beautiful day in the meantime!