After her divorce from the famed personal development guru, Becky Robbins turned to art as a method for healing herself—and the world.
How I'm Skirting the Rules
Becky Robbins may have co-created Tony Robbins’ multi-million dollar motivational-speaking empire during their 14 years of marriage, but she first discovered her own knack for public speaking long before she met the self-help guru in what may seem like the unlikeliest of jobs: Selling cosmetics. “I was in my 20s with young kids, and at night when they were in bed I’d make extra money by going to women’s homes to sell a brand called Jafra—kind of like Tupperware parties but for skin care,” recalls Becky. “I had to give presentations and, pretty soon, they were asking me to train people. I discovered I was really comfortable talking to an audience about subjects I knew a lot about, and I moved up through the hierarchy of the company to become a regional director.” Becky’s curious nature has led to her constantly evolve and reinvent herself, with jobs ranging from registered nurse to entrepreneur to painter and writer. Here this maverick shares how her latest evolution as a painter and blogger has helped her reconnect with her true self during big life transitions, and channel the inspiration she feels whenever she creates a new work of art out into the world.
I’m Skirting the Rules by frequently re-defining who I’m becoming and what I want, and by using art to express my evolution. I didn’t discover I could paint until later in life, about 12 years ago when, at the time, I was going through a painful divorce. Not only did I lose my partner, but I also lost my company and its culture, which was a huge part of my identity. In trying to figure out ‘Who am I if I’m not Becky Robbins?’ or ‘Who am I if I’m not the person who built this company?’ I looked for answers by following my curiosities. I took piano lessons, guitar lessons, Spanish lessons, began gardening, spoke at a maximum-security prison for women, started scuba diving. I had always loved reading artist how-to books, and their methodology was still fascinating to me, so I took some art lessons. I started with really remedial instruction such as how to draw a piece of fruit.
Nurturing my soul in this way steered me to my art, and one method I now use is called encaustic, which is a Greek term meaning “to heat” and involves applying melted beeswax with color pigments to canvas or another surface using brushes, torches and heat guns. I began to experiment with art as a way to make something out of nothing, a metaphor for the place in which I had found myself. Over the years the art has been informed by extensive travels and adventures with remote nature and cultures, and my reverence for the connectedness of all things.
A time when I found the possible (a creative solution) within the impossible (against incredible odds) is when I wanted to find a whole new way to paint that didn’t exist before. I never expected to create art on a surfboard, but my desire to find another way to layer an alabaster-type finish over my oil paintings other than wax prompted me to ask a legendary surfboard creator for a solution. Experimenting with oils and resin revealed to us the chemical impossibility for that to work. However, as I was walking out the door, he said, ‘Wait, I have an idea! What if we print one of your paintings onto fiberglass cloth and we can fuse that onto a board?’ And that successful endeavor has turned into a collaboration on a board I hope to send to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics, where surfing has been included for the first time ever!
I absolutely believe that the way we make anything happen is to have a desire, to want something. All evolution stems from being able to see something that we can improve upon or something non-existent but exciting or necessary. In the wanting is the solution. It’s a frequency, vibration-based universe, so if you believe it, there’s a good chance you can make it happen. If you doubt it, you can make that happen, too. Our lives today are the past tense of what we believed yesterday.
An example of how listening to my intuition has helped me is when I saw a photograph of graffiti on a wall that said, “Teach Peace” right after the Paris bombings. My heart kept asking, ‘How can we do that?’
When I’m stuck about what to create next, I pause and remember that, in that small sacred moment, letting go of all preconceived solutions and being completely empty and open allows the painting to tell its own story. I’ve found a way to create a pathway for intelligence and intuition to flow by practicing Heartmath, which is a meditation style and body of research showing how we pair our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When I’m painting, I’m diligent about the music I play or the Audible book I listen to or a podcast that supports my topic.
So I tapped into that space to create an abstract work of art entitled “Teach Peace” that speaks to taking the higher ground. My process is to see or search for an image that represents an idea, and, in “Teach Peace,” I saw a beautiful underwater photo of a woman taken by Michael David Adams. And the images just then come from a curiosity that I research on Pinterest or Google Images or artists who would like to be included in the collective that represents the topic. After all images are painted, I then connect them with what I call my ‘line work.’ In “Teach Peach” it became musical notes, stars and vines, ropes and birds on a wire. And it included the script for “Teach Peace” in Farsi. It was an emotional piece for me in the best way.
My secret talent is I can play the accordion and the Australian didgeridoo, I’m learning guitar and the Ukele, and I can fly a helicopter.
A woman is most powerful when she has done her spiritual work on herself. This includes knowing you have all you need within yourself and feeling grounded and connected. Then you are able to create your tribes of men and women with whom you surround yourself—those who nurture you and who you nurture, rather than depleting your energy mindlessly. It takes all the envy and jealousy and judgment out of the picture and paves the way for contributing and receiving.
What I wish I had told my myself when I was starting out is to cut yourself some slack. You don’t always have to tackle hard things to prove to yourself you’re capable, because you already know you are.
My favorite skirt (a.k.a a life hack or life rule) is to clear the path to my intuition every day. I enter each day slowly and gently by sitting in my favorite chair in my bedroom, deep breathing for several minutes and meditating. Then I write what guidance comes through from this quiet place of inner knowing in my journal. This becomes a trove of treasures for me because, when my brain is free and clear after meditation, intuition guides me to the next perfect image to paint or inspiration to write.