Polymaths are rare and require a probing intelligence, unquenchable curiosity and inventive imagination. They have broad range of expertise in many areas that contributes to higher levels of mastery and enlightenment in their work.
We need these rare polymaths in our world even though many of us are encouraged to specialize in a particular of study to deepen our expertise. Profits and careers are forged on this belief even though the world is better because of polymaths like Hildegard of Bingen or Leonardo da Vinci.
Hildegard was a 12th century German abbess whose studies in philosophy, poetry, musical composition, theology and medicinal recipes were sought after by kings and popes. Leonardo was an inventor, mathematician, physicist, military architect, engineer, and one of the greatest artists in history whose brilliance and contributions were characteristic of a polymath.
Which brings me to Lexie Brockway Potamkin, a similar harbinger of progress and enlightenment. Lexie is an author, human rights activist, ordained minister, founding member of The Aspen Center for Living Peace, cofounder of the Miami Children’s Museum, counselor, philanthropist, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur, former PR guru, psychologist AND former Miss World!
My first meeting with Lexie brought me face-to-face with a group of Tibetan monks who welcomed me into her home. The experience was reminiscent of a past journey I had taken with a Tibetan monk in India; we hiked the Himalayas and visited both his monastery in Zanskar (known as the Top of the World) and the Dalai Lama. The monks at Lexie’s house floated through her living room in wine-colored tunics before a woman with ocean blue eyes, open arms and a soft loving smile appeared.
As we sat down to talk, Lexie shared insights about her formative years and the powerful impression author James Allen had made on her 17 year-old self. As a Man Thinketh was written in 1903, and Allen “talked about the power of thought and the strength that comes from self-control.” Allen believed a man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all of his thoughts.
Born into an affectionate and supportive family, Lexie’s parents nurtured her confidence and strong sense of belonging and self-worth. She thrived in New York, where she built a career in public relations that encouraged her creativity while supporting her mother after her father passed away. This life seemed full, until it wasn’t.
Lexie’s realized in her book, What is Love, that “something was missing. At 20, I was grieving my father’s death and set unhealthy patterns to bury my pain and loss. I built a wall that few people could infiltrate, including myself. I knew my priorities had to change because corporate life was keeping me more defensive.”
The next 20 years were spent unpacking and rewiring these defensive blocks so she could forge deeper connections to others. “In New York, I was vice president of the International League for Human Rights and knew the difference volunteer work made. It balanced my business life and helped me to be more connected to a life of purpose.”
Lexie saw the need to protect human rights, so she spoke at the United Nations in Geneva and attended human rights conferences. She shared the atrocities occurring in Myanmar and continued to also push her own personal boundaries on faith and spirit.
But a seminal moment in Lexie’s life occurred when a friend asked her to host a group of Tibetan Monks. The monks were visiting from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India. They brought the Tibetan culture and practices of love and compassion and she developed a magnetic spirit.
All who meet her feel it. It lives in her multifaceted gifts and messages to the world, detailed in the series of books she’s written about her awakening. Her Messages From the Heart series includes titles like What is Spirit, What is Love, What is Laughter, What is Peace, and What is Death. Readers journey through a range of human emotions illustrated by well-known artist friends like Peter Max and Romero Britto.
The inspirational quotes and stories from her more than 750 interviews answer some of life’s most profound questions, in such diverse ways that there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s Eleanor Roosevelt, Kahlil Gibran, journalists, movie stars, musicians, artists, psychologists, friends, mothers, or fathers, Lexie helps to discern what makes us happy and where we can find peace.
To this end, Lexie offers relief for anyone who has lost a loved one or is searching for love, peace, and renewed laughter. “Death begins the moment we are born. To define death, one must answer what is life. Experiences in one’s life will define what death will mean to each person.” (Hattie Lord, Hospice Advantage team Coordinator)
Very personal messages like that of five year old Sonya Maya Tralins are revelatory: “When my grandpa died, I missed him so much. He went into a cocoon. We planted him in sand and soil. Then my grandma came from heaven as a really big, beautiful butterfly of golden light and brought grandpa, also a butterfly of light, back with her to the wonderful place.”
Many books try to answer these same questions but Lexie’s are the kind you keep on your nightstand. Like stepping stones that reflect Lexie’s life experiences, her work is especially poignant as we bid farewell to 2020 and a year of extreme challenges to global peace and personal happiness.
Lexie’s most recent book, Know Yourself: Develop a More Compassionate, Stronger, and Happier You reminds us to harness compassion if we want to see progress and peace in our societies. This speaks to the deep concerns Lexie has about polarization and extremes in our world and how to combat it. “I believe that we can create new ideas to help and serve each other on this planet…I was giving a lecture one day and somebody asked me what religion I was. I paused and said, I guess I would call myself an “INCLUSIASTIC” – because I include everyone!!!”
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a legend about the goddess Tara, the mother of all Buddhas. Legend has it there was a beautiful princess named Jnana Chandra – Wisdom Moon. She was a virtuous soul and practiced her meditation with unwavering devotion until she reached a stage of development in which she could choose her next incarnation.
A monk, quite impressed, came to congratulate her and declared she should hope and wish and pray that in her next lifetime she return as a man. He said only then could she take the next step into enlightenment. But the princess politely rejected his recommendation saying,
“When one reaches a state of true enlightenment, there is no male or female. I will choose to return each lifetime as a woman and help lead every sentient being to their liberation. Once the last being takes their step into enlightenment, then and only then, will I take that step.”
And this is the path of Lexie Brockway Potamkin. As she provides a platform to educate children or inspires people through compassionate and empathetic counseling on how to live a life of joy, she donates her time and money to build sacred spaces. Whether it is a chapel or a museum, Lexie is well on her way to enlightenment. Some may even call her a Boddhisattva.