Whole Heart Connection and the Origin of the Rubber Chicken

Why is Thea Elijah always holding a rubber chicken?

I often teach holding a rubber chicken in my hand, and gesture with it as I speak.

I tell people that the rubber chicken is my shamanic power animal, and that its spiritual power is the willingness to risk awkwardness or even absurdity in the name of love and healing.

It began as a gift from my son, then 5 years old, who noticed how nervous I was before teaching. He gave me the rubber chicken and told me, “Mama, take this rubber chicken with you when you teach. When people see you holding a rubber chicken, they will be smiling and happy, and you won’t be nervous.”

He was right! It worked like a dream. There is something very disarming of one’s own sense of dignity in holding a rubber chicken, and it’s clearly a two-way street. It’s impossible to hold on to formality or social façades in the presence of a rubber chicken. Right from the start, everybody was much more real and much more at ease with our own awkwardness, until the awkwardness disappeared and only the rubber chicken remained.

thea holding rubber chicken

At some point, I began the Rubber Chicken Award tradition. In Whole Heart Connection work, I tell the class that we will be learning new skills, or more accurately remembering old skills that we have forgotten, that have become unconscious. In between unconsciousness and self-awareness, there is a crossover zone called self-consciousness. I tell them, that’s what the rubber chicken is for. Those crossover moments can make re-discovering our own authentic process kinda awkward sometimes—and so we recognize those moments as Rubber Chicken Moments.

If I see someone who appears to be struggling in the awkwardness of a Rubber Chicken Moment, I compassionately hurl the rubber chicken across the room into their lap. At any moment, however, anyone who is experiencing a Rubber Chicken Moment can put up their hand and yell, “Rubber Chicken Moment!” and I will throw it to them, and they can hold on to it for as long as they want.

This was incredibly popular, and really helped lighten up the experimental mood of the class into a serious psycho-social playground experience. At the end of the class, I would recognize someone who really went out on a limb, who risked looking or feeling ridiculous in order to try something new, with the Rubber Chicken Award: the rubber chicken itself, which they would be given to take home with them.

Over time, more and more people knew about the rubber chicken, and the rubber chicken awards. It was a great incentive for people to loosen up, laugh more, and take healthy risks. Everybody wanted to hold, to throw, and possibly to go home with the rubber chicken.

That’s when I started buying rubber chickens in gross lots, and giving them out to every single member of my WHC classes. It was spectacular. People would come to class, and see a circle of seats, each seat occupied by a small rubber chicken. I’d tell them, “Take any seat—the rubber chicken is for you.” 

As the class filled, that early nervous awkward stage of people among new people was transformed by the sight of all these participants sitting there fiddling and twitching a rubber chicken, twisting it in their fingers, or clutching it immobile in their lap, or starting to get silly with it. It is very, very hard to feel socially intimidated by a person holding a rubber chicken.

Occasionally full-scale rubber chicken flying pandemonium would break out, as everyone felt awkward or liberated, and just felt like throwing a rubber chicken. In some groups, the rubber chicken was used for emphasis—whenever anyone said or heard something important, they would throw down the chicken—thwack! Sometimes there was a full round of echoing thwacks as others threw down their chicken in agreement.

rubber chickens hanging out

People used to do such interesting things with their rubber chickens. I have quite a few chicken pics, some of them rather risqué but most just funny—rubber chickens on all sorts of adventures.

I miss those days. I still have close to 144 rubber chickens sitting in my basement since the pandemic began. I don’t know how to throw a rubber chicken through a computer screen…  but I would if I could.

OK there you go—that’s the rubber chicken story.

Join Thea at her upcoming Whole Heart Connection Intro and if you register by January 15, 2022, you’ll receive your very own rubber chicken.

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome).

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One Comment

  1. Janice Campbell says:

    I miss those days too – and I miss you and your chickens!

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