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Successfully Sensitive | Jo Martin

Open-Hearted Giver

Jo MartinJo Martin’s suggestion for her introductory paragraph says it best, I think:

“Bottom line? I’m just a person. I do the best I can every day to pay forward the blessings I’ve received and to be of service to others within the boundaries of being loving and supportive of my own self.”

Jo plans to have a website called (at least for now) Together on the Path. She welcomes insights from sensitive people about what the site could be like. If you feel moved to open a discussion with her, write to her at

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In what way are you most successfully sensitive?

I’m most successfully sensitive when I allow myself to see through the eyes of my heart. Seeing what I need or what someone else needs at this moment. Seeing that this person – the clerk at the check-out, the person in line with me (the possibilities are endless) – needs a kind word, a smile, something easily given. Seeing a need and responding.

What or who has inspired you to embrace your sensitivity?

Experience. Acceptance. Being disabled. Aging. Time. The Dalai Lama. Thich Nhat Hahn.

Experience? Well, by now, I’ve pretty much been there and done that. I even have the postcards and t-shirts to prove it. Experience has combined with acceptance: I know I’m sensitive and that’s okay. Through experience I’ve learned that each time I use or acknowledge my sensitivity it gives me an even firmer foundation for being more sensitive.

The physical problems I have now are the result of years of abuse and inattention. Five years ago I was blessed by being granted full disability from the U.S. Government. Now I don’t have to struggle to make a living. That, coupled with other life experiences, have made me more compassionate, towards both myself and others.

Being over 60 is another huge blessing. Old ladies can ask questions, can be curious, eccentric and odd – it’s almost expected of us. So now I’m free to say almost anything to anyone, with a smile and with genuine curiosity. People love to talk about their children, their work, their lives, and I learn so much from them.

Time is such a gift; a gift that has allowed me to explore, think, learn, teach, and focus on what is or is becoming important to me. Experience, acceptance, and time have also been vital in helping me learn to set and accept appropriate boundaries.

The teachings of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh continually point me in the direction my soul seeks, showing me how to “be” – be peace, be compassionate, be human.

What are your eternal fascinations?

People. Why are they the way they are? And how does being the way they are affect their life? Endlessly fascinating.

How and Why. I am curious about everything!

What quest currently captivates you?

Exploring aging-death-consciousness (I haven’t found one inclusive word for the overlapping aspects). And simple living.

Aging – we all do it. Some gracefully, others not. Aging leads to death. Again, we all do it, some gracefully, others not. In my head, I am in my mid-30s. In “reality,” I am over 60. So, how can I grow older physically and yet be true to that 30-something inside me? How do I maintain a focus outside myself and not on the changes that could lead me to intense self-focused interest? How do I care for myself in ways that nurture and sustain my health and well-being? How – when death seems imminent or desirable – do I die in such a way that my life is vindicated, that I remain true to my values, my ethos? What provisions do I make for my body at my death? How have others aged? Who among “old people” do I admire and wish to emulate?

Consciousness is. We all are. And we all are one. The more I learn, the more I know that everything (really, everything) has consciousness. Take the focus off of being one human – expand one’s own consciousness – and what is possible? Communication and awareness. I have sat in a stream and known what it feels like to be flowing water. I have stuck my face in a busy bee-feeding dish and sensed what it’s like to be a bee. Consciousness is learning to be here now (thank you, Ram Dass).

I’ve been struck recently by the close resemblance of the core concept of Krishna, the Tao, Shinto’s Kami, and certain teachings of the Dalai Lama with each other and with physics’ Unified Field Theory. When existence is pared down to nano-bits (and smaller), everything is connected to everything else. And – how cool is this? – the observer affects the results of what is seen. Isn’t that fascinating?

Regarding simple living, I ask how and what I can streamline, pare down, or eliminate so that my life can be the most rewarding? What do I really need in order to live a life of comfort and joy? What brings joy and beauty to my life? How do I have the best life for me and yet leave the lightest footprint?

There is so much more to learn!

What is your favourite kind of help to give?

At the risk of being smarty, my favourite kind of help to give is whatever I can:

Being courteous. Smiling at someone who seems to need it. Holding the door (with a flourish) for someone. Complimenting someone on how they look or how beautiful their child is.

Discovering that someone needs (or could use) something, and then providing it. A pregnant clerk in a store for whom I can crochet a baby blanket. Finding a safe place to park for a homeless man who felt he had to sleep in his car to protect his wood-working tools.

Listening to people, really listening – hearing, not just waiting for them to shut up so I can blather on about myself.

Giving referrals. I often learn things that are not relevant to my own life, but – within just a short bit of time – I then encounter someone who needs to know what I just learned, so I pass the information along.

I firmly believe that if I stay open and look at the world through the eyes of my heart, I will see many, many ways to be of service.

Photo from Jo Martin.

Related reading: Successfully Sensitive | Saskia Röell, Hidden Lives Revealed


  1. What a kind-hearted person! I especially like “Listening to people, really listening – hearing, not just waiting for them to shut up so I can blather on about myself.” It is a gift to be able to shut off our minds while someone shares their soul/day/problem/question. Too often, even when we think our brain is clicked to pause, we’re still processing, thinking silently, preparing a response. Sometimes the true miracle is listening fully. … Letting someone else pour our their heart without wanting to automatically fill them up with part of us (via our response).

    Thanks so much to Jo for sharing and Grace for posting.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink
  2. agnes wrote:

    Of course, I was expecting part of the things you told us. You already know that I’m interested in that simple living thing, just a follower taking baby steps. I admire you a lot Jo, especially on your interest in the *Exploring aging-death-consciousness * part. I’m glad I know you!

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  3. Humbleness is a gift, Jo. Thanks for role modelling it so beautifully.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  4. Ric Payne wrote:

    Jo what wonderful insight.

    Caring, Giving, Inquisitive you are my Friend.
    60+ years of experience has molded you well.
    It’s been fun being 30 with you.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  5. Bir Kaur wrote:

    Really lovely interview, Jo. Bless you for being the lighthouse that you are! Keep on shining and helping to light the way.

    Friday, June 19, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  6. Marina wrote:

    Jo, you are so inspiring! I’m looking forward to reading your website.

    Friday, June 19, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  7. julie wrote:

    I have known Jo for many years…well, as far as the internet will allow me to “know” someone that is! We met through a common interest in cross stitching and have maintained our email friendship even though I long ago have stopped visiting the site that introduced us :) Jo is everything she says she is here – and MORE. Her heart is bigger than even this shows…I admire her and consider her an inspiration.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

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