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Archive for the ‘Erica Experiment’ Category

Beaded Beauty

Another Erica Experiment.

It started with a necklace.

A friend who liked it, who needed some beauty in her life at that moment and a little note to remind her of the beauty that was yet to come in her life.

Then there was a friend’s sassy new haircut that needed some sassy new earrings and it just so happened that I had created some fun ones recently.  So out the door and into the mail they went to find a new home and some new lobes to decorate.

Then there was the closet that was too full, and yet things that didn’t make me happy, or things that were either too big or too small, or in some other ways not “just right”.  And there are lots of other bodies that would be blessed by them, and that would be “just right” on… so out the door goes another 20 items.

And it occurred to me that it might be fun to add them up.  To keep track of the ways, and times I give… both as recognition for myself on the days when I wonder if I am “doing enough” or am “enough” and also to remind myself of the ways that I am here to give, to be of service, to use my gifts to make others lives just a little bit better.

I spent much of the last two years learning how to receive.  I had focused so much of my life on giving, and on the kind of giving until I was depleted, until I had nothing left, giving that left me empty.  And now after getting better at the receiving of gifts I am ready to learn my own balance… to be more open to the flow of giving and receiving.  To pay more attention to the giving that gives to me as well… and more importantly to get rid of my own bias that then it must not be “giving” if I get something too… so there was only one rule…

The only rule with these gifts, these 1,000 ways is that they must leave me feeling more full…

And it occurs to me that I have already received so much from these gifts.

I had the honor of seeing the necklace looking stunning on my friend’s neck and seeing her smile.

Getting a text from my friend who had gotten the earrings made me smile ear to ear.

And sometimes it is the intangibles… today it was a wonderful interaction with my favorite guy at the Post Office, the one who calls everyone by name and greets everyone with a smile.  Today it was a gift to give him a smile and return the favor.

And then it was to go to my local coffee shop to purchase some surprise coffee’s for the people at the Print Shop who went out of their way to help reduce my stress and print my items ahead of schedule.  And when I was at the coffee shop I ran into several people and of course great conversation and connecting ensued.

Getting a chance to connect with all of my friends and to feel like I live in a welcoming community where my participation, my gifts are valued.

So much receiving in the midst of giving.  It is all so intertwined and beautifully connected, just as we all are.

I am learning how to build my muscles… because I believe much like anything we need to flex and exercise these muscles too… The more I think about giving and receiving, the more I practice them both, the more they become like breathing… a part of my life that comes naturally, that keeps me lit with joy and that brings meaning.

The more I have acknowledged and honed my gifts the more easily I see how they can be of use.  Which reminds me of Marge Piercy’s words given to me by a dear friend years ago that still resonate today.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used. 
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real. 

Marge Piercy

I love seeing how life interweaves gifts, giving and receiving often making them impossible to pull apart.  Love weaves them together creating a beautiful gift in the entirety of it all. The ordinary creating extraordinary, the light merging with the dark and beauty shining through.

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Tonight I completed another thing on my life list. Getting my picture taken with one of my favorite authors!!

Brene Brown and I

I was blessed this evening to have a few moments with Brene Brown.  Long enough to dare greatly, stumble over my words about how powerful her work has been for me and for my adult self to try to remain cool, calm and collected while my inner 8th grader danced around and wanted to show her how cool I thought she was, how much I knew we could be BFF’s – if only she knew me :).

I gave her my book… and not for the reasons that people would probably assume.  I gave her my book because 2 years ago when I saw her speak I gave her a letter about how important her work was and how it truly changed my life and the way I looked at myself, at others, and most importantly it gave me language for who I wanted to be.  It was my very first “Brave Letter” and it was one of the first times that I did something where I was that brave and honestly didn’t care what the response was- because for me it was the act of stretching, it was the act of knowing that she knew was bravery was and she would receive it with love and compassion.  What she did with it was nothing personal, it was the act of me stretching that was the teaching for me.

And now two years later, thanks to employing my own vulnerability, to as Brene says- “calling deep on my courage” I have something to show for it.  And I gave her the book one because it was way outside my comfort zone, but it was also a part of me saying “look, you have placed your heart and soul in these books that you have shared with us, you have risked, you have been vulnerable, the least I can do is offer you a little piece of my heart as well.”  It was the quickest way to show her that YES your bravery has elicited a response… YES your bravery has started a domino effect… YES your work matters and your willingness to be in the arena, your willingness to show up inspired me to do the same.

It happened to correspond with Alana’s release of the Transformation Talk that she and I did a few weeks back.  And I wasn’t sure when it was going to go live so I had honestly forgotten about it.  And so here I am… in an interview where I am “in action” and don’t have a chance to think about it, to delete, only show my “best self”… but yet, when I watched it I watched it with kind eyes, with excitement and curiosity.

I am so excited to be a part of what amazing work Alana is offering to the world.  Her writing is simply beautiful, her willingness to be present, to share deeply and her authenticity shine through both in her words and through her interviews and in her work.  Powerful things happening in her little corner world!

So today I am going to live into Brene’s words from the Gifts of Imperfection:

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

And trust that I did just that today in a variety of ways.

 

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20 Seconds…


I do think it is true.  Sometimes all we really need is 20 seconds of insane courage and the world breaks open in a new way.

I invite you to indulge in 20 seconds and share with me what happens!

Here is to more courage being unleashed in the world!!

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One of the most beautiful things about noticing beauty, or joy, or pretty much anything is that the more you pay attention the more there is of it.

What are you paying attention to these days?

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Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

—Thomas Merton, in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966 

I have a wise friend who when I was in the midst of a whirlwind of change gently asked if perhaps instead of focusing on the what of the changes, the what of what I wanted to be and accomplish I would instead focus on the who.

This one shift altered everything.

Rather than looking at my list of to do’s trying to figure out if I was “doing” enough, instead I focused on whether or not I was who I wanted to be in the mist of it all.

It forced me to discern what kind of a person do I want to be, to really chew on that, to figure out what it would truly look like.  Do I want to radiate joy, do I want to be a generous listener, do I want to live out my compassion, what does a life of intention and integrity look like… what kind of a “who” would that be.

Who would I be if I lived out my principles in a more intentional way, if I fully leaned into a wholehearted life of being generous in spirit, in love, in honesty, in joy.

So that has been my latest Erica Experiment… looking at the “Who” of me and letting go of having to know the “What”.

And what has surprised me is that the whats generally fall into place on their own, they don’t need the attention I was lavishing on them, writing and rewriting my to do lists, adding to my dreams, berating myself for having such similar lists week after week because there are only so many hours in a day.

Instead asking at the end of the day if I crossed off enough on my list I have been asking questions like: did I live out love, did I offer my gifts to another, did I connect in a meaningful way, did I share laughter with someone?

Somehow life seems more full, and with less stress I am getting more done, and with more joy, with more gratitude and more grace.


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Colorado April 2012

A beautiful quote that touched me from Ronna Detrick’s recent blog post:

In some ways, the art of spiritual direction lies in uncovering the obvious in our lives and in realizing that everyday events are the means by which God tries to reach us. ~ Alan Jones

After attending a recent event for my church I am reminded again of how hungry people are for connection, for spiritual nourishment, for authentic conversation about so many things- including doubt, certainty, hope, joy, pain, love and connection.  What a beautiful opportunity to be around others who are willing to question, to share, to revel in relationship with one another and with God/Mystery/Love.

And questions: How to live our faith on an everyday basis, how God reaches out to us, what pieces of our life hold meaning, where Love shows up in our lives, how we are blessing others, how we are being blessed… so wonderful to sit with these questions, to share thoughts and to hear the hearts of others.

One of the many conversations that struck me was about the love of friends, and how that is a special kind of love, an elevated kind of love because it is a constant choice we make to be in one another’s lives.  There isn’t a formal contract, or a bloodline that holds us together, instead it is a choice that we continue to make to bless and be blessed by sharing, by coming together, by holding one another in love and committing acts of kindness to sustain the relationship.

And something that resonated deeply was her assertion that friendship by it’s very definition is an act of grace.  Something I will be mulling over for the next few days…

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I shared with you one of my Erica Experiments-  about saying Goodbye to TV.  And the truth of the matter is over the past two years I have been engaging in several other experiments, and I am ready to be brave and share some of them with you.

Here is a short list of what I have been experimenting with:

living with more intention,

saying no more often so I can say YES to the things that matter,

prioritizing differently,

surrounding myself with the positive in a conscious way while embracing those difficult things that are real and need attention like grief and loss,

choosing to turn towards the light,

embracing my flaws and being able to love myself in the midst of, in spite of and because of my imperfections

being vulnerable and courageous.  

learning new language that supports me- speaking to myself life a friend- someone I love, value and cherish rather than someone I have to tolerate.  

learning how to truly accept a compliment

learning how to allow myself to celebrate my achievements instead of constantly looking to the “next” way to prove myself 

thinking about and shifting how I show up in the world,

learning how to see my gifts, learning how to share them,

learning how to fill myself first and how to give from joy and abundance not from feeling like I “have to” or from a space of lack, 

learning that I am worthy of love and belonging

delving more deeply into my relationship with something larger than myself (aka God, the Universe, the Mystery) and shared some of that in the Benedictions post,

taking big leaps with owning my dreams and saying them out loud  

living authentically and being willing to risk dissapointment

learning to tell the truth- to myself and others 

learning big lessons about letting go, about deep trust, about listening to my intuition, about holding myself gently and A LOT about forgiving myself. 

At first I share what I have been learning only with my trusty journal.  And then because I can’t help myself I would strike up a conversation with someone and when I would share my struggle, or my truth, or my learning more often than not they would lean in, their voice would get quiet their eyes searching mine wondering how I could see straight to their heart and and they would whisper “me too”.  Time and time again I realized that I wasn’t alone.

Our hearts our so similar, they are jagged and cracked, tender and bruised and yet they are so beautiful.

In spite of it all here we are- our hearts still beating.  We marvel in wonder at one another’s courage, bravery and we love them so fiercely- and yet we forget to offer ourselves that same fierce love.

And then quotes would be on my Facebook page, I would stumble onto a blog post, or another conversation and I would be reminded that these are things that we all struggle with, that we all muddle through, and so often we do it on our own because we think we are the “only ones.”  And yet, we have this amazing connection, we have all of these wonderful similarities, and so often we don’t reach out to realize how achingly beautiful we all are, how wonderfully tender and resilient we are… we see it in others certainly, but we often refuse to see it in ourselves.

I have a picture of myself as a child on my fridge, now with a picture of my niece next to it and it is striking the similarities.  And wonder when i stopped looking at myself with kind eyes.  When I look at pictures of Annabelle I see a purity of spirit, a tiny human brimming over with love, with innocence and joy.  I see nothing but beauty.  So one of my grand Erica Experiments has been to look at myself through kind eyes.

In pictures when I look with kind eyes I see it all in such a different light, so full of possibility, so tender, so adorable, and I don’t pick apart and analyze any of it.  I think the random curls in her hair are precious and part of the very reason she radiates beauty.

What if we all looked at ourselves with kind eyes.  So that has been my road to self-love lately.  Asking myself to look with kind eyes at myself and the rest of the world.

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