Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Gifts’ Category

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.

 

Read Full Post »

In our Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook obsessed culture we tend to believe what we see and we forget that there is a story behind every picture, behind every post.  Sometimes there is a larger story that we don’t know, and sometimes we assign stories where there are none.

There is a balance to walk, a fine line.  Currently I am going through a difficult period of my life, relationships shifting, anniversaries of difficult things, learning more about some situations that bring sadness. And yet, in spite of it all I am experiencing a deep sense of peace, of connectedness and of deep trust through it.  And through it all there is so much to celebrate- births, beauty, deepening of relationships, love and so much more.

It is the Cone or Crap debate from the Ted Talk- Gratitude, Gifting and Grandpa by John Halcyon Styn … which do I focus on, what habits do I cultivate, what tools do I have to help me navigate the difficult places.

Grandpa & Halcyon – Tickled Pink

I realize now that it is this mental discipline that determines the degree in which you enjoy your life. It is so simple: Focus on the good.

But in our modern world it isn’t simple at all. Our advertising bombards us with the message that we are not enough and we do not have enough. Or news relentlessly tells the story of doom and fear.  It is no wonder that so many of us struggle with unhappiness and depression.  It takes a committed practice to stay focussed on the good.  (Or frequent visits to an especially magical Grandpa.)

But since Grandpa is no longer here physically, I developed a  little trick to snap myself into the Grandpa mindset.  It is called, “Crap or Cone.”

Visualize yourself  holding an ice cream cone in one of your hands…and with dog crap on one of your shoes.  This is the state of our lives at every single moment.

At every moment there are aches and pains, work to be done and people who don’t like you.  At the very same moment, there are gorgeous flowers, laughing babies and your favorite foods.  There are always both. And the degree in which you live in Heaven or Hell is determined by where you place your focus.

This is not the same thing as pretending that you have no problems.  Time and energy should be put towards addressing the crap on your shoe.  (My grandpa spent a few moments EVERY DAY writing his congressional representatives.  But he didn’t spend the rest of the day complaining about the issues.)

The problem comes when we make our lives all about the crap.  And in a world so focused on problems, that crap-focus is an easy trap to fall into. In fact, it is scary how often you will see people set down their cone, take a huge whiff off their shoe and demand, “Oh this is horrific…you have GOT to come smell this!”

Some people will argue that focusing on the good is simply not facing “Reality.”  But reality has almost an infinite amount of things for us to pay attention to.  Yet, our lives have a finite amount of moments.  Where we place our focus is everything.

When you start practicing focusing on your cone, you start to realize just how much there is to be grateful for.  So much in nature. So much in our own bodies. So much in our fellow human beings.  We are practically swimming in an avalanche of ice cream.

 John Halcyon Styn

Concentrating on the crap won’t make my dear one’s cancer disappear, or bring back a loved one, or keep another from her hurting heart… but only focusing on the cone, the delicious parts of life like the beauty of the autumn light, the fact that my words have been pouring forth and I feel connected to the juice of life in so many ways, that doesn’t fit entirely either.  When we aren’t honest about where we are really at, where we struggle, how we are really doing there is the loss of the opportunity to make a connection, to really meet each other where we are at. And I have found that my relationships have thrived where I share all of me, the cone and the crap, and where I make space for people that I love to be who they are and where they are at.

At the same time I have started to set more boundaries around how much crap talk I can handle, and I no longer spend the amount of time I used to

Those who are interested in living wholeheartedly know that behind the perfectly captured photo of the angelic toddler there were the moments before with the meltdown because they didn’t want to wear matching socks, or because they wanted to do it “all by myself”.  And we have those same tantrums as adults, we just seem to hide them more effectively.

And as I strive to live a life where words like- authentic, congruent, intentional, wholehearted, clarity are used daily. I find myself celebrating the cone, but acknowledging the crap and learning to walk that balance.

And it has been a helpful practice to remember that people’s cultivated lives aren’t always a reflection of the entirety of their lives… and there are people that are brave enough to share all of themselves with people who have earned the right to hear the entirety of the story:

Share tenderness with people who have earned it. Trust is built in small moments over time. Work through your stories one-on-one before sharing them publicly. Be careful whom you trust with your tender places. Hence, boundaries are important.

It’s a privilege to see me outside of my armor. People have to earn that right. There are people who are not safe, so limit time around them or else be armored / boundaried around them.

Thoughts from a talk by Brene Brown on Bettina Shzu’s blog

We are all in process, we are all doing the best we can with what we have, and we are all deserving of so much love and kindness.

If anything I would ask that you remember that what you see often isn’t the entirety of the story, and that sometimes we forget that other people have the same fears, struggles and issues that we do.  We are so similar and we tend to spend so much time making ourselves so separate, so special… and yet… what peace, what wonder is found when we realize that we are all such magical beings full of light, love, tender moments, frustrations, fears, regrets, anxieties with a hope that is woven through.

Read Full Post »

Sometimes…

Fall 2012

Sometimes it is words of others that remind me of all of the things I need to hear…

Here are a few blog posts that struck me the past few days and I am hoping that they touch your heart as well.

The Permission Slip– Susannah Conway

Oh Susannah, how did you slip into my soul and write out just what I needed to hear?  After reading this and my soul sighing deeply I realized that I needed some space, and some silence.  So I spent the next 8 hours in silence … something I will repeat again very soon, and for a longer period next time.

What Your World Is In Need Of– Valerie Tookes

Beautiful to me because of this:

It has never been true, not for a moment, that criticizing or shaming ourselves leads to love. Only love leads to love.
~Geneen Roth

and this:

In order to provide THE world with what it needs most, I must provide MY world with what it needs most which quite simply is me.

A me – who acts authentically, her heart filled with love and compassion toward herself and others.

A me – who is so filled with a peaceful spirit that joy and happiness just radiate from her eyes.

A me – who is mindful enough to notice and provide deep rest and comfort.

A me – who can reach out in connection with passion and purpose to support others when she is feeling 100% fully herself.

And this: Day of Rest– Jill

Because of this:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver

So much beauty in the world.  And on the days when my heart is weary and my soul tired and sore there are so many others who remind me of the beauty in the midst of it all.  And for that I am grateful.

Read Full Post »

Autumn 2012

A Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.

John O’Donohue

Sent to me by a friend just when I needed it, perhaps you needed it today too.

Read Full Post »

Fall Flowers

One of my favorite things is to listen to the essays of This I Believe… just hearing the beginning introduction I will pause, stop whatever I am doing, let out a sigh and settle in.  I have yet to listen to one that doesn’t make me think, ponder or look at the world in a slightly different way.

These two ideas from Kevin Kelly and his essay The Universe Is Conspiring To Help Us caught my attention and have been playing in my head and my heart since I heard them…

I have developed a belief about what happens in these moments and it goes like this: Kindness is like a breath. It can be squeezed out, or drawn in. To solicit a gift from a stranger takes a certain state of openness. If you are lost or ill, this is easy, but most days you are neither, so embracing extreme generosity takes some preparation. I learned to think of this as an exchange. During the moment the stranger offers his or her goodness, the person being aided offers degrees of humility, indebtedness, surprise, trust, delight, relief, and amusement to the stranger.

And this…

When the miracle flows, it flows both ways. With each gift the threads of benevolence are knotted, snaring both giver and recipient. I’ve only slowly come to realize that good givers are those who learn to receive with grace as well. They radiate a sense of being indebted and a state of being thankful. As a matter of fact, we are all at the receiving end of a huge gift simply by being alive. Yet, most of us are no good at being helpless, humble or indebted.

One of the gifts that being broken open has taught me is to learn about the heartbeat of generosity, that there is a moment in-between when we allow ourselves to be open enough to receive, or when we can choose to block the gifts that are in front of us.

It has become my prayer to remain open to the gifts, the love, the abundance that is laid before me on my path.

Read Full Post »

More…

August 7th.
This used to be just like any other day, passing uneventfully by until 8 years ago my grandmother passed away, then three years later I am finding myself again frantically making phone calls throwing clothes in a suitcase and trying to make a flight from South Carolina to Minnesota as quickly as possible.

And now tonight five years later, gathering again with family eating together sharing more laughter than tears I can’t help but think how much has changed.

I am to the place now where the sharp pain has subsided, where life has woven itself back into the tapestry of my life and where chances are the mention of Mitch or Grandma will bring warm nostalgia and the desire to share a story.
And as I think about what has changed the most it all revolves around the word more…

If you ask anyone who has lost someone recently what they want it would be more…

More time

More chances to share the love they have

More time to mend the fences that were built to keep a safe distance

More appreciation of the gifts of the ordinary days, the lazy Sundays together, the impromptu picnics in the backyard just because, a moment of appreciation of a shared meal, of having someone to share your day with, the voice at the other end of the line

More appreciation of life as a precious gift

More laughter

More…

One of the gifts of grief (be it from a death, a loss of a dream, a loss of the life you thought you wanted etc.) is that when your heart is broken open it naturally creates more space for love if you let it.  The walls that we have built to keep ourselves “safe” no longer do, and the world suddenly seems like a very difference place and it is up to you how it changes you…

For me so many things have changed…

Hugs are longer and tighter.

Love is more freely given and received.

It is easier to discern what is truly important.

What has gotten me through the past five years without a doubt is the love of friends and family, those who went out of their way to take care of me when I needed it most, those who shared their stories of grief and loss and growth, those who let me be where I was… some days in the darkness of loss, and sometimes in the light of all the gifts that have been shared… all of those who with words, thought and deed held me in love as I stumbled my way through a difficult time.

Today I am more grateful, more appreciative, more overwhelmed by beauty, more present in the moment, more authentic, more honest, more open, more compassionate and more forgiving.  Not every day of course, and I have my days when I don’t even want to be with myself… but more days that I live in the place of genuine gratitude for the gift of one more day in this life, of one more day being surrounded by the people I love and that love me so deeply and fully.

So here is to more…

More appreciation of each other right now in this moment.

More fun and laughter.

More enjoyment of each day.

More life squeezed out of each day.

More love.

More love, I can hear our hearts cryin’
More love, I know that’s all we need
More love, to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there’s ever an answer
It’s more love.

Dixie Chicks

 

 

Read Full Post »

It has been a little bit since my words have found their way to this page, and so much has happened in that time.

I spent the better half of last week with my Grandfather who was in the hospital and although it was bittersweet to see him there there were also so many gifts that I came away with from his time there:

It is always a scary thing to see someone you love in the hospital.  And as I was driving up to visit him I was rehearsing the speech I would give to the nurses about how important grandpa is to all of us and how special he is… but as soon as I got there I realized there was no need because they were already aware of just how special he was, and they were so incredibly kind and provided the best care they could.  I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes as the nurses and doctors would come in and treat him with such care and respect:

At the hospital we were able to see people come and go, in various states of health and dis-ease… and it was such a reminder that this body that I live in is something to give thanks for.  I can run, I can walk, I can move without pain… and what would happen instead of trying to change it and focus on it’s flaws… what if instead I loved it for what it is already doing.  What if I truly appreciated the fact that my heart is beating strongly, my lungs take in and out oxygen and my blood flows to the places it is needed without any input from me… it was such a reminder to live with such gratitude for my health and my body.

I can’t fix the health problems he has, I can’t reverse the hands of time… but I can do something important- which is to be there in the midst of transition, I can offer my presence, my love, my gratitude for all that he has given me and shown me.  I think all too often we dismiss the power of our presence, we underestimate the power of our love and compassion.  We have ample opportunity to share the love and concern we have for one another, but too often we allow fear and doubt to get in the way.  We don’t believe that our little effort can possibly make a difference, but your words, your presence, your kindness can make all the difference.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa

So send the card saying that you are thinking of someone, call the person that you know is struggling and offer a few moments of your time to listen and to be present.  If you don’t know what to say you can start by saying “I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know how to make it better, but I do want you to know I can listen.”

Today is the anniversary of my cousin’s death as well… a man who died far too young and as I surround his family in love and prayers I have been thinking about what he would want me to do on this day.  I believe he would want me to seek out those I love to remind them that I love them, that he would want me to remember how important we are to one another, to remind each other how important words of comfort and compassion are.  I believe he would tell me to offer a hug to those who need one, and to live my life fully and deeply.

In thinking about death and dying I have been reminded that we all have choices about how we truly live, and it has caused me to pause to appreciate the gifts in my own life, the friends and family that are such gifts to me, the love that we share, and how important it is to take a moment to appreciate and delight in one another.

So pass on words of love, share your joys and struggles and continue to be present for one another in the midst of life and love, growth and loss, pain and pleasure and everything in-between.

 

Read Full Post »


Brandi Carlile- Minnesota State Fair 2010
In 2010 I was lucky enough to get to see Brandi Carlile in concert at the State Fair and this was my picture from that evening with the blog post that it sparked:
You know like you do when you take a great picture, see great art, or hear a beautiful song. Every fiber of your being resonates with recognition and anticipation. You feel it all the way to your core leaving no room for doubt. When you come to the silent still places there is no objection, there is nothing but a resounding YES! from every fiber of your being.
Great art is like this, great writing, great friendships…
and great love should be too.
And last night I was blessed yet again to be able to see her live, this time at the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater.  When I had gotten home I was still savoring the electric energy from the concert and looked up a few videos to prolong the experience.  It was so much fun seeing everyone at the concert singing along with gusto, watching people dance and jump up and down when their favorite song comes on.   The intimacy that is created when people share their hearts is simply beautiful, when they share their gifts and the crowd is willing to receive the music- it electrifies everything and everyone.
One of the most amazing moments of the evening was Brandi sharing her experience of being a young and budding artist and the influence that Lillith Fair had on her and how important it is to nurture young talent, to give back.  She had asked for someone in the audience who was a huge fan, under the age of 20, and someone who played guitar.  I was assuming that she was going to offer the experience of being able to play with her and instead when the nervous young girl stood there on stage next to her she smiled and said, “It’s yours.” And this young 19 year old woman stood in stunned silence as Brandi placed her guitar around her neck.  The entire amphitheater stopped breathing for a moment to witness this act of generosity, of belief, and then exploded into clapping and whistling as it hit everyone that she was absolutely serious.
It reminded me we have a responsibility, an opportunity to offer what we have to one another, it may not be from a big stage, or something  of that magnitude, but we still can share that sense of belief, that joy, passing along the opportunity to develop.  This young woman’s life is now changed… perhaps she will be an artist, perhaps not, but without a doubt this will be a milestone in her life and she has an even better story to tell.  And isn’t that what we do, collect stories, collect moments and share them long beyond the experience.
These are the words that I shared with a friend last night after watching this video of her song Hard Way Home.
That has to be the best feeling, when you get done doing a song and you look around and that moment where everyone’s eyes meet and you know that that was the track that you are going to put on the album, that was the song played the way it was supposed to be played, that was the moment when there was this incredible alchemy and the energy of the room wove itself around and through the music, the instruments, the vocals and the hearts… 
 
That is why people play music… and that is why people go to see it… for that moment…
 
Sigh… 
 
That is why I love live music.  Seeing that moment in person… feeling the energy rise, seeing them lose themselves in time and space, watching the smiles leap from deep within… pretty amazing.

Read Full Post »

I remember sitting in tears talking to a friend about something another had done wanting to know how they could be so hurtful, so cold, so insensitive, and she simply said softly: “Hurting people hurt.”

In some ways it reminds me of this poster:

Because no matter where you put the comma, the pause it is true… hurting people hurt… themselves, others and it can be really messy, and hard, and complicated.  And yet… taking responsibility for our hurts, for our places of pain can be one of the most courageous things we ever do.

What had started this whole thought was reading this beautiful quote from a wonderful book This I Know: Thoughts On Unravelling The Heart by Susannah Conway,  While I had read this quote recently and was touched by it in the reading, it showed up for me again in this interview by Brene Brown, and when things begin to show up time and time again I know that it means someone in my life (often me) needs to hear these words, to be reminded of this truth.  So as a part of my commitment to healing myself and the world I offer my thoughts, my musings, my questions, and the answers that as Rilke says “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”  Perhaps together we can live into this beautiful work of healing our hurts, living with integrity, holding one another gently when we fall from grace and to come to love ourselves and one another through it all.

“I believe that by being the best and most healed version of ourselves we can truly make a difference in the world. I’m not an activist or politician, and I’m not able to have any direct impact on the areas of the world where help is needed. But what I can do is make a difference in the small pocket of the world I call home.

I can live with integrity and be honest about my feelings, even when they hurt. I can put my whole heart into my work and pay forward the generosity that was shown to me when my world fell apart. I can look after myself, knowing that by healing my own hurts I won’t be passing them on to anyone else. In a society like ours, filled with so many emotionally wounded people acting out their pain, this is possibly the most important work we could ever do—heal our hurts so we don’t pass them on.”

Read Full Post »

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.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »