An evening with Elizabeth Gilbert.

Well, it was not a whole evening, but only 90 minutes. And it was a Zoom meeting organized by The School of Life Amsterdam, not really a close one to one debate. But I am ecstatic about it and hence allowed to play with words while describing its big magic.

This was the second such meeting I have attended during this pandemic chaos and if I ever need to make a list about the few things that were amazing during this craziness these two would definitely make it to the top. It is, undoubtedly, a magical occurrence to see Elizabeth talking from an old church which is now her home, dressed in her beautiful sweater with delicate hearts printed all over, sharing the changing dancing shadows on her floor. Her wisdom and light are undeniable.

It is difficult to summarize into a blog post an hour and a half of epiphanies, but I feel that I need to at least try, even for my very little community, even in my clumsy, chaotic way. Maybe someone else will feel inspired or touched, who knows? Of course, capturing someone as eclectic as Liz is almost impossible. The important part was her message, though. I´ll share that, mingled with some of my own thoughts. If you read Big Magic (and if you did not, what are you waiting for? 🙂 ), you already know what I´ll write about.

assorted-color paintbrushes

At first, for all of us struggling with our creative self, many times too ashamed to acknowledge and respect ourselves, I found that the definition Liz provided on art was just perfect: “Making art is making something more beautiful than it needs to be“. She gave the example of the blankets her Swedish grandmother used to make, which did not need to be colorful, but she invested enough love and time in order to knit them as such. She was making art. Just pause and think about if for 2 seconds, I´ll wait. 🙂

She then talked about a disease more common than arterial hypertension in the elderly (that is very common): purpose anxiety. I think most of us can relate with the mind and heart destroying questions like: “what did I do with my life?”, “I am useless”, “I did not obtain anything of value” etc. We think like this because we were educated in this way, most likely. Most of us feel the need to have a big goal in life, the higher purpose bla bla. Thousands of coaches, even teachers and parents, are pouring this mantra into our ears, minds and souls: you were born for a big reason, you need to find your big meaning, aim high etc.

photo frame lot

Her view is that maybe this purpose does not have to be so glamorous. Maybe our purpose can be something as “small” as holding a ladder on a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles, as Liz did. Who knows what connection grows from there and which is the next step? I, for one, struggle a lot with this idea of big purpose. While a webinar did not solve my issues, it did bring some very welcomed perspective.

It was a hands on meeting, therefore we all did 2 exercises, which consisted of writing 2 letters, 6 minutes each. I am reluctant to such exercises by default, but I tried to keep an open mind and I was not wrong. She has done this exercise with endless other people and communities, from remote villages to CEOs, so I figured there must be something in there 🙂

The first letter was meant to be written to ourselves from our FEAR. The purpose was to let fear speak, respect it and listen to her carefully. For some reason or another :), unraveling my fears came very smoothly for me. The template to be followed was like this:

The beautiful part was that someone volunteered to read her letter and the others had to write me too in the chat box whenever the fear that she was describing was familiar to us. This was very emotional, especially for the person reading the letter, of course. But it showed, once again, that fear is a great isolator. Fear adores to make us feel like we are the only one with a certain amount of worries, but in fact, in Liz words, it is universal and we are all downloading it. We should aim to respect it, give it time to speak, but do not let it take over. (I have to add that this, in my opinion, is obviously not meant to replace therapy in any way, nor will it solve complex clinical issues. It is just another tool.)

Then, Liz talked about enchantment, which, according to the Merriam-Webster describes the art of enchanting: powerfully pleasing, appealing, or delightful. As Cheryl Strayed says, “Put yourself in the way of beauty“. Liz shared some of her own enchanting moments, like watching a baking show from her bathtub while eating popcorn, the old church she now lives in, talking with her friends, seeing foxes during her walks etc. This letter was a bit more difficult for me to write (no surprise there….).

Two people read their letters and it was nice. The idea was, in the end, that this list is mainly made of simple things – most people include something about water or nature, which is very telling, things anybody can do even in pandemic times. Liz pointed out that this list is the actual purpose of life. The Western “bullshit” made us think that the purpose is something needed to be conquered, but we just like good food, sunlight, water and friends. When that happens, we are enchanted.

Our enchantment list (I am sure I have written enchantment wrong at least once, sorry!) should be our operating instruction. According to Liz, the rest gets sorted out. We should live more from this list than from the fear one. It is that simple.

One of the moderators challenged the balance between the enchantment list and actual discipline. Like, what if this list tells us to sleep all day long, how do we get work done? Liz argued that he is somehow conditioned and should just try her approach and see what happens. Maybe he´ll even get more work done. Now, I have to say that I am with the moderator on this one 🙂 Liz said that her enchantment tells her to work only an hour and a half a day. That is great, but some of us don´t have that luxury, at least not for now. So, I guess it is more about balance than anything else.

assorted-color flowers

We are social animals, but we are also spiritual animals. So we could try to lean deeper into the solitude and follow the martial arts principle according to which we must move with the energy and not against it. So we can engage less, although during this pandemic era we feel the need to get even more connected. Liz, for instance, is on a social media break, of an unknown determination. She is working on a new book, for which the idea came to her just 2 days after quitting Instagram.

The last assignment was a letter of permission, from the ultimate highest authority in our mind, giving us a note to be enchanted. We need to make it as official as possible, there were even people who got it properly signed by a notary.

The idea is to “receive” letters from fear and enchantment often and I plan to do just that. I think it is a good exercise to share them around here, but on another hand it seems too personal. I´ll see what my enchantment decides about this 🙂

What about you? What does your fear write to you lately? How is your enchantment these days?

Photos: Unsplash, Letter templates made in Canva

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