A Week Full of Grace

by Andrea Chilcote

It’s been a joy to share my experiences with you each week, in the hopes that you will relate to something I have to say, or take away a tool that makes your path a little smoother. Because we’re all connected, rarely does one of us have an experience that is not shared by many more.

So I embark on this creative process, once again looking back at the week before. I notice that for the first time in a long time, the week was uneventful in the dramatic sense, and did not present its usual overflowing suitcase of lessons. For this, I am grateful. As I review each day, my gratitude deepens.

In their book Character Strengths and Virtues, Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman refer to gratitude’s Latin root, the word “gratia” or “grace” and define it as “kindness, generousness, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving, or getting something for nothing.” Grace. Yes, a week full of grace.

As I begin to list the things I am thankful for, some seem small, while others are more high-impact and far-reaching. Yet, as I consider the energy of “grace,” it knows no limits or boundaries. Grace is, for me, a feeling, and it sets forth an entire chain of positive events no one can predict or measure. As like attracts like, it grows.

I am grateful for, first and foremost, the relationships in my life. Last week’s work was ordinary. The people I worked with made it extraordinary. I am grateful for trusting bonds with old clients and the willingness for new ones to take risks in order to grow.

Life outside work, with my husband and my friends, was sweet and simple. I appreciate supermarket flowers when I had a headache, hiking buddies and humor. And of course, I am grateful for the unconditional love of the dogs.

The list could go on. I was graced by two potentially difficult but flawless connecting flights, finalist status in a meaningless (but quite fun) photo contest, and the time to get everything done, for once. I feel like a very lucky girl.

I like this energy, this grace, so I think I’ll linger here for awhile … maybe for the entire week. Care to join me? There’s space for everyone.

The “Nothing” that is Everything

by Andrea Chilcote

I never tire of the daily notes I receive from Mike Dooley’s brilliant TUT, my personalized subscription to Notes from the Universe. But this Monday’s message was a jolt: “Remember, you will always have friends, guides, and love, Andrea, but no one is coming to “save you.”

That’s the adventure package you signed up for.

The Universe went on to say that the only one who would save me was me, and assured me that I had guaranteed superpowers with which to do so.

Now I have never required “saving,” though I have considerable experience wishing, hoping and praying. When I read the message I was reminded of two experiences.

During one particularly challenging time, a dear friend asked, in earnest and with deep compassion: “What can I do?” “Nothing!” I replied too sharply, then I softened. “Just be you,” I said. “Be my friend.”

Nothing to do, no-thing. The nothing that is everything.

The second is an experience I recount in our book, Erik’s Hope. Faced with potential tragedy, I prayed. All at once, for the first time ever, I was overcome by a feeling of profound aloneness. In that instant, I realized that prayer is a conversation between the part of us that is God and the part of us that is human. The human part needed to take action. Fueled by sheer life force, the spirit that I am (and that TUT is no doubt referring to), I took inspired action and rallied others to help. In the moment, it felt like no effort at all. No-thing, just flow. It worked out beautifully.

Even with this realization, I still puzzled over TUT’s words. Not even love will save me? I have lived by John Lennon’s mantra, “All you need is love.” Then it dawned on me. I am love. You are love. The part of us that’s love is the guaranteed superpower. Love is inside, not out. That kind of love is all we need.

Our true power is immense beyond measure. It is a state of being, the no-thing that is everything, to give as well as to receive.

I Just Assumed…

by Andrea Chilcote

As you might have noticed, others often serve as a mirror for our own behaviors. So when highly self-aware beings (that’s us, right?) examine those whom we judge, therein lies opportunity. Lately I’ve been judging people who make assumptions, so I suppose I had better look in the mirror.

Assumptions. I write about them, teach people how to become aware of them and uncover “the truth” — and I wrestle with my own. I probably will continue to study the fascinating field of assumptions until I can rid my very essence of them on the journey to freedom.

It irritates me when people make assumptions about how I am feeling (There are times I’m not even sure), whether I really mean what I just said (Most of the time I do, at least in that moment) or my motives (Just ask and I’ll tell you). Much of this falls into the category of the compassionate: “You must be exhausted!” (No, I’m hungry) or the mundane: “You really don’t mind driving?” – (I would not have offered if I minded).

Sometimes though, the assumptions we make are far less benign. They are a result of unexamined perspective. Driven by a locked-in, self-referenced point of view, these judgmental perceptions can be damaging to, among other things, the relationships we hold as important. They allow us to make up fantasies of how and why we have been betrayed by another, and they serve to separate us from those with whom we seek the closest connection. At their worst, they inform future actions and decisions based on a false belief system.

No wonder I want to free myself of them!

I consider myself a flexible, broad thinker, most of the time pragmatic, and very open to debate about my opinions and perspectives. Yet I can make self–centered assumptions that then lead to conclusions, which, left unexamined, can dramatically affect the ways in which I interact with others. Dialogue guru Chris Argyris  describes this phenomenon with his classic Ladder of Inference. He demonstrates how easy it is to behave based on misinformation (our assumptions vs. the facts), and how to break the cycle.

So what to do? First, realize we all make assumptions and jump to conclusions – it’s how the human brain works. Then, equipped with this knowledge, clarify. Own your assumptions by using phrases like “I think…” or “My assumption is…”, followed by a question to check them out. “How do you see it?” Or, “Is that accurate?”

Experience assures me that these gems of wisdom reap huge rewards. Try it today with someone important to you. I will too.