Photo above: My mum and I at a surprise birthday party I threw for her when she came to visit me in LA ( I was twenty-three! )
My mother Elli passed away twelve years ago, but there’s not a single day that I don’t feel her presence with me, especially when I am in festive gatherings where there are people and food involved. She never missed a chance to celebrate life. She was the quintessential caretaker, an earth mother who infused everyone around her with her infectious spirit of generosity and inclusiveness. To my mother, there was no such thing as hierarchy.
I want to share with all of you her extraordinary spirit that nurtured so many people. She had a remarkable ability to respond to life’s call in the moment, in the most ordinary and extraordinary ways. She used to say her religion was the human communion. Nothing was more important to her than the kinds of heart-to-heart connections that can make time stop and give meaning to everything. To this day, people who knew her still quote from her well of wisdom. I want to share with you today some of her soul-stirring sayings, to inspire you.
1. Let it marinate.
In moments of indecision, of not knowing what to do or which direction to turn in, she would absolutely relieve any self-imposed pressure by saying, “Darling, let it marinate”—allowing us the luxury of time. She came from the knowing that there is no urgency in spirit.
2. Change the channel.
This was her signature phrase to shift from a negative thinking pattern to a more positive mindset, from disappointment to trust, from sadness to joy, from upset to humor, from rushing to relaxation. If someone around her was having a panic attack, my mother would simply shout out, “Change the channel!” It was like a directive to your brain to go in a different direction—and by god it worked.
3. Don’t miss the moment.
In the midst of our to-do lists, multitasking, and moving from one thing to the other, she would find ways to connect with the bank teller, the waiter serving the food, the supermarket cashier, the nurse at the hospital—anyone and everyone who crossed her path. An outing with her was completely unpredictable and had no boundaries of time. You never knew who my mother would end up engaging with or who she would feel compelled to connect with in the moment.
4. You can’t be grateful and unhappy at the same time.
This particular saying has moved me many times, from frustration and unhappiness, from entitlement when I would complain, “Why aren’t things going my way?”—all the things that get in the way of gratitude. She would remind me that gratitude for what is is the magic key to resolve unhappiness.
5. Take care of your capital.
To her, capital was the value that she placed in our own lives, taking care of ourselves and our wellbeing, the basics, such as eating well, sleeping well, doing things that you enjoy, being discerning about the people you spend time with—how you nurture things inside and out, not getting caught up in the triviality of life or, as she used to say, toxic people. By example, she encouraged us to value the precious gift of life, always creating a sacred environment.
6. Eating is communion.
For her, eating was a ritual. Everything was a mini-feast, whether it was tea-time with digestive biscuits or a full meal, by herself or with others. It was her time to enjoy herself and bring special attention to anyone she was with.
7. Be your giant self.
She always said, “Go into the world as a giver, not as a beggar, because then the world will meet you in abundance.” Offer what you have. If you go into the world empty, the world will leave you bereft, in a void.
8. It’s an offering, not a trade.
One time, someone complimented my mother on her necklace. She said, “Here, take it. It’s for you.” The person said, “Thank you so much, but what can I give you back?” She replied, “Darling, it’s an offering, not a trade.” The person was speechless. My mother used to say to me, “In a world that has learned everything is about trading, offering is how we experience the generosity of spirit.”
9. Give it your full attention.
There were many times that I would feel frustrated in getting something done or getting something I wanted, and not quite knowing how to accomplish it. She would always say, “Give it your full attention. There’s nothing you can’t achieve if you give it your full attention. But if you are distracted or fragmented, you won’t be able to see clearly or perform to your full potential.” From the simple tasks of washing dishes and making your bed to a major project, if you give your full attention, you will experience joy, fulfillment, and your power.
10. You are here for the joy.
My mother went out into the world spreading joy, the joy of giving of oneself, listening, sharing, caring, and warm-heartedness. That’s what the world needed most, she felt, and that’s what she brought with all her being, to us, her daughters, and so many others. Today, I share with you her wisdom, her tenderness, and her immense spirit that is still very present and alive.
My mother found this wisdom by overcoming her own personal adversities, and so these gems are especially dear to my heart. In my book Unbinding the Heart, I share more stories of the influence and the profound effect her wisdom had in my life.
Agapi Stassinopoulos is the author of the new book Unbinding the Heart: A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, and Unconditional Love (Hay House). While her sister, Arianna Huffington, was doing research for her book about Greek mythology, Agapi’s love for the gods and goddesses was ignited and led to two books of her own—Conversations with the Goddesses and Gods and Goddesses in Love—as well as a one-woman show and a PBS special. She also co-produced and cohosted a documentary called “Quest for the Gods,” shot on location in Greece.
An inspiring teacher, Agapi conducts seminars worldwide for both men and women, empowering them to recognize their individual gifts and create the lives they want. She is a frequent blogger for The Huffington Post. For more on Agapi please visit her website.