Unmuted: Part Three

This is the finale of a three-part series series. Read Part One: I’m Not On-Mute and Part Two: My Body Off-Mute

My Heart Unmuted

“This is the truth…this is the victory…this is hearing your own heart speak.” Gangaji

Dear Courageous Leaders,

I have shared how my body and brain have been telling stories “too strong to be muted” in the aftermath of the life-threatening brain bleed I experienced just one year ago. This week I want to share a story of my heart, interwoven with excerpts from a letter written to me in January 2020, by a friend hundreds of miles away.

While I have little memory of the month that followed my brain bleed, I do have partial memories of the time I later spent in a hospital rehabilitation unit. I remember a day in February, during a time I was counting the days until I could return home. I was sitting in my wheelchair, beside a dear friend, delighting in the sunshine of the outdoor courtyard, despite the chilly winter air.

Dear Friend from Before We Met,

Let the cherished connection we have serve you now, as you need. I am standing with you now as never before. I am holding your hands in this dance…I’m sitting with you listening deeply as I can to what you care about. To the meaning you are making in this lifetime…

I know I had several, intimate and heart-truth conversations with this friend during my stay in the hospital that I hold no memories of.  My memories of this particular conversation are probably held more by my heart than my head. It emerged because I felt I was faltering and I couldn’t summon the energy to maintain my “I will persevere” attitude.

It was a moment in which I allowed myself to feel the weight of this, and with tears trickling down my face, I waved to my body and the wheelchair and said to her, “I’ve already done this twice.” Then, my heart spoke and I said: “I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do it again.” My friend reached over and grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly, silently communicating that she loved me, that she was hearing the hurt, bewilderment, and grief in my heart…and she just sat and cried with me.

For those few moments, I put aside the need to find the right words to name it further, to rationalize all the reasons I shouldn’t feel that way, to cheer myself up, or to remind myself of all the ways I would find the strength I needed to meet this new challenge and of all the beautiful people I had in my life to lend me their strength when I couldn’t do it on my own. I still can call forth from that moment in the cold sunshine air of that February day, the sense of stillness and peace when I simply listened to my own heart speaking.

Know that the circle of support surrounding you is vibrant and clear—we are holding you at our center. Lean on us for sustenance. Lean on us for tending the fire…Trust this offering and rest in the truth of this love…

I’ve since heard multiple courageous leaders describe how they have made intentional in their practice creating “heart space”—not only in the ways they listen to their own heart speaking, but also of listening to others. It seems like many of us are now more acutely feeling the importance of this work.

Gangaji speaks to “discovering the open door that is our own intelligent heart,” and while I’m just beginning to learn from this new teacher, she has already helped me define my ‘intelligent heart’ discovery journey. This journey will forever and strongly be shaped by the aftermath of a brain bleed that also triggered a ‘bleeding’ of emotions, a call to show up courageously and emotionally real, and to live with my heart unmuted.

May the space between, around and among us hold you as you undertake this important lifework…In the spirit of learning and loving…

Still walking my learning journey,


In reflection:

How are you showing up now with your heart unmuted?

3 thoughts on “Unmuted: Part Three”

  1. This is beautiful Erica. Thank you for sharing these deeply personal experiences in a way that highlights how we can leverage pain and turn it into learning as we enhance our approaches to leading.

    I’m showing up with my eyes wide open, to pick up on the nuances people often don’t share verbally, and connecting to others by genuinely asking how people are doing and feeling and listening with my whole heart. People need to feel heard and in those moments we connect and we grow.

  2. Thank you, dear Erica for this sharing. I felt a special peace as I read between the words and sentences. Indeed this is what we are here to do. And we each do it differently. These days, I look closely at the eyes of people just above the horizon of their masks and I watch to catch those willing to connect with a nod, a smile or any other tender courtesy. So maybe I’m developing a new radar and tuning in with intention.

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