112: Kara Elise: Creating Beauty And Helping Others Be Free: A Hostess Doing The Work On The Journey To Wholeness
Our world has become an environment obsessed with technology, being busy, and overstimulation that taking the time to stop and smell the flowers seem ridiculous. After all, if we’re slowpokes, we’re going to be left behind, and nobody wants that. Chef, experience curator, and ultimate hostess Kara Elise has mastered the art of slowness and is creating beauty through hosting. Believing that creating intentional time to sit with others is an essential practice, she creates spaces and experiences that cultivate community. Today, she joins host Thane Marcus Ringler to talk about kairos time and epiphanies, and the power of metaphors and story and why she uses that. They also dive into being present more, the abundance versus the scarcity mindset, the importance of doing the work, the power of food, and more. It’s fascinating to dive into her mind and her work, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this interview with Kara.
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Kara Elise: Creating Beauty And Helping Others Be Free: A Hostess Doing The Work On The Journey To Wholeness
This show is all about learning how to live a good life and we believe the best way to do that is by having intention in the tension. Life is filled with so many tensions that we get the chance to live in daily. The best way to do that successfully in our opinion is with intentionality. We get to work on that with episodes that are talking about the journey from the journey, about the process of becoming. I want to remind you of the easiest, best ways that you can support our show and this community. We’re looking to expand this community. We are looking to reach more people with the message of intentionality and living a good life.
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My guest is Kara Dykert. She goes by Kara Elise, which is her middle name. Kara Elise is a chef experience curator and the ultimate hostess. She focuses on creating spaces and experiences that cultivate community. Kara’s expertise in hosting, teaching and retreats establish a culture of invitation through holistically designed, welcoming environments. Kara’s highest value in life is the true connection and she loves curating spaces for people to fully experience what it means to be holistically seen, known and loved. She builds events and experiences for both individuals and brands that create spaces for connection, process and play. Her dinner party movement has successfully traveled between the West Coast and London and continues to grow internationally. She’s launched a cheeseboard styling workshop tour and is working on filming a pilot for a cooking show.
She loves bubblegum, Los Angeles and helping others pursue what truly matters to them. Kara is phenomenal. She’s a kindred spirit in so many ways and I am very similar in my thought process and being a dreamer and a doer at the same time. This episode was so much fun. We run the gamut in terms of topics, but we talk about Kairos time. We talk about what’s the difference between that and chronological time. We talk about epiphanies. We talk a lot about the power of metaphors and story and why she uses that. It’s powerful. We talk about valuing the process, being in the body more, being present more. We talk about the difference between spontaneity and structure, the difference between abundance and scarcity mindset, the importance of doing the work.
We talked through some of the healing of childhood trauma, creating space for other people to process the power of food, life and vision, and her mantra and so much more. It’s fascinating to dive into her mind and her work. You can find her work on her website, ByKaraElise.com. You can also find her on socials, @ByKaraElise, definitely give her a shout out. Let us know what you think. You can always send us an email, TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.
Kara Dykert, welcome to the show.
Before we hopped on, you mentioned that this is an interesting year for people and you brought up the word, Kairos. I am very curious because I have no idea what this means. What is Kairos all about?
This is one of my favorite things to be talking about because it’s a pivotal time in our roles. When we think about time, there are two words for time. There’s Chronos, which is where we get chronological. I almost visualize it as a horizontal view of time. It’s minute to minute, hour to hour, year to year. As humans, we live in chronological time. Kairos is how I visualize. It is like a vertical drop in time. It translates directly as a divine moment in time. Essentially how I think about it is like heavens open up and something magical happens in the earth.
When you think about the parting of the Red Sea or certain historical events, those are Kairos moments, these divine moments where things operate outside of what should be chronological. Back in 2016, there were a bunch of profits who started declaring that they were entering Kairos time. There are a lot of people speaking that were in the thick of it. This is the thick of Kairos time for the culmination of something in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching my life and friends lives and globally even what’s going on with everything in our world. It feels like spiritual energy that feels something is shifting in the world.
I’ve heard of Kairos time before and that makes a lot of sense. It’s parallel to the patterns of the world that God’s placed there because there are seasons of time, there are rhythms to time. There are ebbs and flows. It makes a lot of sense that there’d be the ins and outs of those more heaven opening times of periods too. One of the other things I found out about you that’s fascinating is that you were born in epiphany year. What is this all about? Because I don’t know much.
Who told you that? My birthday is January 6th, which is the day of Epiphany. I never thought much about it. One of my dear friends, I was processing something and she said, “I always trust that no matter what you do or don’t do or whatever you go through, I trust the process that you’re going to have because you always have these massive epiphanies. You always come to this conclusion of that’s why that happened and then this happened. You have a light bulb in your brain that always goes off and you have an epiphany.” I think on her calendar, it popped up that my birthday was the day of epiphany and she was like, “It makes total sense. You were the woman of epiphanies. You were born on the day of epiphany.” I said, “I love that. I had never thought about it.”
That’s common from what I heard from the people I talked to is that one of the other things is that I believe someone said that you are good at speaking in metaphors.
I use only metaphors. I think my friends get annoyed because I’m like, “He’s like a TV dinner because he packaged himself as the perfect meal and I ate it, it was terrible and process and awful.” A lot of my metaphors are in food because I work in food. I think in metaphor quite often, even with the Cairo stuff, I have this whole experience probably, we had to go on an antibiotic and then my entire life became about being on an antibiotic and I have this whole metaphor about life being like an antibiotic and wiping out the good and the bad. I’m the queen of metaphor.
What is it about metaphors that you love? It’s interesting to me.
I don’t even know that I love them more than it’s how my brain processes. I think it’s this gift that God gave me probably since I was tiny. It’s how I’ve been able to process information and I have quite an overactive mind. Sometimes for me to drop into a place of trust, I need to understand what’s happening. To put something in a metaphor, I can see it differently and see like, “That’s how that was happening or why it was happening.” Back in 2015, I started getting food groups for all of my friends. My friend Courtney was an avocado because avocado goes good with everything. You want avocado with everything. It’s nourishing and for you, full of health and benefits. You can put an avocado at a party or you can put an avocado on your breakfast.
This idea that she can be in all things and nourish all situations. My friend and Lindsey was a birthday cake because she’s like the life of the party, she’s a celebratory friend and you want her around in any good experience. You bring her to things because you bring this element of fun. All that to say, I started getting these visuals of my friends as food. I think I did 30. What’s fun about that is that it gives me the ability to place them in my mind and pull out the gold and who they are because I understand they are different. When you think about a friend as an avocado, you’re like, “That’s why she’s so good in every situation.” It’s almost like another spin on a personality assessment were another spin on understanding the human dynamics.The best gift that we can give people is ourselves. Click To Tweet
Maybe your next creation is the food dynamics of human beings.
I’m working on a book about that.
I’m excited to know about that. What makes a lot of sense then? Jesus taught in parables. Stories are the realm where we implant ideas into our subconscious. That’s why movies are powerful. TV shows are powerful and metaphors are the ability to unlock that for everyday situations in a lot of ways. I’ve never thought about that way.
It unlocks the truth in a way that feels very digestible, not to use food language. I’ve been working on this book and I wrote about pizza dough. It’s interesting because to make it, you put all the ingredients in a bowl, you let it sit for a few minutes, you mix it all up, you pour it out onto a surface, you knead it, you beat it up and make it all gritty and pull it together. You set it aside in a bowl and you let it rise. After an hour, you punch it to the bowl and then again you let it rise and you punch it. I was hosting a retreat and I was telling this group of women about this analogy and how I feel there have been a couple of years in my life that I felt this rising of the dough and then being punched down. The ultimate of hopes and then that hope being destroyed and crashed.
The purpose and the rising and the falling of the dough is so intentional. If you’re a good bread maker, you know that you have to let it rise and fall in order for that dough to bake well and for it to be crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside and to be the best dough. As I was telling this analogy to this group of women, they were all coming from completely different life experiences. Some are married, some are a few years older than me, and some are 22 and single. Where this group of diverse women who have very different stories. When I tell that analogy, everyone in the room can relate in some way because every human has had an experience of rising, falling, a disappointment, a crushed hope, or whatever it might be. That’s the true power of analogy and metaphor is that regardless of your story, you can hear me talk about my truth in a metaphor and you can pull that truth from your story. It becomes something that creates a connection between us. When I tell you about my year of the pizza dough, you have a year pizza dough, you’re like, “I get that.” There’s this connection created in the sharing of metaphor. That’s the ultimate love of it and why it’s powerful.
It’s so fascinating because the opposite of connection is a disconnection. I think that the thing that causes the most disconnection is boxes. When you start creating boxes to categorize things, you’ve mentioned, single people versus married people or this age versus this age. We’re putting boxes or categories around people that eliminates a lot of the connection. It reduces the connection we’re able to have. When you speak to humanity in a universal sense that allows people to self-apply. It’s so much more powerful connection.
It’s an invitation to connection because I’m not trying to teach you something, I’m not telling you some truth that I think you have to understand and know. I’m inviting you into my story and there’s truth in that. It creates an invitational connection as opposed to a forced bond.
I love that, invitation versus a requirement. There’s something to that for sure. One of the things that other people also mentioned a lot is that one of your greatest gifts and you’ve mentioned already, is in processing both with others, but also bringing other people into your process. Flush that out a little bit. How do you experience it as a gift and as a curse?
I want to say it’s mostly a gift. What a joke about it being a curse it’s that I can get lost in my brain sometimes. I had a girlfriend text me. It was the sweetest compliment I’ve ever gotten. I share this story about something I was learning on the retreat and she sent me a quote from Bob Goff and she said, “The teachers I learned the most from didn’t think they were teaching me. They thought they were friends.” I had an ex once say this to me and he was trying to say it as an insult but I loved it. He said, “You assume intimacy with everyone. You walk in the room and you assume intimacy.” I was like, “I assume intimacy. That’s fun.”
The best gift that we can give people is ourselves. The best thing I can do for you is to sit down and be my true self because when I’m in my true self and I’m vulnerable with you, you have the freedom to do that as well. With processing, there’s a lot of facets to this, but I think from a young age, I was someone who had deep desire to know my inner world, to know why I’m the way I am and to know why my brother is the way he is or why my parents act that way. I can remember being twelve and having these epic journal entries of like, “Why are we the way we are?”
When I was thirteen, my family went through a big trauma. I’m in the middle of five kids and I remember having this experience of wanting to understand why am I reacting this way? Why is my oldest brother reacting this way? I want to understand these family dynamics. In undergrad, I studied sociology with the intention of doing something with families, some family counseling. I did my grad program in a similar vein with the intention of becoming a family counselor. It’s because I’ve always understood that there’s a value to the process. That’s where all the beauty is. It’s in a mess. It’s in the process of things. I’m someone who needs to understand why I have this deep curiosity, this deep hunger to understand why are things the way they are.
I don’t know that everyone has that. It’s been this question for me of, “Maybe some people don’t want that.” I’m someone who I can’t survive about it. I think it is my greatest gift in the sense that everything I do and go through and think about it, I have to process. I’m such a processor and when I process as other people, it gives them the freedom to see into their own lives in a way. Probably whoever told you that about me has gone through some very specific intense processes with me. It’s given them a language to process their own life in a different way as well.Embracing the unknown doesn't have to be scary; it can be so exciting. Click To Tweet
I had a friend. She was coming out of a relational dynamic that was very intense. As I was processing with her and asking the right questions, she described it, she was like, “I feel like I was in the shame spiral and you walked me out of it. You didn’t pluck me out.” I thought that was a good way of describing what healthy processing is because it’s not like you come to a conclusion and then you’re over it. There’s an actual walking out of all of these stories, things, lies and what truths you’ve been believing.
There’s a quote I love and posted about. It was Fred Rogers said, “There’s a world of difference between insisting on someone’s doing something and establishing an atmosphere in which that person can grow into wanting to do it.” It is such a different reality on both sides. In thinking about the process, where do you struggle the most in processing? Are there areas you still feel the lack of process as a part of, or what part of processing as a practice do you still struggle with?
To answer it, I’m going to tell you I was in England for a few months and it was the most brutal time of my life. It was so hard I didn’t even know how hard it was. I had three panic attacks and I haven’t had them since my early twenties. My body was responding to the hardness. It was almost like my body was trying to catch up with how much pain I was experiencing. There are a lot of factors that go into that, but I have this experience wherein one of the panic attacks, I was on the phone with a friend and I had her on the other line because I needed to know that there was another human there. We weren’t even talking.
I remember describing to her that I feel everything in my life was happening, but I’m not in my life. I’m doing this job, I’m dating this person and I’m going on these amazing trips. I’m living in England and I’m not in my life. I’m not enjoying it. It was this moment of realizing some hard thing. I had a hard time being in my body and being in the present. Part of that is how I’m wired. I’m seven on the enneagram and I live in my mind and I am an ideation person. That’s my number one on StrengthsFinder. I’m always ideating around what’s my next dream? What’s my next career move? What’s my next relationship? When am I going to get married? There’s all this future thought that will consume my mind.
In this third panic attack, I felt like I was dying. That’s what a panic attack is but this one specifically, it felt so intense. I was saying on the phone, “I feel like I’m dying.” I was in a conversation with someone else and he said, “Do you think that was a spiritual death?” I was like, “That’s what it was. You reframe the entire thing for me.” It was a complete spiritual death of a lot of things, but after that experience, but essentially I started to practice gratitude in a new way and almost start naming the things that were painful that I was grateful for. I’m grateful for being single because when I’m single, I get to travel more. I get to bop all around the world and see friends. I get to witness marriages that are good and see what’s available for me.
I’m grateful that I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from because that means that I’m living in adventure and I’m living a new life of trust and faith. Naming these things that were quite scary. This did not happen overnight, but over these small little moments of practicing gratitude, it felt it dropped me into the actual experience of my life. I was sitting in Nashville with a friend and we were on her back porch and she’s known me for several years. She was reflecting back to me some things about my life. I said, “I feel so connected to my life.”
In your question, this is a long answer to say that the thing that I struggle or I’m still working on is maintaining that existence in the present. I can feel the temptation to jump out and be like, “What about my next career move and what should I do? That person’s doing that.” To literally drop myself into the moment and be like, “This is the exact moment that I have.” Here sitting at this table with you drinking good coffee, this is the moment. There’s not anything else. I’m not waiting for anything else. I’m not waiting for my future person, my future job. I’m at this moment and it’s so good. That’s the big thing about the process for me, that I’m still learning and still trying to solidify as a practice is to be in my body at this moment, celebrate it and not want anything else.
It made me think of a lot of things. One of the things to highlight gratitude, are you familiar with Dr. Joe Dispenza? You Are the Placebo is a book that blew me away. In it, he gives the greatest tools for any type of change is gratitude and meditation. There’s a quote I love this about meditation and it’s similar to gratitude, he says, “Meditation takes us from survival to creation, from separation to connection, from imbalance to balance, from emergency mode to growth and repair mode. From the limiting emotions of fear, anger and sadness to the expansive emotions of joy, freedom and love. We go from clinging to the known to embrace the unknown.” I was like, “Drop the mic.” Even the way you said about the spiritual death, that’s under-emphasized and should be a part of everyone’s life. God does not call us spiritually that once. It’s a continual dying. There will be progressive versions of that.
There are series of it too because when I think about my twenties, I feel like I did so much self-work, counseling and healing. When I got to my 30s, I was like, “I’m good. I’ve done the work.” All these old things resurface in me that I had to look at again and almost get a new toolkit to deal with them because our stuff always comes up. E.E. Cummings says, “It is healing, it’s never whole. It’s this idea that we are as humans in this constant state of healing.” It’s so freeing to be like, I don’t have to arrive anywhere. I know that in a few months I’ll have another process around something but I can trust that process is good and for me. It is embracing the unknown. It doesn’t have to be scary. It can be so exciting.
One of the things that you also talked about is the difference between being in your mind versus being in the body. This is something I am prudently bad at and my friend, Mika, she’s been encouraging to be more in my body. Like you, I love ideating. It’s interesting because another quote came to mind, he said, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” We’re addicted to our minds a lot of times, being in your mind too much. This rabbit trail of what’s next and then figuring things out and problem-solving is an addiction. It’s not about eliminating. It’s about connecting to our bodies and being in the moment more. In this process of moving from mind to body more, what are things that you are doing or what have you found to be helpful in that? What is the importance even of that?
I think the first thing is acknowledging it because I was never taught to live in my body. The mind was so valued in my childhood and even in our world, intellect is so valued. Asking the question of how do I feel in my body? Being mindful of that very question has started a journey through me because I honestly think I didn’t even know. If somebody were to ask, “How do you feel in your body?” I don’t know. I feel sore because I work out. I started doing a bunch of gut healing, looking at the brain, mind and gut connection. Asking like, “What’s going on in my stomach as opposed to what’s going on in my mind? How is my body responding to this atmosphere as opposed to what do I think is happening?” I’ve been starting to question that but has woken me up a little bit to attempt to feel it. I’m with you, I’m still completely learning. This undervalued sense that a lot of us feel quite disconnected from because we do live in our minds, on our phones, on social media and that is no body at all.
The mindfulness piece and then another is yoga is huge for me. If I do any workout, I generally want it to be yoga because it’s counter to how I naturally operate in the world and it slows my mind down enough to connect to my body. There’s this movement mixed with mindfulness that it does feel like I’m in my body. For me too, I’m quite spontaneous and go with the flow but I’ve been attempting to create more rhythms and to create more structure in my own personal life because I find that with rhythm and weird routine, I drop into my body more. Part of that for me, I have a daily prayer practice for sure. It looks more laying on my floor listening to worship music and attempting to feel in my body. Creating those rhythms and routines has also been a key piece of me dropping into my body.Obedience is not about action. It's actually about a shift of the heart to actually respond to a call. Click To Tweet
I think it is a Western problem specifically more than anything else because we are overvaluing the intellect and the mind in many ways. One of my favorite questions that I asked a friend and it’s a great table question, “If your body could talk, what would it say?”
I think I would say thank you. This is a longer part of my story, but I grew up learning how to control the body, abuse the body, manipulate the body or make the body into something that I thought it should be. I feel my body is like, “Thank you for being nice to me.” I had an experience where I was having a hard time. I was crying about something and as I was processing, I discovered with a friend that when I have a hard time, it’s my natural tendency to be mean to me. I was like, “Why am I mean to me when I’m the one having a hard time? This doesn’t make any sense.” I’m the one suffering and I’m beating myself up for suffering. There’s so much childhood stuff in that where I wasn’t raised with a ton of nurture, tender like, “Be nice to yourself when you’re sick.” My mom was like, “If you’re sick, figure it out and get better.” There wasn’t a lot of compassion with pain. I am seven and I run from pain.
I think that I’ve been in this of when I’m having a hard time being like, “Little girl, Kara is having a hard time. What does she need?” She needs a cuddle. She needed someone to hold her hand. She needs someone to scratch her back. It sounds so cheesy, but we know the power of inner child work. It’s phenomenal. It’s something that has changed my life to be able to look at myself when I’m struggling and say, “I have so much compassion for you. How can I be nice to you in the process?” Because kindness is what will pull you out. Me shaming myself, beating myself up or being mean to myself only spins me down with darker shame cycle. All that to say, I think my body will say thank you. I treated it very well. I gave it a good breakfast. I was nice to it and drinking good coffee.
I love that answer. It’s interesting what you brought up being mean to yourself. This is the truth that I’ve been talking to high schoolers about. The easy choices are what we’re going to make as a default. Everyone takes the easier path, the path of least resistance. To make a powerful choice and to go upstream, it takes intention and effort. It’s a discipline. What’s interesting is that the easy choices are almost never what’s best for us at the moment because it’s choosing a short-term feeling versus the long-term reward of taking the longer path. Things like self-deprecation is a path of least resistance. It feels better to make fun of my pain than to deal with it.
In golf, this is so prevalent. My college coach would get mad at us because in the van afterward, we’d all be talking about how we screwed up and all the worst shots. It’s like, “What are you guys doing? This is fueling more of it.” It was true. It’s so much easier to be like, “You should have seen I did this and this was bad.” That’s unhelpful. There’s a great book called The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. It’s all about these two selves that go on in our mind. Mental performance in any sport is crucial, but in tennis and golf, it’s especially true. He breaks it down these two selves and how they talk to each other influences how you perform. If you can improve the health of that conversation and not be beating each other up, then you’re going to play better. It’s how it works and all of life. I think we all as humans struggle with self-deprecation, especially when you’re suffering. Isn’t that funny when you’re in the place where you need something positive and you give yourself the opposite?
Much of it comes down to how we were raised and how we believe we should respond to pain. I was in this mastermind and all of the women that six of us total and all five of them are a little bit older and much wiser than me, so I’ve been learning much. One of them she’s a mom and she was telling this story about how she’s in a place where she’s looking at like, “What do I believe?” She has this two-year-old daughter. Part of her journey is that she wants to feel solid around what she believes so that she can have educated and wise conversations with her daughter. She was telling the story of this journey that she’s been on and the way she spoke about it, I remember crying because I watched her speak and she was so nice to herself with her doubt.
It was like she was treating herself like a little girl who had all these questions. I was watching her do this and afterward I said to her, “Thank you for being nice to yourself. Thank you for modeling this uncertainty and this big question mark in your life with so much compassion because what you’re doing for your daughter is crazy. The way you’re nice to yourself will directly impact how your daughter develops a sense of self.” I said to her, “If my mom had been 10% nicer to herself, I think I would have avoided a lot of issues.” With our parents, this is not anything negative to say against their generation, but I think they weren’t given the tools to be nice to themselves and they weren’t given the tools for self-discovery and the lady that we have. I was celebrating the fact that this mom could be so kind and compassionate to herself because of what she’s giving to her daughter is this massive gift by modeling self-compassion.
I’ve been thinking about generations a lot too. I wrote a blog post about this because we live in such a unique time in all of history that we are several generations into peace and prosperity as a nation, in the sense that we feel the zero effects of any war that we’ve been a part of. What that produces is an amazing place for this leveling up of awareness, growth, toolkit and progression in all senses. Intention leads to complete division dissension over things that have zero impact or matter and don’t matter at the end of the day. We had this weird dichotomy with our generation and it’s not given that people will use that well. Probably the majority won’t because easier path not to, but it is interesting to think about how we can use that for good. Not have these tools and learn things, but use them to make an impact within ourselves and then ultimately with others.
It’s a unique opportunity that we need to take advantage of. With our parents, they were probably the first generation that started to discover it’s not about survival as a nation. We’re able to build more. It’s an interesting thing about how those dynamics change. One of the things you’ve brought up quite a bit and something that I’m curious to know about is the experiences of childhood and dealing with them. Because I think we know we live in a fallen world, that’s going to be common and a lot of people reading can probably relate in many ways. We all have different levels and measures of trauma that we’re all dealing with because we all hurt others. That’s, unfortunately, part of us and we all have the ability to do that. Give a picture of that process and maybe the different phases of that process. The second part would be loving to know any advice you have to people that need or are wanting to deal with some of that trauma.
It’s interesting when you speak about trauma because I finished the book called The Body Keeps the Score. Do you know it?
I’ve heard of it.
It is a book about trauma and the author is one of the leading developers of trauma research. He’s been working in trauma since the Vietnam War and he coined the term PTSD. Before they had a name for PTSD, they used schizophrenic or mental health. They didn’t have this term for what happens when you go through trauma. One of the things that were helpful for me in the book is speaking about trauma in a way that we have big T traumas and then we have little T traumas that happen over and over again in our lives. They can be the smallest thing. It can be your mom forgetting to pick you up from school and day and that creates this trauma in you because you felt forgotten and unknown or whatever it might be. For me, working through a lot of my childhood staff, I’ve always wanted to understand why in life. Why is this happening? Why do I respond that way? For me, it was quite a natural thing to do, some unraveling of my family stuff at a very young age. When I was thirteen, we had a Trauma in my family. A lot of my work in my twenties was unraveling what happened from that.We create the world outside of us that we believe within us. Click To Tweet
I’m the middle of five kids. I have classic middle child syndrome. I feel unknown, unseen, forgotten and did a lot of work in my twenties and therapy attempting to name what those scars were, why they happened and how do we heal them. I have all these wounds that they’re in recovery, they’re mostly healed. I went to a family wedding and it’s funny how quickly those things can be re-triggered and re-stabbed almost and unintentionally. Because this isn’t a blame thing towards my parents or towards family at all, it’s a reality that we wound people with careless comments and families are so intense because it’s where you come from. It’s part of your blood.
The comments that they make can sometimes be more sensitive than other comments that people might make. There’s a lot of stuff that can get re-triggered. To answer your first part of the question, so much of my process with childhood stuff is that it’s going to be there forever. When I have kids, more stuff is going to come up that I didn’t know there but what a gift to be able to recognize that and have the tools, the words and the language to say, “I’m feeling triggered.” This might come from the fact that when I was seven, my brother said this to me. Sometimes I see it as a weed. If a weed gets planted and then it festers, it’s going to be this massive thing that you have to go back and completely undo. If you can get to the root of it and pull it out, at least you can name it and there’s healing in that. It might regrow a little bit, but you can find the root and pluck it out again.
Part two advice-wise. I’ve been saying this, do the work. As a human, do the work. The work is not an action, the work is internal. I have this reframing of the word obedience because it was a very big trigger word for me. It was used in childhood only around behavior and a moral compass. Over the past few months in this reframing, I saw that obedience is not about action. It’s about posture. It’s a shift of the heart to respond to a call because I believe in God. He says, “Do this.” It does not do this or don’t do this. It’s not at all about the action. It’s about the response to him. When I say do the work, what I mean is go inside and figure out why stuff is happening. Go inside and figure out why you’re reacting a certain way. When you fight with a friend in a certain way, sit back and ask, “How did I respond to that? Did I get reactive? Did I yell? Was I feeling a wound?”
Are you familiar with Onsite in Nashville? Miles, he has this quote and he says, “If something is hysterical, it’s probably historical.” This idea that if you have a hysterical reaction to something, there’s probably a history with it. When I referenced, do the work and find out what that history is. It’s the same in our bodies and health. Find out what your family history is with diabetes, with heart disease or cancer. When you do, then you can take actions and make decisions that give you a life of health. Especially emotionally, you have to do the work.
Byron Katie wrote a book called Loving What Is, and she’s been helpful for me in what I was talking about and being present and living in this posture of gratitude. She has something called The Work. It’s a series of four questions that you ask. Anytime you’re having a hard time or anytime you have anxiety. The four questions are this. One is, “Is it true?” Two is, “Is it true?” Three, “How do I feel when I believe it?” Four, “Who would I be if I believe the opposite or if I believe the truth?” One great example is let’s say I have this thought of I don’t have enough money. I asked the question, “Is it true?” Yes, it’s true. I don’t have enough money.
Number two, “Is that true?” No, it’s not true. I can pay my rent, I drive into Audi. I live in Los Angeles. I might not have enough money for the next several years of my life, but I have enough money. “How do I feel when I believe it?” I feel scared, anxious, terrified of the future, and inadequate and a failure. “Who would I be if I believed the actual truth? Who would I believe in having enough money?” I would be free to make more money, to live my life well and to experience gratitude and abundance. Those are four simple questions, but it’s this amazing work that you can do internally anytime you are having this thought of like, “What’s wrong?” or anxious thought. It’s a good toolkit for me. You can do it with anything in life or even with what we were talking about with childhood wounds. Let’s say the lie is my mom didn’t love me. You asked the question, “Is it true?” Maybe it’s true. “Is it true?” Probably not. I can find ways that she did love me. “How do I feel when I believe it?” Abandoned and alone. “How do I feel if I didn’t believe it?” Grateful. You can do it with anything. It’s dropping into your inner world and that is a pause button and you are reframing your mind to think truth.
“Is it true?” “How do I feel when I believe it?” “Who would I be if I believe the opposite?” It’s such a powerful model, such a gift. Thank you for sharing that. I love what you said about loving what is. A quote from Richard Rohr, he said, “Love is learning how to say yes to what it is.”
We love him. He’s so good and wise.
To underscore on doing the work, what are the common things that keep us from doing the work?
I think the big thing that we already mentioned is we do the path of least resistance. We do what’s easy and even in the way that our brains are wired. We don’t want to do the work. We’re lazy a lot of times. That’s part of it. I come back to the idea of processing with people. A lot of times, people don’t know how to ask. I was in Maine with my family and I walked away feeling a lot of things because family is intense. One thing I felt and I had to “do the workaround,” is they don’t want to know me. That was this lie that came up in my brain because they weren’t asking intentional questions about my life. I had come off this four-day epic writers’ retreat in Kentucky and nobody asked about it. I had this thought of like, “They don’t want to know me.” I had to do the four questions around it. The truth is they do. There are a lot of people who don’t have the tools. You and I live in this very incredible world of human beings who on the daily are asking intentional questions.
We value table questions. We value going into our hearts and asking why are we created this way. That is a language that is happening, especially in Los Angeles all the time. There are a lot of people that don’t have the space for that. They had babies young and now their entire lives are about raising a family, providing and responsibility. It’s a luxury to be able to ask these questions and to sit here and have a conversation with you where we talk about the work. That’s part of it too, is that people don’t have the tools and that’s something that we get to gift people. Even re-posting myself when I go into my family, I get to be the one that asks intentional questions because I have the tools to do that. I have an extended family in my friend group who does that all the time for me.
Another thing is you have to teach people what they’re hungry for. This is another metaphor. If someone’s stubborn with food and they’re like, “I don’t like burrata.” They’ve never eaten burrata. “I don’t like tuna.” Whatever the thing is. Sometimes you have to look it in a way where it’s palatable for someone and you can be like, “Try a little bite. You don’t have to eat the whole thing.” It’s like a child like, “Try to bite.” All of a sudden they’re like, “That’s delicious.” They fall in love with it and they want more of it. Sometimes with inner work and this idea of inner healing and doing the work, you have to teach people what they’re hungry for because they’re probably starving for the work, but the thought of it sounds woo-woo or the thought of it sounds like new age or whatever it might be. They had this idea that they don’t like it. If you can serve it in a way where it’s palatable and it’s delicious and they get that first bite, it’s like, “It’s good. I like doing that.”The abundance mentality is this idea that there's always more available and there's endless resource in the world. Click To Tweet
I think it’s similar to finding the open door and then helping them walk through it because we’ve got an open door somewhere. Where’s that open door at and how can we help you walk through it? I do love what you said too about the luxury. We do have a luxury and with that luxury comes a responsibility to use that to impact and influence change for good, not for harm. There’s a quote I came across by the name of Morgan Housel and he said, “Your personal experience make up maybe 0.0000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. We’re all biased to our own personal history.” I wouldn’t think the way I think if I hadn’t lived in LA for a few years. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse, it’s different. We have to be completely okay with the difference and then see ways that we can help each other because we can help each other. The people in Kansas can help me a lot with slowing down.
Appreciating the simple things in life that are so beautiful about doing relationships well, about hospitality. All these things and vice versa. We can do a lot of good teaching about the importance of purpose, calling, striving to make an impact, believing in something bigger than yourself and capitalizing the opportunity. It’s an interesting dichotomy. It’s not about one place being better than the other. Recognizing the differences and being intentional and conscious about how we can use it for good because both sides can be used for bad. To come back, I think what you said was helpful. People don’t know how. We also have to help them find that entry point. I think those are super important steps to close on the childhood side of things. The last thing I was curious about is how do your experiences and the work that you’ve done, how does that influence your own thinking about your future family, if that’s what God blesses you with?
How has my work impacted how I think about my family?
Yes, your experiences paired with your inner work, how does that influence or shape your thinking of being a mother?
I was having this conversation and I was talking about this idea that because after I come off of a family event, like being in Maine. I get to evaluate where was I triggered? What happened? I was saying that “It’s fun to think that I will get to reframe family how I want to.” It’s fun that I will get to have children and create a family dynamic that I want. Sometimes I think we’re always on this journey back to our little child selves. Especially when we do the work, we get to walk into our futures with intention and with mindfulness about what we want to create. I think for me, my actual work in the world, what I’ve been doing is quite nurturing and motherly. I host dinner parties, I have people over and I create spaces for connection. I think I did that without even knowing what I was doing. I was trying to heal this deep desire for nurture that I had always had. For me, when I think about motherhood, I’m like, “I figured out that nurture was the thing I felt I lack in and I get to provide that as a mom.”
I want to get to your work but before we do, one of the things I ask people in background questions is describing the guest in two words. It’s a cool question because it brings up some interesting things. Something interesting about you is that there were several metaphors used, which is hilarious. One was joy bomb and the other one is doodle bop. What is it with doodle bop?
My friends and I have some weird language. We say, “Tutti, doodle bop, dodo bird and schmoodle.” I don’t know what any of them mean. How I would interpret doodle bop is like I am bopping around doodling in the world. It’s fun, playful and joyful.
I picture a little girl skipping around playing hopscotch.
We’re here with a group of friends speaking of doodle bop and we were joking about if we were all two-year-old little girls running around a playground, what would be happening? My friend Allie was like, “You’d be the girl walking around talking to everybody offering them juice because I love wine.” She was like, “Do you want some juice? Have juice with me.”
It is a fun thing to think about. You know what would be fun is to have an afternoon where you get your friends together and say, “We’re going to be kids again in a playground.” Literally, go to a playground and see what happens and have fun.
It was like building the fort. Who’s swinging?
It is playing tag on the jungle gym. Those were good days. One of the other words used is abundance and something that people did mention quite a bit is that a big characteristic of you is living in abundance. You mentioned it how even in those four questions. It’s a difference between the scarcity and abundance, even something like money. Talk to me about the difference between an abundance mindset versus scarcity mindset, and how you’ve seen the impact of those two. I think this is something that’s universally true for all of us.The person you end up with should propel you forward in life and should be your biggest advocate and cheerleader to growth. Click To Tweet
That is probably the deepest lesson of my life. I’ve always trusted God. I’ve always believed that he was a good father. My life has to display that in some ways where I moved to LA with absolutely no money, no plan and no place to live. I was honored to what I wanted to do in the world and things worked. A few years probably since living in LA, I have been in this question of like, “How do we live in a constant state of abundance and eradicating scarcity mindset?” Kris Vallotton, who’s one of my favorite speakers, talks a lot about wealth mentality and poverty mentality.
He says that, “We create the world outside of us that we believe within us.” Whatever our internal world looks like, we create that around us. If we believe that there’s not enough and we believe that we’re not enough, we create that externally. If we believe that we have enough and that we are enough, we create that externally. I think for me, this concept of abundance is like a daily thing where I can get to this posture of comparison where I’m looking at other people’s lives and I’m like, “They have all of this and I don’t have any of that.” They have a husband, they have $1 million and they have whatever they have. I believe that when we see something that we want, we have two options. We have the option to look at it and say, “I’m so mad I don’t have that,” or we have the option to say, “Look at what is available to me.”
I’ll use marriage as an example. Most of my friends are married and I was the girl who at 21 said, “I’m going to get married later in life like 25.” I believe that 25 was late. I’m 34 and not married and there have been waves of this, but I’m in this posture of such gratitude around that. Thank you, God, that I did not get married at 25. I would have sabotaged it. I was not a healthy person. Some people get married and they go through the process together. I think I needed to go through the process alone. I am surrounded by married couples and it’s fun for me to be like, “This is what’s available. This is what’s possible.” The same with someone who has a lot of money. If we interact with people who have what we want, we can look at that and say, “That was available to me.”
We can learn from them and we can surround ourselves with people who have what we want so that we learn how to take on the postures that they’re carrying to get that actual thing. A lot of abundance for me is this idea that there’s always more available. There’s an endless resource in the world. God is the god of overwhelming gifting and goodness for his kids. Sometimes I think he takes us through seasons with lack to teach us dependency and trust. It’s still in this vein of abundance because he wants to flood us. It’s not prosperity gospel, but it’s this idea that he has so much good for us, but we have to be able to have the muscle strength to hold the good.
That’s so good because I think about even like David. This is the most common example. He was the anointed king and in that time, he was a shepherd. What was he doing? He was an amazing shepherd. Honing his skills and preparing himself for whatever was to come. If he hadn’t done that, there’s no way he could’ve taken down Goliath. Because he was faithful and being a shepherd, he was ready to be like, “Goliath, I’m going to get you.” I like what you said too that there are seasons of both where there will be less and there will be more because they’re both serving a purpose. It’s not saying that as a whole, there’s less or more it saying that in the season there’s less or more and there’s a purpose in that. Trusting that allows us to embrace it and maintain the more mentality.
It’s that idea that if we’re not able to hold the weight of the glory, we’ll be crushed by it, it will destroy us. You see that with fame, with money, with a lot of things where people maybe haven’t done the work to hold what they’re given and it crushes them and destroys them. I think you’re right that there are seasons of honing in on what is the character he’s building in you? I think about that idea of David being a shepherd. Sometimes when people say everything happens for a reason, I’m like, “I don’t know that I believe that,” but there is the truth that everything can have purpose if we allow it to have purpose. If we try to understand what is the lesson I’m learning? What am I gaining from this experience? If my ultimate belief is that God is good and he’s a good father, even in this moment of suffering, what is he giving me? What is he teaching me? What is he refining in me?
I wonder if the better way to phrase it is, “There’s nothing that can’t be redeemed.” It’s the same idea but a different spin on it. It’s universally true in God’s eyes. There’s nothing that can’t be redeemed.
I love the phrase, “If it’s not good, it’s not finished.” It’s this idea that, “Nothing ends here.” There’s still a possibility for redemption.
One of the quotes I love too is, “Forward progress is not a finished process.” One of the things that I want to know about is singleness. I was talking to someone about it. There are so many different dynamics to singleness within Christianity, within America and within different phases of life. It’s a very underdeveloped area of thinking. The helpful conversation around it is needed. The question would be what is helpful and unhelpful for you in this season of singleness, especially as it’s been prolonged or different than you expected? Because we experienced both from ourselves and from others, both helpful and unhelpful things and a lot of it’s unintentional. From your experience, what’s been helpful and not helpful in that process of being in this place?
I mentioned that I’ve been working on this book and it’s all about being single in your 30s because my thought was that I would get married later. What I thought that meant was 25. I broke up with my boyfriend at 25 and I thought 27 is the new 25. There’s been this constant pushing forward of when I find my person. There’s so much emotion in that because some of it is total gratitude. I’m like, “The life I get to live is amazing.” I was hosting a retreat for these moms and they’ve all adopted kids. They were like, “We want to live vicariously through you. Tell us about your dating life.” It’s funny because there’s this element of like, “I am living a fun, adventurous, great single life.” There’s also this element of I am 34, so if I have kids, it will be later. I’m pushing back this timeline of what I thought.
In the Christian world, there are a thousand things we could say about this. This idea that marriage is valued. It is seen as an arrival point in a lot of ways. I had a friend say to me, she was so wise. She’s several years younger than me. She was like, “You’re not single. You’re married to a thousand people. You have intimate relationships with so many people and you might not have this one marriage, but you have tied up your life in connection with other people.” I loved that because what you said saying about we put people in boxes. There are the single people and then married people at Church. We’re living very different experiences. I want what married people have. I want at one point in my life to be married. To take down the walls of those boxes and be like, “I do have some marriages. It’s not the same as the one person that I’ve committed my entire life to. I can still practice intimacy, connection, and commitment to relationships that I already have.” That’s been helpful for me.
There are a lot of things that can be hurtful that, but something that I’m learning is that when things are hurtful, it’s almost a check for me to look at what’s going on internally and what’s a lie that I’m believing. I joke in this book that I’m writing like, some of the things that Christians say, “God’s timing is perfect.” You’re like, “Yes, it’s perfect, but I’m uncomfortable and waiting,” or “You’ll find him when you’re least expecting.” You’re like, “I’m always expecting. I live expectedly, so what do you mean?” There can be phrases that people who have found their person say certain phrases to attempt to be encouraging. Sometimes it can feel wounding. Even in that, I like to look at the wound and be like, “The wound is mine. I’m the one being wounded. What’s happening in me? What am I believing? What am I partnering with that I am getting wounded by this statement?”The thing in our life that is the most attacked or has the most pain is where we're meant to have the most authority. Click To Tweet
That’s pretty simple, but what’s been helpful for me is being invited into marriages. I was referencing that I have all these married friends and it’s like the best gift for me when I get to sit inside of their marriage. When I get to come and have dinner with them and they let me into a fight that they’re having or a process that they’re having, I’m seeing what’s available for me in the future and without having to go through it, I’m getting to witness what I want. I’m able to see, “I don’t want to fight that way. Do you want to fight that way? I love the way he handled that or she handled that.” We can take on an observatory role where we can see things so that when we do meet our people, there’s this ability to enter in thoughtfully.
I think that’s one of the best things to understand and realize about this season is that it is such a gift to break down boxes and invite both sides in. The married people benefit from having a single person’s, perspective of freedom, spontaneity and all of these things that honestly, marriage will oftentimes eliminate or suppress in good and bad ways. To reinstate some of that or infuse a fresh perspective on that, to return that is awesome for them. I’m the same way with my sister and brother-in-law. It’s been cool. I’ve learned so much from them and it’s been the best blessing to see a real picture.
To see the very raw and vulnerable side of it. I don’t know if you would identify this, but we glamorize how great marriage is. It’s a beautiful covenant that you create with a human and you build a life together, but it’s not glamorous. It’s hard times. My sister in law said to me, “When you’re single, there’s infinite hope. You could walk into Starbucks or get on a plane and meet your person, but if you marry the wrong person, there’s no hope anymore because you’re either in something forever that you didn’t wisely think through or you end up getting a divorce and that’s very painful.” I like holding that perspective of singleness is a constant state of hope. We get to live in that. We can live in disappointment if we choose it, but the truth is we don’t need to be disappointed because there’s always a possibility in front of us and it’s the abundance mentality because it is this idea that there’s always more available.
My friend, Courtney, she’s been a huge champion of my life in this area. We joke that when I get married, she’s going to buy me a tattoo called the, “Worth the wait.” She’s like, “You’re getting it.” I’m like, “I’ll get it.” For her, why she’s been such a profound friend in my life and I say this with complete reverence, she has a very simple faith. She believes in the core that when God says something, it’s true. She believes you’re going to meet your husband and it’s going to come. For me, I’m the one who’s wishy-washy in the water and be like, “I don’t know. Am I ever going to find what I’m looking for?” To have a friend who constantly feedbacks to you the truth about your life and this idea, what we were saying like, “Maybe this is a season of refining a character so that when I meet that person, there’s divine timing in it.” There’s the ability to connect in a way that we need to connect at that moment in time.
I use this metaphor sometimes. I used to be a nanny of this little boy, Alex. One time I was cooking dinner and he came into the kitchen 45 minutes before dinner was ready. He was like, “I want a cookie.” I was like, “You can’t have a cookie. I’m making you dinner.” He was like, “No, but I want a cookie.” I was like, “Alex, you have a snack after school and I’m making a good dinner. You can’t have a cookie.” He erupts. He throws his body on the floor kicking and screaming. Meanwhile, I said to him, “You can go play with your brother. You have an entire toy room waiting for you. There are trains, puzzles and books to be explored. Go play. You have all this time play and then you’re going to have dinner and then it’s going to be a good time and you’re going to be a cry baby that you didn’t play.” He eventually gets up and he plays. He comes back and he eats this meal that his body needed.
The truth is, if I had given Alex a cookie, it would have destroyed his actual appetite for what he needed to nourish his body. He would’ve missed out on that playtime. I was reading in Matthew and it’s that verse that says like, “Who have you who are evil would give your son a rock if he asks for bread and as a father and heaven is good, why would he ever give you anything but more than meat?” I’m botching the verse. This idea that if you ask God for bread, it’s going to give you bread. It might take a little bit longer than you expect. Alex and all his feistiness had no ability to wait because he was like, “I need the cookie.” God’s like, “I’m preparing a ten-course meal for you and you’re whining for a cookie. Do you not see what is possible and what’s available?” For me, reframing this idea of waiting for a partner around that has been helpful.
That’s an awesome story and another great metaphor. I love the emphasis on taking ownership too of your perspective and how you view it. It all comes down to us, what are we going to do with it? God’s been healing a lot, opening me up a lot more, starting to think more about relationships and talking with someone. It’s interesting because there’s fear around that even for me like, “This is going to change things if this is the path you go down.” Everything else are trade-offs and both seasons are beautiful in their own way. If we can see the beauty and embrace it, we are going to be much more blessed and we’re going to build bless others much more.
You and I are similar in that we’d probably want partners who are going to go on a journey and travel with us where we’re going. Look at life in this way that there’s not sacrifice because we’ve met and we have to conform to each other’s worlds. There’s an expansion and a growth available because the person you end up with should propel you forward in life. They should be your biggest advocate and cheerleader to growth. At least for me, I had to change my mind around what I thought marriage should be and that is some of it.
It’s different to when you’re twenty versus when you’re 30 in every place in between because each place is so different for each person differently. I love the complexity and nuance, but then also taking ownership of it is as simple as that. I’m glad that you’re writing a book on it too because one of the things that I felt there was a need for and God didn’t open the door for me, but I’m glad that he’s opening for other people. There needs to be more written from the single’s perspective. It’s such a gap, such a missing piece that there are all these books on relationships from people who are married. When you’re married, your perspective changes and then you see the past and the different lens. Why aren’t there more written from people in the context of singleness to help encourage others in that context? It will be an awesome gift to people. Before we’re done, we have to talk about what you do. Take us back to driving to LA in your beat-up Mazda and what was happening at that moment and why?
I lived in Chicago up until then and I had done grad school. I thought I wanted to be a family counselor and started a wedding planning business in the middle of grad school. I was doing wedding planning and event stuff in Chicago. I think Chicago was hard partly because it’s cold and it was my twenties. It was a lot going on for me. I remember thinking like, “I don’t want to live here anymore.” I made a decision to move and originally thought I was going to go to New York. On the back end of my scouting trip to New York, I was in LA with a friend and a step off the plane. I had this very guttural experience of like, “I have to live here. This is where I’m meant to be.”
I packed up my life in Chicago and my oldest brother had this 1988 beat-up Mazda RX-7. He let me take it from Dallas up to Chicago and then out to LA because in Chicago I didn’t have a car. I drove this Mazda out to LA and literally had no money. It’s so funny in hindsight, I was ignorant but ignorance creates bravery in some cases. My best friend in the world, she’s like my sister said to me, “Money doesn’t matter with what you do with your life?” It’s one of those moments that’s seared in my brain and I said, “I’d have people over for dinner.” On this 36-hour drive out to LA, she and I brainstormed, “What would it look like to have a dinner party company?” She said, “You’re going to LA, turn that into a company.”
We brainstormed this idea for dinner ready company. In hindsight, I remember saying that flippantly, “Have people over for dinner.” I think what I was saying was I wanted to create space for people to come over. In that people experience connection, community, this sense of belonging, sense of being a part and food, having dinner was the vehicle to do that. I had been cooking since I was a little girl. I’m not a trained chef, but I love cooking for people. I got to LA and started this little dinner party company, which has taken on so many forms because we live in LA. I have done everything from ten-person dinner parties to 60-person weddings, to catering events, to food styling to whatever it might be. When people ask me what do I do, I say I create meaningful experiences around food. That’s what my heartbeat’s for is how do we create spaces for connection and use this thing that we all need? We’re all going to eat in a day. How do we use this tool to create safety and a harbor for connection?
In your experience, what creates space for you? What are the factors? What are the components that allow that space to be into flourish?
There’s that spirit of invitation. I use the tagline, “The art of hosting,” sometimes. I think that hosting is this art form that has been lost because now we’re living historically in a time where people aren’t eating dinner together every night. Historically, if you think about the world, every night, families sit down and have dinner together and they would ask intentional questions and they would recap their day. There was that act of sitting in a circle looking at each other in the eye, slowing down, eating the same thing. It’s tactile, it’s nourishing, it’s connective. This idea of creating space is connected to this art of hosting. How do you invite people in a way that you are creating an environment for them to be themselves?
Part of that as a host is you have to be connected to yourself. We create the environment outside of us that exists within us. If I’m hosting myself, if I’m present with myself, if I am taking care of myself, I will create that environment outside of me. With the dinner party, some of the advice I give people is I think we make it hard and we make it intimidating. The thought of having twelve people over for dinner is terrifying. I’m like, “If it’s terrifying, go to Chipotle and catered food and make it easy on yourself.” You can make a beautiful experience because what matters more for the connected experience is your internal world, not the food that they’re eating. Back in 2016, I was working for this magazine and I went to 50 media dinners, which is when a restaurant opens, they want to showcase their new food. They bring you in for a free tasting. It was epic.
I went to all these free amazing meals, chefs all over LA showcasing their food and wine. That aspect was so cool, but the truth is I remember two of them. I remember them because they were hosted well and there was someone creating that experience because we need that. We need someone to guide us through experience. When I hosted a dinner party, the intention is that. I am creating that space with table questions with attempting to gauge the emotional temperature in the room. That’s a big piece of knowing your audience. Who’s in the room? Who is feeling lonely and who is feeling overwhelmed? It’s attempting to meet those people in a way that is drawing them into a connective experience. There are simple tools for that. There are table questions that we talked about. There are icebreaker questions or anything that calls somebody into the experience.
It seems like there are two important elements. One, the intention beforehand of mapping out experience for people and having a creative mindset approaching that. There’s the other aspect of being fully present so that you can see others at the moment and then recognize, which person needs more help, needs to be drawn in more, needs to be seen, heard or connected more? There’s that dual aspect of it that’s both in preparation and then in the moment of presence.
In order for you to know if someone’s feeling lonely or out of sorts in a room, you have to be tapped into your own emotional temperature. It always starts internally. How am I feeling? If I’m aware of how I’m feeling, I have the capacity to understand how you’re feeling.
It’s always true that if we’re going to help others be themselves, we have to help herself be ourselves fully.
We can only take people on the journey that we’re already on. I can’t bring you on a journey if I haven’t been there. I remember I was in a hard time. I was asking God like, “Why does this have to be so hard? Why can’t this be easy?” I remember him saying, “I need it to be hard for you because the harder it is for you the more you’re going to have the capacity to pull people out of the hard.” I’m seven on enneagram wired quite selfishly. I’ll go through an experience like, “This is affecting me.” I don’t know how that’s going to be used to affect another person and almost carrying that perspective of what we go through has the power to empower other people. It’s a shift in the mindset.
It’s powerful because then it allows us to take time to do the work needed because it’s bigger than herself. That’s what the point is. The purpose is being attached to something that’s beyond you. That helps us get connected to who we are so that we can be beyond where we are in a lot of ways. I love the quote, “You teach what you know and you reproduce who you are.” I love it because a lot of what I feel called to and passionate about is helping others live and work better. The simplest way to say it. How do we take ownership and never settle? It’s helpful because that’s why I want to hold myself to, and part of the reason why I’m emphasizing and talking about it because I want that for me. It’s great to think about our greatest passion and calling should often be the thing that we also need the most because we’re in it with others.
I always say that the thing in our life, the most attacked or has the most pain is where we’re meant to have the most authority. It’s doing the healing work so that we can have authority on that very subject matter. I love what you said because I was going to say this, but I think one piece of wisdom that came out of inner healing for me was naming what I want to do in the world and not action-wise, not what do I want to make book-wise or show-wise? What’s the message I’m attempting to do in the world? I always encourage people to choose three words that they live by. What are the three mantra words of your life?
I always say that my mantras are connection, process and play. Those three things are the themes of my life. I want connection, process and I want to play. My life vision is to create beauty and get people free. Whatever area work in the world I do, I want to make sure that I’m creating beauty and getting people free. It all comes under this umbrella of connection, process and play. When were you saying what you want to do? I’m like, “That’s such a fun exercise for people to name in a short quick snippet.” What are you army Earth for? If you’re on your dining deathbed and you get to say I did this in the world, what did you do?
I work with people on an individual coaching basis. The number one question that shapes everything is, “Who you are created, equipped and called to be?” I stumbled upon it, but the reason why I love it so much is that it speaks to three aspects of us. What are the natural giftings that only you have that God’s gifted you with from birth? What have your life experiences given you? Because they are there for a reason and they’re equipping you for something. What are those equipping and then called? What is that fire that’s lit? You’re like, “Yes, it’s not going to die. It’s always there.” It helps us frame these thoughts. What’s beautiful about what you shared is that it shows you’ve done the work. The only way you’re going to have clarity around these things if you’ve done the work. For me, it’s very similar. I love how you think in threes. I think there’s something to that.
I have it tattooed on my body. It’s my favorite number.
For working with people individually, usually we have the capacity of about three main buckets of our lives. What are your three buckets? Even in a tagline, for me it’s connect, collaborate and inspire. It’s cool to have these models for thinking about things that are helpful because the point is how do we live attached and aligned? Attach to that vision and then aligned with where we’re going because of it. When we can do that, it’s powerful to see. We selfishly want it for everyone because that’s our best lives. It gets me stoked.
I was talking to a friend and I was like, “We’re so lucky we get to have this experience in the world.” I want everyone to have that. I want everyone to experience that internal freedom. I know there’s going to be a lot of stuff that goes down in life, but I feel so grateful to have these conversations happening because they do create the ability to go through hard circumstances in a graceful way.
One other thing, I was curious to know your perspective on the difference between generalization and specialization. One interesting aspect that came up and I want you to speak to this because I could be off on this. When we have an overarching mantra with some pillars in there, it allows us to flourish a lot more in the generalization way because it is a specialized generalization and that it’s attached to that overarching vision, like what you talked about because one of the things that people also said about you is that you’re a jack of all trades and a master of all. You have developed a wide range of deep competencies, which is fairly rare. It takes a lot of intention over a long period of time. How do you think about generalization versus specialization? Because there are trade-offs and it’s an interesting question.
This makes me think a lot about our need for each other because I am someone who is super scattered. I’ll do anything and I say yes to everything and I’ve tried everything. I have a metaphor that I have for Yogurtland complex. When I walk into Yogurtland, I know what I like. I want cookies and cream and cheesecake probably with cookie dough. Every single time I walk into Yogurtland, I get the sample cup because I think I have to try all the flavors because what if I change my mind? It’s this way as me reflecting back to myself. Sometimes my inability to be decisive on what I want and I think that’s okay. I think I have a lot of grace for myself in where literally in my past few years in LA, I’ve done everything.
I have done so many different things and I’m grateful for all of those experiences. I’m in a season where I’m trying to hone in and focus and where I referenced our need for each other. I have two girls helping me who are both experts on focusing. They’re experts on saying, “Here’s the one thing that you’re going to put energy toward.” Other things will come out of that. For me, it’s been believing in abundance that’s allowed me to focus because my whole thing, growing up I have to try everything because if I commit to the cookies and cream, what if I miss out on the strawberry? The truth is I only want the cookies. I know that. It is trusting that I won’t miss out or that there is abundance in choosing the one thing.
All of these experiences I’ve had, all of the work and stuff that I’ve done, they are from my life story culminating into a focus on a specialization, but people move both ways. Because sometimes we start so specialized and then we need to branch out and generalize a little bit more. There’s a value in both and I think partnering with people and having people on your team or in your inner circle that has that different perspective creates this balance of the ebb and flow of the generalization and specialization.
Speaking to that future, what is the vision in front of you? You gave us to create beauty and get people free. In your view, how does that impact practically look for you? What does that flush out for the next several years? What are you most excited about in that?
Since I’ve lived in LA, I have said I want to have a cooking show. I think it’s this funny thing that I have this vision for but haven’t acted on quite yet. This is where I attempt to trust the timing because I’m someone if I want to do something, I’d get it done. If I’m like, “I want to have a cooking show.” I should have made a cooking show. I see over the past few years, all this inner healing and journey work that I’ve done is going to be purposeful for what I create next. If it’s a show, amazing. If it’s not a show, amazing. I feel open-handed with the next move of my career life in the sense that I know the vision of creating beauty and getting people free.
I know that food is a good vehicle to do that and to show that we’re filming the pilot for is about that. It’s about playing in the kitchen, but the deeper underlying themes are freedom and connection. That gets me excited to be aware that that’s what I want. To know that I have the tools to make that and the relationships and the resources and yet to hold it open-handedly as well. If life took a different turn for me, I would be open to that as well as long as I’m living under this true connection to my vision of creating beauty people free. That can come in a lot of different forms. I went through this season where I was like, “I don’t ever want to touch food again.”
I hate everything about it. That happens for creatives when we make the very thing that we love. When we make it our work, sometimes we have to go through these breakups with it. We have to go through this, “Please get away from me for a while.” I think I’ve fallen back in love with this food situation because I am aware of what it’s doing for people and the freedom that it is creating. I had to break up with it for myself and then fall back in love for the vision of the greater good.
The death and rebirth. It’s the same experience I had with golf too. I think we all experienced it in many different ways, but it’s fascinating.
Don’t you think when you talk to someone who has hit a high in their career or they’ve found their person that they want to marry so often people say “This is not what I was expecting. I could not have foreseen that.” I like to live my life that way, to be like, “I think I know I can ideate and dream all day long, but unless my dreams are aligned with what God is doing in the world, I don’t know that they are going to be fulfilling.”
The guarantee is it’s always going to be different than you expect. That can be terrifying or exciting, and it’s way more fun to be exciting. It’s like, “Let’s embrace it.” How cool is it that we don’t know? I know that’s the best that we get to discover. Every day is a discovery in that sense. If you could be one other person, who would that be and why?
Instinct is not what I want to say but I feel like I have to go with it because we’re trusting our guts. I would want to be my mom because when we walk in someone else’s shoes, we have the most compassion for them. I think to embody her experience would probably heal things in me.
This is a hard question, but I feel like you’re up for the challenge. Which of your views or beliefs are most likely to be wrong?
I have this deep sense that this is healing in me, but I think I have a belief that I’m not deserving of what I want and I’ve done a lot of work on that, but I feel I’m on the final push of breaking through that. Even career-wise, I had this mentor say to me, “All you need to do is open yourself up to receiving.” I think that I’ve lived under this belief that it has to be hard or I have to work hard for it. That’s the idea that’s wrong because then I have to work hard for it. I’m such an advocate of hard work. I’ll work my butt off. I feel there is this sense of letting things come and holding the tension with that it’s a belief in myself that I’m ready to kick.
I’ve said a lot to people and God’s way is never about earning, achieving and acquiring. It’s always about receiving and responding. What book or books had the biggest impact on you?
Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr. It massively changed my life. It’s about the twelve-step program. It’s about sobriety, but it’s this beautiful look at human behavior and our abilities essentially to connect to ourselves and to the world around us. It’s this idea of when we enter underwater, we have to learn how to breathe differently. It’s like flipping the paradigm of how we breathe.
I am going to put that on my list. What question do you ask yourself the most?
I think I asked the question, are you happy the most? It’s almost my check-in process. Are you happy? Not in the sense that I only need to feel good feelings, but it’s this question that drops me into how I’m feeling. You know this from enneagram but seven’s live in our heads. We don’t feel very much. We come across feelers. People are like, “You’re so feely.” I’m like, “I’m not feeling, I’m talking about feelings, attempting to figure out how I feel.”
If you could teach a class for a semester, it could be high school or it could be a different age if you want to, what would you teach and why?
Sometimes on retreats, I teach a two-hour workshop called The Language of Self. It’s all about the language we use towards ourselves and the power of our words. I would want to teach a class on the power of our words and the way we speak to ourselves. In my first year of counseling when I was twenty, I had a counselor asked me, “Do you believe that you’re beautiful?” I said, “No, I don’t believe that.” He’s like, “Every day you have to go look in the mirror and say out loud to yourself three times. You are beautiful.” I was like, “That is weird. I am not doing that.” I did it and I think my brain chemistry changed. I had this shift of within a year I would look in the mirror and be like, “I’m so pretty.” It was this cool thing that in experiential way our words shape everything. What we speak comes to life and what we say. I’m rifting and tangenting but it’s important.
I was at a retreat and this woman was speaking about being single in her 30s. She said the phrase, “Don’t curse the ground that you walk on.” I live in LA and I feel like there are a lot of us that are Peter Pans and we don’t want to grow up. I think that sometimes the way I speak about dating in LA has been quite negative. There’s no good man. Everybody’s Peter Pan. I would say these terrible things. When she said that, I realized I’ve been cursing the ground I walk on. I don’t want to curse the ground I want on. I will speak life over this city. I want to say that the city is birthing incredible men with incredible vision and incredible drive. It’s birthing incredible women. Everything we see has so much power.
That’s something that all ages could use. It’s a need. This is way more important than math and English. It’s an important skill. They’re important but this is ten times more important to understand the power it has. This is one that we ask every guest that comes on the show. If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why?
I would say, “It’s going to be a good day.” I would probably list a bunch of affirmations like you are beautiful, you are loved, you’re fully known, you’re fully seen and you’re fully accepted. It would be a very affirmational text. There’s a doctor who I love named Daniel Amen. He studies the brain and he says, “When we say every morning, “It is going to be a good day,” we start looking for that.” We start looking for things that are good. We started the day by saying anything negative then we start looking for that. I think my text would be saying the beauty in the world.
That would be powerful for sure. Kara, this has been epic. I knew it was going to be great.
We always have good conversations.
Kara, where’s the best place for people to connect, check out all the things you’re doing?
Is Elise your middle name?
We share the personal branding around middle names out. It’s fun.
My last name is hard to pronounce and confusing. When I started my brand I was like, “I’ll probably get married one day and drop it.” Let’s stay with Kara Elise.
That’s a good thing. I love my real name. I’d never used it and I want to start using it. This is a side note, what most people when they read my name in emails, I get people saying Marcus all the time.
My friend, Courtney, who talked to you, she called me, “I got off the phone with Marcus.” I was like, “Who is Marcus?”
Everyone believes that because their brain subconsciously skips over things like, “I don’t know what this is, ignore.” Some people may think like, “He’s calling himself a thing,” which is weird. Kara, until next time. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing.
- iTunes – The Up and Comers Show
- Kara Elise
- @ByKaraElise on Instagram
- You Are the Placebo
- The Inner Game of Tennis
- The Body Keeps the Score
- Loving What Is
- The Work
- Kris Vallotton
- Breathing Under Water
- Daniel Amen
- YouTube.com/karaelise – Kara Elise’s channel
About Kara Elise
Kara Elise is a chef, an experienced curator, and the ultimate hostess. She focuses on creating spaces and experiences that cultivate the community. Kara’s expertise in hosting, teaching, and retreats establishes a culture of invitation through holistically designed, welcoming environments. Kara’s highest value in life is true connection and she loves curating spaces for people to fully experience what it means to be holistically seen, known, and loved. She builds events and experiences for both individuals and brands that create spaces for connection, process, and play. Her dinner party movement has successfully traveled between the West Coast and London and continues to grow internationally. She’s currently launched a cheese board styling workshop tour and is working on filming a pilot for a cooking show. She loves bubble gum and Los Angeles and loves helping others pursue what truly matters to them.
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