Erica Jago radiates optimal health. Through the mechanical layers of technology in which we are communicating, her skin still manages to glow and her sweet, warm essence translates all the way from Oahu, Hawaii. It’s been years since Erica and I have connected, but her piercing state of presence makes me feel like I am being reunited with a dear, old friend.
As a graphic designer and yoga instructor, Erica mostly splits her time between Oahu and Amsterdam, two cities where she has built strong creative and spiritual communities. She is currently hard at work on her second book Angelus, an experiential chakra workbook that goes beyond the intellectual understanding of the chakras. The chakras are energy and intelligence centers in the body. When you are connected and aligned to these centers, they can bring forth an infinite amount of clarity in your daily choices. Erica explains, “When you start to explore spaces inside of yourself, you start to trust your internal compass and embrace change by taking your attention inward.” Having read Erica’s first book the Art of Attention, I can only imagine how magnificently beautiful and creatively wild Angelus will be.
Erica and I originally met as fellow yoga instructors in San Francisco. We discuss the art of planning a yoga sequence and I am reminded of how intentional and detail-oriented Erica is. It is only after many years of teaching that she has been able to begin to let go of her desire to control the class experience. She notes that so often in the past when she came into the room, what she had prepared wasn’t relevant for what was needed in that moment in time. In any interaction there is a co-creation and coherency of energies that takes place, forcing us to rely on the intelligence of our bodies instead of our minds.
Our conversation moves toward the topic of love. I am moved when she states that she no longer experiences life through the lens of needing to “earn love” based on her accomplishments or what she does to succeed in life. In fact, she has discovered that she is her own self-generating love machine and the only one that can create her own sense of safety and security in relationship. At almost 40 years old, Erica is no longer willing to compromise her belief system to feel the false sense of stability and love that we are often programmed to believe comes from someone else. She wholeheartedly knows that those qualities must come from within.
Knowing that Erica is letting go of a relationship that very recently ended, I am moved by her vulnerability and I thank her for sharing so openly. I am constantly curious about how relationships are meant to bring us to a higher state of consciousness within ourselves, and I am inspired by her self-reflection and self-responsibility. She responds to my acknowledgment of her willingness to share by saying,
“There’s a healing for me in sharing this because I feel I can separate myself from the flare ups that I have. It is part of my Dharma to understand that is has nothing to do with me being a bad person. It has nothing to do with me having flaws. It has to do with something else inside of me that’s hurting.”
The potency of our conversation reminds me of an anonymous reading that an old mentor sent me on the overwhelmingly unexplainable alchemy of relationships:
“You are linked, karmically, with certain individuals for the purpose of facilitating such patterns of resolution. Even though you might wish to disengage your energies altogether and simply walk away, you are likely to find that it’s not that easy. For, beneath the most insidious patterns of adversity that have surfaced between certain players in your drama, is a foundation of great love. Were that not the case, it would have been impossible for each of you to have continued to serve each other’s growth in this way, in lifetime after lifetime.”
Erica and I discuss the inevitable reality that all of life contains suffering. She does not shy away from her shadows, but rather chooses to stitch them to herself like Peter Pan, playfully dancing with their soft dark light. Currently, she owns the emotional eating and relationship drama that she has used in the past to numb her pain and is actively working toward facing all parts of herself in order to heal and fully align with her own truth and intuition. She isn’t afraid to admit it is hard work and states,
“Commitment is so important. If you’re at 99% commitment, you’re fucked. If you’re 100% committed, you’re golden. It’s the 1% where the mind knows it can come in and be like, well… what about this…”
Toward the end of our conversation we chat about the concept of age. Erica is soon to turn 40 years old and deeply desires a life partner and a family. She is anything but desperate, which is the story that is often told to us about a 40-year-old woman looking to have a child. Rather, I find her to be empowering and her clarity serves as a reminder that if you remain open and are willing to look within—anything can happen. Erica has found ways to celebrate her suffering, which inherently allows her to continue her commitment to reclaim her heart and her own self-love. I feel strongly that this will eventually lead her toward her beloved and all that she wants and desires in her life. Another anonymous author writes,
“If we cannot love ourselves, where will we draw our love for anyone else? People who do not love themselves can adore others, because adoration is making someone else big and ourselves small. They can desire others, because desire comes out of a sense of inner incompleteness, which demands to be filled. But they cannot love others, because love is an affirmation of the living, growing being in all of us. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it.”
I think of Erica now in her sunny Oahu apartment, unafraid to face her shadows and unabashedly connecting with a deep love for herself. And whether she knows it or not, she has granted each and every one of us permission to reconnect with our own instinct by dancing playfully in the dark.
Erica Jago is an accomplished graphic designer, who's book, Art of Attention, was ranked #1 for book design on Amazon.com and is now translated into 5 languages. Integrating her profession of design with her spiritual practice through week long retreats, Erica teaches how to embody the creative process through meditation, yoga and art. Based on the island of Oahu, design is a vital tool for transforming instructional concepts into artful and meaningful class experiences.