What is it that you were given?

Whenever I sit down to write with the intention of sharing my thoughts, I think about the possibility that my personal challenges and breakthroughs might not be that different from what others are experiencing around the world—which makes sense if we believe We are All One. And I do. The circumstances for our individual growth may appear different, but perhaps what is being learned is virtually the same, and we bring those gifts back to the Collective: What you are experiencing matters.

This morning I looked closely at what I’ve encountered these past almost twelve months. If I were to describe it in two words, it would be “The Opposite.” In fact, it feels like the majority of what’s come down the pike during this last year has seemed like the opposite of what my Ego or Mind hoped would come, even having taken into consideration that “2012” might be bringing with it a few rough patches.

I think one of the toughest parts about being Spirit cloaked in Human form is that we don’t have access to “the whole picture.” We’re only seeing things from a limited perspective, not from a vantage point that helps us to see how any birth, any death, any ending or beginning that elicits extreme growth and change is intricately connected to all beings, everywhere, encouraging their evolution as well.

This week someone wrote to me and shared with me that her family just went through the second anniversary of having lost her seventeen-year-old son to cancer. This kind of loss simply can’t be made sense of in the Mind. And if there’s one thing I believe so many of the losses we’ve endured together in 2012 have brought each of us, it’s that realization.

So where do we go to make sense of it all, when we are moving through losses greater than we imagined we would face?

In these days and times, maybe we can only look at life’s current challenges through the eyes of the heart. We begin to make sense of our current crisis, loss or change in the heart, and then the mind can begin to grasp the greater purpose with more space and ease. Unlike the mind, the heart is where I have always found spaciousness, and peace. But it usually takes dire circumstances to turn me in that direction…

There’s a poem that came through me in my early thirties, during a time when I had been opened by circumstances that left me more vulnerable and raw and fragile than I had any idea I could be. It was my first “Dark Night of the Soul” and something that simply had to happen in order for me to evolve further. The title of the poem is a question. And the question is What Is It That You Were Given?

What is it that you were given?
I mean from the loss.
what was taken.
That very thing you could never live without:
the person
or place;
secret or circumstance.
Now that It is gone
and you can no longer call It foundation—

what is it that you were given?

You know, and I know this:
there is a hollowing out.
Something comes and opens you up


And from that moment on
you are no longer immune to this world.

You wake, you wander—
every familiar now a foreign.
You walk as through water
until you make it back to your bed
and finally, even there, your sheets,
your own pillow’s scent—different—
as if daily someone repaints your room,
displaces something;
disturbs a cherished memento.

You see, sometimes we are emptied.

We are emptied because Life wants us to know




It’s not a very comfortable poem. I wasn’t sure what to feel once it came through as I sat reading it, tears streaming. But in that moment it felt like some Greater part of me that hadn’t yet fully come into this life, finally did. And it was as if all those precious fragments of light that had been separated and strewn across the universe through my grief were brought back together, and made into something New—albeit a bedraggled and bewildered New.

Dear, Precious One—what is it you’ve been given, through your loss? In my monthly newsletter, I posed this question and invited readers to write to me with their story; their discoveries; the Gratitude found amidst the Grief. This process was not meant to open wounds, but to help to heal them; to empower each of us to name The Gifts, as difficult as that is sometimes, and in so doing Name our Highest Self again, pulling It from the rubble like a Phoenix rises from the ashes. I encourage you to spend even ten minutes in silence, just listening; just asking the question, and allowing the mind to quiet in its resistance until you hear a different voice; the softer voice of the heart. Then, put pen to paper or fingers to laptop keys and write, without judgment or editing. What is It That You Were Given?

If we really are to know more Light and live our lives with yet more courage, and zeal and aligned in our own Truth, sometimes our Spirit knows what that will take—something the human would never knowingly agree to, I’m betting.

At the beginning of this article I shared two words that summed up 2012 for me: The Opposite. But I’ll close by offering two words that just two days ago came into my life for the first time. These two words are Baruch Bachan (bay-roosh bay-shan).

They mean, “the Blessings already Are.”

– em claire

(To contact em please write to her at: em@emclairepoet.com. To hear em claire read this poem, please click here.)

Please Note: The mission of The Global Conversation website is to generate an ongoing sharing of thoughts, ideas, and opinions at this internet location in an interchange that we hope will produce an ongoing and expanding conversation ultimately generating wider benefit for our world. For this reason, links that draw people away from this site will be removed from our Comments Section, a process which may delay publication of your post. If you wish to include in your Comment the point of view of someone other than yourself, please feel free to report those views in full (and even reprint them) here.
Click here to acknowledge and remove this note:
  • SL

    Thank you so much for this article, it was exactly what I needed to read tonight and it brought me much peace.
    ..And as always I am a big fan of your delicate, soul-inspired poetry 🙂



  • mewabe

    Through every gain and every loss, we are given the opportunity to love and feel ever deeper, to open our heart ever wider…there are no limits to how much the heart can open, to how much it can feel, when we choose this journey of the heart.

    The mind needs not try to find a meaning, or purpose, or gifts in grief…love is the only meaning, the only purpose and the greatest and only real gift, and the gift has already been given, to each one of us, from the beginning of time. Love never dies, even when we think it does.

    The path to actual healing is through opening all wounds and making them bleed as much as they need, so that the thick scabbing that encloses the wounded heart can be dissolved and the heart be renewed and vibrant and free again.

    A totally open heart, like an open door, can no longer be broken. Only the closed heart, like a closed door, needs breaking to open, as in this natural process the closed heart progressively opens and becomes ever more conscious one wound at a time, until it no longer needs wounding as it has become fully conscious, fully open and fully present in love.

    This can only be achieved by choosing to live, to be, to exist from within our hearts, and letting the heart or love be the presence, the master and the guide, and the mind its tool, rather than the opposite, which we choose when fearful and clinging to control.

  • Chris

    Thank you so much for that Em. Your poem moves me deeply, it speaks to me of my own “dark nights” and the gifts these experiences gave me. You also move me because you speak your experiences and they echo my own so eloquently.

  • Erin/IAm

    Wonder-filling expressions…Thanks, Em, for sharing your blessings.

    To be perfectly honest, I have been spared the usuals of the Grieving process most are familiar with…Those close to me in heart, but not body, left this realm & merely tickled my neck, brushed across my nose, or pinched me somewhere, with little thought until I was told of their transitions many months later…which is when I understood the ‘givings’ those sensations represented. These included all of the parents & grand-parents that were here with me.

    The loss of a full-term babe would normally devastate most, but he gave me my first ‘feel’ of ‘All Love’…my first ‘Angel’ experience…how could I be less than Amazed & grateful for such a gift?

    Other-than-humans who entered into my lifetime thus far, gave me their last loving looks & cuddles, & moved on with much gratitude given by me…Their living gifts held as priceless moments shared.

    The children who came through me & share their time have yet to cease to give Amazing, sparkles, challenges, and maintain my Child-eyes & fearless heart…Priceless givings, indeed!

    Perhaps why I see the grandeur in the freedom of Spirit & love of All Life.

    Gotta looove when this stuff is just “Given”…And in return, these experiences are re-given to All…God(dess), yes? A verrry Amazing & infinite loop.

    Good Journey, Sweetness…There is sooo much more to be ‘fore-given’.:)

  • Marko

    What is it that you were given?

    That is a wonderful, insightful, provocative recontextualization question to ask in any situation that happens to us that we interpret or consider unwanted.

    From my viewpoint recontextualizing what we see as negative as something positive, if we are open to such a perspective & further, to see that behind all negatives are gifts & blessings in disguise is a great secret of life.

    This proves that underneath all life, it is all positive, always & actually filled with original blessing & original grace. It’s our rigid perspective that is conditioned not to see things this way. It’s simply how we were raised & educated in our world.

    There is however a very BIG down side to this all things positive perspective of gifts, blessings, in all things, that at life at its locus core are actually good.

    That BIG Huge Gargantuan Monumental downside is this:
    We have to give uP at some point our complaining negativity & negative drama about life. Give up how it plays out in such seeming negative ways. When we see the positive potential within the gifts of the negative they are no longer negative but positive.

    Oh crap! If that’s true what do we have to complain about?

    We can’t handle this truth! Not yet. We are way too attached & invested in seeing this life as a pain & suffering existence to accept otherwise. Earth is a pain & suffering planet of primitive unevolved humans. God does not exist (or if God exists I could do better!) & all the pain & suffering are proof of that. Damn anybody who tries to say otherwise.

    However, if you could give up most or all of your negative drama & negativity in life would you?

    Magical sun drenched blessings,

  • mewabe

    I think it is always a mistake to deny pain and suffering, whether by using spiritual “tools” or other means of rationalization, of denial, or to redefine what appears “negative” to be “positive”.

    Negativity or positivity are mental judgments, ideas, concepts…pain is a feeling.

    A child who looses a loved one cries, and feel and expresses the pain that comes with missing that person, no matter how many times a grown up says something like “your brother or sister or mother or father is very happy in Heaven”.

    If you look at the way humans deal with pain, they essentially do all they can not to deal with it. Spirituality can become a new form of opiate, a sophisticated form of tranquilizer or metal straightjacket.

    However all that suppresses pain also suppresses pleasure or joy. Numbing our feelings, suppressing pain through mental rationalizations (Seeking “meanings”) or medications is an all encompassing process, it suppresses more than pain: it suppresses our ability to feel all feelings, unless those who are on tranquilizers or on a temporary high from mental rationalizations think that the numbness they feel is an actual feeling.

  • mewabe

    So many typos, so little time…
    I meant to write “mental straightjackets”…

  • Sibila Reventlow

    Dear Em

    The very first time I saw this poem, I was deeply moved. I found it in the middle of gathering texts that I would give every participant at a Christmas dinner we were holding at a Healing & Therapy Center I then co-led.
    I remember I read it several times, as the power in this poem was asking me if I was willing allow it to move me. Through and through.
    I had asked for help in gathering these texts, so I could be able to give to every participant some lines that would be giving and nourishing to exactly them, exactly then. I know from my life how words can carry light and love and consciousness and be the exact opener or giver.
    One of the participants was a challenge for me in this. He was new to our work-space and he and I were exchanging, he was giving me massage, I was giving him healing and energetically psychotherapy. He had recently told me about a deep sorrow he carried: He had lost the love of his life a few years ago. She had had cancer in her brain, they had gone to India, she had been cured. So they had decided to have a baby. The cancer had come back while she was pregnant and she had died because of it, shortly after she had given birth to their son. He had had years through the bottom of sorrow he didn´t know of existed anywhere, much less in him self. When I met him, he had a presence that was kind, deep and raw. And I was humbled and grateful that he gave me his trust. We talked much about spirituality and about love that never dies, but maybe, maybe “just” changes forms. And about the courage it takes to keep one´s heart open and dare to love no matter what, just keep on letting love flow through one self.
    When I saw this poem, I knew this was it, I knew life had given me me exact words I were to give him that evening.
    I was clearly guided though not to interfere in who got which text and to have more texts than participants. I was asked if I dared to trust that each participant would pick the text that was for them. This was not easy fo rem, but i did it with prayers.
    And this deeply grieving man did actually pick “What have you been given” and he told me often since that your poem is a treasure for him. That it took his breath away and shattered many times when he read it and still he knew he had to read it and take your words in. And in and in. At one he told me that he had been given to dare to keep on loving no matter what.
    His girl-friend was pregnant. He told me of a shopping board for food that had been a token and a treasure between him and his wife and he showed it to me, shaking: It is heart-shaped and deep red. Well, when his second child was born some months later, she arrived with a small, distinct red heart on her right cheek. Eacch and overtime he looks at his daughter, he sees a red heart on her face.
    This he has been given as well, along with a deep love connection between his daughter and his son thatmelts him over and over and a flowering relationship with his girl-friend.
    I had to tell you this story. I have a picture of his daughter in my computer.
    I love and am humbled by seeing her face smiling.
    with love and respect from Denmark

  • Sibila Reventlow

    it should have read chopping board.

  • Sibila Reventlow

    What is it I´ve been given?

    An ability to listen to god again.
    An opportunity to choose very early in life between putiing my power behind power over others or behind love.
    A need in my childhood so intense that I co-created my connection to god again in tis life.
    An opportunity to choose very early in life between glamour and luxury or going beneath the surface of things.
    An opportunity to choose between being exclusive within the elite or re-learning that we do all have inner equal inner value, regardless of outer circumstances on the surface.
    A childhood were I felt and deeply understood how love is life and is nourishment – because there was none.
    A childhood with drama, insanity and instability so it has become an obvious given for me that peace is a powerful, creative field, within which we can co-create life and that a stable structure is a natural part of what sustains life from within.
    A childhood where I early learned to live and adapt in several cultures and countries, having to adapt to countless schools and homes, so I became flexible and learned that we are on a journey and life is lived in so many ways, according to the set-up in one particular place.
    I was given very early that lying is destructive and isolating and putting thrush forward is liberating and life-promoting.
    I was given a possibility to choose to take up my spirituality again and dare to choose to re-identify with who I am inspire of what has been demanded of me.
    i was given a life where I have had the possibility to heal and transform not only not having had a childhood but also to learn to heal and transform previous lives where I have been far and disconnected from the divine in life and within me. And others.
    I was given a life dare to trust my self again.
    I was given a life to dare share from my heart and knowing again.
    I am given a life to dare to be visible and of service again.
    So – I am learning that life truly, deeply is benevolent, and to remember at all times, that the surface is only part of the truth.
    Also, a blog here taught me a few days ago, that seeing is not judging. Of course I knew this – but now I have taken it deeply in.
    So I´ve been given that I am not dangerous or wrong for seeing beneath the surface. Nor do I need to get it confused with judging within my self.
    I am in the process of learning that seeing is part of what can co-create more love and wholeness when I learn to put truth forward with love.
    I have been given to learn to put truth forward with love, visible, and I am learning this.
    with love and respect from Denmark

  • Sibila Reventlow


    t should have read
    “… I was given very early that lying is destructive and isolating and putting trust forward…
    “…I was given a possibility to choose to take up my spirituality again and dare to choose to re-identify with who I am inspire…”

  • Sibila Reventlow

    It should still say inspite!
    I think I´ll havwe a good look at dualism here and look though the eyes of love for triunity in the words I´ve described some of my life´s learnings here.
    I apolagize for the typos and am grateful for your patience.:-)

  • Sibila Reventlow

    For me, most of all, thsi poem calls for the reader´s soulconsciousness and this is why it carries such love, liberation and grace.
    with respect,

  • Laurent

    I was given the opportunity to wake up to this world and realised that I was looking at life, the people and the world with my ego.
    I realised that my thoughts are very powerful and undoubtly create my life .I realised that they ripple to everyone else, especially the one who are close to me.
    I was invited to open and to see with my heart, appreciate every moments, every situations that life provides me and have the opportunity to perform small miracles with it.
    I am grateful that I was given the “wake up call” to the meaning of Life

    With Love


  • Alex Jones

    Thank you em. Loss is such a strange teacher. Life has long felt like a loosely wound ball of yarn rolling on, with loose ends dangling. Until loss burns away the fray and the garish hues. I’m left still to roll on but in revised form. I guess it’s weird but in my mind’s eye my life still appears as a rotating ball. Now it looks more like a smaller, denser, even polished, white stone sphere. For the longest time it felt less than. Less rich. Less textured. I am beginning to see the beauty in glass and steel. Perhaps only for a season. Perhaps until I learn again to wrap my world in love’s multi-colored coat.

  • Lloyd

    The gift I have been given is humility. Being able to accept the fact I do not have the answers to give peace and understanding to the world. Accepting the fact that life is a journey, and as I travel I change, I grow, and learn to be more Love. Humility is a blessing, one that allows me to release “NEED” to think and struggle with the fact that I can control the outside world. So humility is a gift I give myself, and others, and generates freedom, joy, and unconditional expression of Love. Namaste’

  • Michele Gillen

    Good morning! My name is Michele Gillen and I am the chief investigative reporter at the CBS station in Miami. Much of my journey is about shedding light on the most difficult and dark times for the human existence. However the position also also me to explore through television and other media forms the beauty of the human spirit- hope, love and transformation. I became a committed fan of your work having discovered your poetry. It might not surprise you that Rumi is my muse for much of my work. I just completed a TV holiday special…Finding The Path To Heal Your Heart. I would love to share it with you and discuss with you joining me for a possible future show. I wanted to connect as we enter this New Year. Most importantly to say to you …thank you. Thank you …for …putting words and stories to paper…in such an inspired way…they accompany my path every day. With great respect, Michele Gillen 305-439-6959 Mgillen222@aol.com

  • Laura Pringle

    Wow, ! All these posts are wonderful, insightful, informative, and thought-provoking.
    Em, that poem is great- it’s a classic!
    I noticed that each and every death, loss, or challenge has been something I always feared deep down inside. (I literally dreamed about them years prior). Death of your Parents, your child, upheaval of your home –all evoke cataclysmic feelings and deep sorrow. For most of my life I was cut-off from my heart, living in fear of loss so great I had managed to strangle off most of my feelings. It can’t hurt if you never got attached to it.

    Of course, when you have children, it’s hard to maintain that armor. Being a parent teaches you so much, opens up your heart like you never imagined! Yet, with any great attachment comes fear of loss.

    I sometimes wonder if caring is just a trait stemming from our fear of loss, because care is sort of linked with caution, which stems from a desire to maintain the presence of that which gives you joy.

    I don’t think God could experience the kind of feeling when a loved one dies, so God especially cherishes our grief, it is probably like a delicacy. I had this insight once when I was crying for my son who passed on. I had a realization that God has no desire to see sadness and longing, suffering or loss to disappear. Those things have taken a long time to perfect! However, God wants us to appreciate the full spectrum, bless the illusion, and be fearless in opening up to feel as much as humanly possible!

  • Laurent

    Dear Laura,

    It is hard for me to imagine grieving a loved one as young as you have experienced, I have seen my GrandParents and my Dad passed away. I am not afraid of Death and I cherish the one who part away as I believe they have achieved the journey they came for … to experience and learn from.
    I admire the African Poeple for realising this, centuries ago.

    I feel God has no desire to see sadness, suffering or loss, He has the desire for us to remember who we are, to awake our inner light amongst all the human illusion, make us see life in a different angle, with a different meaning …
    Jesus, Buddha and others showed us what we can do to live and feel differently… happily!



  • Laura Pringle

    Thanks, Laurent.

    I want to reword what I was trying to express back there. In a moment of grief as I was crying, I paused and felt God with me. I stepped out of my grief for a moment, and literally felt God savoring of the moment, meanwhile reassuring me that this feeling was something that could never be known in ultimate reality, and telling me to appreciate this opportunity I have been given.

    Think of it this way. We naturally strive towards happiness and light. We move away from grief and try to find reason, meaning, or something larger than the loss or the grief. Without the loss/grief, we have no gauge to measure against, nothing to move away from as we strive to become whole again.

    Why wouldn’t God be pleased to experience ANY kind of feelings? I think it is wrong to believe that grief and loss is something to eliminate from our repertoire. Rather, as we evolve in our appreciation of the FULL SPECTRUM, we will come to bless grief and loss when we understand how the presence of these experiences compels us to find God.