June 21, 2021
I’d heard that it’s difficult to play the game “two truths and a lie” with eMindful teacher Erin Sharaf – not because she’s adept at lying, but because she’s had such an adventurous life that it’s hard to tell which statement about her is false. And when I read her personal biography, which includes her experiences as a primary care provider, a tango dancer in a McDonald’s commercial, a professional figure skater, and tracking snow leopards in the Himalayas, I could see why.
As we sat down together to talk about her mindfulness journey, I found myself not knowing where to begin with such a full and fascinating life. But Erin’s fun, hearty laugh made it easy to simply begin.
Q: Between going to school for Biology/Pre-Med and traveling around the world, you’ve had such a robust journey. What led you to mindfulness?
“I kind of stumbled into mindfulness a couple decades ago when I was working in medicine as a primary care PA. I was pretty naive and had never been sick myself, and I was genuinely confused as to why most people coming into the office weren’t getting better,” she says. “We were mostly just managing diseases, and it was not okay to me. I felt like we must be able to do better.
I thought, ‘What are we missing?’ I started exploring, and I didn’t even really know what the missing link was. I had never done meditation or yoga, so just through my own exploration I stumbled on mind-body medicine and I couldn’t get enough. It resonated so deeply with me to empower people so they could become more aware of the choices they are making,” she says.
Erin reflects that while her journey into mindfulness began for her patients, she began to realize the benefits that mindfulness practice was having in her own life as well.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I was this stressed.’ I started sleeping better, and I could feel the benefits in my own body and mind even though on paper I was healthy.”
Q: How do you start your day?
“I start my day with coffee and gratitude. I like to do 30 minutes of mindfulness practice and it’s a combination of a ceremony and an offering. I give thanks to the elements – air, sun, fire, water and earth – and I give gratitude for all of my blessings, and then I sink into my mindfulness practice,” she says.
Q: What’s your favorite mindfulness practice right now?
Erin notices that I end the question with “right now” because one of the things I’ve learned while talking to mindfulness teachers is this answer tends to change over time, like a favorite song or color.
“Right now I am really loving Loving Kindness and compassion practices to bring some softness into myself and, therefore, into a world that’s pretty chaotic right now. So whatever I want to see in the world, I try to cultivate that in myself,” she says. “And I think that’s our only hope. If more people started doing that, things would fundamentally shift.”
Q: What do you love the most about being a mindfulness teacher?
“I love being part of the solution with a capital S. A lot of it is for peoples’ personal transformation, but when I see people making shifts on their own and it also ripples out to their family and community, I love that. But it starts with the personal ‘aha,’” she says.
Q: What’s your favorite eMindful program to teach?
Erin laughs and says, “That’s like picking a favorite kid!” and then answers, “I do love all of them, but I really love the weight program because so much is tied up with food and how we nourish ourselves. As a figure skater growing up, I felt the strong pressure to look a certain way, so I love helping others liberate themselves from those external pressures. Instead of having an adversarial relationship with food, we can appreciate it for the sacred gift of nourishment that it is.”
Q: For people who are new to mindfulness or curious about it, what would you say?
“I would say ‘curious’ is a really great place to be. If you are overly excited and expecting it to be a savior or if you are too closed off, you will never experience the benefits. Curious is kind of the sweet spot – get in there and give it a chance. Commit to a number of weeks and give the practices a chance to do you, she says.
She further explains, “It’s kind of like going to the gym – if you commit to a certain number of weeks, you’re going to be stronger. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The same is true of the mind, and we tend to disregard it because we can’t see it. If you commit to training your mind, it’s going to be stronger in certain spots. And I think now is an especially important time for people to come to these practices. We need an awakening, and what we need is a change from the inside out to see the solutions that we need.”
Q: Are snow leopards as cute as I think they are?
Erin laughs big when I ask her this – she was probably to sense that this is the question I was most excited about.
“I would describe them as sacred, majestic, phenomenal, unique, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping… those are all adjectives I would use. It’s all connected to this thread of tracking wonder, and tracking what’s interesting and beautiful. We all live in a narrow lane of our own creation, and I like to try and explode those boundaries.”
Catch the mindfulness and magic of Erin Sharaf in the following upcoming live programs:
Written by Becky Greiner