Agapi Stassinopoulos, SPEAKING WITH SPIRIT

Agapi Stassinopoulos, SPEAKING WITH SPIRIT

Zibby is joined by best-selling author and speaker Agapi Stassinopoulos to talk about her latest book, Speaking with Spirit. Agapi shares how these 52 prayers were a result of the pandemic and her shift from public speaking to a period of deep introspection, and why they work the best when read aloud. Agapi reads her prayer about perfectionism that not only touched Zibby but will also enlighten any reader who may feel the same.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Agapi. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Speaking with Spirit: 52 Prayers to Guide, Inspire, and Uplift You. I can’t talk today. Thanks for coming on.

Agapi Stassinopoulos: Thank you, Zibby. I love everything you do. I love your passion, your joy, your authenticity. I must say that whenever I listen to your podcast or see your Instagram, I just get this little jolt of joy. It’s so unique. Really grateful to be with you and grateful for all you’re doing for so many of us, to inspire us again to get back to reading and loving the written word, and also inspiring people to write, not just to read, but to write and to express who they are.

Zibby: Thank you. Yes, I’m trying so hard. Sometimes I’m just so tired. I’m like, I hope this is worth it. I hope that it’s making a difference. Thank you. I needed that today. I appreciate it. I loved your book. As you know, I recommended it on Katie Couric Media for New Year, New You because not only — the prayers are just one aspect of it. The other part of it is your life story and your philosophy and your experience not only with spirituality, but with family and family history and your body and your work and everything. It’s sort of like a memoir in prayer, essentially, which I just loved.

Agapi: That’s so beautiful. I love when you wrote the paragraph about the book and you said, “A prayer for weight loss, why not?” Exactly. I wrote, in every chapter, about a challenge that I’ve had in my life, realizing that we are all challenged with different aspects of our life. There is a discovery that I went deeper into during the pandemic. We were in Los Angeles with my sister and my nieces. As I was going through this very hard — I know everybody was in so many ways, and the lockdown. You know Zibby, I’m a complete extrovert. I think I have one percent introvert in me. Suddenly, I couldn’t see my friends. I couldn’t even go to the market. We couldn’t have dinners. It was so painful. I really did feel like I was exiled. Then reading the news about what other people were going through — I had a deadline to write this book, which was then called The Soul of Prayer. We came up with the title Speaking with Spirit, which I actually love, because I do feel like it is a conversation. It’s not asking.

Prayer became somewhere where you download how you feel. Every prayer pretty much starts with, I’m lonely. I’m frustrated. I am broken with my boyfriend. I am going through a divorce. I am realizing that I can’t have children. I got rejected from my job. My husband got fired. It’s endless stories. I want to write, but I can’t and I’m stuck. I always started the prayers with, here’s where I am. This is authentically showing up in who I am and then realizing that something bigger than ourselves, whatever we call it — I say, you name it. It’s God, your higher power, your higher intelligence, your source. The spirit is in us right there to meet us at that place, comfort us, and help us shift. That was a very powerful experience that I had during the pandemic. Actually, what I wanted to share with our listeners is that, for anybody who wants to write, I dictate my books, Zibby.

Zibby: Oh, no way.

Agapi: I don’t know if I’ve shared that with you. I started acting at the Royal Academy in London. I’m an actress. Primarily, I’m a performer. I love to speak. I love to speak in front of people. It’s my greatest joy. The larger the audience, the more at home I feel. People say, my greatest fear is speaking in front of an audience. I said, my greatest fear is not speaking in front of an audience.

Zibby: I could bring my husband and my dog in here if you want a bigger group to listen to you now.

Agapi: It’s okay. I’m making it up now because all these people around us. I realized that when I spoke my thoughts, like when I said, let’s make up a subject about breaking up with someone you love and you feel the relationship isn’t going, and then I would start to speak it from my experience, it all came out. Then I printed. Then I edited. Then I edited again. Then I sent it to my editor. Then the process starts. The first initial birthing of the book — that’s why, to me, it’s joyful to write. I always say I learned from my — I’ve written five books, the goddesses, the gods, the Greek archetypes. I wrote my biography, so to speak, my life story through Unbinding the Heart. That’s where I learned to find my voice. That’s where my editor used to say, “Agapi, I don’t want you to lecture. I don’t want you to tell us how it should be done. I want you to tell me how you did it.” That vulnerability, that tenderness, that raw place inside of me became alive and strengthened. Now I can go there. That’s what happened in this book. I went there and spoke it. Then the prayers will come. Then the prayers will soothe me. In the midst of my tears and my unhappiness during the pandemic — even now, Zibby, we’re still living in this unknown place. It creates fear and unhappiness in us. I go there. Yesterday, I was doing a podcast. A friend of mine said, “You found your sweet spot.” I said, “Yes, I found my sweet spot, but I don’t always live there.” How do you not judge yourself when you know better? I’m sure you’re the same. You know when you are at your best of Zibby, the ultimate Zibby-ness. with my Agapi-ness, when I am in that, I feel strong and confident and resilient. Then when I’m wavering and I’m collapsing in myself and I get stuck or I get fearful, how can I go to those places and let me, the spirit in me, love me?

Zibby: Aw, I love that. So much in therapy, they say, talk to yourself. Repackage how you’re talking to yourself. I feel like your prayers are essentially that. I know you are putting them out into the universe and all that, but it’s more like coming to terms with how you’re feeling and being kinder to yourself. It’s this self-forgiveness and gentleness with self. Today, I just realized I had this very, very important school chapel of my son’s that I was so excited to watch. I got the time wrong today, and I missed it. I’ve been crying all morning about it. It’s fine. I just feel like it’s so easy to be hard on ourselves. A book like yours makes it like, okay, there are all these stages in life. Some days, you’re going to feel this. All your different chapters, “You’re bigger than your fear. To thine own self be true. The hidden gifts of being alone. You hold the keys to your purpose. Putting the day to rest,” all these things, “God help me laugh again,” they all speak to a different mood and all of that. I feel like this is just beyond useful for everybody, especially me.

Agapi: You are so beautifully — I thank you so much for really seeing the message for what it is because it’s exactly when you said every day is different, Zibby, exactly moments like that when you miss your son’s beautiful chapel moment or when you don’t get something right and we are running so much perfectionism on ourselves or when you get your feelings hurt by God, when people don’t do things the way you would like them to do or people say things and you suddenly get upset. I have this prayer. In the middle of a meeting, something happens. How can you pray right there and then and say, okay, I’m disturbed, I’m upset, I got my feelings hurt, how can I not carry this for the rest of my day and my sleep and the next day? How can I come to forgiveness? Forgiveness is like this magical key, this doorway that has been given to us. Really, where we all suffer from is the judgements. We judge ourselves because we have this image that we shouldn’t have these feelings of hurt or upset, as this morning you described. You said, my god, how can I do that? Endless little things that are not little happen in the day. That’s where I feel the prayer can come in. It’s not for special occasions. It’s not on your Sunday best. It is a reverence to your life, returning to your breath.

I have this story, as you remember, in the book of a girl who was at a home in LA. Arianna said to me, “Doctor –” Let’s call her Jennifer. “Doctor Jennifer, she’s having a hard time. She lost her job. She is a newscaster. Her boyfriend left her after seven years. Her mother is sick.” I was then writing the proposal for my book, so I was very much into prayer. Also, I want to remember to share with our listeners how the inspiration for the book came to me. I said to her, “Jennifer, do you pray?” She said, “Agapi, who would I pray to?” I said, “What are you talking about?” Obviously, there are so many people who don’t believe and don’t have that connection. Maybe a lot of us do, but a lot of us don’t. I said to her, “Jennifer, pray to your thirty-six trillion cells that are making you right now, your breath, that intelligence that is making you that we cannot see. This invisible force is in you. Give me your hands. Let us pray.” I just, from my heart, asked for the light to be there and for the consciousness of love and support for Jennifer. I just poured this love to her. I held her hands. She started to cry. She said, “Oh, my god, nobody has ever done that to me before.” Zibby, I really feel we’re all healers. We think it’s the priests or it’s the awakened teachers who are out there. You and I know all these wonderful teachers right now in this world. No, it’s us. Every listener who is listening to us right now, you have it, my friends. Don’t wait for this teacher. This meditation teacher knows. This enlightened — no, you have it. Own it. If you start to pray aloud — I think the voice is a force. I always speak my prayers loud. I read to myself loud at night.

If you take the hands of your friends and you hold and ask for the spirit to be there, and from your heart, your kindness, your tenderness, trust me, we can heal each other. That’s why I say people say hug each other. Love each other. Pray for each other. Prayer, to me, is redefined at the moment. That’s what I wanted to share in the world. When we are in crisis, we instinctively go to God. When you’re on a flight and the flight is turbulent, you go, my God, please don’t let me crash. We have little moments in our lives where we have a crisis or we hear about a friend who’s been diagnosed with an illness. We go, dear God, help them. Help them. Help me with this. When we have our days and we go through our challenges in our day, we don’t go there. Why not? Why not use the spirit? You see, the thing about it is that in order to receive, we have to ask. In the asking, we open up the flood gates. It’s more like to stop in the middle of our overwhelm, of our anxiety, of our worry, to stop and say, bring me the peace and the presence right here and right now. You wait. You patiently wait. You come back to your breath. You exhale. Ahh. You can all take a breath right now and exhale, and exhale with a sound like, ahh. Then you feel a space and an openness. Kabir said God is the breath between the breath. There is this space, this stillness beyond the mind, beyond the thoughts, beyond your to-do list, beyond your right and wrong. There are these moments of our sacredness. The more we practice them and live in them, the more the tide will go our way.

Zibby: Wow, you’re so good. Have you ever thought of leading a whole — I see why you’re saying you want to be in front of people. I feel like you need to be leading a congregation or something. You need to be in front of a — I don’t know. Do you ever do those?

Agapi: Yeah. Before the pandemic, Zibby, I did hundreds and hundreds of events. I spoke to huge conferences, two thousand people. I would get up and I would light up. I had, at the end of my events — ask anybody who’s been to my events. There would be endless lines for hugs. People would just cry their eyes out. Their hearts would open up. I made a commitment. Not a commitment. I made a promise to myself. I talk about this in Unbinding the Heart. Highly recommend that book, by the way.

Zibby: I have to go back and read it. I’m going to go get it after this.

Agapi: Unbinding the Heart. I said, I found Agapi. Once I found Agapi’s heart, I said, I’m now going to share it unconditionally in the world. I stood up and I started to speak in stages and conferences completely from that place. I never prepared a speech or anything. I was pouring it out. It was the greatest joy. It was like finding my lover. I’m not in a relationship. I don’t have a husband, which I think partly is why I’m not stressed at all. Somebody said to me, my god, you still look so young. I said, well, I’m not married and I don’t have children. I have my sister. We do a lot of things together, as you know. We are a team, and my nieces that I adore. I look at you with your four kids, and you look so happy with them, but it’s a lot of your energy that goes out in raising kids. I bow to every mother who is listening to this. I bow to you. Motherhood is the greatest, my mother used to say, the most sacred career you can have. That is it. I remember once my mother said to somebody, “And what do you do?” She said, “I’m just a mom.” She said, “Don’t ever say that. Don’t ever say, I’m just a mom. Just say, I have the greatest gift in my life. I’m a mother.” I know you know that so well about honoring motherhood. That’s why, Zibby, for me, the pandemic was so hard. Suddenly, there was no audience. That’s where I had to go into the deeper parts of myself. That’s why I went into the prayer. Of course, I poured it through Zooms and meditations and sessions. I do want to do now, as I launch this book, I’m going to do a lot of virtual events. Actually, I want to invite anybody who is listening. Please send me an email at agapi, A-G-A-P-I, I’ll keep you posted of my events. A lot of them are going to be virtual events. A lot of them are going to be on Zooms and conversations and fireside chats and Instagram Lives. Please join me. I’ll also send my guided meditations out to anybody who sends me email. The last book, Wake Up to the Joy of You, I have thirty-three guided meditations, which is another thing that I love to do.

I encourage you as you get this book to read the prayers aloud because the prayers awaken us. It’s like when we speak, the spoken word — take a piece of paper and a pen and a journal and at night or in the morning just write down “spirit speaks to me,” and listen. Just start to write. I remember there was a time where I was — recently, actually — feeling very paralyzed. You know that feeling where you want to do something but you feel stuck? I started to write. I said, spirit, I’m so stuck. I don’t know what to do. Fear had flooded me about a couple of things. Spirit just said to me, get out and go for a walk around the block, girl. I just did exactly that. As simple as that was, it shifted my mindset. I was sitting in my head trying to figure it out. What I love about that whole consciousness of speaking with spirit is that it’s practical. It’s so practical. There’s nothing woo-woo about it. There’s a story in the book where there’s a monk at a monastery retreat. He’s praying to God. He says, please, God, show me how to serve you more. Do I feed the poor? Do I plant more trees in the garden? Can I be a missionary? Where can we find more people to know you? He’s praying unceasingly to God. He hears his inner voice that says, shut up and let me love you. I think sometimes it’s getting really quiet and letting the love either from other people or from inside of us to come and fill us.

Zibby: That is beautiful, wow. Agapi, you have this amazing book coming out. You’re inspiring people on Zoom and everywhere. How do you think about the next couple years? Are you going to write more books like this? Are you going to just try to get out and touch as many people as possible with your words? What’s on your wish list? What’s coming next for you?

Agapi: You know, Zibby, what I would love, love, love to do — maybe when you and I have lunch or tea when we get together, I would love to talk to you about it. I want to write children’s books.

Zibby: Oh, you should.

Agapi: I want to write books to children about how to love themselves and how to find the light because children know that already, and how to be mighty. I have lots and lots of ideas about how to help children open up to who they are, their souls. That’s something that I want to do. I have lots of ideas. I need to pray and let the spirit help me write them. If you have any thoughts, I’ll share with you some ideas that I have when I see you.

Zibby: Yeah, I would love to hear. I have a children’s book coming out in April, actually.

Agapi: No, really? Oh, my god.

Zibby: Yeah, I do.

Agapi: Can you tell me the title, or not yet?

Zibby: Yes, it’s called Princess Charming. It’s coming out from Penguin Random House, an imprint called Flamingo. It’s about a girl who can’t seem to find her thing. Then she realizes her thing is that she never gives up, but there’s a whole story that happens along the way.

Agapi: Is it a picture book?

Zibby: It’s a picture book.

Agapi: Oh, my god, that is a dream. It’s done, right?

Zibby: It’s totally done.

Agapi: I can’t wait to read it.

Zibby: I’ll give you a little preview when I see you.

Agapi: I can’t wait. Then I’ll tell you my thoughts about it.

Zibby: Yes. Then I want to hear about yours. I can tell you about the whole —

Agapi: — I have a whole idea. I won’t share it yet because it’s waiting inside. It’s too didactic at the moment. It’s not quite flowing in the magic. Yesterday, I was listening to your last podcast with Colin about the book. You asked him how he writes or something. I wanted to share with the listeners, I have a blog about how to write a book. I wanted to share it right now because there are four tips. One is that you never think about writing a book. That’s overwhelming. Never, never think about a book. What you think about is imparting wisdom and knowledge you have with someone you love or care for. For example, when I was writing Unbinding the Heart, I was writing it for my nieces, Christina and Isabella, because I wanted to share my story with them. I said, if I died now, I want them to know that these things happened to me. It poured out of me. When I was writing Wake Up to the Joy of You, I wrote it for the thousands of people I had met while I was speaking who kept asking me the same questions. How do I leave a job that I don’t like? How do I find love in my life? How do I find God? All these questions people were asking me. I wrote it for them. This book, I wrote it for me. I said, I need to find about prayer. I wrote it for all of us, but some of part of me was gaining tremendous value. Then once you start to write it, you find an amazing editor that knows and trusts and you trust and understands your voice. You go to the editor, and you start to edit. It’s a collaboration. Then before you know it, you have a book. It is in everyone. If they want to write, they should.

Zibby: I love that. This is great, you answered all the questions. I didn’t even have to ask them. It’s like you’re reading your mind.

Agapi: May I share one of my little prayers?

Zibby: Please. Yes, that’s perfect. That’s perfect to end on.

Agapi: There are so many. Do you like timelessness? We all struggle with time.

Zibby: Yes. In fact, I have so many parts that I dogeared here to talk to you about, which I haven’t even done. Yes, I love the timeless section.

Agapi: your list that you feel you need to ask before we part?

Zibby: I liked the one on page 122, “Dear Beloved,” about perfectionism.

Agapi: Oh, I love that.

Zibby: “The imprisonment of perfectionism,” I dogeared that one. If you want to read that, that would be great. I also dogeared “Prayer for time running out” on page thirty. Either way.

Agapi: Yes, the time running out. That’s the expanding time, right?

Zibby: Yeah. Either way. You pick.

Agapi: I think we all suffer from perfectionism. I start the prayers by saying “Dear beloved” because the beloved is in us. We are beloved, so put your name there. Dear beloved Agapi. Dear beloved Zibby. Dear beloved whoever is listening. “I see how my desire for things to be perfect and harmonious is costing me my well-being, my freedom, and my peace. I recognize the deep fear within me that if I let go, if I relax and I let things be as they are, sometimes messy and unpredictable as life mostly is, everything will fall apart, including me. I understand that my perfectionism was born out of a need for survival at a certain time in my life when I believed that if I was perfect, I could control a world that, in my childhood, was out of control. If I was perfect, I would be okay. I ask for a deeper and higher sense of presence, a calm, and a divine perfection of each situation so that I may make unconditional love more important than anything else. In truth, I don’t know how to do this. The most I can do is admit that my perfectionism is preventing me from living fully in joy. I ask now to let go of how I think things should be so I may elevate my consciousness and see the perfection in how things are. After all, there are so many things over which I have no control, so what is the point of fighting? Release me from my resistance to reality and allow me to find inner balance, inner perfection, and not expect to find it in the outer world. May I experience more gratitude in the midst of turmoil and give myself the space to release my judgements of myself that tell me I’m not enough and turn my attention instead to the beauty to be found in life’s imperfections. I exhale. Ahh. I breathe in, and I experience the unbinding of the ties that have closed me in. I now let go. I can let go. I now let myself really breathe and be in my perfect divine expression as it is right now, perfectly imperfect. So be it.”

Zibby: That made me cry. Sorry. That was so great. Thank you.

Agapi: I was saying to read that because I’ve forgotten it. I remember writing this. That touches me so much that this made you cry because that’s the reaction that I had many times as I was writing this, as these prayers were coming to me, comforting me, and remembering as a child when my parents were fighting and everything. I was so out of control. I created this character called Anna. She was perfect. As I was a little girl, if this girl inside could be perfect, then her parents won’t fight. Each one of us has these wounded places that we need to heal. We thought we had to be perfect to be loved or to have our world go a certain way. It isn’t like that because we know there is perfection in the imperfection.

Zibby: Very true. Oh, my gosh, Agapi, thank you so much. Thank you for this conversation that came at just the right time for me. I’ve loved getting to know you, as I knew I would. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Agapi: A virtual hug.

Zibby: Thank you.

Agapi: You know that I have to say the words that come to my heart. You are a jewel in this world. You really are. You are a gift. I’m so blessed and happy that our lives have come together. To all of our listeners, I just want to leave you with a message. Whatever moves your souls, inspires you all, and awakens your spirit is prayer. There is nothing else but you and the divine and the spirit in you at every moment. In the little things, while you’re making your coffee, while you’re in the shower, while you’re getting dressed, while you’re helping your children, be in prayer. Everything is going to flow because you are loved, you are valued, and you’re honored.

Zibby: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Agapi: , my darling. Have a beautiful day. Hug your boy for me.

Zibby: Okay, thank you. Buh-bye.

Agapi Stassinopoulos, SPEAKING WITH SPIRIT

SPEAKING WITH SPIRIT by Agapi Stassinopoulos

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