Blind Clarity

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Antoine de Saint Exupery

There’s nothing as intense and overpowering as the moment of clarity. It’s when our hearts and minds are open, and we are in alignment with all things that are possible for us. It’s blinding!

I spent quite a bit of time listening to and watching several energy updates and forecasts for the new year and new decade, and it seems like clarity of thought is front and center in all things personal, professional, political and worldly. It’s about time, don’t you think?

After all, thanks to the information we have at our fingertips, and the work we’re doing on ourselves, we are evolving, transforming and growing, in rapid rates, faster than ever before. We’re more in touch with our intuition and with our bodies.

As Lee Harris commented on his energy forecast, “People are coming back to their sensory selves faster than ever before.” This, my darlings, is becoming the new normal. Yippie!

When we operate from this connected place, we can’t help but notice that we are leading from the heart. We’re leading from a place of divine truth. We’re leading with ease, confidence, joy and love. Can you relate?

Conversely, it is lack of clarity that creates chaos, frustration, sadness and fear. These emotions are poison. They sabotage our goals, dreams, and our day-to-day living and interaction with others. When we dust off our glasses, put aside the fear mongering we are seeing so much of these days, and connect to our hearts, we are able to see everything clearer, bigger, more illuminated. We are able to intentionally interact with others at much higher levels than ever before. We are blinded by the light of clarity!

I believe that, when this occurs, our senses are heightened. We are more discerning. We have a laser beam focus. There’s an emotional awareness and connection to spirit that comes from operating from our heart center.

I also believe that Mother Nature is one of our greatest teachers and that the universe self corrects in ways that bring in all sorts of disasters so that humanity can come together. Just look at the compassion, empathy, togetherness and love that arises after disasters. Our hearts get ripped open, don’t they? And our hearts may also get triggered just the same.

It’s these triggers that we need to put under a microscope. These triggers may be keeping us from living out our greatness and from serving in ways we were meant to serve… with love.

Serving with love and intention is a practice just like any other practice. And it does take time, effort, patience, persistence and perseverance.

Don’t you think it’s high time we knock down the walls of fear, frustration, tension, conflict, and separation and build foundations of love, patience, ease, compassion, and unity? Don’t you think it’s time we take our thoughts, desires, aspirations and dreams and give them life in the world? Don’t you want to live in alignment with your creative flow? Don’t you want to operative from higher levels of emotional awareness and intelligence?

Are you willing to do the work? Nothing in our lives changes unless we are willing to do the work and get clear in all matters of the heart. It’s time to step up and step out, darlings!

If you don’t know where or how to start, I am here to tell you how simple it can be. Note to self…it may be simple, but it may also be painful! Nevertheless, it all starts with getting to know you better as well as setting daily intentions. I am also here to remind you that your intentions create your reality.

So…before we get to a little practice for setting intentions, allow me to share a few questions I came across as I was perusing many, many pages of the spectacular new issue of Mantra Magazine (my fave). The ENTIRE issue is on wellness. It’s like one big interactive journal!

These questions will help you to get to know YOU. I invite you to peruse them, use them as journaling prompts or topics of conversations with some beloved friends. Use them in any way that will serve YOU:

  • When do I feel most creative?
  • What qualities do I value and desire in my friends?
  • Where do I feel at peace?
  • What makes me feel valued and important?
  • What do I look forward to the most?
  • What do I struggle with the most?
  • What makes me feel calm and centered?
  • What do I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed?
  • When do I feel confident in myself?
  • How do I want to feel in the world?
  • How can I face my fears more?
  • How can I cultivate more confidence in myself?
  • How can I improve my thinking in order to make my life better?
  • What would help me grow as a person?
  • What new ways can I express myself?
  • What do I need more of?
  • What do I need less of?
  • When do I get mental clarity?
  • How can I stay in tune with my body?
  • When do I feel emotionally fulfilled?
  • What makes me feel energized?
  • When am I most empowered?
  • When do I feel joyful?
  • What obstacles are holding me back?
  • What are my greatest sources of inspiration?
  • When do I feel most proud of myself?
  • What makes me feel valued and important?
  • What is my greatest insecurity?
  • What thoughts consume me throughout my day?
  • How much time do I devote to self-care?
  • What are the things I’d like to say no to?
  • What are the things I’d like to say yes to?

Lots to think about, right? Lots to act upon as well lots to excavate and elevate!

Now, for a little practice on intention setting all that is required is your willingness, your breath and your heart.

Upon awakening each day, resist the temptation to reach for your phone or electronic devices. Doing so will only fill your mind with clutter and distractions.

Begin your day by sitting in bed, a chair, yoga mat or meditation cushion. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath a little while. By focusing on how your breath travels through your body, you are practicing conscious breathing. Now bring your attention to your heart center, and see/feel it opening and blossoming like a lotus flower. When you feel ready, ask yourself:

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

Let that word or phrase fill your heart, your mind and your awareness. You may be feeling one way, but your heart may be telling you something else. The key is to honor that voice of the heart, your instinct and intuition because the heart connects us to the flow of love.

When you are ready, open your eyes slowly, and take a few deep breaths. Keep your intention(s) close to your heart, and tap into it throughout your day and throughout all your encounters and interactions.

Darlings, I invite you to make this an every day practice. Remember, consistency creates the change we want to see. Sit as little or as long as you would like. The point is to be consistent with your practice so that you can be open to your spiritual and energetic self. This morning ritual will allow you to move throughout your day with confidence, purpose, ease and love.

As we are always reminded in yoga…. it’s a practice- not a perfect- so leave that judgemental voice out of the picture! Bid it farewell. And speaking of judgemental voices, be sure you check out my previous blog New Decade – New Voice if you have not already done so. Carry on, my darlings!

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

New Decade – New Voice

“We all know it is there, no one is surprised, but we still usually underestimate the volume and tenacity of our internal critic.” Monica Dicristina

Happy New Decade, my darlings! I hope 2020 has greeted you with new dreams, new visions and an awareness of the unlimited possibilities and opportunities this new decade will bring us all.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that 2020 will be BIG!!! I also think it’s FINALLY time to stop thinking small, stop putting ourselves, and others, in boxes and rid ourselves- once and for all- of that old, critical and outdated voice that tricks us into thinking we can control things in our lives.

It’s time we bust our hearts and minds wide open, think LARGE and GRAND, be BOLD and BRAVE and operate from a space of knowing that we are ALWAYS and INEXTRICABLY connected to that higher power that is so much greater than our small ways of thinking and controlling.

The immediate impact of letting go of our old ways and old judgmental voices will be that our mind, body and spirit will finally be at ease (once you get into the habit of letting go, that is). Our hearts will want to do a happy dance. There’s nothing wrong with a little (or a whole lot of) dancing for that matter!

Let’s chat a bit about the issue of control. Wanting to control things is just an illusion- much like perfection. The more we drop the need to control, the easier that life flows. We’re more in sync with our higher self and intuition and the universal guidance that is always conspiring for our highest good.

As Blondie, my beloved Maui sister would say, “Why live in difficult world when you can live in easy world?” As a matter of fact, if you’re reading this Blondie, you are just the person to write a blog on living in easy world!

What I think that many people do not realize is how operating from a place of control keeps us stuck and living in difficult world (I know because I used to live there at one point in my life, but I had myself evicted). Nothing flows, everything is a struggle, grievance or problem, and the dis-ease and discomfort in our bodies show up as depression and/or anxiety, health issues and unhealthy habits. It’s time to kick these control issues to the curb… once and for all!!! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Instead of those nasty, negative and destructive old voices in our heads, we must replace them with new voices that speak to our greatness and grandness that is ours by divine right.

Let’s start with a very basic limited belief that we were taught early in life: the need to please everyone. This is one of the most destructive beliefs we can take on. News flash darlings, we can’t please everyone. We waste so much valuable energy chasing this myth that it leaves us depleted and feeling dejected. That is a far cry from the magnificence which we need to embody!

It’s also time we let go of overworking ourselves to death in an effort to feel accomplished. All we’re accomplishing is getting to a state of perpetual exhaustion and feeling wiped-out, especially when that toxic voice in our head is sabotaging our accomplishments. Gag it. Adios! Ciao! Bye!

I’ve found that acknowledging our accomplishments is a much healthier, positive, motivating and less taxing way to approach things instead of focusing on what we didn’t get done. We can happily choose to celebrate the things we’ve completed.

And speaking of exhaustion, it’s time we let go of the notion that we are able to “catch up” on our sleep. We can’t. Shut that voice down immediately! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Research has shown, time and time again, that we need seven to nine hours of sleep. Furthermore, we now know that constant lack of sleep can harm us genetically, negatively impact DNA repair and immunity. Sleep disruptions that affect the body’s circadian rhythm include the use of cell phones, computers and watching TV in bed or right up to bedtime. Again, research shows that shutting down all electronics about two hours prior to bedtime is the way to go. Personally, I guard my sleep like the sacred ritual it is (although, on some occasions, I am guilty of binge watching Netflix into the wee hours). I’m only human… wink, wink.

You know that irritating voice that makes you feel defeated, frustrated, and inferior when mindlessly scrolling through social media? Time to send that one packing! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Why should we waste time comparing ourselves to others? Why allow that voice to be so destructive? Thanks to IT wizards, we can keep track our screen time, do a social media cleanse of our choice (we must always have choices) or even download apps that help us to stay focused. Today, I learned of the Forest app. It allows the user to a accrue points while building a forest, and then use these points to actually plant a tree in the Amazon (thanks, Denise, for this intel).

By any chance, are you someone who ALWAYS has to be in control at your job or place of employment? How’s that working for you? Yeah, I know, not that great… headaches, migraines, indigestion, anxiety, right? Bid that old you farewell. Adios! Ciao! Bye!

If always having to be in control is your modus operandi, it’s time to let go of that ASAP. I know how hard it can be when we want to do the best we can, provide the best service we can, and want things done in a way that we know only we can do it. But that’s not how many work places function today. There’s more of a collaborative environment these days. While control freaks tend to frown upon this, working collaboratively and in teams are necessary skills in today’s world. We all bring a myriad of skills with us, and our individual uniqueness adds to the flavor of our working relationships- especially when working remotely or with someone on the other side of the world.

A simple exercise to get in the habit of doing- well, it’s more like behavior modification- is to learn to control what we can control. What is ours to control. To be discerning. To pick and choose. To pause. To breathe. To assess. To accept.

Oftentimes, we end up disappointing ourselves when we try too hard at controlling things. Let’s face it, many situations and circumstances are truly out of our hands, so why should we even attempt to control them? Why should we work ourselves into a frenzy or get stuck in a downward spiral of negativity? Why should we get physically sick over it? In those kinds of situations, all we can really control is our attitude and release what is not in our hands to control. Acceptance is a beautiful thing!

Darlings, once we acknowledge, accept and have an unshakable faith in knowing that everything is in divine order and happening just the way it has to happen, we can breathe easier, be more peaceful, have more equanimity and know that the universe is handling all our affairs.

Universal force is something we can’t go up against. It is mighty, strong, intelligent, magical and comical. And if you can’t see it for what it is, then perhaps it’s time to shift your perspective or change your glasses… just sayin’!

It’s a new year. It’s a new decade. What are your wildest dreams for this grand new decade? How are you designing your life this year? What do you need to get clear and honest about? What controlling behaviors are holding you back? What voices inside your head need evicting?

Perhaps you’d like to spend a little time reflecting on this. Enlist your friends. Pick their brains, ask them for help, have some deep conversations around the topic of control… just make sure you have snacks. Snacks are always a must!

Here’s to a new you, a new decade AND a new voice!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Dreamin’ in Waves

“Being alone without distractions gives us the opportunity to feel a sense of calm that comes from releasing the need to be switched on. Quality alone time can bring the body back to a calm state, switch off the stress response, and help people connect to their intuition and creativity.” Ariadne Kapsali

End of year thoughts as I sip on a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a generous twist of lemon and read Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton in my beloved Hollywood Riviera: I’m a consummate dreamer, avid seeker, hopeless romantic, and a love and gratitude junkie who is always searching. And who gets much pleasure and joy from being of service.

I also cherish the sanctity of my alone time. For years I searched outside myself. In the last couple of decades though, I’ve taken to searching within. The need for solitude is always at the top of my list. It’s been the most rewarding journey ever!

Don’t get me wrong though, the rewards come with a price. Some people aren’t willing to pay that price. However, it’s a price I’ve always been willing to pay- even if it means not playing by the rules of convention, society, culture, etc.

I often remark that we really can’t place a price tag on peace, serenity, and tranquility. I don’t care how much money is involved. I’ve noted that some of the wealthiest people I know are the ones who lack peace and true joy in their lives. And the reason is clear… peace comes from within… we create our own joy…even if it means making the conscious decision of being alone and entering a relationship with oneself.

There is a remarkable difference between being alone and being lonely. People who cherish their solitude will always tell you they may be alone but far from lonely.

When we enter into a relationship with our “Self,” loneliness is not an issue. Learning to know oneself, stripped of all our titles, roles and the expectation of others, is one of the most rewarding gifts we can “gift” ourselves. We know the varied roles we play and how we dance in and out of the many relationships, titles and positions we assume. But there comes a point (at least for me it did) where we want to push back and truly figure out who we are, what we want out of life, how we want to define ourselves and how we want to live and love.

We learn to break with convention and what is expected of us. We become more blazingly daring, more courageous, more vulnerable and, as a result, more liberated!

Free to ponder everything or nothing at all. With me, it’s usually everything (at once too)… purpose, meaning, intention, relationships, all the whys, life and even death. Especially death. The subject fascinates me.

So it’s on this day, the day after a brilliant light and teacher, Ram Dass, transitioned, that I find myself thinking back on my journey and the path that yoga has taken me on.

Ram Dass translates to Servant of God. And that is something that spoke to me many, many years ago when I started reading his books and learning about the work and contribution he’s made to mankind and society. One of his quotes that has always stuck with me is, “We are all walking each other home.” It’s something Ram Dass spoke at length about in his book, Fierce Grace. It’s a book about aging and coming to terms with death and dying.

I think that when we live with the conscious awareness that we are all terminal and make friends with this notion, life becomes more meaningful, richer and significant.

These are but a few waves of thoughts that have been flowing in and out of my awareness. This is what alone time does for me. It allows me to go on an exploration of sorts: reflect on what inspires me, where I’ve been, who I’m becoming only to unbecome and become again, and dream and wonder of possibilities that still await to unfold. That’s why I titled this blog dreamin’ in waves.

As I was finishing up this blog, I came across an article which spoke about the importance of setting boundaries, especially this time of year when we are flooded with invitations to parties, lunches, dinners and all sorts of social gatherings. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that it’s OK to cancel plans and/or decline invitations. That falls under the self-care umbrella for me. Ironically, this time of year calls for much-needed alone time in my book…wink, wink

I’ve also found that responding honestly is best. So, rather than making up a story or telling a lie, decline invitations with honesty, gratitude and warmth. It’s the right thing to do AND the respectful thing to do for ourselves and others.

Darlings, I encourage us all to carve out some alone time- especially before the end of this year. If you feel inspired to get lost in your thoughts and do a little journaling, then do so. If you’d like a few prompts for doing so, be sure to check out my last blog, End of Year Inspiration, for a few questions you may find useful.

In the meantime, I will personally be working on them myself as I prepare to usher in 2020a new decade to fill with much love, endless joy, real compassion, loving- kindness, radical honesty and accountability, fierce grace and gratitude….and hope. There’s always room for hope!

May the long time sun shine upon us all!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

End of Year Inspiration

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker

Greetings, my darlings!

Can you believe it’s but a mere couple of weeks before the end of yet another year? I can’t believe that 2020 is right around the corner! When I was growing up, the year 2020 seemed like ages away and, now, here it is!

This is the time of year known for reflecting and setting intentions for yet the start of another year. We look at others for inspiration, maybe at our elders or role models for some motivation and hit the books, podcasts, webinars and who knows what else for some added enlightenment. We journal, make vision boards, write affirmations and create a vision for what or whom we want to grow into as we continue our evolution on this planet.

Throughout our lives, we tend to find ourselves emulating some of those role models, people we know/don’t know, and perhaps even some of our peers, colleagues and esteemed friends. It’s just something about them that strikes us and lights a fire under us. We want to be just like them!

One thing we tend not to look at though, is how many of those same people are emulating us (including ones we may not even know but see in passing). Just think about that for a moment…do you know how powerful you truly are?

I’ve always said that we really never know how many people’s lives we touch and how exponential our influence can be. As we become older and wiser, we tend to better understand the impact and the scope of such influence. Perhaps we get more serious about the choices we make, seek out opportunities to exercise our leadership skills, find ways we can be of service and make a difference and maybe even lend our voices to those who cannot use their own.

There comes a point where we align ourselves and our thoughts, views, speech, actions and intentions with our values and beliefs, so that we can uphold and be the embodiment of those same beliefs and values. In doing so, we become a source of inspiration, motivation or consolation for others. As a result, we may continuously find ourselves looking for ways to keep ourselves in check.

A good way for me to keep myself in check is journaling…..about everything! Good, bad and everything in between. However, one of my favorite things to do this time of year is to take a deeper dive and ask myself significant questions. Everywhere we look these days we see questions upon questions designed to help us review, reflect, take stock of the year we are leaving behind and determine how we want to step into a new year.

I’ve been compiling a list of questions to do just that. A few are from past blogs, posts I’ve seen, and others are from conversations I’ve been having lately. I am going to be working on them over the next several days…especially while on the beach! Being by the ocean always puts me in a reflective mood!

I hope you will join me for some end of year inspiration! 

  1. Are you living a life you can admire? Explain how or why not.
  2. Is your heart in the right place? If not, why not?
  3. Are you living a life of meaning and purpose? 
  4. Are you feeling conflicted in any way? If so, how?
  5. Where are you being unloving to yourself?
  6. Where are you being very loving to yourself?
  7. Are you a peaceful person, or are you filled with rage, regrets, grievances or resentments?
  8. What stories or narratives are you creating around situations and are they helping or sabotaging you?
  9. How can you change the story/narrative?
  10. Who or what disrupts your peace?
  11. Are there any people you need to release from your life? Who are they and why?
  12. Who is someone with whom you need to have a heart to heart conversation?
  13. What were some of your challenges this past year?
  14. What were some of your accomplishments and proud moments?
  15. Do you operate from an open heart or a tightly guarded/closed heart?
  16. How do you express and show your love on a daily basis?
  17. What personal strengths and uniqueness can you share that will contribute and add value to the lives of others?
  18. In what ways are you helping to move humanity forward in your own little corner of the world?
  19. What kind of world do you want to live in?
  20. What role are you playing in healing your own wounds so, that in turn, you are contributing to the collective healing of humanity?

Darlings, I wish you all a merry and happy everything- each and every day of your lives! And may you find joy even in some of the saddest moments that may arise. May you carve some time to sit with your thoughts, recollections of this past year, and find ways to continue to be a light in your own corner of the world. Now go out there and touch lives in unimaginable ways!

As one of my yoga teacher friend says, “May you be blessed, and may you continue being a blessing!

Inhale Love and Light…Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

The Paradox of Our Age

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about ” Henry David Thoreau

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with bountiful blessings and the warmth of family and friendship.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks in a time of “business” unlike any other time of the year. The thing is, all this business has a way of putting us on auto pilot rushing, rushing, rushing and, before we know it, we’re on the other end of the holidays, fatigued, and wondering where the time went and why we didn’t enjoy ourselves.

The key to enjoyment is to be… be present in each and every moment and interaction so that we can savor the beauty of the moment with all our senses. When on auto-pilot, we lose the ability to do so. We become more robotic and less human. More rigid and less flexible. More closed off and less open-hearted. Even our breath becomes more shallow.

As I was randomly looking through a gem of a book, Soul to Soul- Poems, Prayers and Stories to End a Yoga Class, I came across a lovely piece which speaks to the paradox of our age. The piece, along with conversations I had with different people this past week, actually inspired this blog.

Sooooo….on this first day of December, I invite us to take a moment to pause, read the poem below by the Dalai Lama, and see where it lands. Perhaps it will spark some conversation, reflection, or inspire us all to start doing humanity a little differently as we enter a new decade.

We have bigger houses but smaller families; More conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; More knowledge, but less judgement. More experts, but more problems; More medicines, but less healthiness; we’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. these are times of fast food but slow digestion; Tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is so much in the window but nothing in the room.

So….. what are we busy about? And, more importantly, why?

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

Thankful and Grateful

“Thanksgiving is about celebrating the gifts that are within us. It’s a holiday that’s about honoring the gift of friendship. It’s about recognizing the gift of family. It’s about opening your heart and your mind to the larger picture of family. It’s about reaching out to those who might not have a family or a place to go and inviting them to the table.” Maria Shriver

Thanksgiving was my mama’s favorite holiday. She always loved fall colors and would oftentimes keep fall decorations up all year…leaves, flowers, etc. It was kind of funny seeing fall colors amidst Christmas and Valentine’s decorations, but my mom marched to the beat of her own drummer. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all…wink, wink!

I get how she used to feel. It saddens me to see this beautiful time of year get lost among all the Christmas decorations and displays. Retailers want us to shop, shop, shop even if it’s at the expense of rushing everything along. All we do is rush….we need to slow down and appreciate the beauty and the bounty each season bestows upon us as well as the people around us….without feeling stressed!

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year for contemplation. Just as we gather provisions for the holiday, it’s a perfect time to pause and take stock of all we are blessed to have in our lives and the people with whom we get to share life. Many of us don’t have large families anymore or no family left, so the gift of friendship and camaraderie become more special. And if you know of someone who is alone or has no place to go, please consider extending an invite to them so they can enjoy as well.

And let’s not forget how stressful family can be. It’s no wonder many people have taken to going away for the holidays or hosting Friendsgiving parties!

With the political climate the way it is, an already stressful holiday gathering for some can end up being catastrophic. People shift from calm to chaotic in record breaking time and, oftentimes, bringing on panic attacks. It’s as if the first of November comes with it this dark, looming event of epic proportion. And if you don’t fall into this category, perhaps this time of year burns you out. You hit the wall and crash. You abandon your self-care practices and spiral into a dark abyss.

The holidays are a time in which we need to amp up our self-care practices so that we can enjoy all the blessings that come with gathering with our friends and loved ones. What self-care practices allow you to remain in an undisturbed space of calm and ease? What allows you to maintain the calm in the chaos?

Boundaries play an important part in all of this as well. Who is welcome at your table? What will or won’t you allow in your space? What conversations or topics are welcome? What items should and shouldn’t be brought to the table? 

As  I was reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, I came across an article by renowned therapist, Lori Gottlieb. In it, she listed a few pointers that can help us move through the holiday season with less stress and more calm and peaceful ease. Since “sharing is caring,” I want to pass on the pointers  from Ms. Gottlieb’s article as an offering to you on this Thanksgiving:

  1. Take care of your health: eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, don’t use substances to numb your feelings.
  2. Say no, guilt-free: protect your time so you don’t become overwhelmed.
  3. Stay connected: if you’re feeling sad or anxious, reach out to friends or a therapist. Remember, you aren’t alone.
  4. Reach for the gratitude: focus on one or two things that you’re grateful for this year or that you look forward to creating in your life in the new year.
  5. Have perspective: it may be that everywhere you go, all you see are reminders that it’s the holiday season, but really the world hasn’t stopped, the holidays are short-lived and, before you know it, life will be back to normal (now that’s something to celebrate!).
  6. Remember that you’re a grownup now: it’s easy to slip back into childhood roles when we’re around our families, so if you notice this happening, step away to the restroom, take some deep breaths, look at your adult face in the mirror, and smile because you’re an adult now and you’re finally free to do as you please.

Darlings, my wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you have a day filled with the warmth of friendship, the love that surrounds you and the joy of creating new memories.

Infinite Love & Gratitude, JTC

The Paper Man

“Just when you least expect it, someone’s creativity and agility blows you away, makes you laugh and almost makes you pee your panties.” JTC

Oh what a night!!!

It was a much needed night of laughter, friendship, love, shenanigans, delicious food and fun cocktails.

You see, I’m having my apartment painted as we speak, so everything is all packed up, bundled up and covered up. My otherwise colorful, fun and peaceful treehouse has been turned upside down. There’s nothing peaceful, colorful or fun about it right now. There’s very little room for movement and finding a place to sit without getting paint on me has been an adventure in and of itself.

So…. a night out with a lovely group of girlfriends, otherwise known as The Usual Suspects in our group chat, was just what the doctor ordered. Laughter is, indeed, good medicine for the soul. And the more we laugh, happily, joyfully and unabashedly, even to the point of tears, boogers coming out our noses, or peeing in our panties (that’s if you’re wearing them- but that’s for another blog), the more we can appreciate the little things in our lives in very big and profound ways.

The restaurant was crowded, noisy, we were noisy, and at any given time there were multiple conversations going on at the same time. You know the feeling, right? The one where you feel like a ping pong ball, going back and forth, head spinning, yet in each and every conversation. It’s the antithesis of mindfulness and giving your sole attention to the one task at hand. Fully present and engaged in that one task.

But you know what? Sometimes the task at hand is to BE fully present and engaged with ALL of it….the zaniness, the laughter, the stories, the madness, the shenanigans and antics alike. And let me just say that no topic is ever “too much” for this group. We put it all out there on the table. If it interests you, then run with it. If not, sip your cocktail and be the curious observer.

The beauty of it all is that there are no cautious or fake “representatives” at that table! We are all simply free to be ourselves and that makes it all that more meaningful. And by the way, we’re not an easy group. By that I mean that, with the exception of one or two people, we all have serious food allergies and restrictions, so ordering can get tricky and dicey. Yet, we make the best of it. More importantly, we’re not obnoxious with our questions, concerns or inquiries. Quite the opposite. We make light of it and tend to warn our wait staff beforehand. It makes the oftentimes painful process of ordering much lighter and humorous.

I believe for us it’s all about the humor, fun, entertainment, friendship, camaraderie, honesty, openness, and heartfelt genuine love and admiration we have for each other that makes our times together all the more meaningful. We are real, the conversations are raw and the topics are relevant to each of us. It’s a win-win.

It’s like a giant dose of feel good endorphins when I’m with these ladies. Female friendships are a must in my book. It’s like free therapy when you stop and think about it. How incredible…it doesn’t get any better!

So after a delightful evening of sipping, tasting, munching, chatting, laughing, catching up and planning future adventures, our time together was winding down… or so we thought.

Just when we thought we couldn’t laugh anymore (I was even losing my voice) out comes a gentleman I will lovingly call “Paper Man.”

Paper Man is an older, Asian gentleman who was sporting a Hawaiian shirt, a paper cut out hat with birds on it, and a necklace advertising his services. He was pushing a cart that had a tip jar on it. Ok…. now we were all a bit weary. However, in a matter of seconds, I was instructed to write my name down, look to the left… and voila! He cut out a profile picture of me from black construction paper, complete with my spiked hair, glasses and “Yaya” below it. Wow! Then he glued it to a white piece of paper- like a card.

Since it was my birthday celebration, he then cut out a pregnant woman on her back that, when you pulled on the legs, a baby’s head popped out from between her legs. Oh my! Needless to say, we all cracked up and were somewhat dumbfounded at his agility and how quickly he proceeded to take a paper plate and make a birthday hat for me- complete with a cut out cake and candles on top. He said something about the candles standing for prosperity, peace and happiness or something like that. I don’t recall his exact words, but you get the idea.

Little did we know the best was yet to come. After giving me my hat, he surveyed our table and his eyes landed on the pretty blonde closest to him. With that, he looked at her and told her he had a “trick or treat” for her. Oh boy! In rapid speed, he cut out a skeleton man that, when you pulled on his legs, a big penis popped out…. OMG!!! I think we were in tears. What made it even funnier and more hilarious was that the gal he picked is probably the shyest one in the group. Of all people to have been picked …wink, wink!

Paper Man left with a generous tip. He also left us thinking of how we must have him a future party. However, it will have to be after we have one with our new best bellydancer friend from a precious birthday celebration. We will simply add Paper Man to our list of future soirées.

As for my beloved usual suspects, any time I get to spend with them is guaranteed to make my heart soar, my belly sore from laughter and my throat raspy from all the convo, screaming and hysterics. It’s a night, or day, that leaves me feeling alive, refreshed, exuberant, grateful and blessed to be floating in this magical universe together.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust

Long live The Usual Suspects!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

Leadership 101

“No one wants to be led by a pessimist.” Bob Iger

Since I did not do a social media detox this summer, I decided to take advantage of being away for a few weeks and unplug and disconnect. As I mentioned in my precious blog, it has gifted me with a lot of uninterrupted time. So… I’ve been reading a lot, catching up on Super Soul Sunday episodes (another one of my faves), listening to different podcasts, writing / working on my blog and playing catch up on the phone with long distance friends.

One of the Super Soul podcasts I listened to, then watched the actual Super Soul Sunday episode, was that with Bob Iger. He is the Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. His book, The Ride of a Lifetime was, among other things, being discussed. Essentially, the book encompasses his 40+ year career in entertainment business and the lessons and values he’s learned along the way. Sounds like another must read!

It got me thinking about the lessons I learned in my 33+ years in education. I was in the system for roughly 22 years prior to becoming an assistant principal (which is the position I had for the last 12 years of my career). Throughout the years, I worked with stellar administrators and mediocre ones, with pessimists and optimists, effective communicators and lousy ones as well as my fair share of bullies.

As with any job/career/profession, we make a lot of mistakes, encounter failures and, ultimately, turn them into lessons learned and appreciate them for the experience we gleamed from them. These experiences continuously shape us and inspire us over and over again throughout our lives.

If you read my previous blog, then you know I worked on list of attributes/qualities/habits of mind that have guided me throughout my life. So in the spirit of “making lists,” I have decided to start another one and call it Leadership 101. My hope is to make it simple, clear and practical. Disclaimer: it is not in any particular order- it reflects stream of consciousness thinking. Take what you need and leave the rest!

Leadership 101

  1. Be human
  2. Lead with intention, integrity and respect
  3. Be authentic, honest, and truthful
  4. Demonstrate kindness, compassion, and empathy
  5. Be a source of motivation, inspiration and optimism
  6. Be confident and consistent
  7. Make clear, constant and conscious communication a guiding principle for all
  8. Let your decisions reflect a clear vision as well as your values
  9. Make your self-care practices a priority
  10. Take the time daily to be still, reflect on your practices as well as your accountability and decision-making (keep a journal)
  11. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” or “Let me think about it and get back to you”
  12. Remember you are not there to make friends- leadership is a lonely road
  13. Do the right thing always and maintain the calm in the chaos
  14.  Continue evolving, growing and encouraging others to do the same
  15. Allow for professional development opportunities that reflect your goals, shared vision/future vision and one that is relevant and personalized to the job employees  are being asked to perform
  16. Acknowledge your staff- send them handwritten notes of appreciation
  17. Take risks, be creative and innovative
  18. Learn to embrace failure
  19. Welcome suggestions, constructive criticism and out of the box thinking
  20. Have a mentor(s)
  21. Remember you are not going to make everyone happy
  22. Be a remover of obstacles- not the obstacle itself
  23. Provide the tools, resources and support that people need to do their job
  24. Focus on solutions not problems
  25. Ask, “What can I do to help?”
  26. Maintain an impeccably clean, safe and secure facility
  27. Lead by example, and don’t ask anyone to do something you would not be willing to do yourself
  28. Know all facets of the jobs people do
  29. Do not micromanage
  30. Learn to delegate and empower others
  31. Observe the power dynamics / power plays / hierarchies at work
  32. Get to know your employees, their strengths, their challenges, their pain, ambitions and dreams as well as anything of a personal nature that may affect the quality of their job performance- learn to ask questions that help build relationships
  33. Work hard and play hard – remember to celebrate accomplishments and successes

In the words of John Quincy Adams,

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Lead the way, darlings!

Infinite Love  & Gratitude, JTC

 

Standing on Holy Ground: A Reflection

“No matter where life takes you, the place that you stand at any moment is holy ground. Love hard, and love wide and love long and you will find the goodness in it.”

As we age, it seems to me that everything becomes holy: time, resources, friends, family, experiences, trials, and tribulations alike. Every encounter, every decision, and every opportunity that presents itself shows up bearing a myriad of lessons, blessings, and opportunities for healing. More importantly though, I believe that whatever shows up, and in whatever way, shape or form it does, is an opportunity to love bigger and better.

I was struck by the opening quote that was featured in A Network for Gratefulness a few weeks ago (another one of my favorite daily emails). It got me thinking about the 61 years of life on this holy planet that I’m about to celebrate in a few days and the many, many, many (did I say many?) ways love has shown up in my life. A friend once told me that I love hard, deep, and passionately. Wow…when I think about it, that was a beautiful compliment. I’ll take it!

When that compliment came to mind, I found myself reflecting on the friends, family and lovers (some whom aren’t even in my life any longer but I will always love) and how blessed I have been. I’ve had a lot of “love” role models. I’ve been gifted with a circle of people throughout my lifetime that have held and carried me through all the phases of my life. The circle continues to widen, and the significance of that is something I cherish deeply.

Opportunities to choose love over fear, togetherness over separation, inclusivity over exclusion, and sacredness over ungodliness are opportunities to cherish as well. And the common and holy thread among them all is LOVE. As the opening quote reminds us, the place that we stand at any moment is holy ground. So…why not treat it as so?

Reflecting on all of this also got me thinking about the habits of mind that have shaped me and have been important to me. What are my personal ABC’s for thriving, succeeding, and for living a full and happy life? What do I deem sacred and holy for me?

I sat with my list of ABC’s for several days and found myself thinking about how each attribute/quality/habit has shown up and what each one means to me. I guess my ABC list is my own personal list of what matters/has mattered most throughout my lifetime.  As I sit and reflect, I am able to look back now and connect the dots. I see the richness, fullness and holiness that have been a part of my 61 years of life experiences here on this planet (which include the good, the bad and the ugly, of course).

By the time this blog is published, I will have probably tweaked my list several times. Needless to say, many of the words that are also of significance to me got bumped as I revisited the list over and over again over the course of several days. When I think about it, it’s an exercise that assigns weight to the individual words you are choosing. It would have been easier to select more than one attribute/quality/habit for each letter of the alphabet, but I didn’t want easy. I wanted the challenge of digging deep. I wanted to go on an exploration of sorts! Being on a social media detox has gifted me with lots of uninterrupted time. So here goes:

My ABC’s

  • A- appreciation
  • B- boundaries
  • C- courage
  • D- determination
  • E- enthusiasm
  • F- forgiveness
  • G- gratitude
  • H- happiness
  • I- intention
  • J- joy
  • K- knowingness
  • L- love
  • M- memories
  • N- neatness
  • O- optimism
  • P- perseverance
  • Q- quality
  • R- resilience
  • S- spirituality
  • T- truth
  • U- understanding
  • V- values
  • W- wonder
  • X- Xenodochial (had to look this one up… wink, wink)
  • Y- youthfulness
  • Z- zeal

I’ll tell you this much- it’s an exercise I encourage you to make the time to do. And it’s not one to do at a single sitting- for you will keep revisiting your list a multitude of times. But when you’re done, it will serve as your very own validation/ affirmation. It’s a way for you to reflect on your habits of mind, see the essence of who you are, and the sacred qualities and gifts that are uniquely yours to share with the world.  All that’s required is an open heart.

Remember to lead from the heart…right from the start!

Infinite Love & Gratitude, JTC