The Culture of Fear…Us vs. Them

What if our religion was each other? If our practice was our life? If prayer was our words? What if the temple was the Earth? If forests were our church? If holy water- the rivers, lakes and oceans? What if meditation was out relationships? If the Teacher was life? If wisdom was self-knowledge? If love was the center of our being?” Ganga White

Oh to live in this world and in that way! Guess what though, darlings? We can if we choose to!

Love is a way of life. Pure and simple. And when we stray from that, most likely, we’ll find ourselves operating from a place of fear. Fear divides, separates, isolates and harms. 

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I find myself thinking about the “culture of fear” that took hold in the aftermath of 9/11.  A culture of fear that has permeated every area of life, society, politics  and humanity. A culture of fear that we saw at the onset of war 20 years ago all the way up to the insurrection this past January and everything in between, and we continue to see…. despite different presidents, administrations and policies and the downside of social media.

The questions  that continue to resurface for me time and time again are:

“How have you shown up in the past 20 years?”

“How do you want to show up in the next 5, 10, 15 or 20 years?

“What is your relationship with fear?”

“Do you operate from a place of fear or a place of love?”

“Are you able to look at others who are different from you from a place of love?”

“How do you feel when you encounter someone who looks different than you? Of a different race, religion, color, or culture than you?

“How have you bought into the culture of fear?”

“In what areas of your life do you operate from fear?”

“Are you able to “ignore the story and see the soul” as one of my beloved teachers and author of  Revolution Within, Seane Corn, encourages us to do?

The greatest poets, mystics, spiritual and religious teachers have taught us and continue to teach us that separation, division and fear separate us from our truest essence and connection to the Divine- that which is pure love- God’s only religion (and when I say God I mean the God of your own understanding be it a higher power, the Holy Mother, Mother Earth, the cosmos, the universe, etc). 

Fear separates us. Fear makes us do  crazy things. Fear makes us operate from a place of scarcity. Fear gets us into wars. Fear kills, maims, ostracizes, isolates, and destroys everything in its wake. Fear is the great divide. Fear divides us into two clearly distinct camps- us vs. them. 

In my humble opinion, It is in the wake of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that we all should be doing some MAJOR self analysis, self-inquiry and inner investigation (just a few of my favorite things) because our future, our world  and our legacy depend on it. I found some inspiration, as well as a deep sense of grief, in the words of Kerri Kelly, founder of @ctznwell, author, podcaster and speaker:

“I had thought 9/11 was the worst of it- the most unimaginable and devastating loss- but it was just the beginning for so many. Since then, people of Arab and South Asian descent have been intimidated, surveilled, incarcerated and killed in exponentially increasing numbers. Military service members have given and taken their lives. Families have been torn apart through brutal immigration policies and mass incarceration. Millions of Americans have been surveilled and harassed. Black and brown communities have been targeted by racist militarism turned inward through law enforcement. And too many of us have given into a culture of fear, distrust and division.”

Her words alone give us much to reflect on, investigate, question, and even grieve. In one of her recent posts, where the words above come from, Kerri Kelly poses the following questions

What did we learn from the past 20 years?

Where has violence and militarism gotten us?

How do we repair the harm at home and around the world?

How do we create the conditions for true safety and care for all people?

How do we be good ancestors to those we lost?

How do we shift the legacy of 9/11 from one war to one of collective care?

I was fortunate to catch an interview with Kerri Kelly and Valerie Kaur on the anniversary of 9/11 and found myself lost in thought and thinking about this entire event with a different set of lenses. I don’t know about you, but I know I was a totally different person on so many levels 20 years ago. However, the one thing that has been a constant for me though has been love and following my heart. So… it’s not surprising that I was drawn to Ms. Kaur. I learned of Valerie Kaur a couple of years ago when I saw an interview about her work and her book  and, since it all revolves around my favorite topic, love, I was instantly drawn to her and started following her work.

Valerie Kaur is a civil rights leader and founder of The Revolutionary Love Project. She is also the author of See No Stranger. The Revolutionary Love Project “envisions a world where love is public ethic and shared practice in our lives and politics.” They generate stories, tools and thought leadership to equip people to practice the ethic of love in the fight for social justice. The Revolutionary Love Project inspires people to build beloved communities where they are. They teach core practices of revolutionary love backed by research and infused with ancestral wisdom. In addition to educational tools, they produce training,  courses, artwork, film, music and mass mobilization that center the voices of BIPOC communities. It is their belief that we can “birth a world where we see no stranger.” 

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Valerie Kaur recently re-released the film, Divided We Fall – Americans in the Aftermath, that was made in 2006 and is just as relevant today. You can see the film for free  and access the Educator’s Guide to the film as well as the Screening and Dialogue Guide at valeriekaur.com. The film apparently toured hundreds of US cities, won international awards and became known as the “go-to documentary on post 9/11 hate crimes.”

Darlings, the tools are out there for those of us who want to be part of re-imagining and birthing a new world. It takes work, a lot of self-study, blood, sweat and tears, but wouldn’t it be worth it if we could play a small part in birthing this new world? What a way to honor and pay homage to our ancestors, those who lost their lives in past wars, on 9/11 and its aftermath!!!  Imagine the world we could create for future generations? And speaking of future generations, what world would you like for them to inherit? What legacy do you want to leave behind? 

It is my hope that this blog has made you pause, think and reflect. Perhaps some of my questions resonated for you? Perhaps you feel inspired by Kerri’s words, feel motivated to read See No Stranger or interested in looking into The Revolutionary Love Project? 

Remember…when faced with a choice, always choose Love over Fear…Love can be a way of life…pure and simple!

May you always lead from the heart…right from the start, JTC

The Power of Resting Radiantly

“I honor and acknowledge my body as the sacred vessel that houses my inner light. I invite deep rest into every cell of my being. I trust that I deserve to be supported, nurtured, and held unconditionally. I know the earth can hold me. “ Tracee Stanley

Greetings, darlings!

It’s been quite a while since my last blog! Last time I wrote was a week before my knee replacement surgery, and here it is 12 weeks post-op today. Woohoo!!! If you missed my previous blog, She Ready, I invite you to go back and read it before you read this one.

Those of you who know me, know that I take prepping and planning for surgery seriously in terms of nutrition, exercise, supplements, tonics, spiritual practices, yoga, meditation and rest. I am the Queen of Rest! Sadly, rest is undervalued in our society; yet, it is what our bodies and brains need to function optimally. Instead, a culture of busyness, burning the candles at both ends, and sheer exhaustion are the badges people wear as signs of success, value and self-worth. Not for me! I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.

Since this was my 6th orthopedic surgery (the 4th in nine years), I know a thing or two about prepping my mind, body and spirit for the assault and trauma this type of surgery inflicts on the body. With each surgery I’ve had, my prepping and planning have been key. However, this time around I took it to another level. Little did I know what the practice of Yoga Nidra was about to do for me!

Back in March, I received Tracee Stanley’s book, Radiant Rest. From the moment I started it, I referred to that book as my forever companion. That is how powerful, transformative, soothing, and nurturing this book is! And the practices??? They just speak for themselves! Allow me to share an amazing experience I recently had.

I have been doing 2-3 yoga nidra practices daily since receiving Radiant Rest back in March. Mind you, I had not yet scheduled my surgery at this point. It wasn’t until the first week in April that I did so.

In addition to these practices, I’was doing daily yoga practices- which were primarily restorative and yin- just before bed. Meditation, journaling, prayer, hydration, nourishing food, music and mantra, rest, sleep, quiet and stillness have been my non-negotiables for years now. Hence, why I am the queen of rest…wink, wink. These practices soothe my nervous system and keep me grounded, rooted and resourced. Consistent yoga nidra practices have been the icing on the cake though!

On May 11th, the morning of the surgery, I was up in the wee hours (3AM), I did my meditation, called in my ancestors, elders, saints, Goddesses, etc… took a shower which was then followed by the Waves of Aum yoga nidra practice, as well as a short yoga and prayer practice, a dance party with Pitbull for one and off to the hospital I went.

I was as ready as ready can get when I walked through those doors and down into the pre-surgical holding area. I walked in, head high, back straight knowing my posse of benevolent beings were right behind me. I was relaxed, surrounded by light and held by all those divine beings, Oh, and I wore a crown headband my soul sister, Kat, had given me. It made a big hit  with the nurses to say the least. Like I shared with them- we must always celebrate life and find joy in even the difficult times.

So when the time came, I walked into the operating room, was introduced to everyone, thanked everyone and hopped onto the table. As I was being hooked up to everything, I was doing my own guided practice. I swear I was already into the void even before the spinal tap needle went into my body. I even had a smile on my face as I sat up and bent over.

Surgery went well, I felt great afterwards, ate up a storm, PT and OT had me up and walking and going up stairs within the hour of being brought to my room. Now…here is where it gets really fascinating and why I wanted to share my experience with you. 

Since my body is sensitive to pain medications, I was given Tramadol because it’s not a  heavy narcotic. By 7PM I was ready for sleep, yet all I could do was watch each hour on the clock pass by. Needless to say, I did NOT sleep a wink all night!!!! At around 3AM I googled the damn thing only to learn that Tramadol causes insomnia.

Darlings, I ask you this: If you know someone has a sensitive system, especially because they do not take medicine, why on earth would you give them something that may cause insomnia??? Did the nurse on that shift even know of its potential side effects??? I think not. By the time she changed my meds, the damage had been done…yikes!!!

Mind you, sleep is sacred to me. As I previously mentioned, sleep is one of my non-negotiables. However, I know the reason I wasn’t trashed, exhausted, depleted or wiped out the day after surgery was because I spent the entire night with Tracee Stanley’s soothing voice in my ear….I lost count as to how many yoga nidra practices I did along with other meditations and post-surgery meditations. While I only got about an hour sleep around 5 in the morning, my mind and body were TOTALLY RESTED! The beloved Yoga NIdra Goddess held, soothed, and sustained me. Every cell of my being was rested, supported, and nurtured. I hope you can appreciate how deeply powerful this practice can be!

In addition to my daily practices, I had also been using Tracee Stanley’s Empowered Life Oracle Cards. They are a deck of self-inquiry cards which I use daily after my morning yoga nidra practice. If you follow my blog, or have read some of my essays, you know how much I love me some self-inquiry and inner-investigation!

I pull a card every morning before I even get out of bed, so my journaling is usually rich in content and filled with early morning downloads. I knew I was prepping for my surgery the best way I know how, but these yoga nidra rituals took that preparation to another level! My clarity, connection to source and intuition have  been so on point! I’ve never felt so relaxed,  restored and radiantly rested! And, yes, I continue these practices because the body needs rest in order to heal!

The increase in physical activity, walking, physical therapy, and exercises multiple times a day is exhausting! And if there is anything I have learned over the years, it is to honor and meet my body where it is! Doing so is grace. It is respect. It is discernment. It is self-worth. It is self-love. It is self-care. It is care for the self. It is our birthright. It is peace.

I actually emailed Tracee with my experience- much of which is included in this blog- and I was blown away when she responded. I felt so honored and grateful for her response!

Darlings, I encourage you to share you experiences. with authors, spiritual teachers, mentors, etc. for it’s important for us to share our stories of how they’ve inspired us, motivated us, served us or how they have impacted our lives. And let me take a moment to thank those of you who leave a comment or reach out to me and share how a particular blog has impacted you. Merci! Gracias! Grazi! Obrigado! Thank you!

As Tracee shared in one of her posts, “Maybe you feel like you’ve lost that part of yourself under all of life’s overwhelming demand. But yogic wisdom tells us that the thriving, vibrant radiance is who we are, and it is eternal; it is a light that never goes out.”

Darlings, may you always know how vast your being-ness is and that your creativity, inspiration, and potential are boundless. May you find and tap into practices that remind you of your greatness and how much your gifts are needed in this world. May radiant rest be your north star!

May you always lead from the heart…right form the start, JTC

She Ready…

“Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.” Maya Angelou

She ready…not to be confused with the Netflix comedy by the same name. When I say “She,” I mean Me.

Ready for what you may ask? Well… I mean ready for life. The quality of life that comes when you finally make the decision to have your knee replaced after four, long, agonizing years of pain, being able to do less and less, being limited to the activities you do, how much time you spend on your feet, how far you walk, and being kept from truly savoring and enjoying the juicy life you are used to living.

You see, having a high tolerance for pain can be a double edge sword. I’ve been so used to body pain since I’m 15 years old that, with each orthopedic surgery, I’ve become accustomed to tolerating excruciating pain- unbeknownst to others because I’m not the type to bitch and moan. This is not to say that you may not be aware I’m in pain, but most people in my world have no idea the level of pain I’ve tolerated since I needed my first orthopedic surgery at 15….I am now a young 62 and resilient AF!

The decision to undergo a 6th orthopedic surgery did not come easily. However, when I look back at 2020 and everything that brought me to the decision to have surgery, I can connect the dots and see how, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was prepping my nervous system for the assault, beating and trauma my body will take. As I stated earlier though…She Ready!

Since the beginning of the pandemic/lock down, I’ve spent a lot of time studying, learning and expanding my knowledge on trauma and resilience, It has included all kinds of trauma and the effects of it on the body and on the nervous system. It all started with a trauma informed yoga training I did which deepened my understanding on the numerous types of trauma that imprint themselves in the body, how the body keeps score and our responses to trauma. I’m not going to get into all of that because I’ve written blogs in the past of how our issues are in the tissues, and have even included some resources, etc. etc. Remember, sharing is caring!

Needless to say, my thirst to understand all kinds of trauma and causes of trauma; especially raced-based trauma, generational trauma, inherited trauma, cumulative trauma, developmental trauma, shock trauma, the vagus system, and responses to trauma was heightened. I’ve taken a deep dive into all kinds of books, stories, podcasts, webinars and summits solely centered around the personal experiences of black bodies of culture. With the exception of a handful of books written by white authors, all the books I’ve been reading since last year have been written by black and brown people of color. That was, and continues to be, an intentional decision on my part.

So what does all this have to do with making the decision to have surgery yet again? Well, my studies have also had me very focused on the effects of trauma on one’s nervous system- and regulating my own nervous system- especially in light of the collective trauma we have been experiencing as a global family. In addition to deeply resting, which is a practice in and of itself (more on that in my next blog), I have utilized all my tools and practices daily, without fail, and that has kept me deeply rooted, grounded, resourced, relaxed, rested, non-reactive and connected to Source…the whisper in my ear, the love in my heart and the spiritual GPS at the core of my being.

There’s no place for fear here: Faith/Love over Fear…always and in all ways!

Learning to listen to your body is a practice. I’ve learned to drop into my body, its sensations and what this intelligence is telling me. This inner-knowingness, this faith, conviction and connection to the divine never steers me wrong. On the contrary, when I haven’t listened to that whisper, things go awry. Like Lady O says, “First comes the whisper, then the nudge, then the rock, then the brick and then the brick wall.”

Darlings, we cannot ignore our connection, guidance and direction to that which is greater than us. I totally realize that what works for me may not work for you. But that’s where boundaries and discernment come into play and fear mongers are kept at bay.That’s where focus comes into play and allow it to guide your way. What we choose to focus on greatly influences and determines the quality of our lives, the quality of our decision-making and, ultimately, our peace of mind. Personally, I do not make decisions from a place of fear. Been there, done that and nothing good has ever come of it!

It was that connection to Source that awakened me in the wee hours one morning and clearly directed me to cancel a much-needed R&R trip to Florida (aka my beloved Hollywood Riviera) and move up my surgery. I was truly looking forward to lounging and soaking up sun, swimming everyday, spending time with my cousins and close friends, getting a little pet therapy and even attending a wedding. However, the message I received was loud and clear! It also echoed what I already knew and what some of my closest peeps had already articulated to me.

You see, I’m the first one to always tell everyone that we must take care of our Self FIRST. That we are no good to anyone else if we don’t put ourselves first. That quality of life needs to inform our decisions. That we must always listen to our bodies. Well…..I guess you can say that I was fed a hefty dose of my own medicine…wink, wink.

As of this writing, I am 8 days away from having my knee replaced- and fortunately it’s not on the same side that has already endured five surgeries and all the trauma and long-term effects they’ve had on me. I am actually looking forward to being on the other side of this, You see, when you’re bone-on-bone, no amount of PT, anti-inflamatory, injections, exercise, massage, CBD, etc., will alleviate the pain. The pain will continue to worsen-as it has. The beauty with surgery is that surgical pain has a beginning and an END date!

Pain robs a person of so many things including their motivation and inspiration. I’d like to say that my studies have kept me from blogging, that I want to be intentional with what I blog about, that I’ve been enjoying spending time on the Jersey Shore, or that I’ve been very engaged celebrating life. While there is some semblance of truth to all of that, I believe that the primary reason I have not blogged in months is attributed to finding out in January that I needed surgery- as well as the escalating pain which, to some degree, also zapped me of my own motivation and inspiration. I was stuck in that pain vortex which zaps your spirit and your energy.

But now…She Ready…more than ready!

My choice is to let love guide the way….always and in all ways!

She Ready…Ready to reclaim my life, my power, my purpose and my joy!!!

Lead from the heart…Right from the start! JTC

PS. Here’s an affirmation from yesterday’s Wayne Dyer calendar: “I’m here on purpose, I can accomplish anything I desire, and I do it by being in harmony with the all pervading creative force in the universe “

Sharing Love

“The chance to love and be loved exist wherever you are.”

So does the opportunity to share the love others put out there. And that is precisely what I’ve chosen to do on this Valentine’s Day 2021. As I read Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper just now, I realized that all the sentiments she expressed resonated for me. I could not have written it any better!

So… in the spirit of caring, sharing and loving on this Valentine’s Day 2021, I’ve decided to share Maria Shriver’s essay, titled “Rest in Love.” I realize some of you may already subscribe to The Sunday Paper. In that case, read no further. Just know I’m sending you BIG love from my heart to yours.

I hope Maria’s essay lands just where it needs to land on this day…. right smack in your heart space. I invite you to have a journal or something to write on so that you can reflect on the essay and write about the feelings, emotions, experiences, memories, dreams, hopes, sensations and intentions that may have arisen as you read. Here goes….

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Does hearing that make you smile, or does it make you weep? Are you looking forward to today, or are you mad that you aren’t where you want to be when it comes to love? If your answer is the latter, let’s take a walk (not a real one, of course, although I’d love that). Let’s take a moment to simply connect and be.

After all, that’s what love is really all about. It’s about being wholly yourself with another human and feeling loved for who you are. It’s not about a fancy dinner, a piece of jewelry, flowers, sex, or chocolates. Don’t get me wrong, those things are great, but they don’t define love on their own.

Love is deep. It’s varied. It’s complex and yet also simple. It’s romantic but also platonic. It can fill your heart up, and it can break it into a thousand little pieces.

I’ve learned a lot about love over the years—what it is and isn’t—and much of what I’ve learned has come from a painful place. That said, it’s all helped me get to a more loving space in my life.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

Love is about acceptance. It’s not about changing someone to fit your needs.

Love is about feeling fully seen and understood. It’s also about loving yourself deeply and wholly first. Don’t try to alter yourself to gain love. It doesn’t work.

I wish I’d known about all the different love languages (they are really important and useful). I wish I’d known that every single person speaks love differently and needs something different from you. Challenge yourself to learn the love language of the people in your life.

I wish I’d known the importance of clearing up and cleaning up your attachment issues before you unconsciously throw them onto someone who has no idea what they are responsible for.

I wish I’d known that love can go slow. It doesn’t have to be fast, exciting, or on the edge. As a friend once said to me, contentment is underrated.

I wish I’d known that some people simply want to rest in love. They just want to be, not do. Be courageous enough to rest with love.

I wish I’d known that a deep friendship and a deep love can go together. I wish I’d known that conflict was inevitable in love, and that learning how to argue effectively is an art form that can actually bring people together.

I wish I’d known that everyone has triggers, and everyone has trauma. Be informed about both, otherwise you are going to keep tripping on land mines.

To be good at love you have to be courageous enough to apologize. Ask for forgiveness. You have to make your relationship a priority. Get good at continuing to make it so.

And, if you come to find yourself feeling less than, gaslit, or scared, know that is not love. Value yourself enough to get up and go even if you don’t know where you are going. And if you are scared to leave for any reason, seek help.

I wish I’d been better prepared for the ups and downs of love and life. Actually, it turns out I was prepared. I just didn’t know it.

When it comes to love, I feel like I’ve learned a lot and like I’ve also learned nothing at alI. I feel like I’m really good at it, even though I’ve made mistakes. Today, my eyes are wide open to love. I see love in me that I never saw before. That makes me happy.

I also see it in people and places I never even noticed before. That makes me grateful. My heart, though bruised, is also wide open. Leonard Cohen wrote that the cracks are what allow the light to get in. I would add that the cracks are what allows the love to get in as well.

Not too long ago, I had a dream that had a profound impact on me. I was out in The Open Field. I was very much alive, and music was playing. I was happy. I was dressed like I was in high school, which is to say like a flower child. I was surrounded by people who have loved me, and even those who have broken my heart. I went to each person and thanked them for being there. I thanked them for loving me, supporting me, and teaching me what I needed to learn. I told them how grateful I was for the love and the lessons. To me, the fact that they were in my dream signaled that the love we shared was still there. It signaled that love had endured even though I didn’t think that it had.

I also took a moment to apologize to those who loved me that I couldn’t love back. I was struck by that; sometimes you can’t love someone who loves you, and sometimes someone you love can’t love you back. It’s usually for a whole bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with you. Remember that.

I’m sharing this with you now just in case you find yourself alone today. Just in case you find yourself dealing with a broken heart today. Just in case you don’t have a date tonight. (I don’t either, lol.)

You see, I believe that everyone who ever loved me, and who ever loved you, still does. That’s true regardless of whether they are still around or not. Their love lives on in you.

That’s the thing about love. The person who loved you may no longer be here. They may have broken your heart, ghosted you, or passed away. But the memory of how you felt when it was good, when your heart felt full, that’s yours. They can’t take that away. You can bring that forth any time you want. You can make your heart feel full even if they are no longer looking into your eyes.

And if you find yourself today still in the midst of a relationship that is challenging or traumatic, then give yourself extra love. If you want to leave, know that you have the strength to do so. Dig deep. You can find it. I know that when things are bad, it can be hard to see the way out. But get quiet and ask yourself what you need. Maybe it’s the courage to speak up, or maybe it’s help from someone else. Believe that you can get there. You can.

So on this day when the world is celebrating what feels like one kind of love, go easy and know that love doesn’t only come in one shape or size. If you don’t have a valentine, don’t despair. Be open today to other gestures of love. Let them in. If someone tells you today that you have made them feel loved—a friend, a child, whomever—let it land. That’s love too.

And if you are in love, if you have your person, count your blessings. Celebrate what you have and be gentle with it because love is so very fragile. It’s the greatest gift of all, and nothing else compares. That’s the truth.

Today, also be mindful of what you say to yourself. Be kind, be loving, and focus on filling your heart up. That’s not someone else’s job. It’s your own. Don’t worry about the cracks. Those that love the best have lots of cracks. Those that love the best have told me there’s no one big secret to enduring love. It’s just lots of little decisions and choices along the way that keep you in conversation, in connection, in commitment, in forgiveness, and in acceptance.

Know that you are worthy of being loved fully, wholly, and completely until the end of God’s time. Believe me, it’s true. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Reverence and Radical Self-Awareness

“Your crime lies in your ignorance.” Cicely Tyson

Greetings, darlings, and happy almost Valentine’s Day!

This time last year, which seems like a lifetime ago, I was up at Kripalu in MA for several days of self-care, yoga, meditation, music, dance, and continued learning. As a matter of fact, I intentionally planned that little retreat as a Valentine’s Day gift to my Self. I finally put gift certificates I had received for my birthday, the previous October, to good use!

Little did I know that, within weeks, everything was going to shut down due to the global pandemic and the art of quarantining becoming a “thing.” Little did I know that the days I spent at Kripalu were the launching pad for a 2020 filled with lessons and blessings of all kinds. That stay at Kripalu, and our subsequent “stay at home” mandate propelled me into a year of continued learning and personal growth. If you know me, follow my blog, or just happened to come across it, you know I’m all about the learning, inspiring, having a growth mindset and a commitment to self-inquiry and inner-investigation.

So… it should not have come to any surprise how my 2021 started. I knew “Reverence” would be my word for 2021 and, therefore, I had to take a deep dive into the reverence and sacredness of ALL things….my thoughts, actions, choices, decisions, practices, habits. It called for radical self-awareness. And what better way to delve into all it than to go back to Yoga’s roots, its history and philosophy!

Given the state of our world and all of us being called to unite to “help heal the soul of our nation,” it only seemed the logical thing to do. After all, the healing, revolution and evolution must first start within each and every individual! As with all things divinely ordained, a long time mentor and yoga teacher, whose online yoga community I’m part of, started our 2021 practice with weekly themes based on the ethical precepts of yoga philosophy otherwise known as the Yamas.

This is just what I needed! The 4 weekly classes and monthly processing call with Seane Corn offered us an invitation to deeply explore these principals. True to form, she also offered questions for us to explore and work on (often times when we were holding poses)- which I will share with you in a bit. Because you know how I feel about sharing. Sharing is caring…wink, wink.

You see, you don’t have to be a yogi to explore, employ and embrace these practices. They are simply ethical principles which guide us in how we relate to ourselves, others, our actions, thoughts, speech, the world, our planet and all sentient beings.

The purpose of this blog is to invite you to do some of your own radical self-awareness. Perhaps inspire you to look at ways you’re living and contributing, or not, to unity, peace, equity, justice, and healing our individual and collective souls.

My intention is not to go into the deep teachings of each of The Yamas, but to simply list them and some of their meaning and provide you with self-reflection questions. You can investigate them on your own with just a few clicks on your keyboard.

Ahimsa – Non-violence, non-injury, do no harm, loving-kindness, compassion for all beings:

What negative self-talk or unkind messages do you tell yourself each day?

Have you engaged in hurtful, harmful, judgemental, or negative talk, including gossip, to someone behind their back? Can you name a recent event where words or action caused harm?

Does your interaction with the physical world create harm or suffering? What about the food you consume, products you use, or the impact your diet has on our animal friends?

Do you watch movies, or read social media, or books that cause stress, fear, or frustration and perpetuate feelings of lack, comparison, or not enough-ness? How does this impact your well-being?

Satya- Truthfulness, right communication, honesty in behavior and thought:

Where are you with your integrity? With your truth?

In what areas of your life are you being dishonest and out of integrity?

How does truth inform your choices?

How do non-truths perpetuate harm? In what unconscious ways do you perpetuate harm?

What would it mean to live in truth and in love? What would need to shift within yourself for that to happen?

Asteya- Non-stealing, non-covetousness, not taking what isn’t freely given:

Where do feelings of “not-enoughness” show up in your life?

How are you robbing yourself of joy, contentment, or peace by playing small, negating or minimizing your talents or skills, or by overextending yourself?

How are you stealing from yourself or others by taking more than you need, including resources, time, money, food, attention, or even credit for ideas or visons that may belong to someone else?

In what ways do you steal from this world by not showing up fully as the authentic person you truly are?

Do you know what cultural appropriation is? And for yogis out there, how does Asteya apply to cultural appropriation and yoga?

How have we stolen from the oppressed to enhance the dominant culture? How have we benefited from it? Exploited it?

Brahmacharya- Moderation in our actions, turning inward, dedicating our energies to both our inner and outer work in the world, merging with the God consciousness and the Divine:

Since we went into lockdown this past year, what are some of the ways you have experienced excessive or indulgent behavior? It it in your sleep patterns, eating habits, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, TV, screen time, online shopping…?

What would happen if you chose one of these behaviors and committed to doing a “detox” for the next week?

Where do you experience a sense of lack or not enough-ness? Is it material? Physical? Since COVID, did a sense of lack show up in your need to stock up on toilet paper, can goods, hand wipes, etc.? How did you respond to that feeling of lack? What are other examples of lack in your life and your response to them?

Excess can include overthinking, overworking and over-consuming: things that our US culture often values above moderation and balance. Who would you be if you slowed down? How would that affect your identity? Where dod you learn that more was better?

Aparigraha- Non-grasping, non-greediness, non-possessiveness, non-attachment:

How do your wants differ from your needs?

Do you really need more things? If yes, what do you actually need? What are the things that bring you joy, and is this happiness fleeting or sustainable? Do you need more to sustain your joy?

Do you live minimally and sustainable, or do you covet and hoard? Is you stuff important to you?

In what areas of your life are you accumulating “things” just for the sake of having? What would it feel like to declutter you life and give things away or get rid of them?

Do you have a fear of losing what you appreciate and cherish? Do you cling to things too tightly?

How can you be more balanced and judicious in how much you take, use and keep?

Do you sometimes overeat, over-consume, overthink, overwork and how does this make you feel? How do any of these impact your identity or your attachment to how you are perceived by other people?

What limiting beliefs do you have and what is your attachment to these narratives? These include resentment towards other people. What would you experience if you could let go of these resentments? How has it served you to stay stuck in the story and unwilling to see a bigger picture as to why things unfolded as they did?

What does aparigraha mean to you and why is it a restraint? How does practicing non-grasping, non-possessiveness, non-attachment deepen our relationship to the Divine and move us towards liberation?

Darlings, there’s a whole lot of food for thought here! For me, this was the reset and focus I needed in my quest to bring more reverence and radical self-awareness to 2021.

There’s no excuse for ignorance or not doing better when we know better. Not in today’s world and not with all the available resources we have at our disposal….many of which are free!

I hope that in some way, shape, or form this blog has helped or inspired you. I hope it has got your wheels spinning or lit a fire under you. I hope you feel compelled to determine what radical self-awareness means to you and make a commitment to honor it. Lastly, I hope that you share this with anyone you feel could use it.

In closing, I will leave you with this beautiful and appropriate quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers gave birth to them, but…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

May we continue to rebirth ourselves and move forward with reverence and radical self-awareness so that we may heal our souls and the soul of our nation! JTC

Hello 2021

“What in your life is calling you, when all the noise is silenced, the meetings adjourned…the lists laid aside, and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest… what still pulls your soul?” Rumi

Happy New Year, darlings!

If you’re like most people I know, the general sentiment regarding this new year is that we are ready for change. A change that includes hope, kindness, compassion, empathy, peace, unity, community, a reverence and respect for all of humanity and, above all, love.

The thing is that it all starts with each and every single one of us. You know the saying (which happens to be my guiding principle) “Be the Change”…. whatever we want to see in the world, we must actively, consciously, and wholeheartedly expect that from ourselves first. We have to transform from within.

In order to do so, we must fully and consistently come home to ourselves. All it takes is the willingness to sit, be still and listen to the wisdom of our hearts. If the question, “What still pulls at your soul?” is too esoteric then…..

Here are 3 simple questions to ponder:

What do I know how to do?

Where is the need in my community?

What can I do?

These 3 simple questions are a way to guide every step of your journey. It’s an outlook to have, and intention with which to greet each new day and, more importantly, a way to inspire, love, serve. The answers your heart delivers will be sure to include the hope, kindness, compassion, empathy, peace, unity, community, a reverence and respect for all of humanity and, above all, the love we are all craving in 2021.

If you missed my previous blog, Dear 2020, I encourage you go back and read it. I believe (or so I’ve been told) it captured the shared essence of 2020. Looking back on it now, I think it will also provide an opportunity to see the multiple blessings we were gifted despite a year of collective grief, loss, violence, trauma, and heartbreak. It allows us to find meaning in the mess of it all. Above all, it also opens a window into the many areas of life, society and humanity that need our light, our gifts, talents, and expertise. Dear 2020 may also give you insight as to what you can do and how you can do 2021.

Yesterday, New Year’s Day, I took a gentle yin yoga class on YouTube with Kassandra. Throughout the practice and with each asana/pose, she gives an affirmation and prompts you to explore how it resonates for you. Typically, New Year Resolutions fall by the wayside by February. I believe affirmations and mantras are a more practical and meaningful way to approach each day. After all, each day is full of opportunities for us to show up for ourselves, others and to inspire, love and serve.

As I looked over them when I sat down to write this blog, I felt inspired to share the affirmations with you for they may inspire you in some way, shape of form in this new year, and you know how much I value inspiration of all kinds! Here goes:

I release the past and joyfully welcome in the new year.

My priorities are crystal clear.

I am a force of good in the world.

My potential is endless.

My life is full of prosperity and abundance.

I dedicate my time to what matters most to me.

I am self-motivated and full of energy.

As I look back on my year, I am deeply proud of myself.

I allow myself to dream big.

I easily balance work and play.

I look forward to the future.

If you enjoy yoga, or are new to the practice, Yoga with Kassandra has all sorts of practices- from simple 15 minute stretches to longer practices. She also has some short meditations as well. Overall, there’s something for everyone and for every body. Oh, and she has a lovely, soothing voice!

Darlings, I wish us all a 2021 that fills our hearts and souls with a sense of purpose, inspiration and all sorts of post-traumatic growth. May these affirmations give us a sense of clarity, direction and guide and direct us. May we all leap into this new year with a sense of hope, joy, wonderment and magic….the kind of magic that takes our breath away! May we live with intention each and every single day of 2021.

Lead form the heart…Right from the start! JTC

Dear 2020

The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.” James E. Faust

Oh what a year you’ve been, 2020!!!

You’ve slammed us, ripped us open, turned us upside down and inside out and brought us to our knees. You’ve presented us with unimaginable challenges, unfathomable heartbreaks, traumatizing losses and left us no other option than to reframe, realign and find meaning in the mess of it all.

The stars, astrologers and sages alike told us you’d be bringing us a year filled with much needed change, shifts, awareness, truth, revelation, tumultuous emotions, enlightenment, new paradigms, realignment of values and beliefs, reframing of perspectives….the list can go on and on. I guess you did not disappoint on that front. Are congratulations in order, 2020?

In a nutshell, 2020, you have made us re-evaluate every single facet and aspect of our lives. You’ve made us look into the dark corners and crevices of our being. On the bright side- because there is always a bright side- deeper, more meaningful relationships, friendships, and creative ways of being, living, loving, working, parenting, playing, learning, celebrating and grieving have been at the core of you.

You’ve led many to life-altering revelations and the freedoms and liberations that only come from our own dark night of the soul and the excavation that comes with it. This work isn’t easy, 2020, and you know it. Perhaps that’s why you did what you did? Perhaps there were so many of us so asleep, disconnected, disassociated, numbed, clueless, ignorant and walking through life like a zombie that we needed to feel and experience your wrath?

Through it all, 2020, you’ve given us opportunity after opportunity to open our hearts to love and open our eyes to see….to truly see!

You’ve made us angry, sad, distraught, question, analyze, reason, doubt, observe, value, appreciate, and connect with ourselves AND our shared human experience like never before in the history of humanity. You’ve made us repeatedly pivot. You’ve tested our patience, beliefs, resilience and faith. You’ve taught us the importance that letting go, change and impermanence play in our lives and mental and emotional well-being. You’ve shown us our unconscious biases and internalized racism. You’ve exposed the faulty cracks in our foundation. You’ve made us unlearn only to continuously learn again and again.

The Great Reset; The Reckoning; those are but only two of the monikers you’ve been given, 2020. I personally don’t find them offensive, do you? After all, you’ve been showing us for years that we’ve needed a reckoning. You have sent us wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, demonstrations, protests, mass shootings, a global pandemic, quarantine, a presidential election unlike any other in the history of the United States (just to name a few) and exposed bullies, modern day lynchings, corruption, abuses of all kinds and white supremacists. You’ve made people speak truth to power, exposed the ills of greed, racism, oppression, human/sex trafficking, and have even made people take hoarding to another level. You’ve made us look at marginalized communities in a different light and shown us the difference between equity and equality, fairness and justice, and the oppressor and the oppressed.

How about all the trauma, 2020? All the PTSD that will change people’s lives in ways yet to be imagined? The healing that has yet to occur? The businesses and jobs lost? People’s livelihood? The people that have been suddenly taken from our lives in epic numbers? The people who died alone? The families that were unable to be by their loved one’s side? The millions of people affected by these deaths? Are you done with us yet?

However, one of your miracles, 2020, is how you have made people come together to help those in need. You’ve put faces to names by showing us essential and front line workers who’ve been taken for granted in the past. Everyday, ordinary people from all walks of life, artists, actors, writers, musicians, entertainers, chefs, lawyers, sports figures, health and wellness professionals, mentors, and even young children have been stepping up to help others. Now that’s a beautiful thing!

Through it all, 2020, you’ve shown us new ways to be hopeful, humble, thankful and grateful. You’ve shown us to have reverence for Mother Earth and her native people. You’ve implored us to value and appreciate people of all backgrounds, different heritages, cultures, races, color, and gender and to put judgement aside. Judge less and love more seems to be your mantra! The realization that we are more alike than we are different has even been demonstrated by geneticists and agencies such as Ancestry and 23 and Me.

You’ve given us opportunity after opportunity to be accountable for how we show up for ourselves, our communities and how we show up in the world…the importance of human dynamics and interpersonal relationships. And let us not forget the importance of creativity, innovation and Post-Traumatic Growth you’ve been nudging- no scratch that- forcefully pushing us towards by way of our own personal expansion and receptiveness. Time and time again, you’ve shown us what it means to be kind, compassionate and have empathy. Like Ellie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate and activist is known for saying, “Even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.”

You’ve worked me, 2020, and I’ve worked you. I’m not the same person I was back in March. I’m tapping into the post-traumatic growth mindset as much as I can! It’s something I’ve always done and will always do. I’m actually looking forward to where this post-2020 journey takes me and the infinite possibilities that await to inspire, love, and serve.

Being the perpetual, self-proclaimed gratitude junkie that I am, I’m thankful for your lessons and blessings, but I can’t say I’m going to miss you. I think it’s time for your final curtain call….take a bow and exit stage left. However, the realist in me tells me that you may have just been a dress rehearsal for what awaits in 2021. Hmmm….

See ya 2020….

Are You Grieving?

“Grief is varied and unpredictable. Grief may bring surprises. No two people grieve the same, even for the same death. We each experience grief in our own unique way.”

Greetings my darlings,

Regardless of you are on this planet, I think we can all say that 2020 has brought with it much loss in the way of unprecedented deaths due to the pandemic. On top of other loved ones dying as a result of unrelated illnesses, accidents, etc., pandemic related deaths seem to have left everyone with an overwhelming magnitude of grief and trauma that will will no doubt be triggering as we move into the holidays.

Holidays are always difficult when you’ve lost someone. And especially difficult is the “first” of any holiday without that person. As adults, we sometimes forget that children and teens grief too, and it may look very different than the way we are grieving. Overall, grief has it’s own way with each and every individual. It has its own timeline, it’s varied, unpredictable and life-altering.

If you know me or follow my blog, you know that I am a HUGE self-care advocate. As one of my lovely soul sisters told me the other day, “You play hard and self-care hard.” Indeed! I think that’s an accurate depiction of me.

As with all things divinely ordained, I happened to come across a booklet I picked up when arranging some funeral details with a family member a few years ago. I happened to open up to the page on tips for grieving people, which then was the inspiration for this blog. Since we are heading into the holidays, I thought I’d share these tips with you:

Self-Care:

Comfort yourself with nourishing foods.

Surround yourself with pleasing sights and calming sounds.

Limit caffeine, alcohol and other mind-altering substances.

Develop an evening routine to help transition toward to sleep; create a comfortable place to rest.

Learn about the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of grief so that you can accept and adapt to your current limitations.

Recall your special qualities that endeared you to your loved one.

Keep a journal of your activities, thoughts, feelings and dreams.

Listen to your favorite music; do something creative.

Activity Level:

Engage in mild exercise such as walking, swimming or biking.

Carry out fulfilling activities when you can tolerate them.

Start slowly; set minimal goals; pay attention to fatigue and emotional limitations.

Directly discuss your work concerns/limitations with a supervisor.

Resist making major changes right away.

Adjust expectations of yourself and others.

Let others know that you may need to leave early from a social event or decide not to come at all.

When it feels right, find new activities or make new friends.

Support from Others:

Keep in touch with supportive people; unburden yourself with people you trust who can offer “receptive presence.”

Seek others with whom you can share memories of your loved one.

Structure some time alone to be in touch with yourself.

Limit contact with those who are less than supportive.

Let others know specifically how they can help.

Join a bereavement group where others can relate to what you are experiencing.

Seek a grief counselor if you think this might be helpful.

Seek the spiritual care you need from a designated person in your spiritual community.

Relating to Other Family Members:

Give one another time and space to allow each to react in his or her own way.

Avoid engaging in conflict. If there are differences among you, trust you’ll gradually find firmer ground with each other.

Commemorative Activities:

Recall your loved one’s values, principles or ways of doing things.

Continue to do things and repeat traditions you did with your loved one, as you’re able.

Start new traditions and rituals at holidays and other special times.

Support projects or good works in your loved ones name and let his or her spirit live through your actions.

Carry out plans you weren’t able to complete together.

Affirm the meaning of your loved one’s life by recording memories of who he or she was and will always be.

Visit the cemetery and talk with your loved one.

Continuing the Bond:

Intentionally saver pleasurable memories. By remembering, actively call your loved ones presence to mind and heart.

When feeling uncertain, listen for what your loved one would say and how he or she would affirm your accomplishment.

Ask for guidance from your loved one. Take comfort in knowing you rely on his or her continuing influence.

Find ways to include your loved one in your day – by preparing a favorite dish, going someplace to enjoy together, etc.

Examine any “unfinished business” with your loved one by talking it out with a trusted friend, faith practitioner or counselor.

Write a letter to your loved one, sharing things you would like to have said before the death.

Finally, remember to tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can today.“

It is my heartfelt wish that you have found some level of comfort and/or understanding of the grieving process and that these tips may assist you as you move forward throughout your days.

Darlings, please remember that grief is a process with no expiration date. Being physically and/or socially distanced makes grieving even more challenging and traumatic. Sadly, this is our new reality these days.

As we head into Thanksgiving Week, may we remember to be kind and gentle with ourselves and those around us! JTC

Mirror, Mirror

“Imagine a country whose citizens-maybe even its leaders- are brave, calm, and open towards each other; A country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense.” BR. David Steindl- Rast

Today is Election Day here in the U.S., and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this moment in history that I (and everyone who I reading this) am blessed with being alive to experience. We are all part of history in the making.

I’m not attached to any election outcome. Non-attachment is a Buddhist mindset I’ve learned to cultivate over the years because of the simple fact the attachments lead to suffering. Nonattachment is a practice, and I’m a firm believer that whatever happens is happening for a reason and that life happens FOR us not to us.

I believe the past four years- and especially the past eight months since the pandemic- have held up a mirror to all of us. A mirror to look at the divide and brokenness within ourselves, our own internal biases, prejudices, anger, trauma and see where we can be more compassionate, loving, and accepting. This, of course, is a practice as well.

During these times of uncertainty, the one certainty is that what is occurring in our nation is a direct reflection of the heart and soul of each and every one of us.

As one of my teachers and mentors often reminds us, the times we’ve been living have been challenging us to step fully into all of it: our fear, anxiety, division, and transform that to empathy, compassion, and a deep love of self and of others.

The mirror that is being held up to us is there to truly and deeply examine our own lives, challenges, attachments, privileges, thoughts, actions, entitlements, speech, choices, relationships, beliefs, biases, and the role we are each playing in the healing of humanity and of our planet. I believe the mirror is there for us to deeply examine our own personal integrity and values.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, what will be revealed is the true nature and soul of our country… of its people.

Weeks ago, I came across a post that my neighbor borrowed from a friend- who probably borrowed from a friend, etc., etc. It’s a piece that was written by a President Trump supporter and one that really spoke to me. It speaks to the times we’re living and experiencing- individually and collectively- it speaks to the failure to communicate, to our humanity, integrity, dignity, values, disappointment, reverence for life and the fracture of relationships, friendships and society. I’ve shared it with many friends since having read it, and I’ve come back to it again and again. It’s both haunting and sobering.

So on this Election Day, I will leave you with that post. I don’t know who wrote it or where it originated. All I know is that whomever has shared it has “borrowed it from a friend.”

“I know you think I’m preoccupied with this President; that he is the reason I’m so angry and bitter and frustrated these days—but you’re wrong. This isn’t about Donald Trump.

It’s never been about him.

It wasn’t about him during the campaign or on Election Day.

It wasn’t about him when recordings of him boasting about sexual assaults surfaced.

It wasn’t about him when he said protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up.

It wasn’t about him when he left refugee families stranded at the airport.

It wasn’t about him when he attacked the press.

It wasn’t about him when he sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t about him when he blamed racial violence on “both sides.”

And it isn’t about him today: it’s about us.

This is about me and it’s about you.

It’s about my grief at the ugliness you feel emboldened to post on social media now, the nastiness you seem newly capable of, the disgusting words you now so easily toss out around the dinner table.

It’s about my disbelief at your sudden tolerance for his infidelity, his cruelty, his intellectual ignorance, his immorality, his disrespect for the rule of law, his alliances with dictators — things you once claimed you could never abide in a leader.

It’s about my incredulity at your surprising resentment for marginalized people; for your inability to muster any compassion for those who are hurting or frightened or threatened.

It’s about my disappointment at your easily manipulated nationalistic fervor; how the God and Guns, America First, Love it or Leave it rhetoric, so easily took root in your heart — how hostile to outsiders and foreigners you’ve become.

It’s about my amazement at your capacity to make your faith so pliable, that you could amen a compulsive liar, a serial adulterer, a fear-mongering bully; a man in nearly every way antithetical to the Jesus you’ve always said was so dear to you.

It’s about my sickness seeing you excuse away his coddling of racists, his public attacks on the FBI, his impulsive firings of Cabinet members, his Tweet rants against individual citizens and American companies.

It’s about my grief seeing you respond to his near-hourly display of recklessness and overreach, with a shrug of your shoulders or a turning away from it all.

It’s about me watching you ignore in him and even celebrate in him, the very things you claimed made Hillary Clinton the ‘greater of two evils’ when you voted: blatant corruption, financial impropriety, pathological lies, lack of morality.

It’s about my sadness at seeing you make a million tiny concessions—and how easy it now is for you to consent to actions, that only three years ago you’d have told me fully disgusted you.

Most of all, it’s about me realizing that when all this is over—we are still going to have to deal with all of this. Our fractures are going to outlive this Presidency.

You see, I really don’t give a damn about Donald Trump.

He doesn’t matter to me. He never has.

He’s a three-time married, C-level reality TV celebrity, with a long and well-documented resume of sexual misconduct, financial disasters, and moral filth.

He’s a professional predator who’s spent his life exploiting people for personal gain. That’s who he was before and who he will be when he leaves office.

Donald Trump, the President will be gone one day, and his disastrous Presidency will be well preserved.

History will have documented his every lie, every misdeed, every abuse of power, every treasonous betrayal — and he will be fully revealed as the monster that many of us are fully aware that he is.

That’s not why I am so disgusted and so filled with sadness these days.

I don’t care about Donald Trump because I don’t know or live alongside or love or respect Donald Trump.

I know and live alongside and love and respect you — or at least I once did, and I’m going to have to try and do that again.

Our relationship and our family and our church and our neighborhood and our nation are going to be trying to clean up the messes long after this President is gone.

When this is all over, the divides and the fractures and the wounds between us are going to remain.

This is why I’m angry and bitter and frustrated; not because of Donald Trump — but because of me — and because of you.”

Borrowed from a friend.

Darlings, regardless of the outcome of today’s election, our lives will go on and we all will be faced with letting go, moving on and stepping into our place in our human family, community, and the world with love, peace, intention and purpose. Showing up any other way would be a disservice to humanity. We’ve had many an opportunity for healing ourselves and healing humanity and, if we don’t get this right, this magical universe will continue giving us opportunities to do just that. Let’s work on ourselves, my darlings. Let’s leave the world a better place for future generations. Let’s honor our ancestors and continue the work they started!

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the work to heal the individual and collective fractured divide will continue…. what role will you be playing?

Be well, stay safe and God bless us all!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Birthday Reflections

“ Scorpio is the one sign that can give you sensitivity, moodiness, dominance, stubbornness, advice, laughter, harshness, love… and a headache all in a matter of minutes.”

Yep, that sounds like me and a lot like my fellow Scorpions out there! I saw this posted on my neighbor’s social media, and it got me thinking!

As I look back on my life, the younger me, the older me, and all the different versions of me in between, I see how all of these traits associated with a Scorpio has both helped and hindered me along my path. Would I change any of it? Absolutely and unequivocally not!

The sensitivity has allowed me to feel emotions; moodiness has gifted me with retreating and going within; dominance has allowed me to take charge when no one else does; stubbornness has allowed me to stand up for what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart of hearts; advice is something I give freely to those who come to me for some wisdom; laughter is my go-to medicine for the soul; harshness has allowed me to be critical- especially of myself and holding myself accountable-and has gotten me out of my own way-and, lastly, love has always guided my way- even in the most uncertain of times. Oh, and headaches serve as a reminder I shouldn’t drink red wine. Not all that bad, if you ask me!

As I reflect on my all too quick 62 rotations around the sun, the privilege that I’ve had is something I do not take for granted. The more I learn about White Privilege and this system of White Supremacy we live in, White Feminism, Caste, and how it’s all woven into every single aspect of our life, culture and society, the angrier I get at not having been taught these things in school. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate reality in more ways than I can describe. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I’ve taken learning to another level. The person I was going into this quarantine and the one who is emerging is different and is determining the direction of the next leg of my journey.

I’m very grateful for my parents seeing the communist handwriting on the wall before Castro came into power in Cuba. As a result, they, along with the majority of their siblings, came to the US for a better life, to have more children in some cases, and to give their children more opportunities than they were ever afforded.

My ancestors found their way to Cuba via Portugal and Spain. I only wish I could have met some of them and had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their lives, their traumas, their lived experiences, their wisdom… all things that live in my body and course through my blood.

I’m certain none of them could have imagined this upside down world we are living in. But I do know they, like all of our elders and ancestors, had dreams, aspirations, and things left to do and say when they left this world.

I realize I am the product of their unfulfilled wishes, the dreams they didn’t get to live out, the voice they were unable or not allowed to use, the product of privilege they didn’t have given the times they lived in and the embodiment of a heart overflowing with gratitude each step of the way, each and every day. My attitude of gratitude is what has brought me overwhelming joy, love, and abundance throughout my life…. especially during those dark nights of the soul.

I took a moment this morning to reflect on 62 years of life. I feel very loved, seen and appreciated. For some reason, birthdays get more and more meaningful as the number climbs. The cards I received, the sentiments expressed, and the heartfelt words inscribed have really touched my heart year after year.

This is my 12th birthday without my Mama, and to say that I miss her more each day is an understatement. I realize how lucky I was to have her for almost 50 years of my life. I was an unexpected surprise, and I am grateful that she chose life.

So…..on this day where I find myself reflecting on privileges of all kinds, I am going to share with you yet another handout from the White Conversations class that I took. It’s an activity called Privilege for Sale. It’s an activity that is also a big eye-opener for people who do not understand some of the things that White Privilege affords you, or how you walk through life, if you are white or passing as white.

If you are doing this with a very small group, you may want to each do this activity individually. Obviously, the more people involved, the better able you are to break up into smaller groups and have better conversations and different perspectives.

Before starting the activity, you must put yourself in a mindset of someone having zero privileges whatsoever. Each privilege costs $10 to purchase. As a group, or individual, you will purchase as many privileges as the money you’ve been given allows. It’s up to the facilitator to assign varying budgets- starting with $10- to each group (or individual).

Please note that the phrase “an aspect of your identity “refers to identities including race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity/expression. Identities and privileges represented on this list or by no means exhaustive.

Ready? Here we go…..

  1. Not being subjected to additional scrutiny at school or in your job based on an aspect of your identity.  
  2. Adopting your children. 
  3. Being able to discuss and have access to multiple family planning options. 
  4. Raising children without worrying about state intervention. 
  5. Being accepted by your neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and/or new friends.. 
  6. Going shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed. 
  7. Walking around campus, turning on the television, or opening to the front page of the paper and seeing people like you widely represented. 
  8. Being sure that you or your children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their experience. 
  9. Going into a supermarket and finding the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions.
  10. Not having to educate your children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
  11. Using public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest
  12. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
  13. Having the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of some aspect of your identity.
  14. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical establishments.
  15. Freely being able to discuss your relationship with others. 
  16. If you are assaulted or murdered, an aspect of your identity will not be used as a justification for the crime nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
  17. Having your gender as an option on a form.
  18. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to an aspect of your identity.
  19. Not facing the everyday fear of deportation.  
  20. Expecting to have any/easy access to public transportation, building, parks, and restaurants.  
  21. Being able to plan your day without having to consider health or pain concerns.  
  22. Receiving validation from your religious community. 
  23. If you should need to move, being pretty sure that you will be able to rent or purchase a home in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. 
  24. Being able to go to a doctor visit and have him or her understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  25. Whether using checks, credit cards or cash, you can count on your skin color not working against the appearance of financial reliability. 

Adapted from The Safe Zone Project, http://thesafezoneproject.com/

To say this is a powerful activity is an understatement and would be a disservice to the individual(s) who created it. While there are only 25 privileges listed here, the list can be expanded even more so given the reality of what being born in a body that was not born into a dominant Caste or Race goes through day in and day out of their entire existence.

One thing I know for sure that I will continue learning, especially from BIPOC leaders and teachers, until the moment I take my last breath. My entire life thus far has been around learning, growing, expanding, transforming, loving, inspiring, serving and reflecting…why should it be any different at this age? Our lust for knowledge is something that should only die when we die.

So there you have it…. my birthday reflections. I hope you feel inspired to keep learning, unlearning, becoming and unbecoming. My birthday wish is that you give the White Privilege activity a try and feel compelled to share it with others. It will definitely make for good conversation and inspired action!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC