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

Finding Our Common Ground

Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.” Tom Robbins

Greetings, darlings!

You all know how I love to share. Someone very wise once said to me, “Sharing is caring.” It sure is!

You may also know that I love reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. She usually writes about what she’s been thinking during the past week, and she also shares stories and writings from people she calls Architects of Change.

It’s always an enjoyable read. I look forward to making a cup of tea and reading it first thing Sunday mornings. If for some reason I don’t get around to doing so, then it’s one of the last things I read before turning in for the night.

This past Sunday’s piece really spoke to me. It speaks to differences, kindness, compassion, friendship, love, politics, beliefs, respect, judgement, separation and the insanity of it all. So, in the spirit of caring, I am sharing with you the piece Maria Shriver wrote, Finding Our Common Ground:

We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”

Those were the words that Ellen DeGeneres used to defend herself after people became outraged by a picture of her sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game.

It was, and is, stunning to me that she felt she had to defend herself for sitting next to someone who she considers a friend, but who happens to have different political opinions. I mean, let’s all pause and let that sink in for a moment.

Two people watching a football game. Two people enjoying themselves and their friendship. Two people being kind to each other. That makes people mad?

Are we supposed to only talk to, sit with, and be friends with people who share our exact same opinions about God, country, and politics? Look, I was against the war in Iraq, and I was furious that the Bush administration led us into that years-long battle that took the lives of thousands of young Americans. I know their families will never fully recover. I understand their pain.

I also know that many felt their loved ones gave their lives for their country, and that they take great pride in their service. I also understand that many people — regardless of whether they had a loved one fighting in the war — are still angry that the Bush administration got our country into that situation in the first place.

Still, I worry that most who reacted negatively to Ellen’s picture were only reacting because of their own personal opinions. They couldn’t give her the respect to make her own choice about her beliefs, her friendships, or whom she chooses to spend time with.

These days, people just seem to despise anyone who is not in their political wheelhouse. Can we not be friends with someone from a different political party anymore? Can we not be friends with someone from a different religious background? Can we not be friends with someone who comes from a different walk of life, or who is a different color, or who has different experiences than our own? Is that where we are now as a nation and as people? I fear that for many, the answer is “yes.”

I understand that many are reacting strongly right now because tensions are so high in our nation. A lot of people are hurting, scared, struggling, and worried about where we’re headed next. Many fear the “other” because they view those different than them as a threat to their own lives, futures, and beliefs. But if you ask me, our political problems will only deepen if we all retreat into our own corners.

It’s this kind of thinking that is driving us apart. It’s this that is keeping us apart and preventing our families, our friendships, our politics, and our country from coming together and bridging the divide. It’s this kind of thinking — this kind of judgment — that was hurled at Ellen. This should cause us all to stop and dig deep within ourselves.

Is this really who we want to be? Is this really what we want to teach our children? Is this how we truly feel? I don’t believe it is. I won’t accept it, and I don’t think you should either.

Think about how you feel when hate and judgment are directed your way. Does it make you feel good? Does it make you want to show kindness and love to yourself and others? Of course not.

“When I say be kind to one another, I don’t only mean to people that think the same way that you do,” Ellen also said this week. “I mean be kind to everyone.”

The reaction to Ellen sitting with former President Bush presents us all with a teachable moment. Do we, or do we not, want to be leaders of a movement that fosters kindness, acceptance, compassion, understanding, and love? To be such a leader — to be such a warrior — takes guts. It takes an open heart and an open mind.

It’s easy to spew hate, but it’s also small-minded. It’s easy to post a mean tweet, but it is also cowardly and weak. It’s so easy to criticize and judge, but it’s way harder to love someone who is different than you, or who you think is different than you.

I believe it’s our job right now to try and figure out what we have in common. After all, God only knows we are really good at letting everyone else know how divided we are and how much we don’t have in common.

Maybe we both love football. Maybe we both have issues with our parents. Maybe we both have felt like the “other” at some point in our lives. Maybe we both have felt like we don’t belong and like we must cover up our wounds. Maybe we both feel shame about something that we’ve done wrong and desperately want to right. Maybe we both are worried about the state of our nation’s heart and want to find common ground so we can work together to do better. Maybe, just maybe, Ellen and former President Bush were talking about that.

The fact is, we will never know what we have in common — we will never heal our divide — unless we can agree to sit down next to someone unexpected and begin a friendship. Try it and see how it makes you feel. It just might heal your heart, your world, and our world at large.

If you don’t subscribe to the Sunday Paper, you may want to consider doing so. It is one email I love seeing in my inbox first thing Sunday mornings, and I bet you will too!

So what do you say? Are you up for finding our common ground?

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Disease to Please

“If you have to change the essence of who you are for people, then there is something seriously wrong with that scenario.”

Do I look OK? Am I dressed right? What will he/she think? Why can’t I just be me? What will they think if I pass? What will they think if  I cancel plans? Can I tell the truth? Am I OK? Am I smart enough? Does what I have to say matter? Are they going to think I’m too much? Should I say anything? Should I voice my opinion? What if I can’t bring myself to…? How will  it look if I…?

Sound familiar? It should. After all, these are but a few of a long list of the unhealthy, detrimental and  disempowering questions we tend to ask ourselves over and over again, throughout our life, when we have fallen ill with the disease to please. 

You all know what I’m talking about, right? We’ve all been there. We’ve all succumbed to the perils of insecurity, incessant  thinking/questioning and the often fatal opinion of others. We spend so much of our lives worrying about what other people will have to say about us that we expend unreasonable, unproductive and unhealthy amounts of time and energy being all things but the most important: ourselves.

Over time, all this worrying, pondering and ruminating just serve to cause dis-ease in the body as well as the feeling that we are inept and not enough. It leaves us questioning our worth and our value.

The thing about disease though- if we don’t address the root cause, it will just spread like a malignant tumor.

There comes a point in our lives- and I think it comes with wisdom and life experience (not just book smarts, looks and youth), that we need to periodically take a step back, regroup, reassess, redefine,  and re-establish that essential essence of the magic, divinity and sacredness of who we are. We aren’t here to play small, succumb to bullshit nor people pleasing. We are here to break free of the chains that bind us- the limited and outdated beliefs that hinder us- step into our power and glory, take a hard look in the mirror and proudly say, “This is who I am…I AM supported, connected, one with the power of the universe, love, truth, open to divine wisdom and one with the infinite all, my higher self and angelic guidance.” And so it is!

The thing is that another person’s opinion of us should not be our problem. It’s their problem, and it usually is their problem because of their own unresolved issues that need tending and addressing. We each need to address our own “stuff” and deal with it. We, and only we, can determine when is the time to put that heavy load down.

When we decide to rid ourselves of that heaviness, we open up the space to let the light in. We open up the space for us to look at our issues and deal with them head on by digging deep into all the dark places. Remember… the issues are in the tissues. I actually wrote a blog by that name a while back. Check it out if you think it may serve you.

If we continue to “choose” to carry that weight around, we can rest assured that it will take  a toll on our health. Sleepless nights, irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, rage, resentment, gastrointestinal ailments,  overeating, not eating, high blood pressure, distraction, impatience, headaches, migraines, substance abuse….and just about every other ailment that comes along with not living an authentically beautiful and meaningful life.

Given the times we are living in, and all the divisiveness, separation and brokenness we are seeing around us, we are all being called to be and to give more of ourselves. In a podcast I was listening to, Sheri Slata said something that hit it right on the mark. She said, “Your best contribution to the world is your own happiness.”

We can do so by sharing our reality from the inside out, not the other way around. By digging deep and exploring who we want to be. We can look at who we spend time with, who is our very own circle of influence, and examine our shared values. We can look at the integrity of the lives we are living and analyze if it is in alignment with such values. After all, when we are out of alignment- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually- our bodies will let us know.

It also helps to lean into our circle of friends, our community, sangha, and other trusted advisors to share our journey, tell our story and celebrate the many accomplishments that have brought us to where we are today. When we look back and connect the dots, we can see and appreciate how every single step was orchestrated to get us to where we are standing this very minute.

Where we’re standing may not be the exact place we’d like to be, but there is beauty in appreciating that as well.

Stand tall… and celebrate it all, my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Acting on Assumptions

“I don’t think we can stop making assumptions, or placing people into boxes. What we can do is be aware of the boxes we are placing ourselves and others into. There are good boxes, there are bad boxes, and there are simply ugly boxes. Awareness is the key.”  Runa Magnus leader of #NoMoreBoxes movement

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been engrossed in reading, re-reading, as well as listening, and re-listening to Seane Corn’s new book, Revolution of the Soul, where we are invited to awaken to love through raw truth, radical healing and conscious action. I’ve also been reflecting, diving deeply and journaling the many answers to the numerous, complex and thought-provoking questions that are posed in her book club discussion guide. Whenever I had the time to sit and work on my blog, I was tugged and quietly pulled away only to immerse myself once again in Seane’s words and teachings- with the rawness, sincerity, humor and beauty that only Seane (aka Cici) can deliver.

The other book that tugged at me and read in 2 days (after seeing her on Super Soul Sunday last week) was Chanel Miller’s extraordinary book, Know My Name. True to the words written in the book’s jacket, “Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing.”

Aside from the courage, vulnerability, humility, pain, trauma, truth, broken systems, power dynamics, discrimination, oppression, degradation, privilege, race, conscious activism and social change both authors speak to, I found a common thread to be that of assumptions– and how easily we tend to make them without even noticing- and how destructive and hurtful acting on assumptions can be.

In the fast paced, sensory overloaded, hustle-bustle, burn-out, grind culture we live in where busyness is glorified and romanticized, and 24/7 connectivity, news feeds and sleep deprivation are the norm, it’s easy to get caught up in assuming and judging. Doing so ultimately leads us to putting people into boxes. And when we put people into boxes, we are usually doing so from an unconscious state of being and/or lack of clarity, or from limiting beliefs, prejudices, stereotypes or our own personal and/or cultural belief system. Sound familiar? You are not alone…we are all guilty of doing so.

The key to changing this behavior is to become aware of when we are doing so and being aware of the problems and misunderstandings we create for ourselves and others when acting on assumptions. 

I came across the following questions as I was reading the article, And the assumption is? that was featured in Breathe Magazine (one of my favorites):

  • When did you last find yourself making an assumption about someone?
  • What assumption did you make and why?
  • How did this impact you and your relationship with this person?
  • Would the situation had been different if you hadn’t made an assumption?
  • What will you do differently next time?

Reading and reflecting on these questions will bring to light the times we’ve acted in an unskillful way and/or as a result of our unconscious behavior. These questions offer a portal in which we can peek into our hearts and hold ourselves accountable for the hurt we have caused ourselves and others.

In Revolution for the Soul, Seane poses a powerful question that helps us to become aware of our complicity: How do my own biases and privilege contribute to separation and oppression? 

In the section of her book where she talks about accountability, justice and a call to action, she writes: “The bigger issue is the resistance that those of us with privilege have to looking at how our own behavior and belief systems perpetuate oppression- either consciously or subconsciously- and our failure to hold ourselves accountable. So much of our biases, bigotry and prejudice is historical, ancestral and cultural; it informs and impacts how we live and how we relate to one another.  We are taught to fear differences instead of celebrating them, to distrust those who think, look and act differently, rather than learning from them. All of these beliefs, live in the body and, no matter how conscious we think we are, can erupt  in moments of overwhelm and stress. When that happens, our own biases, ignorance and fears rub up against someone else’s. If we aren’t aware of what’s happening, all that rubbing creates friction, which leads to more conflict and misunderstandings, which in turn lead to pain, suffering and even death.”

It’s an oftentimes painful process, and a rude awakening to say the least, to see how we can, and do, contribute to our fractured world and times we are living in. All of our thoughts, perceptions, words, and actions either heal or hurt, build or destroy, come form fear of love, liberate or oppress. I think it’s safe to say that we can clearly see how acting from assumptions plays into all of this and how what’s going on “out there’ is a reflection of what’s going on “in here” inside our minds and hearts.

All change begins within…it’s a process and one that will accompany us throughout our lifetime. Throughout this process, opportunities will always arise that will either test us or free us. Opportunities that can and will make us wonder where certain thoughts are coming from.  Opportunities that will challenge us to stop attaching labels and putting people in boxes. Opportunities that will allow us to get to know someone on deeper levels rather than making erroneous assumptions about them. Opportunities to see different perspectives. Opportunities to see another’s struggle or lack of privilege. Opportunities that will make us uncomfortable. Opportunities to step out of the boxes we put ourselves in. Opportunities to make a difference and be the change. Opportunities to see and feel the consequences of our actions. Opportunities to have different thoughts and make different choices. Opportunities to inspire. Opportunities to love. Opportunities to serve.

And what does all of this mean?  It means we are all human. We are not perfect. We all have faults. We have our flaws. We all have our own stories, narratives, doubts and insecurities. We will stumble. We will fall. We will fail. We will pick ourselves up again. We will succeed. We will stumble yet again. We will do better…because we can always do better… we can choose to do better!  This is a truth I strongly believe in.

Thanks for reading!

Inhale love and light…Exhale grace and gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

My Guest Blogger Returns

Protect Your Peace

by Lucy Del Gaudio

A few days, I asked a friend if I could do anything for them, what could I do and they said, “Help Me Find Peace.”  I was surprised by the response but also understood what they were saying.

Peace is something we completely take for granted.  Today’s world, filled with social media and negativity, the thoughts of the “light at the end of the tunnel” seem to often be unreal. The last few years, I learned to be more at peace with myself and not be at war with my thoughts.  Trust me, at times, my peace is disturbed and it’s hard to shake; but, I’ve learned different ways of protecting myself from people and situations that aren’t good for my peace.

What do I do to Protect My Peace?

Meditate – I meditate everyday… at least 3 times a day.  I try to give myself at least 5-15 minutes of peaceful practice to gather my thoughts.

I leave the negative of yesterday in the past and start my day as a fresh new page.  This one was super tough.  Negative Nelly, as one friend calls me.  I had to tell myself that there’s nothing I can do or change with the negative in my path.  Let it go, and give yourself peace to start a new page.

I run.  Lucy, a few years ago, would have told you that she does not run.  Lucy, today, tells you I love running.  It offers me so much.  It gives me time to think of my day and time to myself which is so important.  When I run with “the tribe” it gives me a chance to talk about things going on, and talking to others is so important.  When running by myself, I created a playlist of songs that make me feel good- but songs of my soundtrack of life. On my off days, I give myself time to practice yoga.  It soothes the soul and makes me feel peaceful.

I nurture my creative side by reading, writing and appreciating different styles of art.  For someone with dyslexia, reading can at times be challenging- but I love to read.  I actually read multiple books at the same time.  I have several books that I read every year, and I love getting recommendations about what to read. 

I write in multiple journals about everything.  It allows me to tell the universe how I’m feeling without judgement.  As other arts – going to see concerts and eat great meals with “the spouse” always makes me peaceful.  Going to the MOMA and sitting in front of Monet’s Waterlilies is one of the most peaceful places for me.  I find myself doing that often without people knowing. 

Protecting your peace can look completely different than mine, but you get the gist of it.  Being at peace with YOU, and making sure YOU are your first peaceful priority, will make you radiate peace to others.

Be kind to yourself.. give yourself those moments you need.

May the peace in me, be the peace within you.

Namaste ❤️

Thank you, Lucy, for this wonderful, peace-filled inspiration. I absolutely love when synchronicities occur and we follow up on our hunches, we pay attention to our intuition, our thoughts, or simply acknowledge our connection and interdependence. Darlings, this piece was inspired by one of Lucy’s post, which simply said: Protect Your Peace. Just as I was getting ready to scroll down, the thought that it would make a good blog crossed my mind. Instead of allowing it to be fleeting thought, I wrote it in the comments. Conversely, instead of just glossing over it, Lucy responded saying that she thought so too. So…I told her to “get on it.” And, she did! And now, her lovely blog is out there for whomever needs it. Isn’t it just magical?

I love the exchange of energies and how we either raise the peaceful vibration of the collective consciousness, or we succumb to destructive, negative and low vibrational thoughts, words and actions. Which will you choose? Oh, and by the way, how do YOU protect your peace?

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Hugging is Healing

“When was the last time you gave or received a hug? Whether it’s a comforting embrace or reminicent of a grizzly bear, hugging is a natural and unspoken way of expressing care and support through life’s ups and downs.” Breathe Magazine

Are you a hugger? Do you like giving and receiving hugs? Are you open to receiving hugs, or do you freeze when you see someone approaching to hug you?

Well…I am a hugger. And, in my humble opinion, there is nothing more satisfying, pleasing and delicious in my book than a juicy hug! There’s nothing like being in an embrace with someone who loves to hug as well.

When introduced to someone (via someone I already know), I immediately reach out to their extended hand if offerred; but, then I pull them close and tell them I’m a lover and a hugger. Then I go in for the hug….and linger for a moment.

Here’s a cute story for you: A couple of months ago, I was picked up at the airport by a driver (and beautiful soul) named Zach. He came highly recommended from one of my Maui sisters. We had spoken on the phone a couple of times prior to my flight, and now I was telling him exactly what door I was at and how easy I was to spot (I was attired in tropical print head to toe). When I saw his car, I moved toward it. He then got out of the car to see me with open arms. His arms were open too. I called out his name and, in turn, he called out “Mama Yaya!” He gave me the best hug ever! It was like being embraced by a bear. I chuckle when I recall our exchange because if anyone was watching us, they would have thought we’d known each other forever. Hugging- the human touch- is so powerfully healing and soothing!

I recently read an article on hugging, and it stated that the word hug is thought to be derived from the Old Norse word “hugga,” which means to comfort. In case you’re wondering where “Old Norse” comes from, no worries- I looked it up. It appears that it’s a spoken language from the North Germanic (Sandinavian) language of medieval Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, up to the 14th century, from which the modern Scandinavian language is derived. And, according to Wikipedia,  it was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia  and their overseas settlements from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Who knew? Well, now we know!

There are so many benefits to hugging! It’s been shown to improve our health and well-being, our immune system, and our nervous system. Have you ever noticed how calm and cared for you feel when you’re stressed, worried, fatigued or out of sorts and someone offers a hug?  How about when you’re sad or just can’t find the words to adequately express how you’re feeling? We’ve all had moments like that. You know, when you’re feeling a feeling but can’t seem to name it or, if you do, you know the floodgates will open and the tears will start so you remain silent? There’s a level of intimacy that gets shared when we hug that is very healing and nourishing.

Since I am not in a romantic relationship, hugs are very important to me. I’ll take as many as I can get…wink, wink. Afterall, how else will I feel this intimate human contact and the level of care and comfort a hug provides? Thank goodness most of my Goddesses, Soul Sisters and yoga teachers share a love of hugging as wel! As a matter of fact, I have one beloved teacher (I call her Lovely Laura) who encourages us all to give or take a hug on the way out of class. Needless to say, she is a delicious hugger!

I am deeply grateful that I do not have tactile/sensory issues or suffer from some past physical trauma/abuse when it comes to hugging…that could be ugly!  Determining whether or not a person likes close, physical contanct is a craft I think I’ve mastered. I can usually tell if I look into their eyes and assess their body language…open or closed? Sometimes, a person may look like a deer in headlights (dead giveaway). If I sense the person doesn’t particularly care for a hug, I’ll usually offer a “quick” hug. Why torture them, right? However, the mischevious, rebellious child in me has been known to torture on ocassion. Oh well!

In my book, mastering the perfect hug can be an art of sorts. First of all, eye contact is a must – as are open arms. You will want to connect heart to heart. Typically, we are used to offerring the right side of our cheek and body.  By offerring the left side, our hearts connect. It takes a bit of practice to break this habit.

Next, linger in the embrace. Lingering is important, as is the breath. Take 3-5 deep breaths, and see if you can feel the other person’s heartbeat.  This can be so therapeutic, especially if we are totally present with our thoughts and feelings. The breath is what brings us into the pressent – the here and now.

We may also want to share a few words or silently wish the other person  some love, peace, harmony, joy, comfort, or ease. Our intentions are important, for we want our hugs to be genuine. Basically, we want the other person to know they matter, they are loved, cared for and connect to that feeling, or soul recognition, that is so much greater than we can imagine.

Since we are on the topic of healing, I’d like to recommend two blogs I wrote last year which you may enjoy and find helpful. The first one is Choosing Love at All TImes. The other one is Taking Charge of Our Own Healing. 

Darlings, we are all here on our own healing journeys, and our stories help others along their own path. We are all conencted. When we heal, others heal. When others heal, the collective consciousness heals. We are all part of the big picture of helping to move humanity forward. We are all the purest embodiment of love. Every moment presents us with the opportunity to choose Love!

So, my darlings, on this 2 year anniversary of InspireLoveServe (and 140 blogs later), I  am sending you all some major virtual love and hugs. Open your arms, feel your heart wide open, take a deep breath and feel my heart connecting with yours. Feel my virtual embrace as we wrap our arms around each other. Let’s just linger there for 4-5 deep breaths and connect with the rising and falling of our hearts.

Let’s take it one step further and take a page from a Thich Nhat Hanh conscious breathing teaching. As we breathe in say, I calm my body. Breathing out, let’s smile. As we dwell in the present moment, we know this is a wonderful moment! FEEL THE LOVE! FEEL THE GRATITUDE! Feel how appreciative I am that you are reading this blog. Perhaps you are a regular follower or  a casual passerby. You may have even shared one/some of my blogs with friends and loved ones. Sharing is caring! For that I am grateful.

Now…feel the love, spread the love and go find someone to hug!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

A New Guest Blogger

“Emotion has no price…
Love is free. “
by Lucy Del Gaudio
Some of my favorite lyrics from a John Waite song. But is Love really free? We speak about love in so many facets of life. We love our families. We love our friends. We love our work but do we really love for free, or is there some sort of cost for loving something or someone?
I once loved someone. I loved everything about this person. The way they talked. The way they engaged me in conversation. Their laugh. Their cheeky smile and gestures. Their passion for Art and Music. But I was more in love with the way I felt when I was around them?
It felt like the frst time you lay down in the grass, look up at the sky and watch the stars on a beautiful clear night. So why did I love them once, or can I still love them since they are technically not mine to love? So is this loving something at a cost? So all these years, was John Waite wrong? Love at a cost but it might, or sometimes, be free?
We define love in so many ways. With affection. With passion. So when I tell someone I love my Starbucks coffee, am I entering an affection relationship with it? Ha. I don’t think so but, sometimes, I swear it’s telling me it loves me back.
My once love is special to me because they were the first person I loved with a full heart. My first love. But when you read that statement, is your first love truly your first love? I often name my dad as my first love. God, do I love that man. He also broke my heart when he passed away in 1989. So back to love is free, not really. You love and cost – the broken heart- and shit has my heart been broken.
I affectionately call my husband “the spouse.” I love “the spouse” for so many reasons. Here’s a man, that entered a relationship with a person that has three kids and was completely- let’s say for a lack of better words- a fuck’n mess. He has managed to help me “un-mess” myself. That helped us, our family and, ultimately, made me a better person. He is also my favorite confidante, my concert partner, my sports talk, my biggest fan and my lover. Someone reading this could possibly say, “Wow, that’s perfect.”  But is it really? Sometimes, I question, is that enough? Is there a need for more love? Sometimes, my insecurities plague me and my self tells me,  “Yes, it’s enough.”  But at times, I have to question.
So, I come back to my once love. Do I still love them? Yes, I do. I will always love them at a cost. Do I love the spouse and love my children? Yes, I absolutely love them and it’s very free. Do I love Coffee – yes at a big cost cause Starbucks is damn fuck expensive.
So, Dear John Waite. I’ve changed your lyrics – “Emotion has no price and love is free with an occasional cost.”
Darlings, I met Lucy ages ago when we both worked for the Union City Board of Ed. While we do not see each other socially, we are friends on social media. I appreciate her posts, her love of music and concerts, the work she does with the Veterans, and I admire her for serving our country. It’s been an honor to be able to witness her physical transformation from afar- which could have only come form the inner transformational journey she’s been on. I even chuckle when she refers to her husband as “the spouse” when she writes about him. I think it’s cute!
Thank you, sister warrior Lucy, for such a fine and thought-provoking piece! Your journeys, experiences and adventures have had you doing some deep diving over the years, and I hope you will continue to guest blog! I am certain you have a whole lot to write about!!! What do you say, are you up to it? You have an open invitation to do so as often as you feel called to do so!
Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Lost Art of Lounging

“Busyness is the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from ourselves, mistaking the doing for the being.” -Maria Popova

Greetings, my darlings! I hope this blog finds you in good spirits and enjoying the last few days of August.

Many of us may have just sent kids off to college, are preparing little ones to start school for the first time or maybe just getting kids organized and ready to start a new school year. For many educators, today, tomorrow or next Tuesday signals the dreaded “back to work” mentality. For those who work year round, maybe savoring the last few days of summer is your ardent mission.

Generally speaking, this is a time of year that people are cramming a lot in to their already packed days. Lounging may not necessarily be at the top of your “to do” list, but I’m here to tell you that it needs to be! Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. It’s self-preservation!

The way I see it, is that so many people are addicted to “the art of busyness” that they have forgotten the beautiful, nurturing, nourishing, refreshing, revitalizing, inspiring and necessary “art of lounging.”

We all have responsibilities. Unfortunately though, it seems like people today tend to create much of the unnecessary busyness for themselves. Between feeling the need to be connected and reachable anytime of day or night, the incessant lure of social media feeds, and emails and news alerts repeatedly pinging at all hours, the self-imposed need to respond immediately, more and more people are spending more and more time of their day on their devices and in a perpetual state of distraction.

As a result, HUGE chunks of the average person’s day is consumed with mindless activities and stressors. All this constituting “busyness” is reaching epic and overwhelming proportions and is affecting our quality of life- how we enjoy life, how we engage in life and how we participate in social and familial settings.

All these stressors have the tendency to leave us fatigued and our nervous system in “flight or light” overdrive. More than ever we need to pause, stop, restore, replenish and return our nervous system back to “rest and digest” mode.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I am a self-imposed love and gratitude junkie and a HUGE proponent of self care. So it’s no secret that I consider myself to be The Queen of The Art Lounging. Yep, you heard me! And those who know me can attest to it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can busy myself as much as the next person if I allow it. And I use the word “allow” because it is a choice. I also choose to guard my energy and make my rest and relaxation a top priority. And I do so by establishing little rituals I honor that refuel me, take my nervous system out of “red alert” mode, and allow me to enjoy my own company.

Whenever I’ve had a long day or a couple of back-to-back long days), one of my favorite things to do is to be in bed SUPER early. How early? Well…hold on now….ready??? Sometimes it can be as early as 6:30 pm. (I think I may have heard a gasp or a jaw or two drop).

I make sure I’ve lit some scented candles, have soothing music playing, take a hot shower or scented oil bath, slather on the lotions and the potions and the essential oils, do about 3-4 restorative poses (sometimes just legs up the wall will do), and then slip into my comfy bed. I surround myself with my journals, magazines or a good book and just allow myself to lounge…. sans phone!

Here’s the funny thing- I recall being in my 30’s and 40’s and my mother telling me how early she was in bed, or not to worry if I called her and she didn’t answer because it meant she was already sleeping, and I would shake my head and roll my eyes. I just didn’t get it. Needless to say, now I do…wink, wink.

When fully rested, we show up for ourselves. In turn, we can show up more consciously and be present for the people in our lives. We feel more grounded and less scattered. We enjoy our life more. We are more aware of the joy and love that surrounds us. We laugh more. We take in the beauty and the nature that is around us. We enjoy our pets. We are better able to connect with others. We engage with others more easily and happily.  We feel more inspired, creative and productive. We find ourselves allocating more time to doing the things we want to do or have been putting off doing. We have the ability to discern between doing real work and busy work. We become more skillful and learn to act instead of react. We become more grateful and graceful. In a nut shell, we become fully engaged participants in the ups and downs of life while still managing to enjoy and appreciate it all!

Darlings, I encourage each and every one of you reading this to take a moment to ask yourself the following question:

What can you do to be less busy and enjoy your life more?

Here’s to you and finding what the art of lounging looks like in your own world!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- Stay tuned to the next blog as I will be featuring a new Guest Blogger!