The Art of Conversation

“As modern culture embraces social media and digital chatter, valuable aspects of face-to-face conversation are being lost.” – Breathe Magazine

Can we talk? The one and only Joan Rivers brought that question to a whole new level during her time here on earth. Not only was she funny but her humor, combined with the ability to connect with people, is what allowed her to get away with the stuff that would follow her “Can we talk” one liner. She was bold, brave and brassy! I think it was her personal interactions and ability to read people which further allowed for this level of “straightforward-ness.”

In today’s culture,  personal interaction has been compromised because of the way people are digitally communicating as well as evolving. Everything is so rapid… the accumulation of knowledge, the ability to research, shop, learn, entertain, educate, obtain information in minutes and, yes, communicate point-blank words that are exchanged via texts that are devoid of eye contact and emotion. Sadly, the art of face-to-face conversation is becoming a lost art. We can change that though!!!!!

Have you experienced conflicts via texts because the message was received and interpreted NOT the was intended? Texting serves a purpose in that we can get a quick answer when needed. However, we all find ourselves in these lengthy threads of conversations that take more time and energy than picking up the phone does, or meeting for tea/coffee or a bite to eat. We have all become quite “laid back” in our communication styles. How many of us don’t even take advantage of FaceTime? At least we can better gauge emotions, a person’s state of mind, their need and intention via FaceTime. That’s not something we can do via texting. And boy, can THAT create unwelcomed and unexpected  problems!

I came across a line in an article I was reading,  which inspired this essay, and it seemed to compliment my previous blog, Keeping It Real. I think it succinctly states the conversation crisis we are experincing in today’s times:

“If more people are more connected than ever before thanks to technology, paradoxically there are also more people so immersed in the digital world that they forget to experience life in the real world, ultimately losing the ability to communicate in person.”

There is a word in this quote that is key. And that the word “ability.” The art of conversation takes ability, skill, talent, practice, discernment, eloquence, tact, truth, intention, meaning and language….just to name a few. We each have our own communication style. Our styles have taken years and years (and perhaps even tears) to develop. It’s as if we’ve tried on different styles of communication throughout our lifetime until we find one that suits our personality. While some of us feel comfortable in all types of conversations, there are others of us who freeze at the thought of initiating conversation, much less taking part in meaningful or sensitive dialogue.

It’s my belief that face to face conversations either make you feel alive or they scare the crap out of you. What do face-to-face conversations do for you?

  • Do you enjoy human interaction?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in different settings?
  • Are you comfortable approaching a complete stranger and initiating a convo with them?
  • How do you feel when a stranger approaches you?
  • Do you enjoy eye contact?
  • Are you a touchy-feely type of person?
  • Do you enjoy the art of a good, real, raw, oftentimes messy and significant conversation?

It’s also my belief that we can all use some conversation etiquette these days. As with all things in life, we periodically need to assess what we are doing, how we are doing it, and decide if we need to alter or make a change in our approach to a given situation. Well, the article I was reading in Breathe Magazine (The Well-being Issue), listed the following guidelines to help us improve our conversation skills:

How to start a conversation:

  • If you feel anxious, ask questions first, so you become more comfortable about sharing your thoughts.
  • Avoid discussing the weather (seriously!) and direct the conversation to more interesting matters.
  • Avoid contentious topics on first acquaintance and try to establish common ground instead,
  • Once a mutual connection is reached, turn the trivial chitchat into something more meaningful.
  • When joining a conversation, be aware of the tone and mood so you can adapt accordingly.

How to take conversation beyond small talk:

  • Share anecdotal details about your life and experiences relevant to the subject being discussed.
  • Be genuinely curious and ask open-ended questions to invite people to talk about themselves.
  • Pay attention to body language so you can change the subject if you see signs that others are no longer engaged.
  • If you are open, honest, show compassion, and maybe a touch of vulnerability, people tend to mirror these qualities.

Conversation Etiquette:

  • Be approachable. Smile. Be friendly, Keep eye contact, and listen without interrupting.
  • Show interest. Displaying attentiveness and asking meaningful questions will show that you really care and also encourage other people to open up to you.
  • Be passionate but don’t try to convert people to your beliefs. Maintain an open mind and make an effort to understand other people’s perspective.
  • Don’t make it feel like an interrogation or be a conversation narcissist. Ensure a balance in the dialogue to avoid constant questioning or boring monologues.
  • Don’t revel too much about yourself. Disclose unwelcome information and you may find an awkward silence.
  • Be yourself and be natural. If you are an introvert, be brave and practice many different social situations. Many people don’t like small talk but try to consider it as an opportunity to learn about others as well as yourself.

The aforementioned guidelines can help us all be a good “conversationalist” and enhance our ability to talk and listen effectively. And again, as with all things in life, it is a practice! And as far as difficult and sensitive conversations go? I truly believe in speaking the truth kindly, calmly and compassionately. Like Yogi Tea tags often advise: “Say it straight, say it simple and say it with a smile.”

The other guideline I like to adhere to pertains to gossip. When it comes to gossip, unless it is the absolute truth, kind and helpful, I do not partake in it. “He said / she said” scenarios are toxic, and they take on the characteristics of the “telephone game” in that each time the story is told to another person, and that person repeats it, the story has changed entirely. It truly is a waste of energy and a detriment to our mental health….just sayin’.

So my darlings, what do you say? Let’s put away our phones a little more often, and seek out a friend, co-worker, family member or complete stranger, and let’s practice the art of face-to-face conversation. And remember to be aware of the message that a phone in hand, or at the table, sends to our friends, family and colleagues when we’re in their company: that they don’t matter. Will you join me in having more face-to-face conversations where we are totally present for each other?

And if you are one of those people who are petrified and afraid to step out of your comfort zone….take baby steps. One step at a time, You may just be surprised at how you blossom and come to life. And speaking of life, the world needs more people to come alive!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Keeping It Real

“With a greater awareness of who you are, and a deeper  understanding of how you define a friend, you can clear a path to choosing people with whom to spend time.” -quote from Breathe Magazine

What is a friend? What kind of friend are you? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you embody these qualities? Who would you like to spend your time with? These questions can and do speak volumes when we take the time to listen. Listen to our own answers and perceptions of what friendship means. After all, as in all relationships, friendship is most definitely a two-way street.

How are your friendships going these days? Oh boy, that could be a potentially loaded question given the “political” and “polarizing” times we are living in. Nevertheless, these are the times we need our friends and a sense of community and connection the most, and when we may be called to be there for a friend who is having difficulty in life. Personally, I don’t know what I would do without my circle of like-minded, supportive and soulful friends. They add value to my life. And as I grow older, I’ve place a higher value on the power of friendship to shape and influence my life. I have grown to a place where I am very grateful for the friends who’ve come into my life, both those who’ve remained and others whose time it was to leave. And then there are others who are still there but no longer play a prominent part of my everyday existence for whatever reasons.

Friendship can mean different things to different people. And in the digital society we are living in, friendships take on different forms. Some are up close and personal and some are virtual. Either way, the more we are aware and can deeply define and embody what is is to be a friend, the healthier, stronger, more meaningful and more valuable our circle of friends become. So much so, that somewhere along the line our friends become the family with whom we choose to spend time with, spend holidays with and with whom we celebrate life. These are the people we invest time in, especially if we don’t have a family or if our real family leaves us feeling emotionally and physically drained. As in all life-related things, discernment is key!

We cannot underestimate the power of love in friendships and its significance in our lives. As I was reading an article on friendships, it was suggested that we look at all the people we know and identify the ones who are truly our friends. The ones who make time for us and the ones whose company enlivens and enriches us.

Here are the three traits the article encourages us to look for in a real friend:

Ability to Listen

“Sometimes, the greatest thing friends can do is simply to listen to each other. Friends who are able to put aside their own life experience and focus on the experience of others are the most likely to contribute to relationships in a happy and peaceful way.”

Trust

“Trusting a friend to speak openly from the heart, to do what they say they will, and to understand when something said in confidence should be kept to themselves- are all vital in a true friend.”

Perspective

“Friends who offer fresh perspectives, ideas, experiences, and advice can help you to learn more about yourself, see life from another angle, and grow as a more well-grounded person.”

Darlings, let’s keep it real here…if we want to have friends, we must learn to be a friend. These three traits pretty much surmise what it takes to be a friend. They also give us an opportunity to examine ourselves and identify whether or not we embody these specific traits. The other key piece is discernment.

I plan on looking at these traits to further identify when and how I need to navigate these traits when a friend comes calling. Sometimes, all a person wants is someone to listen. Other times it may be someone whom they can trust with a deep sentiment. And yet other times, a friend may just want some perspective. They key is knowing and being able to identify the need. Personally, I know I have to work at this better. Sometimes, I’m very quick to offer perspective or share an experience when in actuality the person may really just need to talk and be heard.

Ahhhhh the art of practicing deep listening! We are so often quick to jump and offer our assistance or share in a manner that resonates for “us.” However; during such times, it’s vital to hit “pause” and listen…listen and discern the need. In doing so, we tap into our compassionate communication skills. If we are going to be generous with our time, and expect our friends to reciprocate when needed, then we need a major dose of keeping it real.

And speaking of communication skills and keeping it real, be sure to stay tuned for my next blog where I hope to share some guidelines and valuable aspects of face-to-face conversations. I think we can all use a refresher on conversation etiquette, don’t you?

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Love Can Hold It All

“Love is fully accepting what is.” -The Daily Love

Greetings my darlings! I hope you all had a chance to check out my dearest Blondie’s recent blog, Sister Mother Friend. This was her third time guest blogging, and I think she is getting pretty good at this. You see, it’s all part of a master plan of mine. Sooner or later, Blondie dearest is going to be inspired to create her own blog. Hmmmm….I think I may have just stumbled on the name too: Blondie Dearest…wink, wink! Sounds like a fab name to me, don’t you think?

The inner work we do along our journey, and the supportive souls we surround ourselves with, make it possible for us to truly love and respect ourselves and respect where we are in life. By fully “accepting what is,” we are bestowing upon ourselves the highest form of self-love, self-respect and self-preservation without having our egos take center stage and hijack our thoughts to a place of lack, insecurity, inadequacy or, worse yet, fear. Fear of what “others” may think, hear, assume or say about us. Fear that sets off all our triggers and sabotages our progress. Once we replace fear with love, we find that love, indeed, can hold it all! Yep, every little bit of it.

It’s a beautiful thing to come to a place in our lives where other people’s opinions of us don’t sabotage our growth, evolution and acceptance. And speaking of growth and evolution, I hope you’ve had a chance to peruse the questions I listed in the blog Grow Through It All. If you love to journal, by all means write away. If you are new to journaling, and perhaps even new to choosing to do things differently, well then I invite you to write away as well! If you are willing to do the work of transforming your thoughts, habits, perceptions, intentions and your precious life, you too can come to a place of fully accepting what is.

By accepting “what is,” (and as Blondie found along her personal journey), patience, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and love become our guiding principles. Furthermore, they invite more peace and harmony into our lives despite whatever turmoil may be looming. Who doesn’t want more peace and harmony in their life? Well, as we know all too well, peace and harmony are most definitely and unequivocally an inside job.

It starts with our hearts. It can be viewed as merging our heart and our mind. There is a line in Matt Kahn’s book, Whatever Rises Love That, that speaks to this merging:

“As your mind and heart unite as one, the more you see others beyond their divided and unconscious states.”

This calls for a major shift in perspective. This shift allows us have more presence of mind and liberate ourselves from “victim” mentality, judgement, criticism and disappointment to one of understanding, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. We are better able to act rather than just react. We also free ourselves of the gossip and the “he said, she said” scenarios that are poisonous. Why would we willingly drink poison? Yet, this is what we do to ourselves when we operate from our own “divided and unconscious states.” Once we realize this, we can better relate to others and why they do the things they do. No judgement, just acceptance. And we can hold it all in a space of love.

However, we must be willing to shift our energy, raise our vibration, go within and allow our minds and hearts to come together. This merging of heart and mind is like a beautiful dance. We master our dance only after much practice though. Practice and an  intention and willingness to stick with it. To put our love of the dance above it all. We see with clearer eyes. As if we were viewing what is going on around us not with both our eyes, but through the clear and luminous lens of our universal eye. The eye of unity consciousness. The eye of shared humanity.

This oneness, this unity, this leading from the heart is what will enable us to love and accept others despite their limitations. Every single person we come into contact with is on their very own “growth track.” If we can grasp this and accept this notion, we can be in relationship with others despite where they are along their evolutionary growth track.    Acceptance, and its faithful companions, peace and harmony, is a relationship worth striving for. Like the saying goes, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” And from this calmness in our hearts, we will be able to accept and hold whatever “It” is.

I will leave you with a lovely affirmation/prayer to guide you along your journey. It’s from the May You Know Joy Meditations for Everyday Living card and book set. Enjoy!

May You Know Acceptance

May you know acceptance. May you accept all that unfolds in your life – the expected and the unexpected, the positive and the negative. May you accept yourself and the circumstances you find yourself in. In choosing acceptance, you choose peace and kindness and compassion. Acceptance comes from self-love and creates a space for opportunity and transformation.

 

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

My Guest Blogger… Act III

Sister Mother Friend

by Shannon Green

Sister: Technically I AM a sister. I have an older brother, but growing up I always wanted a sister. My brother was into sports, and I liked dolls and dress–up. Occasionally, we would play games together, ride bikes, do sibling-type things, and we would get along; but he would also tease me endlessly, and I remember tears flowing on many occasions.  Because we were not very close, I learned to play alone and entertain myself. As we got older, the teasing stopped and we just became two people living in rooms next to each other.

We were a grade apart in school and, once I started high school, we sometimes even shared classes. I definitely got the feeling that my big brother did not like me being in any of his classes. I don’t remember him ever taking me under his wing, showing me around, or introducing me to people. What I do remember are other kids coming up to me in the hallway asking me why I didn’t come with my brother to a certain party… feeling a little embarrassed and let down I would reply, “because he didn’t tell me about it.” I knew other sibling combinations at school where the older sibling looked after the younger, brought them to parties, acted like friends, and it definitely made me sad to realize that my brother seemed to prefer not to have me around. We were more like strangers who just happened to share the same last name and live in the same house. I distinctly remember being incredibly happy my senior year because my brother was going to be at college and I would now have the bathroom all to myself!  I can honestly admit that I did not miss him while he was gone.

As the years passed our relationship continued to change, and we grew a bit closer.  There was even a time in my late 20s when my husband and I lived with my brother in California. This time period probably brought us closer than any other, and I think we now even have a friendship, albeit a strange one where we rarely talk and still don’t share personal feelings. My brother even surprised me one time by calling me his “best-friend.”  Wow! I felt honored.

My brother is a very busy person, and we don’t see each other often. We mainly talk when I call him, but occasionally he surprises me with a phone call or random text message. I worry about him living alone, eating right and exercising enough, but I know he will never listen to his little sister. So, while I technically am a “sister,” I still  feel like I missed out on something by growing up with a brother. I always wished to have a “sister” of my very own … someone I could talk to about “girl” things, ask advice, share clothes, etc… older, younger, doesn’t matter. In my mind there seems to be a special bond between sisters, and I have always longed for it.

Mother: Yes, I have a mother. NO, I am NOT a mother. Growing up I remember always wanting to be near my mother. I wanted to cuddle and hug her. I wanted her affection and to feel safe. I was often shy, especially in new situations, and I remember I would try hiding behind my mother’s legs so people wouldn’t talk to me. I also vividly remember hearing her say things to me like “stop hanging on me” or “stop being so sensitive”.… I wish I had more memories of us doing things together and having special “mother/daughter” time, but I don’t. I do remember her taking time to be my Girl Scout Leader and that she volunteered as a Class Mom at my elementary school, but one memory that never seems to fade is that, during the four years I was on our High School Swim Team, she never came to one of my meets. This always makes me sad when I think about that.

I have a lot of hang ups about my relationship with my mother. I don’t feel like she has ever known who I am or ever tried to get to know me. Probably the most painful memory is the time I called her extremely upset about a very personal incident that had occurred. My husband and I had been hoping to start a family, but it just was not happening. As you can imagine, this was an upsetting time in my life and very emotional and stressful. On this particular day, we had just received news that my husband’s younger brother had gotten his girl-friend pregnant. I was devastated. I had dreamed for so long of starting a family and having the first grandchild in the family, and now it seemed like my dreams were crushed.

My heart was broken, and I felt like it had literally been ripped in two. I called my mother to talk to her, hoping to get some motherly love. As I was telling my mom the situation and waiting for her to offer me some compassion and love, the only thing I remember her telling me was that I needed to “get over it.” That is the memory I have… Those are the words I remember…  Maybe there were more words in the conversation, but I think I stopped listening after that. My heart was broken, and I was crushed by her words and lack of empathy and love. At a time when I really needed love and support, my own mother seemed to be invalidating my feelings as she told me to stop being so sensitive and just “get over it.”

That was the day I stopped telling my mother anything personal about myself. I tried for a while to see if I could change our relationship and make it more a little more friendly.  I knew people who talked to their mothers daily and had nice friendly conversations about life and personal issues, so I made it a point to call her frequently hoping that she would start to enjoy talking to me and reach out to me in return. But she never did. At one point, I was so distraught as to why my mother just did not seem to love me that I reached out to my brother. Since he was the only other person who knew her like I did I figured he might have some insight.  It was that conversation that made me realize she did love me and that she was loving me, but in her way, and I accepted that she was probably doing the very best she could. It was just that our styles of “love” are so completely different and, unfortunately for me, it just wasn’t the love that I craved or needed.

That conversation with my brother changed the way I viewed my Mom and helped me release the resentment I felt towards our relationship. Sometimes. we may not think that people love us when the reality is that they are doing the best that they can with what they have. The truth is that she is giving me the love she is capable of giving me, and I cannot be angry with her for doing her best. We may not have the mother/daughter relationship that I have always wanted, but I accept it for what it is and have released the belief that she does not love me. Arriving at that realization shifted something inside of me and helped me accept our relationship for what it is rather than what I wished it was.

Friend: Some people don’t like the kind of friend I am. Maybe I scare them off with my personality? I believe that I can come off as too needy, too bossy, and a bit of a know-it-all. Over the years I have realized these harsher parts of my personality, and I have worked on them. I think I have become a “softer” version of myself as I have matured. I have realized that I can be a bit much to handle, but I have also realized that some people just aren’t meant to be in your life for the long haul, while others are with you for a lifetime.

As a result, the friends I have are limited in quantity, but are of EXTREMELY HIGH quality. To say I love them like family is probably an understatement because I think I love them more than my family. These are the people who “get me.” They are the ones who stick around through the ups and downs. They know my struggles and successes. They are the ones I call crying or with whom I want to share good news.  They are the ones who provide support and bolster me up when I am having a rough time.

Over the years, we have stuck by each other on our respective journeys and evolution as human beings. We are miles apart in location but always just a phone call away. Throughout the years, our shared interests have brought us to similar paths as we explore the meaning of life and our purpose on Earth. These amazing women have become my “soul sisters.” In them I found what I was always craving as a child. I found big sisters and little sisters. In them I have found mothers and have been able to be a mother as well.

Recently, I read something that really helped put things into perspective. My friend Christy encouraged me (rather enthusiastically) to buy the book The Archetype Diet by Dana James. In the book the author talks about 4 archetypes of women. Very interesting stuff…I highly recommend the read. Upon reading the book and the description of the various archetypes I discovered, surprisingly to me, that I would be classified as “The Nurturer.”  The following passage describing the Nurturer Archetype really hit me, like an arrow in a bullseye:

“Because she was deprived of the maternal attention young girls need, she learned to fill this void by protecting and nurturing others, especially taking on the role of mother she lacked. Although the recipients of her nurturing could not make up for the failing of her own mother, she depended on them to give her the acceptance she so craved. By showing love to others, she hoped to get it in return.”  

After reading this passage, I realized that it described me to a tee! It was as if my whole life now made sense! Why I always wanted to check in on people and make sure that they were doing well. Why I always wanted to help my friends be successful, even back in high school helping them with homework or studying for a test. In college, I would be the one to drive to a party to make sure everyone got there and home safely. Why I always double checked that no one left anything behind, made sure people had enough to eat, and weather-appropriate clothing. Why I always felt drawn to take care of people and why I want to be there for them when they are having a difficult time, needing advice, needing to vent, needing to cry, or needing a hug.

According to Dana James’ chapter, The Nurturer:

Showing affection for others and caring for them is your gift and it should be celebrated. But choose the recipients wisely. Pause before you bestow your kindness, time, love, or money. Ask yourself if this person genuinely needs your help or if they can handle things on their own.”

It suddenly made sense. Why there were some people who seemed put-off when I tried to offer help. They didn’t want it. They didn’t need it, but I couldn’t see it. These past few years have helped me to understand many things about myself and, as I mentioned earlier, I feel like I have become a “softer” version of myself. I am working on my “hard edges” and learning to develop things like patience, managing expectations, and letting go of things I cannot control. I am filling my tool box with the help of Yaya and her book suggestions, but also with the time I set aside to read, journal and meditate. I have taken myself on as a student, teaching myself as I am learning and honestly trying to be the best version of myself I can imagine.

As a result, I have found that my relationships have improved. My friendships have deepened. I have become able to offer my help to those who genuinely seem willing to accept it, and it fills my heart with such love knowing that I am able to help… whether it is on the receiving end of a phone call or creating a spreadsheet. I told my friend Christy once that I did not know what my purpose in this life was, and that the only thing I wanted most and that I enjoyed the most was helping those I love. She was quiet for a moment and then said, “That is your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be your job.”  I have to say that I think I absolutely agree with her.

I do not think it can be better expressed than in the below passage which closes out “The Nurturer” Chapter in The Archetype Diet:

“Embracing the positive attributes of the other archetypes will help you achieve balance and rise to the crown… When you layer in these attributes, you will transform from a Nurturer seeking to heal your childhood wounds to a woman who heals the world with her loving presence, compassion, dignity, and nobility.”

Sister Mother Friend….I have found these. I have become these. In my “Vibe Tribe” (the named bestowed to our retreat group back in April from the outstanding owner of the amazing Pranamar Villas Yoga Retreat Center in Costa Rica), I have found my FAMILY.  I feel loved. I feel understood and accepted in a way I never did before. Even more importantly, I feel these things from myself.

I now realize that I cannot put expectations on my relationships with people, whether it is my brother, mother, or friends. I must accept that what they are giving to the relationship may be the very most they have to offer at that moment. The most important person whose love I need to feel, and whose support I need in my life, is ME. In giving my love and support to others freely and openly, with no strings and expectations, I have found the love I always felt was missing. I have found a peace in my relationships and appreciate them for what they are –  not what I wish they would be. By letting go of how I thought things should be and accepting things for what they are, I have been able to find joy in those hard relationships that used to bring me pain.

You can’t be everything to everybody, and they can’t be everything to you. Sometimes, you find the love of a mother in someone who was just a stranger to you five years ago, and the relationship of a sister in a friend you have known for over two decades. Blood does not make the relationship. Accepting people for who they are, and releasing the expectations I set on them. created what I can only call “freedom” for me. By accepting situations for what they are, I now find myself less worried over outcomes and more able to enjoy the present. I find there to be far fewer conflicts in my relationships and much more peace and harmony.

Relationships, whether family or friend, are never easy. But I truly believe they can be made more harmonious.

  • Is there someone you wish you had a different relationship with?
  • Are you willing to try things in a new way?
  • Are you placing expectations on the relationship that is creating discomfort for you?
  • Can you release those expectations and instead accept that what is being given to you is the very best that can be given at the moment?
  • Have you examined your relationship with the most important person in your life, yourself?

Wishing you peace and love in all of your relationships!

I’m here if you need me…Your sister mother and friend, Blondie

 

 

Grow Through It All

“When our souls are healthy, we change the environment; the environment doesn’t change us” -Pastor Carl Lentz

This past week I have been finishing up the numerous books I’ve been simultaneously reading. While I still have 2 more to go, I did finish Own the Moment by Carl Lentz. And not only did I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoy reading it, but I finally made it to service at Hillsong Church this morning. What an experience! One can’t help but getting that feeling of  coming alive and getting our souls infused with a healthy and relatable dose of “the all-knowing word.”

I will be taking a few weeks off from posting my blog, because I need to diligently and fervently work on all the blogs I want to write and schedule before going away and disconnecting from social media. I usually schedule one per week, usually on Wednesdays, while I am away. I will keep you all posted!

But not to worry…I am going to leave you with some meaningful food for thought, conversation, guidance and perhaps even some writing for the next couple of weeks while I devote some uninterrupted time to writing myself. Should you choose to deeply explore the questions, it is my hope that you will be left feeling an expansive sense of Self. There is always room for growth, darlings! The key is to be accountable and keep plugging away at this most powerful, pure-hearted, heart-centered and self-loving process.

So, I leave you with some questions from Own the Moment. The questions were scattered throughout the book. I may have tweaked some questions and added a few of my own. Nevertheless, I selected the ones that spoke to me in hopes they speak to you as well. Like I said, reflect on them, talk about them, journal or simply explore them in which ever way serves you best:

  • Do you know where you are going?
  • What drives you?
  • What shapes you?
  • What fuels you?
  • What guides you?
  • Are you changing?
  • Are you influencing?
  • What are you listening to today?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it life-giving?
  • Where do you put your focus?
  • What are your challenges?
  • Who challenges you?
  • Do you have broken relationships because you’re consumed with the wrongs somebody else committed and you have failed to own your part in the matter?
  • Can you be more constructive and look inward to bring change in your life?
  • Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
  • What do you demand for your own life?
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Do you know your convictions –  the “yes, I wills” and the “no, I won’ts?”
  • Are you changing your environment, or is your environment changing you?
  • Have you had to adjust your standards to fit in?
  • Have you lived with such conviction as people start rethinking their standards because of you?
  • How can you influence others?
  • Are you clear about your intentions?
  • Do the people in your life feel valued and appreciated?
  • If so, why? What do you do that makes them feel this way?
  • What would you do if you truly didn’t care about what other people thought about you?
  • How would you live, what would you pursue, and ultimately  how much fun would you have?
  • How many things in life would you have already tried if you didn’t fear failure?
  • How many people in your life might you be holding to an unrealistic standard of completeness when you have areas that are in the process of healing?
  • Do you find yourself living in the past?
  • Are you constantly in a hurry?
  • If you take a genuine hard look at what influences you today and the relationships that you hold most dear, are they helping or hurting you?
  • Could it be said that some things that should not be an option in your life have been given the opportunity to grow?
  • What makes you the most insecure in life? Why?
  • Where can you find time to stop and be grateful for all that you have in your life?
  • What is the one thing you can do today that can make a huge difference in the life of another?

We can look at our answers and realize our journey, and our task, is to do the work in order to grow through whatever it is we are going through and, ultimately, evolve into the best version of ourselves AND live a full, meaningful and purposeful life in the process! We have much to do in terns of growing. By the same token, we can also look to see if we are allowing the way we live to suck the passion out of our lives.

We can further investigate our answers and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life- and one that is filled with peace, tranquility and serenity. We can see, and feel,  if we are operating from a place of love or fear. We can look to see if we’re choosing to live in joy despite of the life circumstances that befall us all.

Ultimately, our answers will reveal if we are living from a place of truth, transparency and authenticity, or of we are living a life of dishonesty, fraud, lies, deceit, half-truths, and omissions that are compromising our soul’s integrity. Remember, the choice is always ours to make!

Darlings, stay calm, cool and continue to grow through it all

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Our Nation’s Birthday

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul” – Moshe Dayan

Greetings!

If you subscribe to Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and read it this past week, you may want to skip this blog and catch up on some other one. You see, I humbly decided it was appropriately fitting to share her blog with you. Why?

Well, as I was mulling over what I wanted to write in honor of the 4th of July, I decided to hit “pause” and catch up on some unread emails. For some reason, I had not gotten around to reading this past week’s Sunday Paper. And……drumroll…..there it was!  Anything I could have imagined, that we could have imagined, said, felt and more was right there in black and white. Maria’s Sunday Paper resonated so much for me, that I decided right then and there I needed to share it with you. Not doing so would have been a disservice to her beautifully written and thought-provoking essay.

Regardless of our party politics, which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you are blue, red or purple, I am certain you will find comfort, solace and hope in her words: Enjoy the read my darlings!

“The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.

One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.

Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.

We really do live in “you never know” times. Parents send their kids off to school and hold their breath. Journalists go to work and hold their breath as they pursue the truth. Many people hold their breath now as they watch the turnover in the Supreme Court. Students who are graduating from high school and college hold their breath as they head out into an uncertain job market. Boomers hold their breath hoping that they won’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other horrendous disease.

When I think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. That’s when I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep, long breath. I remind myself that these negative images are only a small part of what’s going on.

I remind myself of what I do know and believe to be true. I believe that we still live in a great nation — one that we are all so lucky to call home. I believe that we live in what I like to call “A Purple Nation” — one where it’s not red vs. blue, but where red and blue mix together to give us the majestic and brilliant color purple. Purple may be my favorite color, but it’s also a color of independence, unity and freedom.

I believe we have more in common than we realize. I think the two political parties drive us apart and make us live in a state of distrust and judgment, but I believe that if we all sat still every morning for just 10 minutes, then we would calm our minds and our central nervous systems and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe that if we all took a moment to take off our blinders and widen our gazes, then we would be able to look into people’s hearts, listen to their life stories, and realize that we have so much in common. I believe that we would discover that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our office mates are all seeking the same sense of belonging that we are. We would realize that we’re all seeking the same sense of freedom and safety. We would realize that we all have the same desire to do well for ourselves, for our families, and for our country.

Don’t call me naive or tell me I’m in denial. Call me observant and tell me, “Yes, Maria, I see this, too.” 

The vast majority of us are good, kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens who love our country and would stop to help our neighbor. I can see this when my mind and my heart aren’t racing. I can see this when I take a step back and don’t listen to the voices telling me that the sky is falling down.

When I widen my gaze, I see hardworking individuals everywhere who put others before themselves. They work in our hospitals, in our fire stations, in our schools, and in our community centers. They volunteer for our military and for non-profits all across the country. They build houses and playgrounds. They serve in churches, on hotlines, in shelters and in nursing homes.

I see young entrepreneurs trying to solve our most pressing social ills with innovative and socially conscious businesses. Their hopes, their desires, and their determination give me hope. I meet with them all the time and I never ask them what political party they belong to. I ask them what their dreams are, what they want to change, and where they get their hope. Their answers always inspire me.

I also see so many hard-working people who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and who don’t give up. I see people coming together from all walks of life – crossing religious divides, gender divides, and racial divides – to use their skills and their smarts to make life better for others.

Everywhere around us, people are working together. They are listening to one another, trying to understand one another, and trying to make a difference. When I think about all of this, I feel a sense of hope and calm wash over me. “Maria,” I say to myself, “all is well.”

There is so much hope! There are so many good people! People who are working to achieve the American dream, which is still very much alive and attainable. If you don’t believe me, think about what’s been created in recent years alone. We are a nation of people that conceived of Amazon, Uber and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” just to name a few great things. We are creative, conscious, collaborative and caring people. We are big dreamers and on-the-ground doers. 

So, as we look ahead to our nation’s birthday on Wednesday, know this. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have a free press. We are free to practice any religion. We are free to gather, to organize, and to marry anyone we want. We are free to wander off the beaten path, or to jump into the fray. We are free to shout and use our voices, or to just calmly go about our days. And, if you feel like any of your freedoms are under attack, then remember that you have the freedom to vote, to fight for what you believe in, to push for change, and to make a difference.

Let’s remember that when we stay in our goodness, we can see the goodness in others. When we help our neighbors, we can know that we are actually doing the Lord’s work. And, when we use our voices in a calm, confident, certain and clear way, we can know that we are doing what our forefathers and our foremothers fought for us to do.

As Americans, we are what everyone wants to be. Free. So, take a deep breath, look around and within, and celebrate that freedom. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it this week. And celebrate it each and every day. 

Wave the flag this week. Wear your red, white and blue. But also consider wearing a little purple, too. It just might remind you – and others – that you believe in unity. I hope you can see that it’s possible. It’s right there in front of you. Just open your eyes.”

Darlings, I don’t know about you, but I am committed to widening my gaze. Will you join me? Great, I thought so. Now let’s take some long, deep breaths and free our souls!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Art of Gratitude

“Sometimes we’re so busy chasing all the things we haven’t got that we forget to notice all the things we already have, the people in our lives and the fortunate circumstances in which we live.”

One of my earlier blogs, Rise and Shine…An Attitude of Gratitude, talked about how my gratitude practice came to be and the important part gratitude plays in my life. It’s my mainstay, my manifesto for living, my therapist, my guide and my fundamental source of joy.

I can’t say I would be the person I am today if I didn’t have a formal gratitude practice. I’ve relied on this practice to get me through some of the darkest and most difficult times of my life. Gratitude sets things straight for me, clears my head, re-centers me when needed, gives me an attitude adjustment and allows me to live a full, joyful, peaceful, meaningful and purposeful life. Without a gratitude practice I, too, may have slipped into the dark world of depression like so many of my family members and members of society.

Being a self-proclaimed gratitude junkie has its benefits. How so? Well, I’ve been in the dark, have had troubled times, been broken open and broken down, at times didn’t know how I’d take the next step (literally and figuratively), been surrounded by death and losses and torn apart by life circumstance…..like we all have been subjected to in life. However, the art of finding gratitude in those moments has always been a game changer.  In addition, I am able to commiserate and understand how we all get knocked down and find it difficult to get back up because I’ve lived it and have shared in the pain we all feel during such times. These experiences allow me to speak from experience and, more importantly, from the heart.

We all come across people who sometimes are in such a troubled or sorrowful state that they can’t seem to fight their way out of a paper bag. I’ve actually had people say that they have a hard time finding one thing for which they can be grateful. This I find hard to believe, but sadly there are troubled souls like this out there. Can you relate? Perhaps you’ve been there? Like I said, I think we’ve all been there in varying degrees. Perhaps you find yourself currently taking up residency in this state? Perhaps you are in a perpetual state of loss, grief, or darkness? Perhaps you don’t know how you’re going to get through the next hour or the day?

What we all must tap into is the knowingness that our nervous system can NOT be happy and sad at the same time. All it takes is a few seconds of identifying something we are grateful for, and our nervous systems shifts. We feel lighter, happier, and more hopeful. The more we do this practice and make it a routine, make it our default setting and our modus operandi, the more we will experience unimaginable shifts in our psyches, in our bodies and in our hearts.

It’s common for me to have numerous books and journals containing writing prompts on the subject of gratitude. So on this beautiful, first day in July, a sunny Sunday morning where the birds are chirping outside my window in the early morning stillness, I will share with you some prompts that will help you to keep your gratitude flowing.

The first one is more of an exercise and is especially useful if you do not have a gratitude practice. My intent is to list a month’s worth of prompts to set you on your way. While some of these require some thought, there may be days you’re just not into digging so deeply, so you can simply start with “I am grateful for” and list 2-3 things. By all means this is more than enough! You are more than enough. Now that is even a good place to start!

  1. Start by listing everything you are grateful for. List the big things, the little things, and everything in between. Write until you can think of anything else. And then write some more. This will kick off your gratitude practice and help you see just how much you have to be grateful for.
  2. What is one aspect of your daily life that you don’t always take time to appreciate, but that you’re actually grateful for?
  3. What are some of the things that are constants in your life – things that you’ll always find comfort in, things that you can always be grateful for?
  4. What is  one thing your parents taught you that you are grateful for?
  5. What are three of your physical characteristics that you are grateful for?
  6. What are three of your personality traits you are grateful for?
  7. What are three personality traits that you are grateful for in others?
  8. Write about one person who has taught you the most. What did they teach you and why are you grateful to have learned from them?
  9. What is one thing in nature that you are grateful for? What is something you can do to show your gratitude for this?
  10. Who is one person who is grateful for you? What have you done to make their life better?
  11. What are three things you are truly grateful for about your job (or hobby if you aren’t currently employed)?
  12. Do you have a spiritual practice that you are grateful for? What does it mean to you?
  13. Write about one book that you are especially grateful for. How has reading it changed you? If you could thank the author, what would you say?
  14. What is one talent that you possess that you’re extremely grateful for?
  15. What are you most grateful for about your home? What do you appreciate most about living there?
  16. Why are you grateful to have been born during this time?
  17. Who is a person or group of people from the past you’re grateful for? Why? What about them do you most appreciate?
  18. Write about something that has changed over the course of history that you are grateful for?
  19. We all make choices every day in our lives. Which choices have you made that you are the most grateful for?
  20. What is one thing your body can do that you are grateful for?
  21. What are you most grateful for about all the latest advances in technology?
  22. What animal are you especially grateful for? How do they make your life better?
  23. What music are you the most grateful for? Is there a song or musician who inspires you?
  24. Write one thing for each of your five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) that you’re grateful for
  25. What is one way you’ve changed that you’re grateful for?
  26. What are you grateful for about the country you live in? What are you grateful for about the specific part of the country you live in?
  27. What is one surprise you’ve experienced that you were (and are) grateful for?
  28. Have you ever been helped by a stranger? If you could tell them how grateful you are for them, what would you say?
  29. If there’s anyone who you generally dislike, what is something about them that you’re grateful for?
  30. What is the most empowering thing you’ve ever done? What about this experience are you grateful for?
  31. When you look back on your life thus far, what are you the most grateful for?

Darlings, may you find gratitude in the littlest of things, as well as the biggest of things,  and may you be inspired to commit to a daily gratitude practice. If you already have one, as I do, may we find ways to deepen the practice and enrich each other’s lives!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Cherished Memories

“Cherish your beautiful memories for sometimes these are the Blessings that you are left with.” 

While writing my Father’s Day Blog, My Honey-Honey, I came across pictures of my dad and his brothers when my Honey-Honey was only 4 years old in 1918. Alongside that picture was another one of them as adults with their mother. It must have been taken sometime in the late 1950’s-early 60’s. Seeing these pictures got me reminiscing.

It got me thinking about the memories I have from when I was a little girl and the obvious love these 4 sons had for their mother. A mother who essentially raised them without a dad (because he left them) and how she was able to sendher boys to the US to boarding school. Once reunited again, the family dynamic, as I saw it, was one of closeness, love, caring, unity and family. Everything was centered around the “hub” of my grandmother’s house.

We all lived just blocks from each other, with the exception of my uncle Eugene and his wife, Juanita (who changed her name to Joan), and who lived downstairs from my grandmother. My uncle Henry (the perpetual eccentric bachelor who I am saving for another blog), lived with my grandmother in the upstairs apartment. These four grown men cared for their mother until the day she died at 102. And, as a matter of fact, my uncle Henry followed her 6 months later. I am convinced he died of a broken heart.

As I was preparing to write this blog, I came across this little 3×5 gratitude book I had purchased about six years ago. It’s called The Gratitude Book – 50 Prompts to Keep the Grateful Feelings Flowing. As I was flipping through the pages, I came across an entry that dealt with an experience from my childhood for which I am grateful. What perfect synchronicity!

The experience from my childhood years that I was and still am grateful for, was having a sense of family beacuse all my aunts, uncles and cousins were an active part of my life. As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I guess the fashionista in me was groomed by these individuals, for they were impeccably dressed at all times. Regardless if we were out, with company  or just lounging at home, it would not be uncommon to see my uncles and my Honey-Honey in a sports jacket and sometimes even sporting a tie or bow-tie. They definitely knew how to dress to impress!

The women were always fashionable in their dresses, skirts, suits, shoes, hats, gloves, etc. My mom was the only one who ever dared to wear slacks when they came into fashion (Mama, like yours truly, was a little rebellious in her younger times).  Oh boy, when my grandmother saw her… and me sporting bell-bottom pants!?!?!?!?!?!?  I thought she was going to fall off her chair. She could NOT conceive of a woman wearing pants or even wanting to. It was all pretty hilarious at the time!

My aunts and uncles all stuck together. I am sure they must have had their disagreements or arguments, but it was never public or in front of the children. Yes, they’d squabble, but only about little “stuff” or “annoying” habits. And it was usually like a comedy act. Overall, I liked the sense of “rituals” that were established. On Sundays, the grown ups on my father’s side would gather at my grandmother’s house for cake, coffee and canasta. On Saturdays, we typically went to one of my maternal aunt’s place for amazing meals. Unlike my mother, her sisters LOVED to cook. Thank the Lord I inherited that trait from them. I may not know how to make Cuban food, but I can cook, and I’m damn good at it!

The sense of cohesiveness was of great impact on my life. Perhaps that is why I love entertaining so much and hosting gatherings. Over the years, my friends have become my family. I’ve always loved having parties where everyone was included…. it’s never  mattered to me if someone was married or single, everyone has always been welcome. Even friends of friends are always welcome. The more, the merrier!

If there’s anything I know how to do, it’s throw a great party. My party planning somehow always turns into an event. What can I say? I can’t keep it simple in this arena- a theme here and there, props, activities, entertainment, delicious food and drink and most times even complete with party favors of some kind. I can’t help myself. It’s all about living, loving and celebrating life!

I love the sense of belonging, camaraderie, unity of purpose, intention and overall gratitude for being able to bring beautiful people together to celebrate their presence in my life. We are all gifts in each other’s lives, and it’s important to celebrate the privilege and honor of being alive yet another day. These memories are the blessings that you are left with when someone is no longer here in the physical world.

While my parents, aunts, uncles and even some cousins are no longer physically alive, their memories, habits, gatherings, rituals, and love live inside me every day. I honor their memories by doing what I do best….celebrate life! And as my Honey-Honey taught me: live each day to the fullest and lead from the heart.

Do you have any memories that you hold near and dear? Well, I will leave you with the following prompt from The Gratitude Book: What is one experience from your childhood that you’re especially grateful for? Write about how it felt at the time and, in retrospect, how it’s affected your life.

Stay tuned to my upcoming blog, where I will share some other prompts from the book. Happy reminiscing!

Inhale Love & LIght…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

My Daily Prayers

“Prayer is simply talking to God as a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.” -Joyce Meyer

I believe in the power of prayer, especially the collective power of prayer. Calling on our fellow prayer warriors when needed is something that magnifies the act of praying. That’s one of the beauties of social media. When you put a call out there, prayer warriors step into action. A simple act of just holding someone in our consciousness and sending a quick prayer out makes a difference and can be felt. I’ve felt that energy first hand. It’s like a wave that lifts us up and keeps us from drowing in despair.

Sometimes I even write my own prayers depending on what’s going on or what I’m working on. Like the above quote states, it’s as easy as talking to a friend. These days, I find myself retreating to prayer more and more often as a result of what’s going on in the world, our country, and in the daily lives of friends and loved ones. I find myself having conversations with God more and more often. And, by the way, if the term “God” doesn’t resonate for you, by all means substitute it with whatever term works for you- Spirit, Divine Mother, Mother Earth or whomever is the God of your own understanding.

There are a couple of books I keep handy that contain some of my favorite prayers. At this stage of the game, they are pretty beat up because I’ve been using them for years and years. One of them, Mother Teresa’s, A Simple Path, is literally falling apart. Another one, Marianne Williamson’s, Illuminata A Return to Prayer, is a paperback and its pages are curled up and dog-eared. Tosha Silver’s book, Change Me Prayers- The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender, is another favorite. This one is still in mint condition because it’s fairly new. And of course, there are some lovely prayers in Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, Happiness and No Mud, No Lotus- The Art of Transforming Suffering. All of these are my daily go-to books for prayers.

Do you have any favorite prayers?  I do, so I’ve decided to share some of my favorites with you on this Sunday morning. I don’t know about you, but I feel we could all use a few extra prayers in our lives these days. The world needs our prayers, the cosmos, the planet, all it’s inhabitants….this is my belief, but I feel like you can relate on some level.

The prayers appear in the order I tend to say them. The first one was composed by me a long, long time ago. And the last one is one that I recite at the end of my yoga practice. May these prayers serve you in some way, and may you get from them whatever it is you may be needing this morning.

Dear God, Guardian Angels, Powerful and Divine Beings. Thank you for another day. Thank you for returning my soul back to me. Thank You for your compassion and understanding, truth, virtue, love, beauty and abundance. Thank You for removing all the obstacles. Continue to pave the way and clear the path. Continue to shine Your luminous rainbow over all of us. My mind is open. My heart is open, Continue to fill it with Your love. Continue to fill it with Your light. Continue to guide me, guard me, direct me and protect me. I always ask You to use me as an instrument of Thy peace, and to send me whomever needs inspiration, consolation, a word of advice, or an ear to listen. 

__________

 Dear God, I give this day to you. May my mind stay centered on the things of spirit. May I not be tempted to stray from love. As I begin this day, I open to receive You. Please enter where You already abide. May my mind and heart be pure and true, and may I not deviate from the things of goodness. May I see the love and innocence in all mankind, behind the masks we all wear and the illusions of this worldly plane. I surrender to You my doings this day. I ask only that they serve You and the healing of the world. May I bring Your love and goodness with me, to give unto others wherever I go. Make me the person You would have me be. Direct my footsteps, and show me what You would have me do. Make the world a safer, more beautiful place. Bless all Your creatures. Heal us all, and use me, dear Lord, that I might know the joy of being used by You. Amen

__________

Dear Lord, Help me to spread thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy Spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come into contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Thee O Lord! Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light O Lord will be all from Thee; none of it will be mine! It will be Thou, shining on others through me. Let me thus praise Thee without preaching, not by words, but by my example, by the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to Thee. 

__________

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. That where there is hatred, I may bring love; That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; That where there is discord, I may bring harmony; That where there is error, I may bring truth; That where there is doubt, I may bring faith; That where there is despair, I may bring hope; That where there are shadows, I may bring light; That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; To understand than to be understood; To love than to be loved. For it is by forgetting self that one finds; it is by forgiving that one is forgiven; It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

__________

Dear Lord, the Great Healer, I kneel before you since every perfect gift must come from You. I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart. Give me singleness to purpose, strength to life up a part of the burden of my suffering men, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine. Take from my heart all guile and worldliness. That with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on You. 

__________

May all beings be happy, healthy and free from suffering. May we all be fed, may we all be healed, and may be all know that we are loved. May we have peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, and peace in the world. Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

__________

While some people can get lost in prayer, others may have an aversion to it. If you are one of those people who feel awkward or uncomfortable reciting formal prayers, I encourage you to take pen to  paper and just tap into your heart. Allow your feelings, emotions, cirumstanstance or life events guide you into an intimate conversation with Spirit.

Lastly, I leave you with a beautiful quote, and food for thought, by Mother Teresa: 

“God speaks to us in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” 

 

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Connection

“Nobody, but nobody makes it out alone. What really matters is love. I mean, that condition in the human spirit that is so profound it allows us to rise. Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, is what really matters. There has always been evil. But there has always been good, and there is good now.” -Maya Angelou

This has been a brutal week. A painfully, heart-wrentching, brutal week that will impact our history and future generations. A week of trauma, intergenerational trauma, that will be inherited by children of the universe and citizens of our world. A week where I’ve been appalled at the righteousness of fellow citizens who believe that everything is “just fine.” A week where I’ve been dismayed at the indifference of others who do not see, or cannot feel, the separation of infants and young children from their families for what it is: inhumane, barbaric and a violation of human rights.

The flip side though is that we are all being challenged to look ever so deeply inside our hearts. That is what we do in times of darkness. It is a time for us to delve into our own individual consciousness and see how it has been influenced by the collective consciousness of our family, ancestors and society at large. We examine these generational pains and traumas in hopes of understanding, healing ourselves and healing the collective consciousness. We move from out of the darkness and into the light!

And on this day, June 21, the solstice and international / world yoga day, I give thanks for my practice. I give thanks for the shadow work we actively do on the path for it leads to greater understanding. These times are what we have been practicing for. These are the times where we seek refuge in our practice and in the loving, kind and supportive hands of our “tribe.” My heart has been so heavy that I’ve been spending more time in prayer, reflection, in community and on “intervention” duty alongside those who are hurting as well. Can you relate?

This morning I felt the need to ease into my day, make a nice cup of Jasmine tea, and read something that would feed my soul. I grabbed Oprah’s book, The Wisdom of Sundays, and decided to peruse the chapter on love and connection. I came across the following by Sister Joan Chittister:

“Humanity is about identifying with somebody else’s pain, with being there. With somehow or other knowing you cannot pass on the road because it’s not your bird and it’s not your child and it’s not your pain. Humanity is the ability to hurt for others. Because that’s the only fuel that will stop the injustice. You must know people are people, and you must do what they need in the middle of their pain.”

And when it comes to those people around us whom we know are suffering, we can show up. We can be there. We can hold that space for them. We can share in their pain. We can join forces, get involved, do whatever it is we are called to do in order to be of service in some way. By the way, if you happen to find yourself in a state of indifference, ask yourself, “Why?” Dig deeper, connect with your own suffering or perhaps reach out to friends to help you with the process.

As Thich Nhat Hanh states in his book, Practices for Happiness, “Anger, fear, anxiety, craving, greed and ignorance are the great afflictions of our time.” And this is where our tools come in handy. This is when we reach into our spiritual toolbox, and pull out whatever we need: yoga, meditation, prayer, mantra, chanting, singing, tapping, dancing, social activism, etc. We try, more than ever, to stay in that present state of mindful living; where our love is then front and center and leads us to taking collective action. It’s not a time to be indifferent. Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and best-selling author Elie Wiesel shared the following with Oprah, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”

Darlings, I share the following sentiment from the section on love and connection with you: We know humanity is in need of the healing power that comes from love in all its forms. Use your life to serve the world and you will discover the myriad of ways the world offers itself to serve you.

Each and every one of us has the power to do just that. In whatever way, shape or form that looks like to you, go out and do it. We have the power to transform not only ourselves but the collective consciousness of this beautiful planet we call “home.” We are all inextricably connected. The more we tap into this knowingness, the more we see and feel the oneness all around. The more clearly we see that we a human race of billions, we are citizens of the world, and that our children are the children of the universe.

Each and every day, I encourage you do ask yourself the following question upon opening your eyes: “How can I be of service today?” And before closing your eyes at night ask yourself, “How did I live in love and connection today?”

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC