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

 

 

 

 

 

My Honey-Honey

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

My father, Julio R. Carricarte, was born in Cuba on October 1, 1914. Just 3 months before he turned 80, he suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to speak or walk. Essentially, he was trapped in his body. Since he was non-ambulatory, and needed total care, we made the decision to place him in a nursing home…..and that’s an entirely different blog all together! He crossed over on July 7, 1999 at the age of 84. I was 40 at the time and can now look back and see everything I didn’t know that I didn’t know!

My dad and I always called each other “Honey-Honey.” It’s something he started when I was very young, and I just followed along. It was our special “something-something.” To be honest with you, I have no recollection of how or when it started, but it’s a nickname that I held onto until the last day I spoke to him: the day before he crossed over. The day I gave him permission to let go, because I was going on vacation three days later, and I told him so. I told him that if he wanted to let go, he had to do so BEFORE I left, because Mama could not have handled that on her own. He passed the next day and looked as beautiful as ever and just as I had left him the day prior (unlike two days before where he was distressed and on oxygen). That’s a call I will always remember getting!

Over the years, there were many calls: he fell, he hurt himself, he pulled out his feeding tube, he was being sent to the ER, etc., etc., etc. But that Wednesday at around 7:45 on  the evening of July 7th, I had a fleeting thought of going to visit  him but decided against it, because I wanted to remember him glowing, sparkling and present (should something happen while I was away). I got “the call” shortly thereafter within a half hour. Now mind you, I never worried about getting a call from the nursing home. Over the years, it’s something one becomes immune to. This call was different: the nurse asked me right up front if I was alone or had someone with me. In that instant, I knew! As a matter of fact, when I told her I had someone with me, and asked if it was finally over, she responded, “Yes.” My body exhaled like never before. Ironically my body felt like Jello, so I’m glad I was not alone. I took deep breaths, collected myself, called Cousin Al and made the decision to tell Mama the following morning.

At the time, I literally lived about 20 minutes from the nursing home, so I got there in no time.  I remember how warm his body felt. I remember cleaning his hands and under his finger nails. I remember him looking as if he was sleeping, I remember him at peace…finally! I remember being grateful for giving him permission to let go. At that point, he was a shell of the man I knew as my Honey-Honey. He had withered away. He had given up the fight years earlier. It was time, and I am blessed to have had him in my life as long as I did…even though I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time!

Honey-Honey was a character! Ask anyone who knew him, and they will attest to that. His humor, the glint in his eyes, “the look” he’d cast with that smirk on his lips (strabismus eye and all – it would take a while for you to be able to focus on the eye that was looking directly at you). He had a sense of humor that would bring you to tears and the biggest heart that would give you his last penny and make you feel like everything was going to be OK. He was gregarious, outspoken, a spokesperson for others,  and deeply loved and admired by all who knew him.

My Honey-Honey LOVED life! As I may have mentioned in a blog long ago (or I’m totally making this up), I asked him what words of wisdom he had to share with me on the occasion of his youthful and vivacious 79 years of age. How ironic that this conversation took place just days before he suffered his devastating stroke and was never able to form a sentence or articulate a feeling other than a vehement “No” or a few choice curse words. This from a man who never cursed in front of me!

I do recall his eyes during those times…..oh those eyes! They were like daggers to my heart. Oh, and the way he would hold my hand, fingers interlaced, and place it on his chest as he looked at me with those damn eyes! My heart would break. I couldn’t handle when he would break down and cry sometimes. I didn’t know at the time, but I could feel his entrapment, his pain, his frustration, and his embarrassment as he lost his independence and needed someone to care for his most basic needs. I felt his desperation in wanting to be free as well as his exhaustion when he gave up the fight.

So, back to the question I asked him about his words of wisodm. In retrospect, where did I even manage to pull that question from? I mean yes, I was on some path to self-realization, but not nearly the “spiritual” path that lay ahead of me and that evolved over the decades. What was Honey- Honey’s answer? Take one day at a time and live it to the fullest.” Then he went on to tell me and my husband at the time, Jorgie, how he would never be able to get a good night’s sleep if he worried about what the next day would bring. Furthermore, he said that was why my mother took so many “pills.” And of course he cast Mama one of his mischievous looks and silly grins as he said it!

At that point in his life, he wouldn’t even take an aspirin! Actually,  he had a little “incident” and was taken to the ER a few week before his stroke. He was prescribed blood pressure meds, checked himself out of the hospital, and he decided not to take the prescribed medication. So what did he do with them? He flung the blood pressure meds out an eleventh floor window when my Mama was hounding him about taking his medication. That was my Honey- Honey!

Honey-Honey had a “strong character” yet was loving, funny, giving, and the epitome of “service.” Oh, and did I mention he was the forever “poster child” for living life out loud? He was vivacious, cheerful, a jokester, a prankster and the best dressed, best smelling, Dapper Dan in town! As a matter of fact, my mom (Ms. Fashionista herself) used to tell me stories of how he would get his suits custom-made in Cuba. Seriously!?!? And if that wasn’t enough, he would have two pairs of slacks made for each suit! Wow! Honey-Honey had come a long way!!! Of course, this was well after he first came to the states as a child and then went back to Cuba as a young adult (where he eventually met my Mama and got remarried).

Allow me to digress for a moment. Before Honey-Honey married Mama, he was married to a Jewish woman named Josephine. For some strange reason, I have their divorce decree. Weird! Apparently, he broke her heart (a trait I obviously inherited, and not proud of…wink, wink). By what my mother told me (because he never spoke about it), she died very young…leukemia or cancer…something like that. Don’t even ask me why I am sharing this, but I guess it is a story I want my nieces and nephew to know…family history!

So back to Honey-Honey’s childhood. He was one of four brothers born to an amazing mother named Angela Ramos (with too many surnames to even recall at this point in my life). I used to get a kick out of reciting all her names when I was a young child. My grand-mother, aka Nany,  was a school teacher in Cuba in the early 1900’s and would have to travel by horseback to teach.

I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been! Dresses, layers of undergarments, corsets, boots and coiffed hair-dos. I remember as a child looking at the old, tattered, sepia photos and being enthralled by them. Nany taught the children of “the help.” Class pictures looked like a scene out of The Little Rascals! Oh the eyes on those children, their expression, their mischievousness, their light, love and probably adoration for this beautiful human being who taught and loved them was visible to the naked eye! I believe her spirit lives on in my niece, Megan.

However, at some point, my grand-father (whom I never met) left my grandmother with four small boys (Louis, Henry, Eugene and my dad). My grand-father fled to Mexico (hence, the Carricarte families I learned of back in my running days upon seeing who made it into the NYC Marathon). As adolescents, my dad and his brothers were shipped off to boarding school in Virginia. The Virginia Military Academy to be specific. My Honey- Honey was eleven at the time (I believe he was the youngest of his siblings). It is there that he got a taste of what it was like to live in America. His experiences at the military academy shaped who he was to become as an adult,  how he would choose to live a life of service and the legacy he would ultimately leave behind.

During one of our conversations, Honey-Honey shared with me how impacted he was by the generosity and compassion of the family members of his fellow cadets. So much so, that he would never forget it. You see, during holidays, everyone would return home to their families. Obviously, that was not an option for a kid from Cuba with no family in the states. He was embraced and taken in by his fellow cadets’ families during these times. That generosity of spirit is something that he always remembered, and I guess that is why Honey- Honey became the man that he became and left behind the legacy that he did!

Back in 1999, on the eve of his passing and when I started to ponder his eulogy, (as I recorded Frank Sinatra music to play at his funeral), I  started to think about the words to say. I thought, “What tribute can you pay a man whose whole life was a tribute?” A tribute to goodness, kindness and generosity. A couple of weeks before his major stroke, he received the highest tribute and honor which he felt he did not deserve: He was given the Hudson County Senior Citizen of the Year Award! And he was up against a nun! He could NOT wrap his head around that (especially since he was not a church go-er). I’ll always remember how humbled he felt.

At his eulogy, I shared the following: ‘There really was no need for words. For my father’s life spoke loud and clear. He lived life as an exclamation, not an explanation. Julio, aka Honey-Honey,  was a man who was always there to lend a hand or solve a problem for friends, family, neighbors or perfect strangers. A man you could call on at any hour of the day or night, and believe me, people called. A man who did not acknowledge the powerful word, “no.” It simply did not exist in his vocabulary when it came to helping, lending a hand or somehow serving. As a result of his illness, we’ve already missed this man and have paid  numerous tributes to him over the years. This one, however, is the final tribute.”

I went on to share some of my favorite memories of Honey-Honey: grocery shopping with him as a child on Sundays after he picked me up from church; our yearly trips to Florida and how he always got lost because there was “always a better or quicker” route to take; the array of “fix-me-upper” cars he would get at auction and put them back together again (always having parts left over) – this is true – Cousin Al, the family historian, will attest to it; the hearty appetites and needing to eat steak even if Mama made chicken (according to him, chicken was bird food); the gusto with which he ate his food (a foodie for sure even though the term didn’t exist back then); the hearty servings of cantaloupe (get this- filled with vanilla ice-cream and pancake syrup); the loose bills he always had in his pocket (which sometimes he lost, and sometimes my mother just helped herself to); his pockets filled with coupons for Shop-Rite and his multiple weekly runs to redeem them; indulging in Aramis soaps, cologne, aftershave, body lotions and potions (so that his skin would be as soft as a baby’s behind); his joy for spoiling  and buying things for his grand-children (even buying bags of groceries filled with their favorite cookies, ice-cream and other treats). Obviously, I had to stop somewhere, or I could have gone on and on. We would have been there for days!

My intention was to give you, as I did with everyone present the day of his funeral, a snapshot of my fondest memories. Yet, my fondest and most heart-warming memory of my Honey-Honey was his zest for life. His joie de vivre. His exuberance. His ability to take live his life as if it was his last day on earth. In his own words, “If I was to worry about tomorrow or things to come, I would not enjoy today nor would I be able to sleep at night.” These are the wisest of words, my darlings! Remember them…I sure do!

My consolation at the end of his physical life form here on earth was that, prior to his stroke, Honey-Honey did live each day to the fullest. His words of wisdom will forever ring in my ears and in my heart. I can’t tell you how many people I have spoked those word to and and with whom I shared his sage advice.

Honey-Honey was loved by everyone who knew him. I can now clearly see and appreciate his big personality, his loyalty, boldness, braveness, tenacity, relentlessness, joyfulness, resilience and fearlessness, as well as his ability to detach, accept, forgive, surrender and let go. Julio R. Carricarte led from his heart. He taught me to do the same.

My greatest desire at this stage of my life is to leave behind a legacy of love and service, like my Honey- Honey, and to inspire others to do the same- especially his grand-children whom he deeply loved and great-grandchildren whom he never met. It is my hope that both our legacies will live on in the hearts and minds of generations to come.

Thank you, Honey- Honey! I hope you are proud of how I am filling those big shoes you left behind. I love you! 

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

What Kind of Life Do You Want?

“You are fulfilled when you get up on the morning. So many times we get up in the morning, we’re depressed. We’re down. We’re angry. We’re frustrated. But when you can wake up saying, ‘I’m glad to be alive. There is purpose to this day.’ To me, that is success. And I would argue that once you have that internal success, then externally it’s just a manifestation of what happens internally in the best possible way.” -DeVon Franklin

The other day I was googling something Oprah related. Actually, I was wondering if there was a recent sighting of her in Newark, NJ days prior. Why? Because I saw someone at the airport who could have been her exact double. The poney-tailed hair, funky glasses, the eyes, the teeth, body type, minimal make-up, complexion all screamed, “Queen O,” except what would she be doing at the airport. After all, doesn’t she have her own plane? I definitely did a double-take. Poor woman! I’m sure she must get hounded by people all the time….I didn’t hound, I just stared!

Back to google…..so I came across some links from her “Life You Want Tour,” when Oprah had been in Newark a few years back. As with all things lately, synchronicity has been playing a major role in my life. Today, as a matter of fact, a few of us went to breakfast after class and the topic of synchronicity came up, as did affirmations, signs, career changes and big life questions. Much of what we talked about is summarized in a link I clicked on. I’m not sure which one it was, but I did take a picture of the 10 powerful Oprah quotes that were shared.

For some reason, I was guided to snap the picture. After this morning’s powerful conversations, I now know that I am meant to share these power thoughts / life lessons with you – today, not tomorrow or some other time, but NOW:

  1. Your purpose is the thread that connects the dots between everything you do. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched.
  2. No gift is made for you to hold within yourself. Everything gets bigger by sharing it with the world.
  3. It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly, that to live a perfect imitation of someone else’s life.
  4. You have no power in someone else’s territory.
  5. Your life is speaking to you all the time. First in a whisper. Then a thump. Then a brick. Then a brick wall.
  6. Everything that has happened to you, was happening for you.
  7. The life you want begins by embracing the life you have. The life you have is miraculous and it matters!
  8. Courage is doing what you know you need to do before you are forced to do it.
  9. What you focus on expands.
  10. When you set the vision, the universe will rise up to meet it.

As long as we are living our purpose, which undeniably is to love, serve, uplift each other, help to heal and move humanity forward, and be the change we want to see in the world, we are on track. We are a success. We are doing what we came here to do. The key is to find what sets our soul on fire, what we are passionate about and then go out and live the life we want. Not sure how or where to start? Well the 10 power thoughts is a great place for starters!

I will now leave you with Carl Lentz’s words from his book, OWN THE MOMENT, which happened to fit right in with the conversations we were having at breakfast. I just love synchronicity! The key is to be open to it.

Do you know where you are headed? Maybe the more important question is: Do you know who sent you? Because if you trust the “who,” the “where” is far more bearable when you face seasons of uncertainty. Purpose is more than a job or a scenario that you think is right for you. Living with purpose is a mentality. We can achieve our purpose in any scenario if we trust the plan and who created the plan in the first place. There is no better time than now to own some of the hardest questions in this life. Why are you here? Where do you find joy and passion in this life and how can you do more of that? One thing is for certain; Avoiding these questions creates more pressure and less peace. God didn’t put you on this earth to merely exist and vanish. Live with purpose, on purpose. Every single day. (From the chapter I Have No Idea Where I’m Going)

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS: I’d like to take a moment to send a “shout out” to my Highland Tribe! We are truly blessed to have such a beautiful place to practice, learn and hold the space for whatever needs sharing and whomever needs holding. Beautiful friendships have been formed at Highland Yoga Studio in Butler, NJ, and friendships continue to blossom. It’s a beautiful place to seek refuge….both on the mat and in each others arms!

Get Clear on the Why

“You may very well be the only obstacle separating you from your greatest desires.” -Tegan Trovato

Why do we sometimes self-sabotage our efforts? Why do we sometimes feel we are not enough? Why do we live to work instead of work to live? Why do we exhaust ourselves trying to prove to “someone” that we are capable, able and more than qualified to do the job? Why do we seek external validation? Why do we focus on what we have not done rather than celebrating all our accomplishments? Why can’t we give ourselves permission to cut ourselves some slack? Why do we find it hard to step into our greatness? Why can’t we accept, once and for all, that we are MORE than enough?

These are the questions that came up for me as I was reading an article by Tegan Trovato on my flight home from Dallas this past week. She is the founder of Bright Arrow Coaching. The article was titled, “What if You’re the Only Obstacle?” and was featured in Mantra Magazine (one of my faves). I’m going to have to scope out the work she does!

The article really got me thinking about the career I had, the people I worked with, the people under me, above me, the qualified, unqualified, healthy, unhealthy, stable ones who were a pleasure to work with,  as well as the unstable and challenging ones who were my greatest teachers. It got me thinking of some of the “higher-ups” I worked with who didn’t even know what they didn’t know. It got me thinking of my transition from an elementary school teacher to vice-principal of an urban, at-risk, high school in a very politically charged school district, and the unfathomable number of hours that would be the “norm” for me to put in on any given day. I’m talking 12-15 hour days, some days longer, and the hours some of us put in on the weekends due to sporting events, etc. It got me thinking of how physically sick, and how often I was sick, during the last 12 years of my career. Talk about exhaustion! Why? For what? Approval of course. Acceptance. Validation. What a waste of energy! All because I was not validating my Self. Instead, I was my own obstacle!

All these thoughts arose, I think, because I’ve been doing some intense writing exercises and journaling as a result of the book I am reading, which I mentioned in two of my blogs: Taking Charge of Our Own Healing and Choosing Love at All Times. Additionally, I’ve been having some pretty deep and healing conversations with a few girlfriends, and we have all been doing a lot of processing and excavating in an effort to get to the root cause of our past and current behaviors, pain, fears, suffering, exhaustion, obstacles, and self-sabotaging limiting beliefs that do not serve anyone. In essence, we were working to get clear on the why! And, by the way, if you missed the previous blog, My Guest Blogger Returns, check it out and see how “Blondie” got clear on her why. And it all started with a little red lipstick…wink, wink!

Getting clear on the why is necessary if we want to live our fullest and best life and own the greatness that is our birthright. It also offers us a sneak peek into the “why” behind other people’s behaviors. By this, I mean those behaviors that are less than nice and outright mean. Behaviors that we sometimes can’t wrap our heads around because that is not our operating system.

As I was reading the chapter on forgiveness and betrayals in the book I’ve been working with, I found myself digging deeper into my subconscious mind. Here I thought I was in the clear; that I no longer had any resentments nor was there anyone I needed to forgive. Surprise, surprise! I thought about the betrayals of those “not so nice” colleagues with whom I worked. The colleagues who were my peers as well as higher-ups like some principals, supervisors, assistant superintendents and even a few superintendent of schools. Some of these people were the unhealthiest people I have ever seen: unhealthy in mind, body and spirit. One could see and feel it.

Having worked my way up the ranks in a primarily patriarchal system, there were certain behaviors of men that, sadly, you could typically expect. Over time, more and more women, like myself, were holding positions that only men once held. The behaviors I had a difficult time understanding at the time were that of the women in power.

Power in the wrong hands is not a good thing. It’s disastrous! It is detrimental to the work force, the work place, humanity and to society at large. We see that everyday in every industry. But being a woman who has always been about supporting and lifting other women up, I looked back at the toxic and hurtful behaviors, and I saw how destructive they were- to say the least. More importantly, I came to the realization that I needed to forgive these people. Why? Because I was now in a place to better comprehend and get clear on the why they behaved, said and did the things they did.

What kinds of things? Well, let’s start with intimidation, bullying and harassment. Oh, and yelling, screaming and carrying on! And let me not forget the lies and the back-stabbing. Some of these higher-ups belittled and disgraced many of the qualified, dignified, smart, respected, and empowered women (as well as men) who knew how to lead, how to engage, how to relate to the community and to families, how to solve problems and, yes, how to love. Now that is authentic power if you ask me!

They would just squash, defame, insult, and disrespect anyone their ego and/or wounded / deprived child was threatened by. God knows I worked with plenty of women whose default setting was to tear a woman down instead of lifting them up, who took credit for the work others did rather that celebrating each other’s successes and accomplishments, who set people up for failure rather than encouraging others to live  up to their highest potential, who were the obstacle rather than the remover of obstacles which, by the way, is the job of a true leader. Rather than illuminating the path for others, these colleagues and higher-ups darkened one’s trajectory. How on earth could they put their head on the pillow at night? Didn’t their souls feel compromised? Did they even realize they had a soul? Did they sell their soul to the devil just to get to where they got?

It is my firm belief that people act out of their state of consciousness. That is why I try to always choose the miracle over the grievance, anger, resentment and regret. However, as I reflected on how the different types of loss has shown up for me in my life, and how it impacted my own behaviors and beliefs, I found myself wondering how damaged, wounded and scarred these men and women were/are.  I was able to see how the dis-ease in their lives is showing up/ has shown up as disease in their bodies. I was able to see how they feed their “hungry ghost.” I was able to get clear on the why.

In getting clear on the why, I was also able to release them. I was able to forgive myself for subconsciously holding onto some type of grievance or resentment. Like truth, karma always prevails. We are all living out our own karma in this lifetime. My own karma has allowed me to excel and succeed in ways I never thought possible, and I am forever grateful for all the lessons and the blessings! Speaking of blessings, I even wrote a prayer of thanks in my journal for those people, and in it I prayed for them to awaken to the light of their true nature, so they can heal their lives and the lives of those around them.

So, back to the questions I posed at the beginning. I think the answer to all of those questions comes from a valid point that Tegan Trovato pointed out in her article: we seek approval and validation from other people rather than granting ourselves the permission tostep into our own power and take action.” As she notes, “I can tell you from spending thousands of hours with adults in the growth and self-development mode that many of us are waiting for some kind of permission.” 

Darlings, we must accept the fact that we do not need to seek permission or validation from anyone other than our Self. Whether we want to or not, we must also come to the realization that we may just be our own obstacle. Yes, there will be people on our path who will be our greatest challenges, but it’s up to us to take on that challenge. A challenge that calls for us to be courageous, brave and stand in our authentic, able, capable and more than qualified power and not allow the unhealthy behaviors of others to dim our light. In doing so, we cease the need to seek outside ourselves for the often misunderstood and detrimental validation of others. As the saying goes, “Everything we need to know is already inside of us.”  Furthermore, we can finally accept the fact that we are MORE than enough!

I will leave you with the following questions and invite you to sit with them for a while. You may want to journal, talk to friends about them, meditate on them and maybe even journal some more:

  • What is something you need to get clear on?
  • Do you have any unhealthy habits you need to break?
  • Are you thriving or barely surviving?
  • What are the fears that are limiting your potential?
  • Is their something, or someone, who is keeping you from being your best self? Whom you need to forgive?
  • How / When do you give your power away?
  • Do you always seek outside yourself for answers, approval, validation, or permission?
  • When was a time that you remember being your own obstacle? Your own worst enemy?
  • In what ways are you committed to personal / spiritual growth and self-development?
  • Do you know what your greatest desire is?
  • Do you know just how powerful beyond measure you are?

When in doubt, just get clear on the why. In doing so, you will be better able to inspire, love serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

My Guest Blogger Returns

Red Lipstick is My Armor

by Shannon Green

I was never a very confident person growing up. 

I was constantly teased by my brother for my “witch-nose,” teased by the public school kids for having to attend Catholic School, mocked for getting good grades, and called anti-social by my 5th Grade teacher because I enjoyed reading books during recess. I’ve had glasses and braces simultaneously, been called too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice.  I’ve been asked “why do you smile so much” like it was a bad thing. 

Over the years, I’ve struggled with trying to figure out who I am and how to love myself despite of all of the criticism.  I’ve tried on a few different masks over the years to try to fit in, but none of them really felt comfortable –  until I decided to take them off completely and just see what being me felt like. 

After returning from Maui and adjusting back to reality, I knew that if I wanted to continue feeling the bliss I had experience while I was there, I needed to do some serious self-work. I needed to overcome the things that were feeding my insecurities and fears. I needed to admit that I was stressed out, which literally took a case of Shingles to make me come that realization. Not kidding.  Five years ago, just a few weeks after returning from my amazing Maui Yoga Retreat, I came down with Shingles. Luckily for me it wasn’t a severe outbreak, but it was enough for me to FINALLY admit that I was stressed out. Years of denial, both to me and my friends, had finally culminated in my body retaliating against me; as if to say,“You aren’t listening to me so I am going to make you listen to me!”

Let me set the stress stage for you. At this time, my husband and I were living with my in-laws while he finished up yet another Bachelor’s Degree (this time in Mechanical Engineering) in hopes of getting a better job than his previous Master of Fine Arts afforded him.  I was terrified we would never have enough money to move to our own place and that we would have to live with my in-laws forever. My work was ok. I wasn’t unhappy at work, but I also wouldn’t say I was happy.  Additionally, I had been hoping to start a family by now, but that wasn’t happening. Because of this, I was seeing various doctors and trying everything I could to figure out the problem.  

After returning from Maui, I realized that I needed to make the “Maui-State-of Mind” a permanent thing. I had a glimpse of how good life could be, and I needed to figure out how to sustain that feeling back home.  So, like everything I do, I tackled this with full force, as if it were a college class I needed to ace. I started reading “May Cause Miracles” by Gabrielle Bernstein. The book promised change in 40 Days, and I worked each chapter religiously.  I bought more books and more journals, and I became devoted to figuring out how to “let go” and “surrender” and how this differed from just “giving-up.” I read about love and forgiveness. 

I became a junky for all things Hay House, which is funny because I don’t think I even knew what Hay House Publishing was at the time.  I became obsessed with Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love,” which has become one of my absolute favorites. I was downloading Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenges onto my phone every time a new series came out. I just kept following any signs I could find. If a name was mentioned in a book I was currently reading, I wrote it down and I researched it later. Who was the author?  What was the book?  I took the list Yaya gave me,  went to the library, and I checked out as many books as I could find. Little did I know at the time but, bit by bit, things started to change.  I had started to change, and life had started to change along with it. 

My husband eventually graduated in December 2013 and, about 10 months later, we found our beautiful home. By 2015 we were living in our house, and he was working at a good job. I realized that the fear and insecurities I had surrounding money had disappeared. Additionally, my job was starting to change too. At one point in 2015, I was working for 6 different people. Wow! That is a lot of personalities, but there was change on the horizon and, by 2016, I was working for the one person I had wanted to work for. 

I had also come to a huge decision about having a family. We were just in the final stretch of closing on our new home, and I was at yet another doctor appointment.  Unfortunately for me, I was meeting with a doctor who had a terrible bedside manner.  I was already on the verge of tears when I realized I didn’t need to keep doing this. I could stop at any time. It was my decision to make. I decided I needed to stop seeing these doctors. I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to continue with the stress of the multiple doctors’ appointments and the disappointment I felt each month when nothing I was doing was working. Once I realized that I could stop going to see these doctors, I had this amazing feeling of peace wash over me. I knew what I had to do. I had to stop going. I had the power to stop. So, I stopped. And I felt free. With this stress now lifted form my heart, I felt a huge relief wash over me. I could now concentrate on living in Maui-Bliss!

With all of those stress creators out of the way, I realized that one of my biggest insecurities still needed to be addressed: how I felt when I looked in the mirror. I believe we are always our harshest critics, and every time I looked in the mirror I heard those voices from my childhood. I knew I had to face this fear – this insecurity head on, and I thought to myself, “What is one thing I have always wanted to try but was always too scared to look foolish?”  The answer was “red lipstick.”

Now, up until this point in my life, I was fairly neutral about my lipstick colors. I tended to wear more natural colors and focused my makeup on eyeshadow and black mascara because I have always liked my eyes. My lips are naturally thin on top. Truthfully, I hardly have an upper lip. I have always been afraid to try red lipstick because I have such a fair complexion spattered with freckles, and I was terrified I would pick the wrong shade… and then end up looking like Bozo the Clown. I was determined to do it though. Face the fear of the red lipstick. So I did what I always do, and I researched the best red lipsticks. Truly I did! I went to my computer and Googled it. 

Once I had purchased the “perfect” red I rushed to the bathroom mirror to try it on. The first day I wore it, I felt a little self-conscious. Like I was trying too hard but, as the days passed by and I wore it more and more, I realized that it was boosting my confidence. In fact, applying my red lips each morning became like adorning my armor to face the world! I had on my war-paint! Once applied, I was ready for battle! I could face anything! Who knew that a little red smear on my lips would give me such confidence?? Just the littlest thing like wearing red lipstick gave me the boost I needed to make other changes in my life. 

After reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,”  I revamped my entire wardrobe and only kept those items that “sparked joy” and made me feel beautiful, powerful, and confident. I realized, as I went through my clothing, that so many items had been bought to make me “fit-in” and “blend” with the crowd so people would accept me as one of them.  My childhood drama of wanting to be liked was still replaying itself because I was afraid to just be me. Enough! I said goodbye to anything that I did not love. 

Fast forward to the present: 2018. I have been back a month from the most amazing Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica and, yes, this past week I was experiencing such inner turmoil that seemed to come from no-where. All of a sudden I felt those old insecurities bubble up to the surface again. I felt like that teenage girl who just couldn’t believe that she was anyone special. The old voices were getting louder and louder each day. Luckily for me, I was able to talk to some very amazing friends of mine who helped me realize this as old drama and not truth. Then, as often seems to happen in my life, the signs started to appear. I am currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ,“A New Earth” and have just got to the chapter titled “The Pain-Body” which he describes as follows: 

Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain….. The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in  every cell of your body. It consists not just of childhood pain, but also painful emotions that were added to it later in adolescence and during your adult life, much of it created by the voice of the ego. It is the emotional pain that is your unavoidable companion when a false sense of self is the basis of your life.  

The energy of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.”

Wow! That was it, exactly what I was experiencing. I read on to the following: 

The pain-body awakens from its dormancy when it gets hungry, when it is time to replenish itself. Alternatively, it may get triggered by an event at any time. The pain-body that is ready to feed can use the most insignificant event as a trigger, something somebody says or does, or even a thought.”

As I was reading this and sharing these passages with my friends, I started to wonder why this was coming up. Hadn’t I already dealt with this issue?  I re-read some of my journal entries from last year and saw I had written about these same insecurities back then, but I had forgotten. I realize now that I had never fully dealt with the issues. I had skimmed the surface but never dug deeper. Now I knew why it was coming up again. Now I could put a name on it. The pain-body. 

“Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?” ~ Echkart Tolle, “A New Earth”

There is no benefit to me by replaying these old negative stories in my head. They do not serve me. They no longer existed; yet, I carried them inside of me where they were eating holes trying to escape back into reality. I was giving them power.  

I believe that this was resurfacing because of the amazing experience in Costa Rica. I had recharged myself. My armor was now more than just on the surface. It was more than just red lipstick giving me confidence.  It was positive energy that was radiating from inside of me and surrounding me. I believe that this old story has come back to me at this time because I am now able to face it completely and finally slay this dragon. I believe that just being able to recognize this has already started me down the path. I know it will probably come back around to test me, but I feel confident that I will be successful in recognizing it for what it is and stop the pain-body from feeding.

During the week, as I was talking to Yaya and other friends about this issue, I thought about how often we try to suppress our true authentic-self in order to appease others and make them feel more comfortable- which in turns leaves us feeling badly because we are stifling ourselves. We end up feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. Why do we do this? Why do we change our behavior? We want to fit in. We want to be liked. We are not often encouraged as children to be confident in ourselves and celebrate our uniquenesses.  So we adorn these masks to fit in, to blend in; until ultimately, we fade away, and we become scared to be ourselves because “what if no one will like me?”…. and we wonder why we aren’t happy??? 

But then we meet people we can take our masks off with…. People who love and accept us for our quirks and differences, and we realize when we are around them we feel like the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, jokes are funnier, food tastes better, and life is just grand! I know I have been fortunate enough to find these people in my life and seeing that this way of life is possible. The hard part is being able to remember this when I don’t have them around me 24/7. It is work, and it isn’t always easy. According to Yaya, that is why they call it “a practice.”  Luckily, I know that support is only a phone call away. 

I realize now that those people who don’t understand the true-me are the same ones who tell me I am “too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice,” but I have realized that I don’t’ want to change those things about me in order to make them feel more comfortable. In fact, those are all things I love about myself!    

I have a huge heart and want to be friendly to everyone. I love to give hugs. I love to smile. I love to cry especially when I am happy. I will be your cheerleader and champion routing you on whenever you need me. I don’t want to change. If I make you feel uncomfortable with my behavior, I am sorry you feel that way; but, I am NOT going to change! I am going to wear red lipstick to yoga class because that is what I love to do.

So I leave you asking this:

  • What old stories do you replay in your head that you have adopted as “truth”? 
  • What are your pain-bodies? Can you recognize them when they appear?
  • What masks do you wear?  Why do you wear them?
  • Are there people you remove your mask for? How does it feel when you are around them?
  • How do you live your authentic self?
  • Is there something you stopped doing that you really liked because someone told you it was “stupid?”
  • Is there something you want to stop doing because it does not serve you, but you are too afraid to stop? This could be a behavior or activity. 
  • What brings you joy?
  • If there something that you always wanted to try but were too scared? Maybe a new hobby or hairstyle?

Sometimes, something as trivial as red-lipstick can make you feel like you have adorned your Knight’s Armor and gives you just enough confidence to slay your dragons. I know for me it surely has. Wishing you the best on your journey! 

 

Thank you, “Blondie,” for digging deep, digging even deeper with each re-write while you were “on assignment,” and for the journey you shared with us. I’m sure it was cathartic and a long time coming! Personally speaking, we can all relate!  I’m certain you have touched many hearts with this blog. I’m honored, blessed and grateful to be part of your life! Love you! Mama Yaya xoxo

PS- Looking forward to your next one!