Overflowing With Gratitude

“Find just one thing that you feel grateful for right now and let that gratitude pour through your body. It’s a healing balm, like the warmth of the sun.” -Tosha Silver

Right now, it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing I am grateful for because my heart is still overflowing with gratitude post-birthday celebrating. I’m even grateful for burning the candles at both ends and being sick for two weeks post all the celebrations! If gratitude is a healing balm like the warmth of the sun, then I’ve been scorched! What can I say?

Welcome to my world! As a self-proclaimed gratitude junkie, I am ALWAYS finding gratitude and IN ALL WAYS…from the minuscule to the monumental. It’s simply a way of life for me. Throughout the light-filled, as well as dark times of my life, I find gratitude in each of those moments. Why? Because it fills my heart with joy and it keeps my nervous system happy. I guess you can say that my gratitude practice is one of my non-negotiables. It’s a ritual that keeps me fueled, joyous and humbled regardless on the circumstances that may be occurring around me or in my life. It’s a practice that allows me to  find the light, stay in the light and be the light.

As a result, I seem to have surrounded myself with brilliant light beings…some whom I’ve known forever, some whom I’ve met along the way and others whom have been recently  dropped into my universe. And it is because of these beautiful beings in my life, that I celebrated my “journey to 60” again and again, and in different ways this past October. It was of utmost importance for me to celebrate the beautiful light beings in my life. It’s all about the celebrations, darlings. It’s about always finding ways to celebrate life!

Between birthday lunches and brunches, a karma yoga class that was “designed” to inspire, love and serve, a celebratory dinner complete with Cuban comfort food, and then a 60 for 60 birthday bash dance party, I found myself at a loss for words. All I could do was “feel.” And what I felt was profound!

It took a while to process, but it felt like generations of love and gratitude pulsing through my veins. Generations of legacies left behind flowing through my heart and coming out front and center. There were times where I so strongly felt the presence and pride of my spirit family. Those who sacrificed, cleared the path and paved the way for me, who made it possible for me to be alive and become who I am today: a masterpiece AND a work in progress.

The culmination of all the festivities was the birthday bash, where all the people who’ve been a significant part of my journey to 60 were gathered under one roof. I felt like I was atop the mountain of 60 looking out at the people whom I most wanted to celebrate for their presence in my world. There are not enough words that could not adequately describe the gratitude, love and joy I felt on this most special and beautiful occasion. My heart was, and is still, overflowing  with gratitude. And, I must admit, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

For days leading up to the birthday bash, I reflected on everyone who would be gathered together, and I was humbled by the thought of the many blessings, much love and overwhelming wealth and abundance that show up in my daily life by way of my various vibe tribes: my longtime friends, my Lovelies, my Yayas, my Circle of Sacred Soul Sisters, my Pseudo-daughters, my Shopping Partners in Crime, my Sangha, my adopted Mother Yaya, my Goddesses, my Mama Bear and Papa Bear, my sister/mother/friends who were there in spirit, and family members whom have entertained all my fanciful whims over the years since what were apparently my early days of “Mama Yaya in training.” All I kept thinking to myself was, how can one person be so lucky?

Gratitude, that’s how! Unconditional love, that’s how! Stepping into the legacy my parents left for me, that’s how! Spreading love and kindness, being love, sharing love, being the light and seeing the light in others, that’s how! Celebrating others, that’s how! Proclaiming yourself a gratitude junkie, that’s how! I kept hearing my mama’s voice in my ears, telling me, You are reaping what you have sown…That’s how!

As I further reflected, I realized it wasn’t about the number of people in my life or gathered under one roof, or the number I could have had if space and money allowed, but it was about the QUALITY of my friends/family/relationships: their integrity, character, respect, kindness, compassion, open heart, generosity of spirit, sense of humor, outpouring of unconditional love and acceptance, inclusiveness, intimate friendship, un-wavering support, and the sacred space we all hold for each other during the happy, sad, pretty, ugly, nice and messy times of our lives.

My oldest friend, Ileana, whom I’ve known since I’m four years old, gave a beautifully touching and spontaneous toast, as did another long time friend of mine, Barbara, who had us all in stitches. And boy did I laugh at the Limerick my cousin’s wife, Sheryl Ann,  wrote for me. She’s also known me since I was five. Throughout all of this, as I looked out atop my place on the mountain of 60, I realized their toasts and memories pretty much summed up my evolution on this journey to 60. And on some very deep, emotional level, I felt like the child who always wanted to make people happy, be seen, recognized and validated.

That afternoon, especially after Ileana’s spontaneous toast, I felt seen, and I had to thank her for seeing me. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the words thank you for seeing me. She saw me in ways I had never even seen myself as I was growing up, and I had to express my deep gratitude for doing so. Which leads me to these questions:

  • Have you ever thanked someone for seeing you?
  • Have you ever been thanked for seeing someone?

It’s powerful stuff. Give it a try….you may just surprise yourself with the mind-boggling and breathtaking  feelings and memories that come up for you. I think it’s both a gift to ourselves and the other person when we express being seen. I know I’m going to be more mindful and intentional in expressing the words “I see you” and “thank you for seeing me” to others as I continue on my journey.

And speaking of journeys, when all was said and done, parties over, tears shed and laughs shared, we realize that’s all a part of life. Our lives are made up of moments, and what we do with those moments is what counts, inspires,  touches lives and what creates our legacy. There will always be the light and the dark, but it’s important to find your tribe and create joy in each of these moments, and ALWAYS make and take the time to CELEBRATE LIFE….always and in all ways. Remember, we are all simultaneously masterpieces and works of art progress. Now carry on!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC / Mama Yaya

 

 

 

 

Defy Age…Quality of Life

“There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defied age.” -Sophia Loren

If you happen to be doing Deepak Chopra’s current 21 Day Meditation Experience, Energize Your Life, you too came across this quote on the day the meditation dealt with anti-aging being a skill you can master. That meditation inspired this blog, as I thought it would be an appropriate follow up to my previous blog, Aging or Ageless…What are You?

I’m a big advocate for quality of life. This from someone who used to be a workaholic.  When we have experienced so many losses in life, some of them tragic and others long-lived, we tend to have an awakening of sorts and start to connect the dots. We come to realize that it’s not solely about the job, career, the big house, over consumption and consumerism, living life in the fast lane and money, money, money. What good are all of these things if we don’t have the quality of life and the energy to live life?

Who has the energy you may ask? Well, according to Deepak, it’s the people who are mastering the aging process that radiate life and energy. And how we do that? By the choices we make. He further went on to share that studies have shown that the most effective anti-aging results come from a holistic approach that minimizes toxic and unbalancing influences on our bodies, minds and emotions.

If we take a long, hard look at the people around us, those in our lives, and perhaps even complete strangers, we can pretty much tell by looking at them if they radiate life and energy. Further examine their eating habits, social habits, hobbies, outlook on life, social/familial interactions, listen to their tone and conversations, and we have a good indication if they are on the fast track to aging and whether or not they have any semblance of quality of life. Obviously, it’s just as important to take a good look at ourselves to see if there are any areas we can improve on.

Here are some questions that came to mind as I was writing:

  • What are your energy levels like?
  • Do you look at the glass half full, or half-empty?
  • Do you feel you are taking life for granted?
  • What are your talents?
  • How do you express your creativity?
  • How do you exercise your mind?
  • Do you live to work, or work to live?
  • What type of physical exercise do you get?
  • Do you eat genetically modified foods, processed foods, foods out of a box or whole, organic, clean and green foods that are not genetically modified?
  • How would you describe your relationships in general?
  • What is the quality of your friendships?
  • Do you partake in any self-destructive/self-sabotaging behaviors?
  • Do you drink, smoke or do drugs?
  • How do you minimize the stress in your life?
  • Can you identify the stressors in your life?
  • What mindfulness resources or tools do you employ to maintain the calm in the chaos?
  • Do you drink plenty of water and get at least 8 hours of sleep?
  • Can you identify the areas of your life which you feel aren’t being lived to the fullest?

Why so many questions? Well, because these types of questions help us identify areas that need further examining, cultivating and nurturing. It’s that simple! No hidden agendas or complicated formulas. And what is even simpler? The fact that people who age well have the following seven things in common:

  1. Meditation
  2. Wide social support system, friends, family and community groups
  3. Close emotional and familial ties
  4. Take multi-vitamins and mineral supplements daily
  5. Good sleep alternating with daily activity
  6. Life-long curiosity
  7. Willingness to undertake new challenges

As with all things, habits, attitudes, activities and practices in life, it primarily comes down to balance. And speaking of balance, I will leave you with something one of my nieces (and hopefully a future guest blogger) posted on Instagram a while back. It spoke to me so much that I had her print it on card stock, and I enclosed them in my birthday thank you cards. As you should know by now, I love anything motivational and inspirational!

Balance is key. In everything you do. Dance all night long and practice yoga the next day. Drink wine but don’t forget your green juice. Eat chocolate when your heart wants it and kale salad when your body needs it. Wear high heels on Saturday night and walk barefoot on Sunday morning. Live high and low. Move and stay still. Embrace all sides of who you are. Be brave, bold, spontaneous and loud and let that complement your abilities to find silence, patience, modesty and peace. Aim for balance. Make your own rules and follow your own path and don’t let anybody tell you how to live according to theirs.

Remember, my darlings: quality of life, quality of life, quality of life… and in the process, you will find yourself defying age!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Aging or Ageless…What are You?

“Your age is less chronological and more spiritual and attitudinal.” -Jane Fonda

Hello darlings! I have been a little behind on my writing as a result of all the birthday activities I planned for my milestone birthday. In the months, weeks and days leading up to the big party day, I made it a point of really being present and engaging FULLY in the final planning and prepping for the birthday-related activities and celebrations, as well as enjoying the company of friends who traveled near and far to spend time with me and partake in all the fun. And it all was pretty much stree-free!

So how does 60 feel? And where on earth did that number come from? All I can say is that it is just a number. As I am known for saying, “I am actually 35 in my head.” Furthermore,  I have been making it a practice to feel like an ageless goddess for quite some time now. Can you relate? If not, have I got a book for you…sit tight!

We all have the power to be ageless goddesses. We all have the power to tap into our youthful energy. We all have the power to feel fresh, alive and new. What’s the secret? Our state of mind, our attitudes towards aging, the joy and passion by which we live our lives, the self-care physical, emotional and spiritual practices we employ, being our unique self, and the intentions and grace by which we approach each day is the secret. Oh, and let’s not forget starting each day with a grateful heart and constantly creating opportunities for celebrating life. That, my darlings, is what I know for sure!

What’s another secret? I think it has a lot to do with re-inventing ourselves over the course of our lifetime. And boy, have I done just that in my lifetime! All you have to do is take a look in my closet, and it will leave you wondering who lives there. And let me not forget the different haircuts and hair color…oh, and the accessories! They are like props. And you know how much I love props! Oops, and I almost forgot the many places I’ve lived in and decorated….each different and unique and reflective of where I was along my journey in life.

Expressing our true self and living from this place of uniqueness and authenticity requires grit, courage, braveness and boldness. It’s all there inside of us….we just need to tap into it. As Deepak Chopra stated in one of his meditation series, “We all have access to youth. It’s always accessible.” 

And while we are on the topic of being ageless, Christianne Northrup, M.D., author of Goddesses Never Age, notes that we should ask ourselves these 2 questions every day:

  • Who do you really want to be? 
  • Who would you be if your age weren’t a factor?

She encourages us to not only ask ourselves these questions every morning, but to actually live them throughout our day. Talk about transformation and re-inventing ourselves! These two questions hold infinite possibilities for us. I think if we truly stopped and did ask ourselves these questions every single day, and went out and lived them, that we just might find ourselves living fuller, richer and more vibrant, exciting and meaningful lives. What do you think? How are you living your life these days? Could you use a little more fun, zest, pizzazz, color, adventure, wonder, and awe?

Speaking of color and pizzazz, I received a birthday travel mug that is fun, colorful  and has a great piece written on it pertaining to age….I just don’t know who wrote it. This piece pretty much sums up the fact that age is a state of mind while also giving us some things to think about. So, I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea, or coffee, and sit back and enjoy the following. And if you know someone who could use a pick me up or a laugh, feel free to pass it on!

Age

“How old are you? Personally, at this moment I have no idea how old I am. I do remember a few milestone birthdays, 18, 21, 40… But in my head, nothing has ever changed. I keep wondering when everyone is going to catch on to the fact that for the last thirty years I’ve been masquerading as an adult. 

Perhaps we are, as the saying goes, “only as old as we feel.” In that case, I’ll stay lost in my bewilderment…because really, life is what we make it, and age is nothing but a state of mind.”

Life is for the living darlings, because each passing day brings us one day closer to the day we drop our physical attire and move on. How do you want to live out your days? For me, I want to live them boldly,  bravely and with fierce grace. Will you join me? Here’s to living our uniqueness and celebrating life!

Inhale Love  & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

The Sky’s the Limit

“Do what makes you happy…on your birthday and every day” 

The Sky’s the Limit is the name of the establishment where “Scandalous” took me to and I jumped out of a plane ten years ago, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve written about that experience before, and I recently came across pictures that I didn’t realize I still had in my possession.

In looking back on that day, it was definitely symbolic of what this past decade was going to be like. Now, skydiving was nothing I had ever thought of doing. But then again, I did a lot of things I never thought I would have done with Scandalous.

I recall sitting inside the little plane as it made itself up and thinking how liberating it was probably going to feel as soon as we jumped.  Fear, nor anxiety, did not play into it at all.  And that’s the truth! It couldn’t because I was so damn present in every second of every moment as the plane ascended into the sky. As a matter of fact, I did not even read anything I was given to sign nor did I pay attention to the video you are instructed to watch. If I had, then I can only speculate that fear may have shown up.

I remember breathing…connecting with my breath…long deep inhales, long smooth exhales. It was like a meditation as I sat there getting in tune with my breath and remarking to myself how I was most likely going to feel one with all things as soon as I was “out there.” Well, it was beyond liberating and freeing and the most zen-like moment    I could have never imagined all in one. There was the rush of the free fall, the silence once the parachute opened and the “appearance” and illusion of stillness even though we weren’t still by any means. The stillness, silence, curvature of the horizon and expansiveness were breathtaking in an exponential way.

In looking back to the past ten years, my 50’s were all about freedom,  liberation and expansiveness….freeing myself of many things, people and circumstances that were not for my highest good. It was about giving up the need to control. It was about pain, loss and suffering. It was about eliminating illusion and attachments. It was about looking at things from a different perspective and having a bird’s-eye view of things. It was about silence and stillness. It was about spiritual expansion. It was about feeling and doing things from a deeper and more meaningful place in my soul.

So what will this next decade bring? I would venture to say perhaps more of the same but on more profound levels, grander scales and with greater heightened awareness. And let’s not forget daily opportunities to celebrate life and the beautiful souls I get to walk with on this path in the light.

And I have to look no further than at how my Mama lived her life. Sharing the love, celebrating in style and leaving her mark is something Mama did very well….on top of being beyond generous, Mama brought  joy to everyone with whom she came into contact. I have a good example for how to live out the rest of my days. Mama was always a good example of how life should be lived as well as celebrated. A friend and co-worker of mine once remarked that Mama was all about the celebration…from her outfits to her outlook. This same friend also shared the following words with me when Mama left this physical world: “Your mom exhibited a true sense of  freedom- free to think, to dress, to act, to speak what she believed in….the true Madame Butterfly.”  

Yep, that pretty much described my Mama! And pretty much describes the person I grew into over the last ten years. So on this day, when Mama gave birth to me 60 years ago, I am grateful for all the characteristics my little 5 ft., sassy, bold, brave, funny, fierce and fashionista Mama somehow managed to leave ingrained in me. She truly showed me, by example, that the sky’s the limit!

Darlings, regardless of your age (for I truly believe it’s just a number), I invite you to take a page from Mama’s playbook, live out loud, and leave your mark wherever you go!

Inhale Love & Light….Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

How Do You Cemetery?

“Life just gives us time and space. It’s up to us to fill it with joy and meaning.”

This time of year, as I have previously written about, I find myself thinking about my Mama a lot because I lost her 2 weeks before my 50th birthday. Memories pop us…some happy…others sad. But the memories that stand out the most are the happy, celebratory ones.

You see, the event planner in me enjoys celebrations of all kinds….life, death and everything in between. There are moments of joy and happiness to be found everywhere. We just have to choose to look there and live in that space.

Mama enjoyed a great celebration and always loved to honor those who passed before her. And, my Honey-Honey always appeased her and took her for rides to the cemetery to “visit” with all the friends and family interred there. Once my dad passed away, the duties fell on me and my brother. As a matter of fact, my brother and Mama had quite the routine. They’d stop for Italian sandwiches sometimes, or at Mazur’s Bakery for some Italian pastries, which they would then enjoy while “visiting” with my father.

Mama said it brought her comfort to visit with dad even though she knew his spirit was no longer there. But something about knowing his bones were there brought her peace. Truthfully speaking, I’ve never been one for the whole cemetery thing. However, since losing Mama, and knowing how much she LOVED visiting there, I have taken to going 2-3 times a year. Usually around Mother’s Day, her anniversary and Christmas. The Christmas blanket is a must!

What else is a must? Well, for that, I have my cemetery partner in crime, Patti (aka Mother Superior / MS). We have taken cemetery field trips to another level! We too stop at the Italian Deli, the liquor store for a bottle of Chianti, my customary roses that I leave on top of the tombstones and, this year, MS brought along sunflowers since those were her dad’s favorite. We lay out a picnic blanket, chat, eat, toast and sip as we make our way thru the various stops we make. Oh, and no plastic wine glasses! This year, Patti came armed with “Grateful” and “Thankful” wine glasses…..presentation, presentation, presentation!

Needless to say, our “visits” usually last somewhere in the vicinity of 2 hours. I’m sure they make Mama smile AND cringe at the same time. As far as Frankie, Patti’s dad (and former bartender in Hoboken) goes, he is probably really proud of us. I can see him smiling down at us! Oh, and we usually leave our mark by Frankie and place the empty Chianti bottle by his tombstone.

Yep…..I am turning into my mother but have stepped it up a few notches. I get where she was coming from….you can’t beat the peace and quite, green grass under your bare feet, the lovely sunshine on warm as well as cold days, the falling leaves, and the majestic landscape when snow has fallen.

My darlings, it’s all about the celebration! More importantly, it’s about the attitude and joie de vivre….the zest, exuberance, verve and effervescence we bring to our daily lives and the lives of those around us. Yes, life serves us up a plenty of sucky” situations. As Sheryl Sandberg notes in her bestseller, Option B, sometimes we must just “lean into the suck.”  However,  it does not mean we have to wallow there. I believe a healthy dose of gratitude and a little celebratory cheerfulness go a long way. They keep us afloat and in good spirits when we are faced with adversity as well as sad, painful and heart wrenching moments….especially when we lose a loved one.

Live it up…live out loud….live a succulent life! What’s the flip side? Six feet under….we’re all headed there. Each day brings us one day closer to when we leave this physical world. While we are still here, what do you say we do it in style? Always and in all ways. Carry on!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Who Inspires You?

“If you want to inspire the world, first inspire yourself.” -Scooter Braun

The times we are living in are catastrophic to say the least. But as we all know, we have to go through dark times to then emerge into the light again….refreshed, renewed, recommitted and with a sense of intention, empowerment, purpose, ambition and drive.  These are the times that bring about change. These are the times we seek inspiration, vision, guidance and all sorts of motivation and practices that will keep us grounded, focused, centered and calm. These are the times that are calling out for us. These are the times we must get clear on our priorites. These are the times we can look to the people who inspire us.

In today’s technological world, we have instant gratification at our fingertips. We have a world of inspiration to tap into if we take the time. We don’t have to look very far to surround ourselves with inspiring beings who can guide and motivate us to make whatever changes we seek to make in our lives, in our communities, and in the world.

As I was looking for inspiration for this blog, I came across this quote by Karen Marie Moning: “Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”  

There is a Spanish saying that probably all Cuban mothers used to tell their kids (especially daughters): “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.” This usually came on the heels of your mother not liking whomever’s company you were keeping. It pretty much translates to something like tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are. The modern-day version, “Your vibe attract your tribe” succinctly sums it up.

Like I said, we don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days. Between all the social media platforms, You-Tube, TED talks, webinars, on-line courses, seminars, forums, blogs, classes at local libraries, high schools and community centers, we can scoop up valuable content and insight in just minutes. And let’s not forget the art of reading good books, book clubs and other types of groups/clubs as well. If there is something we like, we can most certainly form a group and talk about everything and anything. Just remember the snacks…wink, wink!

It’s much easier to get through dark and troubled times when we have people who can help us navigate the rocky road we are on. Connecting and spending time with “like-minded” individuals who are positive, enlightened, forward thinkers, and exemplary role models afford us opportunities to learn how they’ve gotten through tough times, how they’ve become successful and perhaps whom they have sought our for inspiration. Turning to our faith, religious and spiritual thought leaders, mystics, astrologers, coaches, therapists and visionaries alike also provide us with “wisdom of the sages and for the ages.”

In one of my early blogs, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I referred to these people in my personal life as “my spiritual board of directors.” The members on my spiritual board of directors are the people whose works I turn to and who I seek to be like. These are the people who inspire me each and every day. Who inspires you?

  • Who can you turn to during your darkest and most challenging times?
  • Who helps you up when you have been brought down to your knees?
  • Who gives you the strength to forge ahead when the road is rocky or uncertain? 
  • Is there an enlightened being you would like to emulate?
  • If so, make a list of their qualities you would like to emulate.
  • List the ways you could practice those enlightened qualities on a daily basis.

These questions are a good place to start.  I will also leave you with further key questions that were included in my aforementioned blog. The questions were from a  global seminar that was facilitated by Craig Hamilton, the founder of Integral Enlightenment. These questions  help us to further identify the people who will accelerate and support our awakening and evolution. Remember, if we want to inspire the world, we must first inspire ourselves.

  • Of everyone I know, with whom can I really be myself?
  • Among all my friends, family and colleagues, who truly shares my deepest values and highest spiritual aspiration?
  • Do I have any social structures in my life where I feel free to stretch myself – and my relationships- beyond my comfort zone?
  • Is there someone in my life who presents me with healthy challenges and encourages healthy risks, rather than being afraid to “rock the boat” with me? Someone I trust to stand up to me with pure intentions and care for my own betterment and that of our shared higher ideals?
  • If a number of people come to mind, count yourself among the fortunate. Then, arrange with your newly identified “evolutionary partners” to begin creating a conscious container for ongoing growth and shared inquiry.

Did Ihear you say conscious container? These are the groups, forums and circles we form that help us to deal as well as heal. The groups / people we turn to when we feel like we are drowning and need a lifeline. The friends with whom we can laugh, cry and celebrate. The enlightened beings with whom we can have transformational interactions. The conscious container that will hold the enlightened being we are evolving into.

When we are living from a place of awakening, evolution, enlightenment, and willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone, we are better able to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. We are better able to have clarity of mind. We are better able to have transformational conversations. We are better able to come up with solutions. In a nutshell, we are better able to engage from a place of higher awareness.

Soooooooo….given the profound and tumultuous times we are living in, the stress and trauma we are all witnessing on SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS, and across all party lines, I cannot emphasize  the importance of having a community, a group, or a tribe who will hold a sacred space for us to reveal ourselves, our emotions, our hurts, our traumas, our darkness, our struggles and our desires without judgement. Pure unconditional acceptance and support….period.

Here’s to living an inspired life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Go of the Clinging

“Dear Self…You can only lose what you cling to.” – Buddha

Throughout the month of September, I was (and kinda continue to be) on a cleaning out, clearing out, giving away, donating and purging spree. I’ve emptied every closet, kitchen and bathroom cabinet, drawer, rubbermaid bin, and had a shredding feast as well. The more I emptied and cleared out, the more things I found that needed releasing and/or discarding. What a metaphor for life, right? There’s most definitely a sense of lightness, airiness and freedom in letting go.

I think my latest project has something to do with the fact that I will be celebrating my 60th in a couple of weeks. That, and the fact that I’ve been thinking of my Mama since today marks 10 years since she left the physical realm. Mama was the queen of giving away things. It brought her joy and satisfaction. She always said that all she needed when she was ready to leave this world was a bed and a crucifix above it. Well, that was certainly the case since she resided in a nursing facility for the last 3 years of her life. All she had were the essential items for grooming and dressing. When I think back to those years, it was happiest I ever saw her. She was absolutely free! I guess her wisdom and life experience knew what I was only starting to learn at the time.

Reflecting on these times left me with the feeling of wanting to enter this new decade even lighter than ever.  I want even more expansiveness. More space. More freedom of all kinds. I do not want “stuff” weighing me down. Even things that brings me joy, and I’ve been holding onto, have had to go. Let these things bring other people joy.

We often find ourselves wondering why we are holding onto something even if we are not using it. Better yet, we question why we continue to buy “stuff.” That’s a big one for me. I cannot tell you how many filled shopping bags I have given away AND donated. And mind you, I do this a couple of times a year! Truthfully, I get sick to my stomach when I think of all the money I’ve spent on “stuff” over the years. Why do we cling to these behaviors?

Well, in speaking with various friends, I think it has a lot to do with growing up not having had much. Many of us did not grow up in an affluent home. Some of our parents came to this country with very little or nothing at all. Perhaps some parents were children of the depression, and they held on to everything out of fear because they lost so much. So naturally, they instilled that sense of “fear/loss” in their children. For others, it could be that they grew up in messy, disorderly conditions and vowed their own homes would be totally different. Whichever the scenario, I am willing to bet we’ve ALL accumulated more than we could ever need / use.

So, if we find ourselves in this scenario, the charitable and harmonious thing we can do is to pass these items on to someone who will get joy out of receiving and using them.  Allow others to feel a sense of abundance. Besides, it clears our spaces  and allows for more light and energy to flow in. After all, our homes are our Sanctuary, our Soul Spaces, and we should care for them as such. We should  be able to walk in our homes and be greeted with beautiful and peaceful energy. But first, let’s get clear on the whole “detachment” thing.

Detachment and letting go are often misunderstood. Many wisdom traditions speak to the concept of letting go of attachment. Detachment does not mean that we should own nothing, On the contrary, it means that nothing should own us. Yet, how many of us cling to something as if our lives depended on it?

Let’s get something straight here Darlings, detachment in no way implies we must renounce our desires and worldly possessions and live like an ascetic at the base of a mountain. On the contrary, it’s looking at the fears behind why we are clinging to some thing, outcome, or expectation of some kind and choosing to let go of the clinging. This also holds true for people and relationships. There’s freedom and transformation in this, and I think it’s because we are all energy…unbounded, intelligent, intuitive, beautiful free spirits. On a deeper level, we recognize this feeling even if we are unable to name it.

The following quote, by Deepak Chopra, really speaks to me:

“Detachment is a natural quality that emerges as your higher self becomes your internal reference point. You engage in life with joy and passion yet no longer get swept up in the ego’s fears. You are rooted in the knowledge that you are pure love and pure spirit.”

When we seek refuge in this knowingness, I think we put things into perspective. We see through a clearer set of lenses. Instead of seeking something / someone outside ourselves to bring us peace, security, happiness, validation, etc., we come to realize that we no longer have to cling to these notions. The more we let go of our “stuff” (whatever that may look like) and attachment to it, as well as our attachment to outcomes and expectations we set for people in our lives, the freer we become. We have license to soar. In addition, I also believe we have more space for love, wealth and abundance of all kinds to enter our lives.

Darlings, there is freedom in our choices. Even when we pause to take notice of how/why/when we are clinging to something- a thought, feeling, expectation or outcome- and we choose a different behavior, is a moment of expansion. It’s an evolutionary moment. A moment to celebrate. A moment to witness our growth. A moment where we realize where we once were and where we are going. A moment we see who we were and who we have become (and are still becoming). And for some of us, it’s recognizing that we have arrived!

Conversely, some of us have not arrived- yet. We are still clinging, fearful, holding on to dear life and believing we are in “control.” As Maria Shriver notes in her Book, I’ve Been Thinking, some people view holding and hanging on as a sign of strength. However, it takes much more strength to know when it is time to let go, and then do it. Hmmmmm…..powerful, or what?

The act of letting go comes more naturally for some of us than it does for others. If letting go is something you are strugglling with and finding it tough to do, perhaps the following simple prayer from Ms. Shriver’s book can help soothe your soul:

Dear God, letting go is hard for me, because I want to hold on and be in control. That makes me feel safe. Help me to realize that I am safe, even when I let go of the way things are and allow them to unfold in the new ways there supposed to. Amen.

Note to self: let go of the clinging!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Scandalous Grace

“Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valerie Kaur

I have been reflecting a lot on life’s events from 10 years ago. It was one of the happiest times in my life yet one of the saddest. Light and dark. High and low. As I recalled my memories of the last few months of my mother’s life, I couldn’t help but also think of the person who was in my life at the time.

A person who was instrumental in bringing Mama and me so much joy.  A person who was by my side when we laid my mother to rest two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. A person who took me sky diving for my 50th. A person whom I have been reluctant to write about but did mention briefly in a couple of blogs last year. A person who I said I would “leave for a future blog” on multiple occasions. Well, I think this is finally the occasion and the blog. Allow me to introduce you to “Scandalous.”

Scandalous had many nick names….some given by me and others that friends coined. This particular one was given to him by a school secretary. Frankie came to school, where I was a vice-principal, to take me on a lunch date. Now mind you- this is a man who dresses to the nines, can sport conservative clothes as well as the most outlandish, is an engineer by trade,  has been truly gifted with the most logical, orderly, and organized left brain as well as the most creative, imaginative and artistic right brain. It’s no wonder we got along so well. There was never a dull moment between us….each moment was powerful and wonder-filled! But what did he choose to wear the day he came to pick me up?

Would you guess if I told you that he picked me up on his motorcycle!?!?!?! If you guessed leather chaps, you guessed right (and a leather vest, bandana on his head…the whole enchilada). I still recall Sara, the school secretary, calling me with a sense of urgency in her voice. When he showed up and “strutted” into my office, I understood why the urgent tone in Sara’s voice. OMG! Although I tried not to show it, I cringed when I saw him and immediately fast forwarded to how I was going to introduce him to my principal AND how I was going to get him out of the building without many people seeing him. Well, I did, and we did, and the rest is history. We often joked and laughed at the memories of that day.

So now you understand how the nick name “Scandalous” originated. On that fall Friday afternoon, we rode off on his LOUD, colorful motorcycle and, unbeknownst to me, the principal gathered  the office staff, and they crowded by the window to check out the entire scene as “Ms. Carricarte” got on a motorcycle (probably in high heels) and with a “scandalous” looking guy.

Scandalous and I had known each other for about 6 years or so at that time. We would frequently see each other at the gym on the weekends. During the summer of 2008, as my mother was in hospice and coming to the end of her life, I decided I would spend most of the weekends with her. However, I had to make sure I took care of Me first if I was going to hole myself up with her in the nursing home every weekend. And it was then that Scandalous and I saw each other after a while of me being absent from the gym. As with all things in life, timing and circumstances brought us together like never before.

Scandalous had always been a flirt, but I rarely paid any mind to it. Actually, I always found him entertaining. However, this time around was different. I found myself being the flirt…or overly enthused and happy to see him. Take your pick. Perhaps  I needed to laugh, as I was already starting to grieve my mother’s pending loss. And believe me when I say that laughter was a mainstay with me and Scandalous. No one has ever brought out my inner child the way he did. We were like two little kids whenever we were together. Talk about mindfulness and being present…..it’s as if time stood still whenever we were together. We were so engrossed in whatever we were doing, or whatever antics he would be up to, or we would be up to, that I could not help but be 100% engaged in any given moment.

Scandalous’ life was “complicated,”  which is one of the reasons I never got involved with him prior to that point in time. However, it got even more complicated once our souls connected and our grand love affair took flight.  We spent as much time together as we could. It was easy, it was fun, romantic, he’d stay over, we’d go out all the time, and we’d go away quite a bit…until the time came when I realized this “complicated affair” was not serving my highest good… nor his. Our 15 months together were the equivalent of having been together for 10 years.

Throughout those first few months we were together, Scandalous got to meet my Mama and made sure she knew that he would take care of me when she was gone. Scandalous always had a very charitable and generous spirit and always knew how to handle things, so that just made him even more endearing. And during those last few months of Mama’s life, Scandalous brought a lot of love, joy, fun and laughter into her world. His sense of humor,  jokes, zaniness and thoughtfulness made her laugh, cry and also brought her a sense of peace and serenity. Mama even called him “mi segundo hijo,” which translates to “my second son.” In her mind, she was handing me off to him, and all would be well in my world.

Needless to say, he was there for both of us and was instrumental in helping me to  honor my mother in fun and creative ways. However, full-blown grief came out to play once I ended the relationship. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a period of grief that, compounded with other losses (which I’ve written about in past blogs), would amount to about six of the darkest years of my life.

The years that followed our breakup were times of much growth for me. Labels, ego, expectations and letting go of attachments was something I was working on at the time we came together. Scandalous taught me what unconditional love in a relationship looked like, along with compassion and patience.  When all was said and done, I learned acceptance – seeing, loving, respecting and honoring others regardless of where they are along their own path / journey. I also learned how to speak my truth clearly, calmly and compassionately without raising my voice, getting angry or heated. Most importantly though, I learned to value my worth and my own values.  However, it didn’t make the breakup, nor the six years that followed, any easier. Those post-Scandalous years were very difficult, painful, and dark to say the least.

At the time  our relationship expired, which was a year to the day after burying  Mama, we woke up together on what would be our last day of doing so. You see, I realized I was done. For the first time since we had gotten together, my soul felt compromised. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had learned whatever lessons I was meant to have learned at that particular juncture in my life, and so had he. But it wasn’t about him…it was about Me.

I vowed to myself to honor what my soul was guiding me to do. No more complications, no more hurts, and no more lies.  Even though the lies were on his part, I was still part of them and an active participant as long as we stayed together. I no longer wanted to be a part of the double life he was living. At this point, I was entrenched in my yoga practice, studying yoga philosophy and knew I was compromising my soul, values, morals, ethics and beliefs. I just couldn’t do it any longer. Authenticity was a MAJOR life lesson for me in my 50’s. I worked hard (and still do) at living my yoga, both on and off the mat, with intention, integrity and grace.

Ahhhh “grace”…those mindful and meaningful moments of grace were a constant after our breakup, as well as continued faith, joy, gratitude, inner fortitude, resilience, peace, calm……and grief. These were such dark and sad times for me. I tried to find the grace and joy in each of those moments no matter how I was feeling. Actually, I felt like a part of my soul was missing, I felt like I had lost my best friend. More than anything I missed, and still miss, our friendship more so than the romantic relationship.

For years after our breakup, I couldn’t listen to dance music, and I felt like a light had been extinguished in my soul. That’s when I started to experience the “grief is the price of love” thingI was grieving my mother, the breakup, and an injury that brought with it yet more losses, including the end of my career (not on my terms), and much physical, emotional and psychological pain. Through it all, my light-filled Treehouse oasis (which I moved to a few months after the breakup) became more and more of a sacred healing place filled with much love, light and joy.

The Treehouse became a place for me to  retreat to and pamper my mind, body and spirit. It was, and still is, where I leave the world behind and go within. I cook, read, write and reflect a whole lot at home. I enjoy the peace, quiet, serenity, tranquility  and ambiance within the walls and the nature that surrounds me.  Little did I know that Scandalous, as well as these last ten post-Scandalous years, would lead me to the place and the woman I am today.

One month shy of my 60th, I think its safe to say I have grown into someone who is brave and fearless yet vulnerable; wild and free yet responsible;  fierce and steadfast yet flexible;  compassionate and kind yet discerning; open and accepting, yet conscious of healthy boundaries; honest, truthful, transparent and unapologetically real….AND the bonus was I learned the beauty of leaving one’s ego at the door. It’s amazing how the universe is always presenting me with opportunities to use these skillful gifts. Yep, the lessons keep coming, deeper, with more layers and more complexities each time. Like the saying goes, “We can be a masterpiece and a work in progress.”

What can I say?  Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Scandalous!  While I feel these are pretty healthy, balancing, abundant and harmonious gifts, I also know they constantly need tending to, chiseling and polishing. Our work is never done! One thing is for sure though: taking the time to “do me” these past ten years have blessed me with these endless gifts of grace….Scandalous Grace. 

I guess I should mention that, on a few occasions over the years, Scandalous has even shown up at my door…unexpectedly. We’ve spoken about the “void” and have even tried doing “the friend thing.” Although the energy and soul recognition / connection will always exist between us, the “friend thing” just does NOT work for us. Especially when it’s apparent to you that you are not on the same playing field, nor on the same page, and you realize the woman you have grown into will not compromise her Soul ever again. There’s no turning back. Now that is scandalous grace!

So, my darlings, there you have it. Scandalous 101- done and done!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- For more on relationships, you may want to check out two of my previous blogs, Relationships Expire and You’re Not Alone. As always, thanks for caring and sharing!

 

 

 

Seeing the Jewel Inside

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” Pema Chodron

Why is it that self-care and self-love are so easy for some and difficult and challenging for others? Why is it that we can easily see and name it when we look at other people’s regimen and practices, regardless of how much they have on their plates, yet can’t muster up the courage and honesty to treat our Selves gently and lovingly?

Where do you fall in the scheme of things, my darling? Are you busy pondering the “how,” “when,” and “why” to the point of mental exhaustion, or are you proactive and loving to yourself and dedicated to your self-care / self-love practices?

Do you realize you are a jewel that needs the polishing and care that only YOU can bestow upon your Self? Are you giving your Self away? Are you fatigued? Frustrated? Angry? Lethargic? If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then allow me to ask you, “Why?” And spare me the excuses…wink, wink! Let’s just keep it real.

Speaking of excuses, as I enter this new decade, one of my new favorite quotes is by Daryl McDaniels (you may remember him for his hip-hop legacy and group Run-DMC). I read the quote in his memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, and it says, “Excuses don’t explain and explanations don’t excuse.”  How freakin’ GREAT is that???? I am applying it to so many areas of my life these days! First and foremost, I am done with giving excuses and, secondly, I don’t care to listen to other people’s BS excuses any longer. Why ? As the quote says, excuses don’t explain and explanations don’t excuse. It’s plain and simple! Essentially, where there is a will, there is a way. More importantly, love will find the way…..as in self-love!

So, back you…the precious jewel that you are. The one who gives, nurtures and takes care of everyone, and the one who makes sure everyone’s needs are met. The one who will go above and beyond…yes, to the point of exhaustion, fatigue and then some. You are precious! You are needed! You have special gifts to share with the world! You have a responsibility to honor, cherish, and protect the gift of life you have been given! You can put down the heavy lifting. Be done with the struggle. Let go of whatever is weighing you down. Release what / who is not serving your highest good. Forget about who thinks what of you. Be you. Do you!

We need to take all that energy, angst, stress, and discomfort and throw it all away. Let it go, release it, acknowledge we are not perfect AND yet perfectly flawed. We are all unique and precious and must courageously, honestly, gently and lovingly treat our Selves that way. We need to hold our Selves in our loving arms and live…..live joyously, peacefully, and happily without the unnecessary demands we put on our lives. It’s a movement we must all be part of and support each other on. Furthermore, we need to hold ourselves, and each other, accountable in doing so. It’s really quite simple when you think about it.

Currently, there is a Spirit Voyage Global Sadhana going on, and Jai Jagdeesh (love her music by the way) is the featured person who posts daily messages and leads the participants in chanting, movement, meditation and stillness. Her message the other day,  which one of my beloved teachers shared in class, speaks to the topic of self-love and self-care perfectly. Her words are so eloquent, that I must share them with you in hopes of inspiring you to look inside and reassess You, your motives, habits, practices, priorities, needs and desires. I can plant a seed of intention, but YOU must do the watering! First though, please take a moment to center yourself BEFORE reading the following:

They say, “With love all things are possible.” I would add the words “self” and “sweet” to make it: With Self-love, all Sweet things are possible.” When we cherish ourselves, taking the time to treasure all that we are and carve space for all that we are becoming, there is no limit to the sweetness we can create. When rested, our minds are limitless. When heeded, our hearts flood us with courage. When loved, TRULY loved by WE OURSELVES, our bodies can rise to any occasion. We can do the work we were born to do easily, joyfully, sweetly. Limitless luminosity, all available to bless the earth.

Beautiful, or what? Inspiring? Motivating? Affirming? Is your heart open? Is your soul speaking to you? Is it crying out to you? How’s your breathing? Are you breathing, or are you holding your breath? How is your posture? Are you relaxed, or are your shoulders scrunched up by your ears? Is your heart open, or is it closed?

You may want to take a few moments to just sit and be still, re-read the words, and connect with the emotions it brings up and the sensations you feel in your body. Breathe into all of it. Inhale and exhale deeply. Hold it all. No judgement….just be the witness to whatever arises without engaging in it. Know you are being held, supported, and loved. When you feel the need to move, do so. You may even want to take a few moments to journal about your experience.  The important thing is that you were courageous and took a moment to look inside. And remember, it’s all good!

My wish for us all is that we always make the time to listen to the whispers of our souls in order to better see the valuable and luminous jewel inside AND live our brilliance!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

Succulent and Wild at Any Age

“I think it’s easy to stop ourselves from being too bright, too happy, too successful. Conformity also soothes us. We can predict it, and there is an illusion of control. Unfortunately, we also stop ourselves from being too visible, unusual or vivid.” SARK

How many times has someone remarked, “You are too much,” and you know it wasn’t in a fun way? How many times have you stopped yourself from being too loud, too different or too much?

In her lovely and colorful book , Succulent Wild Woman, by SARK (which I mentioned in my previous blog), she goes on to state how we crave our individuality, our wild, special selves, and how we want to live out adventures and be seen for our essences. Is  that not the truth? Is that not the hero’s journey? Is that not why we fight tooth and nail?

Yet, how many of us allow other people, as well as these people’s own issues and/or insecurities, to diminish our greatness, our individuality and extinguish our light? Who are these people anyway? Why do we allow them to take our power away? Why do we permit them to zap our joy? Furthermore, why are we stopping ourselves from being who we were brought here to be? The struggle in this arena is real my darlings!

This is a topic I am certain we all find ourselves talking about and struggling with regardless our age and stage in life. So,  I am going to keep this blog short and sweet because I want to hammer home a very important message. A message for all women of all ages out there as well as the men out there who are raising young girls. We must cease telling young girls and women that they are “too much!”

In doing so, a little light in their heart of hearts gets extinguished more and more until nothing is left. No self-worth, no creativity, no joy, no aliveness, no zest for life, no vitality, and no purpose or sense of belonging. Instead, they get infused with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, sadness,  aloneness, isolation and emptiness. And, by the way, this goes for young boys and men too (I just happen to love to support and empower the youngest of girls as well as the oldest of women).

The following are some additional golden nuggets from SARK’s book that can guide us to being succulent and wild at any age (if you missed my last blog, Living a Succulent Life, you may want to check it out):

The definition of a Succulent Wild Woman: A woman of any age who feels free to FULLY express herself in EVERY dimension of her life.

A note to young or not yet formed succulent wild women: Stand firm and whole as a woman. You are precious and irreplaceable. Treasure your female self. Choose innocence. Invent ways to feel more free. Investigate your darknesses.

A note to those who love succulent wild women: Learn thoroughly your own female side. Support freedom and release judgements. Be sexual only mutually. Let go of fears. Speak respectfully. Spend real, intimate time with women. 

What do you say? Let’s take it easy on ourselves and on the women around us. Lets encourage each other whenever possible. Let’s call each other out when we are not showering our Selves with love or speaking in a self-deprecating manner. Let’s catch ourselves when we are about to say something disparaging or unfavorable about our own Self. Let’s color outside the lines. Let’s live out loud. Let’s be bold. Let’s be brave. Let’s be fearless. Let’s be juicy.  Let’s be flashy, eccentric, gregarious, or outlandish. Let’s be real. Let’s be raw. Let’s be relevant. Let’s be whomever we want to be….whenever we want! Oh, and those people who think we are too much??? As the saying goes, “They’re not our people.” Cut them loose darlings, for they are not serving your highest good. Trust me. Better yet, trust your instincts!

In a nutshell, we can be wild, free and succulent regardless of our age and stage in life. Carry on…wink wink!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC