Mingle All the Way

The best present we can give someone is our undivided, distraction-free presence.” -jtc

Greetings, darlings!

If you’ve kept up with my blogs, or read enough of them, you probably know how much I adore props, activities, snacks and champagne. They are all necessary ingredients for enjoyable, fun, entertaining and celebratory gatherings. You probably have also learned how much I love to share…. whether it be experiences, books, magazines, meditations, affirmations, programs, websites, webinars, activities, prompts for journaling and questions for contemplation and growth.

So, it’s no surprise I knew I had to share the following questions I came across in the December issue of O Magazine:

  • What are your true feelings about the holidays?
  • What is one of your favorite holiday memories?
  • What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
  • What is the thing you are most grateful for that happened in the past year?
  • Who is a person you met this year that surprised or delighted you and why?
  • What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?

These questions are ways to have more meaningful and engaging conversation. We can type them up, put them on lovely cards or stationary (remember… presentation, presentation, presentation) or on the backside of seating cards. Or, we can place them in a lovely decorative bowl, pass it around and have each person select a question to answer. The other thing we can do is just to have them committed to memory, or carry with us, and use them as polite conversation starters at a party where we may not know everyone. It’s definitely a fun way to “mingle all the way.”

I will share with you the person who I was blessed to meet this year that both surprised AND delighted me. Ready? Drumroll please…I got to meet a 35 year old nephew I did NOT know I had!!! My brother fathered a child between his first and second marriage- right smack in the middle of his four children. It all came to light when one of my nieces did AncestryDNA and was then contacted by David, who shares sibling genes with her. My two youngest nieces and I kept in contact with him for a several months until he was in town a few weeks ago and we met for dinner.

If there was one thing the four of us shared, it was our open hearts. We were all beyond excited to meet and were very welcoming of each other. We all look forward to getting together when he’s in town again. More importantly though, we look forward to being in each others’ lives. THAT is such a gift!

I cannot begin to tell you how easy and comfortable it was to gather around the table and share a meal. For me, it felt like I had known this handsome, smart, personable and successful young man my entire life. That’s how easy it felt to be in his company. If anyone looked at our table, there’s no way they’d guess we had just met. I only wished he could have been in town for my 60th birthday weekend and all the celebrations. I would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED to introduce him to all my friends. Patience, JT, patience…. the day will come!

Darlings, whatever the occasion, festivity, gathering or party, I encourage you all to be present. Engage fully with others, look other people in their eyes, smile, and maybe put some of those questions to use. Remember though, just be prepared to answer some of them as well… wink, wink!

Stay calm, and mingle on!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

A-Z Good Living

“For today: Slow down and breathe. Feel your heart beating. Make it simpler. Even simpler than that. Inhabit the space  you are in. If it feels too constrictive let go of things. Clear it out. Give away and offer up the things that clutter your space. You are too precious and life is too short. “ -Christy Naida Linson

Tis the season for all things hurried, fast-paced, stressful, noisy, crowded and short-tempered. All we need to do is to look, sense, feel and hear it all around us. It’s like this “thing” closing in on us that oftentimes makes us jittery, anxious, unable to catch our breath, scattered and in need of “grounding.”

If you missed my last blog, Secrets of Inner Peace, you may want to check it out. There are 31 thoughts/affirmations/ actions that, with time and practice,  will become your modus operandi. Before you know it, you WILL feel grounded, able to breathe, feel your heart beating and be present wherever you are. You will find yourself getting out of your own way, letting go of the things that clutter your space and do not serve you and finally find yourself living YOUR precious life on YOUR terms.

Back in 2007, I received a lovely holiday card from a family I hold near and dear to my heart-The Belfattos. Deb Belfatto fought hard and was able to fulfill a dream and a promise to start the Susan G. Komen Northern Affiliate here in NJ. I love incorporating that card each year when I decorate. I’ve always held on to it because of the powerful, practical and inspiring messages it contains. They too  are thoughts/affirmations/actions we can all take to be more conscious, live more peacefully and appreciate our shared humanity. And since I cherish all things that inspire, love, serve, I will share with you these A-Z Good Living practices for doing so:

  • Accept Differences
  • Be kind
  • Count your blessings
  • Dream
  • Express thanks
  • Forgive
  • Give freely
  • Harm no one
  • Imagine more
  • Jettison anger
  • Keep confidences
  • Love truly
  • Master something
  • Nurture hope
  • Open your mind
  • Pack lightly
  • Quell rumors
  • Reciprocate
  • Seek wisdom
  • Touch hearts
  • Understand
  • Value truth
  • Win graciously
  • Xemplify kindness
  • Yearn for peace
  • Zealously support a worthy cause

There you have it, darlings. Short and sweet. So, when we’re out and about this holiday season and our patience is being tried… we can, as the lovely Christy Naida says, slow down our breathing and feel our heart beat. We can consciously choose to tap into one of these practices, contemplate them, and put them into action. Trust me, you will feel the stress just melt off your shoulders, your shallow breathing will become deeper, your scowl will turn into a smile, your constricted heart will open and you will consciously choose to inhabit the space you are in. This is how we take our yoga practice off the mat and into the world. We can all mindfully allow ourselves (and those around us) to truly see, feel and hear each other and appreciate the magic that is all around us… with reverence and gratitude for the precious life we have been given.

Carry on darlings…lead from the heart…right from the start, and make this day, and every day, a good one!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Secrets of Inner Peace

“There is a criterion by which you can judge whether the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing are right for you. The criterion is: Have they brought you inner peace?”  Peace Pilgrim

Ever since I was a little girl (elementary school age) growing up in Jersey City, NJ, I was drawn to The Novelty Shop which used to be near Journal Square and on my way home from school. I was drawn to all things peace and love related, incense, oils, beads, etc. They also sold pipes, bongs and rolling paper, which is probably the reason my strict, Cuban mother did NOT like me frequenting that store. Who knows what fear-based “story” she was telling herself and getting wrapped into.

So, it’s no wonder that I’ve always been a love, peace and gratitude junkie- and even more so as I’ve become a “woman of a particular age.” As we all come to learn at one point or another in our lives, it all boils down to “choices” and “lifestyle.”  For me, there is no other way. Anything and anyone that disrupts my peace has to go. Now that may sound cruel to some, selfish to others; however, it is called self-preservation and part of the self-love, compassion and respect we establish for ourselves. It’s also part of healthy boundary setting. I don’t know about you, but I guard my inner peace like it’s nobody’s business.

Why? Because like many of us, I have the battle scars to show for the times I wasn’t knowledgeable, conscientious and skilled at the importance of guarding my inner peace like a precious gem or sacred temple. Guarding our inner peace is an art we must  learn to master. Like Maya Angelou is known for saying, “When you know better, you do better.”

Since December is a mere 3 days away (where did this year go?), and people are already feeling and expressing the anxiety and stress that sadly comes with the holidays (shouldn’t we all be ENJOYING the holidays?), I want to share with you some principles that we can look at, contemplate and practice each day in December (and throughout the new year for that matter). I happened to come across a little book the other day, and it was the inspiration for this blog. I purchased it in 1999 when I was up at Yale, in New Haven CT, for some training. This little 4×4 gem was written by J. Donald Walters and is titled Secrets of Inner Peace. 

For several years after purchasing this book, I kept it on my bathroom counter and looked at it every single morning and in the evenings. I made a concerted effort to practice these thoughts/concepts…many which were new to me given my age and where I was along my spiritual journey at the time. As with affirmations and mantras, the key is to go back to them throughout the course of our days, look at them, say them out loud, repeat them silently and, as the author suggests, “While falling asleep, carry the words into your subconscious, absorbing their positive influence into your whole being. Let it become thereby an integral part of your normal consciousness.”

My darlings, below are 31 precious thoughts that we can all contemplate and utilize each and every day starting December 1st. Over time, you will see and feel a shift in your be-ingness, thoughts, perception, disposition and even your actions. These statements/thoughts are tools we can refer to continuously. Over time, and with active practice, they become integrated and are part of our operating system. Furthermore, they are seeds that we can choose to water each day and watch them blossom into the most beautiful expressions of love and inner peace.

The Secret of Inner Peace

  1. …is self-control: not scattering your energies, but holding them in check and directing them usefully.
  2. …is giving full, interested attention to everything you do.
  3. …is to live fully in the moment, releasing past and future into the cycles of eternity.
  4. …is inner relaxation- physically, emotionally, mentally then spiritually.
  5. …is non-attachment; being ever conscious that nothing and no one truly belongs to you.
  6. …is contentment: consciously holding happy thoughts.
  7. …is desirelessness: realizing that happiness is within you, not in outward things or circumstances.
  8. …accepting things as they are, and then, if necessary, acting calmly to improve them.
  9. …is realizing that you cannot change the world, but you can change yourself.
  10. …is cultivating harmonious friendships, and shunning the company of peaceless persons.
  11. …is projecting peace outward into your environment.
  12. …is a simple life; reducing your definition of “necessities.”
  13. …is a healthy life: exercising regularly, eating properly, and breathing deeply.
  14. …is a clear conscience; remaining true to your highest ideals.
  15. …is acting in freedom, from your inner center, and not in bondage to the world’s demands. 
  16. …is accepting truth, in all circumstances, as your guide.
  17. …is not coveting what others have, but knowing what is yours by right will find its way to you.
  18. …is never complaining, but acknowledging that what life gives you depends on what you give, first, of yourself.
  19. … is accepting responsibility for your failures, and realizing that only you can turn them into successes.
  20. …is found in self-conquest, not in the mere cessation of hostilities. 
  21. …is practicing willingness, even though your mental habits urge you to cry, “No!”
  22. …is smiling in your heart, even when others scowl.
  23. …is giving joy, rather than demanding joy of others.
  24. …is including others’ well-being in your own.
  25. …is harmlessness: never deliberately hurting anyone.
  26. …is working with others, never against them.
  27. …is meditation, and tapping into the  wellsprings of soul-peace.
  28. …is raising your consciousness: directing energy to the brain, then centering it at the seat of higher awareness between the eyebrows.
  29. …is self-acceptance: not blinding yourself to your faults, nor hating yourself for them, but claiming your higher reality in Infinite Light.
  30. …is loving God, and striving to be worthy of His love for you.
  31. …is loving others impartially, without selfish motive.

As I was typing, I surprised myself by how I was able to finish, or come close, to finishing each thought. I even recalled certain circumstances, events and people whom were challenging me throughout different times and how I was practicing  these principles.  It’s a testament to the power of affirmations as well as the power of conscious choice-making. The more we practice affirmations and act on them, the more we re-wire our brains and the more these affirmations become our default setting. These Secrets of Inner Peace will change your life. Wouldn’t you agree that we Can all use a little more peace in our every day lives? Remember, the power is within you!

In the days, weeks and months ahead, may we all find ourselves tapping into the plethora of tools and practices that we have cultivated over the years, and may we “choose” our thoughts, words and actions wisely. I hope these Secrets of Inner Peace will be your trusted companions and guide you along your journey.

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Gratefulness, Gratitude & Thanksgiving

“Shine brightly. See beauty. Speak kindly. Love truly. Give freely. Create joyfully. Live thankfully.” -Mary Davis

As I was in Whole Foods earlier this week, I happened to pick up Natural Awakenings magazine because I was curious  to see the featured articles, as they typically vary from county to county. There’s always something to gleam from the articles in this lovely FREE magazine that, as noted in it, is your guide to a healthier, more balanced life. In each issue readers find cutting-edge information on health, nutrition, fitness, personal growth, green living, creative expression and the products and services that support a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve never seen it and happen to stumble across it in your local yoga studio, farmers market, health food store, etc., pick it up. It’s a little gem…a FREE gem.

As I was perusing the magazine, I came across an article by Kristi Nelson titled Why Gratefulness Brings Happiness. By now y’all know I love all things dealing with gratitude and gratefulness, so I decided to do a quick read and had an “aha” moment of sorts.  And since today is Thanksgiving Eve in the US, I was inspired to write about how helpful it is to differentiate between gratefulness, gratitude and thanksgiving. I hope I do the article justice!

As per the author, gratefulness is a proactive orientation to life. If you’re like me, you may have just stopped reading and repeated that again – a proactive orientation to life. In its most simplest terms, I believe it primarily means that gratefulness is our modus operandi. We awake each day  hard-wired with a sense of thankfulness for all things small and large. We are thankful for waking up, for another day, for our senses, and perhaps even all the functions that our miraculous body conducts during our sleeping and waking hours that we may not even be remotely aware of. In my mind, when we operate from that sense of gratefulness, we are aware of the fullness and vastness of life, the limitless possibilities, the infinite organizing power of the universe as well as  our connection to all things.

According to the article, gratitude is more of a response. We respond and are grateful for something that happened, something going well. I’m sure we’ve all expressed gratitude for that new job, a gift, the weather, a parking spot, early dismissal from work/school, a snow day, finding the perfect shoe for the perfect outfit, a sale, finding a partner in love and in life…you get the idea, right? I’m  sure we can all come up with a laundry list of “things” for which we are grateful regardless of how mundane or magnificent they may be.

Thanksgiving…this is where I had my “aha” moment. According to Ms. Nelson, thanksgiving bubbles up when we’re so filled with a sense of gratefulness – that great fullness – that we overflow into finding ways to express thanks aloud and in actions, such as delivering praise or being of service. Intersting…I never thought of it that way. I always equated thanksgiving to the holiday. It makes all the sense in the world, when you think of it. Thanksgiving is a day for us to voice aloud our great “fullness” and express what we are most grateful for. Some of us may even be inspired to be of service….and not just on Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter. As a matter of fact, most shelters have to turn down people wanting to be of service on most major holidays.

Which brings me to this: we do NOT have to wait for a holiday to express our gratitude, give thanks before a meal or be of service. We can wire/rewire our brains to operate from a place of gratefulness each and every day of our waking life. We can cultivate gratefulness as a way of being rather than some intermittent feeling we have on certain calendar days.

Darlings, I encourage you to take a few minutes each day to pause, be present, connect with your heart, and allow yourself to feel as well as notice all those things for which you can be grateful. Remember that life is but a series of fleeting moments, and each day brings us closer to “our expiration date.” Please be aware of even the simplest and most basic things we take for granted and be grateful. Be grateful for the hard times as well as the easy. The hardships and the successes. The nice and the messy parts of life. The highs and the lows. At the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, I believe wholeheartedly that every single experience we have, as spiritual beings in a physical body, is a lesson and a blessing, don’t you?

It’s really important to take the time to write down the things for which we are grateful. Cultivating gratefulness as well as a gratitude practice changes our lives. If you like journals, then go out and get yourself one that speaks to you. If you need structure, then pick up one that is more structured, provides an outine, or has prompts. As a matter of fact, my dear friend, Nikki,  gifted me the perfect Friendsgiving present. It’s called Good Days Start With Gratitude Journal. If you want to cultivate and attitude of gratitude, this is the perfect item to compliment your practice. Needless to say, it makes for a great hostess gift, birthday and/or holiday gift. I believe it’s even appropriate for children. In my opinion, it’s equally important to get children on the gratitude path as early as possible.

You can find the journal on http://www.prettysimplebooks.com or order it on Amazon

So…as a way to express my gratitude and thankfulness for YOU, for taking the time to read my blogs, for following me and perhaps even sharing my blogs with others (please, please, please share), I will leave you with some a few beautiful quotes I selected from the aforementioned  journal. Who knows? These quotes  may even serve as a springboard for some good writing of your own…Wishing you love, peace and joy on this Thanksgiving Day and all days!

  • Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. -Denis Waitley
  • The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. -Oprah Winfrey
  • I didn’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find my happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. -Brene Brown
  • Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. -Zig Ziglar
  • When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. -Marcus Aurelius
  • The small happy moments add up. A little bit of joy goes a long way. -Melissa McCarthy
  • When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around. -Willie Nelson
  • I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect – they are much more interesting. -Marc Jacobs
  • God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. -Votaire
  • This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before. -Maya Angelou
  • When you are grateful – when you can see what you have – you unlock blessings to flow into your life. -Suze Orman
  • The true secret of happiness lies in taking interest in all the details of daily life. -William Morris 
  • Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people  see nothing. -Camille Pissarro
  • Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. -Eckhart Tolle 
  • Put you heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success. -Swami Sivananda
  • If you are gracious, you have won the game. -Stevie Nicks
  • Gratitude and attitude are not challenges. They are choices. -Robert Braathe
  • Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart. -Winnie the Pooh
  • Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present. -Jim Rohn
  • Trade you expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly. -Tony Robbins
  • I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greatest part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition. Martha Washington

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

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