Birthday Reflections

“ Scorpio is the one sign that can give you sensitivity, moodiness, dominance, stubbornness, advice, laughter, harshness, love… and a headache all in a matter of minutes.”

Yep, that sounds like me and a lot like my fellow Scorpions out there! I saw this posted on my neighbor’s social media, and it got me thinking!

As I look back on my life, the younger me, the older me, and all the different versions of me in between, I see how all of these traits associated with a Scorpio has both helped and hindered me along my path. Would I change any of it? Absolutely and unequivocally not!

The sensitivity has allowed me to feel emotions; moodiness has gifted me with retreating and going within; dominance has allowed me to take charge when no one else does; stubbornness has allowed me to stand up for what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart of hearts; advice is something I give freely to those who come to me for some wisdom; laughter is my go-to medicine for the soul; harshness has allowed me to be critical- especially of myself and holding myself accountable-and has gotten me out of my own way-and, lastly, love has always guided my way- even in the most uncertain of times. Oh, and headaches serve as a reminder I shouldn’t drink red wine. Not all that bad, if you ask me!

As I reflect on my all too quick 62 rotations around the sun, the privilege that I’ve had is something I do not take for granted. The more I learn about White Privilege and this system of White Supremacy we live in, White Feminism, Caste, and how it’s all woven into every single aspect of our life, culture and society, the angrier I get at not having been taught these things in school. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate reality in more ways than I can describe. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I’ve taken learning to another level. The person I was going into this quarantine and the one who is emerging is different and is determining the direction of the next leg of my journey.

I’m very grateful for my parents seeing the communist handwriting on the wall before Castro came into power in Cuba. As a result, they, along with the majority of their siblings, came to the US for a better life, to have more children in some cases, and to give their children more opportunities than they were ever afforded.

My ancestors found their way to Cuba via Portugal and Spain. I only wish I could have met some of them and had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their lives, their traumas, their lived experiences, their wisdom… all things that live in my body and course through my blood.

I’m certain none of them could have imagined this upside down world we are living in. But I do know they, like all of our elders and ancestors, had dreams, aspirations, and things left to do and say when they left this world.

I realize I am the product of their unfulfilled wishes, the dreams they didn’t get to live out, the voice they were unable or not allowed to use, the product of privilege they didn’t have given the times they lived in and the embodiment of a heart overflowing with gratitude each step of the way, each and every day. My attitude of gratitude is what has brought me overwhelming joy, love, and abundance throughout my life…. especially during those dark nights of the soul.

I took a moment this morning to reflect on 62 years of life. I feel very loved, seen and appreciated. For some reason, birthdays get more and more meaningful as the number climbs. The cards I received, the sentiments expressed, and the heartfelt words inscribed have really touched my heart year after year.

This is my 12th birthday without my Mama, and to say that I miss her more each day is an understatement. I realize how lucky I was to have her for almost 50 years of my life. I was an unexpected surprise, and I am grateful that she chose life.

So…..on this day where I find myself reflecting on privileges of all kinds, I am going to share with you yet another handout from the White Conversations class that I took. It’s an activity called Privilege for Sale. It’s an activity that is also a big eye-opener for people who do not understand some of the things that White Privilege affords you, or how you walk through life, if you are white or passing as white.

If you are doing this with a very small group, you may want to each do this activity individually. Obviously, the more people involved, the better able you are to break up into smaller groups and have better conversations and different perspectives.

Before starting the activity, you must put yourself in a mindset of someone having zero privileges whatsoever. Each privilege costs $10 to purchase. As a group, or individual, you will purchase as many privileges as the money you’ve been given allows. It’s up to the facilitator to assign varying budgets- starting with $10- to each group (or individual).

Please note that the phrase “an aspect of your identity “refers to identities including race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity/expression. Identities and privileges represented on this list or by no means exhaustive.

Ready? Here we go…..

  1. Not being subjected to additional scrutiny at school or in your job based on an aspect of your identity.  
  2. Adopting your children. 
  3. Being able to discuss and have access to multiple family planning options. 
  4. Raising children without worrying about state intervention. 
  5. Being accepted by your neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and/or new friends.. 
  6. Going shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed. 
  7. Walking around campus, turning on the television, or opening to the front page of the paper and seeing people like you widely represented. 
  8. Being sure that you or your children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their experience. 
  9. Going into a supermarket and finding the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions.
  10. Not having to educate your children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
  11. Using public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest
  12. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
  13. Having the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of some aspect of your identity.
  14. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical establishments.
  15. Freely being able to discuss your relationship with others. 
  16. If you are assaulted or murdered, an aspect of your identity will not be used as a justification for the crime nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
  17. Having your gender as an option on a form.
  18. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to an aspect of your identity.
  19. Not facing the everyday fear of deportation.  
  20. Expecting to have any/easy access to public transportation, building, parks, and restaurants.  
  21. Being able to plan your day without having to consider health or pain concerns.  
  22. Receiving validation from your religious community. 
  23. If you should need to move, being pretty sure that you will be able to rent or purchase a home in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. 
  24. Being able to go to a doctor visit and have him or her understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  25. Whether using checks, credit cards or cash, you can count on your skin color not working against the appearance of financial reliability. 

Adapted from The Safe Zone Project, http://thesafezoneproject.com/

To say this is a powerful activity is an understatement and would be a disservice to the individual(s) who created it. While there are only 25 privileges listed here, the list can be expanded even more so given the reality of what being born in a body that was not born into a dominant Caste or Race goes through day in and day out of their entire existence.

One thing I know for sure that I will continue learning, especially from BIPOC leaders and teachers, until the moment I take my last breath. My entire life thus far has been around learning, growing, expanding, transforming, loving, inspiring, serving and reflecting…why should it be any different at this age? Our lust for knowledge is something that should only die when we die.

So there you have it…. my birthday reflections. I hope you feel inspired to keep learning, unlearning, becoming and unbecoming. My birthday wish is that you give the White Privilege activity a try and feel compelled to share it with others. It will definitely make for good conversation and inspired action!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Ask Away!!!

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”

This quote by Lou Holtz, who is a former football player, coach and analyst, speaks to some of the points that were part of my previous blog, Humble Inquiry. If you missed that blog, you may want to read it prior to delving into this one.

As was mentioned in Humble Inquiry, the author of the book- bearing the same name as the title of my previous blog- mentioned how we in the U.S. live in a culture that overvalues telling as opposed to asking questions. The downfall to this is that we never truly get into deep, juicy and meaningful conversations if we don’t learn to ask the right questions. And it’s only through asking questions that we truly walk away having learned something.

Darlings, and if you are of a “particular age” or perhaps raised in a culture where “children should be seen and not heard,” asking questions was not something that was encouraged or valued. No wonder so many of us have never learned the fine art of asking interesting questions. Back in the day, schools taught us basic questions- like who, what, when, where and why- which, when you think about it, do not require much thinking at all. Only in the last 20-25 years or so , when standardized tests became so popular in schools, were we faced with teaching our children open-ended questions and higher order thinking skills.

A couple of months ago I took a White Conversations Class that was offered at my friend’s yoga studio. It was taught by a college professor who facilitated all types of conversations for us dealing with critical examination of self; valuing differences; understanding social conditioning and whiteness; White Privilege; deconstructing yourself; internalized biases; anti-racism work; the differences between dialogue, discussion and debate; how to talk to family and friends about white privilege; AND…drumroll please… questions conducive to seeing and expanding our perspectives. I can’t even begin to tell you all the materials, handouts, and research articles the professor shared with us!

In addition to her genuine and personable disposition, one of the things I liked most about her was that she subscribes to my mindset when it comes to sharing materials. (You all know how I feel that sharing is caring). One of the things she said early on was that we were free to share materials. As a matter of fact, she welcomed and encouraged it.

One of the handouts she shared, and the content I want to pass on to you, is the one dealing with useful questions for facilitating conversations. The information comes from The Program on Intergroup Relation, The University of Michigan .

We are living through very contentious, stressful, and uncertain times these days and, more than ever, we can all use some pointers on having more skillfully conscious conversations on the job, at home, with family and friends. The following are different types of questions, their purpose and examples for each of the different types of questions.

So…let’s get started!

Exploratory Questions: Probe basic knowledge

What to you think about_______? How does _______ make you feel? What bothers / concerns / confuses you the most about _______? What are some of the ways we might respond to_______?

Causal Questions: Open-ended questions that don’t require a detailed or specific kind of response

What is your understanding of _______? What do you want to know about _______? What is the first thing you think about in relations to _______? What are some questions you have about_______? What is one image, scene, event, or moment from your experience that relates to_______?

Challenge Questions: Examine assumptions, conclusions and interpretations

What can we infer / conclude from_______? Does _______ remind you of anything? What principle do you see operating here? What does this help you explain _______? How does this relate to other experiences or things you already know?

Relational Questions: Ask for comparison of themes, ideas or issues

Do you see a pattern here? How do you account for _______? What was significant about _______? What connections do you see? What does _______ suggest to you? Is there a connection between what you’ve just said and what _______ was saying earlier?

Cause and Effect Questions: Ask for casual relationships between ideas, actions or events

How do you think _______ relates or causes _______? What are some consequences of_______? Where does _______ lead? What are some pros and cons of _______? What is likely to be the effect of _______?

Extension Questions: Expand the discussion

What do the rest of you think? How do others feel? What dod you find noteworthy about this comment? How can we move forward? Can you give some specific examples of_______? How would you put that another way?

Hypothetical Questions: Pose a change in the facts or issues

What if _______ were from a different _______, how would that change things? Would it make a difference if we were in a _______ society/culture? How might this dialogue be different if _______? What might happen if we were to _______? How might your life be different it _______?

Diagnostic Questions: Probe motives or causes

What brings you to say that? What do you mean? What led you to that conclusion?

Priority Questions: Seek to identify the most important issue

From all that we’ve talked about, what is the most important concept you see? Considering the different ideas in the room, what to you see as the most critical issue? What do you find yourself resonating with the most? If you had to pick just one topic to continue talking about, what would it be?

Process Questions: Elicit satisfactions / buy-in / interest levels

Is this where we should be going? How are people feeling about the direction of this dialogue? What perspectives are missing from this dialogue? Everyone has been _______ for a while, why? How would you summarize this dialogue so far? How might splitting into groups or pairs affect out discussion?

Analytical Questions: Seek to apply concepts or principles to a new or different situation

What are the main arguments for _______? What are the assumptions underlying _______? What questions arise for you as you think about _______? What implications does _______ have? (for _______?) Does this idea challenge or support what we’ve been talking about? How does this idea / contribution add to what has already been said?

Summary Questions: Elicit synthesis, what themes or lessons have emerged

Where are we? If you had to pick two themes from this dialogue, what would they be? What did you learn? What benefits did we gain today? What remains unresolved? How can we better process this? Based on our dialogue, what will you be thinking about after you leave? Let me see if I understand what we’ve talked about so far…What have I missed? Or, is this what I’ve heard so far…Does anyone have anything to correct or add?

Action Questions: Call for a conclusion or action

How can we use that information? What does this information say about our own action or lives? How can you adapt this information to make it applicable to you? How will you do things differently as a result of this meeting? What are out next steps? What kind of support do we need as we move forward? How does this dialogue fit into our bigger plans?

Evaluative Questions: Gauge emotions, anxiety levels, what is going well or not

Is there anything else you would like to talk about? How are you felling about this now? What was a high point for you? A low point? Where were you engaged? Disengaged? What excited you? Disappointed you?

Darlings, as with all things in life, learning to ask meaningful and thoughtful questions takes practice, consistency and continuity. It may come easy for some and difficult for others. The art of questioning is something we can also teach our young children, grand-children, nieces and nephews starting at an early age. The dinner table is a great place to talk to kids. The more skillful children become at asking questions, the more prepared they will be and the more engaging and well-rounded they will become as adults.

Here’s a fun activity (and you know how I love activities)…decide on a topic, pick some questions from each category, write/ print them on pieces of paper, and throw them into a bowl at dinner or other gatherings. So many families are working and learning from home and in front of screens these days, that actually shutting off phones or putting them away for a bit and engaging in conversations is greatly needed. And if you can do it outdoors, even better. Our eyes and brains need time away from our electronics!

More and more people these days are collecting phones and putting them in a basket or elsewhere during family / holiday dinners so that everyone can be more present with each other. This is a fantastic idea! The biggest gift we can give someone is our presence and undivided attention. Time is a currency that should be used wisely, don’t you think?

My wish is that we all engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations that offer us opportunities to look at things from different perspectives in an effort to see that, as a HUMAN race, we are more alike that we are different. All it takes is a little vulnerability, courage, strength and an open mind. Here’s to less talking and more asking!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Humble Inquiry

“Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”  Edgar H. Shein

About three years ago, one of my pseudo-daughters and dearest friend and Maui soul sister, Claire, recommended the book Humble Inquiry. I purchased it soon thereafter but left it behind in Texas on one of my visits. I had forgotten about it. If you’re like me, it’s not uncommon to have a stack of unread books or to be reading several at the same time.

At the time I purchased it I must have done quite a bit of shopping, and it probably didn’t fit in my carry on. Yep, I’ve been know to fly with a duffle bag, only to have to purchase a larger one, or a suitcase, as a result of power shopping trips with friends. You know who you are…wink, wink!

Well, I finally started reading the book while in TX pet-sitting for my cousins last year. Yes, you read that correctly- last year. You see I started writing this blog last October but, for some reason,  never ended up publishing it. Perhaps the Universe had a better plan, and maybe now is when we can all use a little humble inquiry.

I was hooked on the book as early as the book’s introduction. In it, the author, Edgar H. Shein, poses the following question:

Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help build positive relationships?

The answer: Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, culturally diverse world, we cannot hope to understand and work with people from different occupational, professional, and national cultures if we do not know how to ask questions and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we may need to know  in order to get the job done.

The other thing that struck me and made me pause, was that he claims that we, in the U.S.,  live in a culture that overvalues “telling.” Pause….think about it. We are all probably  guilty of taking the art of questioning for granted. According to the author, getting questioning right is more important than giving recommendations or advice.  Yet, how often do we, as a culture, default to the art of telling instead? Some of us tell everything and tell it everywhere….we’re all guilty…just look at social media.

I think for some of us it’s probably in our nature to tell- unless we take the time to rethink, change our outlook and learn how to ask more questions.

He further goes on to say, “The issue of asking versus telling is really a fundamental issue in human relations, and that it applies to all of us all the time.”

I published a blog last year on essential leadership skills – Leadership 101. In it I mentioned the importance of building relationships and asking the questions that enable us to get to know our employees on a deeper, more meaningful level. However, one thing I didn’t mention, and reading this book brought to light, is that the art of questioning becomes more difficult as status increases.

This made me pause as well. Think about it, questions- and the way we pose them- land very differently once we start making our way up the leadership ladder. It’s difficult enough when you are  someone’s co-worker, an equal, and have the same rank. However, as you make your way up the ladder, you are now charged with running, managing and leading an organization. Like it or not, you are now in the spotlight.

The way we pose questions can make or break relationships and derail conversations (and not in a positive way). On a daily basis  (and oftentimes moment to moment), leaders are faced with making decisions and encounter challenges often stemming from cultural, occupational, generational, gender and racial barriers and biases. Knowing the right questions to ask can move an organization forward by drastically improving the way all parties communicate.

Think about how often our conversations with co-workers, superiors, subordinates, friends and family alike go wrong and how easily we get upset with the other person, as well as with ourselves when that happens. Think about how easily our discussions can turn into arguments and hurt feelings. When we “tell” someone something,  give unsolicited advice, or we don’t like the advice we’ve been given, rather than asking the right questions, we can very easily end up in a “situation gone seriously wrong.”

So…how can we do better? According to the chapter on humble inquiry, it’s rather simple. However, its implementation is not. Doing less talking; learning to do more asking in the particular form of Humble Inquiry; and doing a better job of listening and acknowledging is not as easy to practice as we would like to think.

We are so programed to tell, to share our knowledge, our expertise; yet, we fail to overlook the fact that there will always be things we need to learn, and the best way to learn them is by asking the appropriate questions in the appropriate manner.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that places more emphasis on task accomplishment. We are driven by accomplishments, competition and comparison and how we are viewed by others. In other words, we are driven by the Ego- but that’s for another blog!

So…this is where I left off writing last year. I am now being guided to continue as follows:

Given the times we are currently living, all the fake news, discrepancies, misinformation,  the social media bubble we’ve been programmed for, and the blatant lies and lack of leadership we are witnessing from our political leaders right before our eyes, we often fail to look at the other side of things, ask some difficult questions and be willing to learn (and in a lot of cases-unlearn). Many of us tend to just go with our own perspective on things rather than exploring other avenues.

I was listening to a Brene Brown podcast recently where a listener asked why people prefer to believe fake news as apposed to researching and fact checking. Ms. Brown went on to say that the  reason we do this, as research has shown, is that we  prefer to sit with something even if it is false because it would be more uncomfortable to research the lie or the fake news and find that our beliefs were erroneous. How crazy is that!!! Some people prefer to sit ignorantly blissful as opposed to wise and uncomfortable!?!? That damn Ego will get you every time!

Being open minded and constantly questioning and looking at different perspectives is a practice in mindful awareness, And given the times, we can all use some mindful awareness, open minds, open hearts and the empathy and willingness to see and question different perspectives.

When I was on social media earlier,  I  came across a post by The Holistic Psychologist, Dr. Nicole LePera, which speak precisely to this point. In her post, she listed 4 ways we can become more open minded in this area. They are as follows:

  • Regularly consume content that challenges your perception / world view. This allows us to get past our emotional  responses, listen to objective points being made and  understand various frameworks of thought even if they aren’t our own.
  • Learn to become a free thinker.  Most of us are conditioned to repeat  information we’ve been taught. A free thinker engages in conscious thoughts and questions. This is actually a practice of self-trust and self- inquiry.
  • Have relationships, friendships or mentorships from people who have a wide variety of beliefs. This humanizes ” opposing” view points and allows us to evolve beyond one dimensional patterns of thinking.
  • Practice meditation. This allows us to learn a different way of responding to our thoughts and allows us to sit with difficult emotions- which is the foundation of open-mindedness.

We tend to underestimate the power of questioning these days and how valuable and enlightening it can be to learn things we may not have otherwise known had we not taken the time to genuinely engage in the art of humble inquiry. All of the aforementioned points allow us to leave our Ego at the door, allow us to expand and grow, and gives others we engage with permission to do the same. 

Darlings, stay tuned for my next blog where I plan to expand and go into detail on the art of questioning and the numerous types of questions we can add to our toolboxes.

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

My Guest Blogger, Lucy, Returns

Love yourself the way you love others – with passion and wholeheartedly.” Lucy C.Del Gaudio

People are put in your path for reasons. Reasons sometimes you just can’t explain. I’ve been blessed with a tribe of women this summer. A collective of extraordinary women, each with unique personalities and each profoundly impactful and inspiring.

One of these giants is Pamela Heal. A survivor, she herself is creating a path to wellness with her HEAL NETWERK. A morning conversation inspires me to write a much needed love letter to myself and here it goes..

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”― Lao Tzu

Strength and Courage – I’ve struggled with both. How strong am I to let someone love me that deeply and how can I have the courage to love someone so deeply especially if that person is myself?

The last few months have been a bundle of feeling every single emotion. I’ve allowed myself to openly discuss a time in my life that I hid so deep inside me, that I still struggle with it. But, I’ve also found emotions that have been hidden for a long time. Ones that Lucy prior 1992 used to love to explore. Loved to be.

So, Lucy, remember that first kiss? The way you felt the electricity run through your body. Remember that walk in the rain by yourself in Washington Square Park? You splashed in puddles and enjoyed the time you spent with yourself. Remember seeing a wall painted like Composition with Red Blue and Yellow by Piet Mondrian that brings a devilish smile to your face knowing of things you’ve done with your back pressed against it.

Your fire, your passion and your love of life is a quality that you can’t resist and honestly shouldn’t. Your humor, your laugh and your compassion is endearing. But your willingness to put others before you – your ying yang, it’s been a blessing and a curse.

During a deep conversation, a wise woman said something that stuck to me, “They love you because when they are with you, you let them be who they always wanted and want to be.” It’s time you do that for yourself.

Love yourself the way you love others – with passion and wholeheartedly. Make passionate love. Listen to music. Sit at the waterlilies. Make exceptional food. Read your favorite classics. Write your feelings. Hug others. Tell those you love, you love them. Be peaceful with yourself. Be graceful. Don’t overthink. Stay humble. Be you! LOVE YOURSELF. ❤ 

Thank you, Lucy, for reaching out this morning. Synchronicity at its best because we were both on IG at the same time, so all this went down simultaneously and as it was meant to be. There is no doubt in my mind that there are a host of women- and men- out there who need to read this…perhaps as a reminder or even as an inspiration for them to write themselves a love letter. I always believe these blogs will ultimately land in the hands of whomever needs it at that precise moment in time. The Universe always sees to it. So darlings, if you know of someone who could use this beautiful message…you know what to do!

May we continue to move forward in love and intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts wide open! JTC

Unleashing Greatness

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planers, the doers, the successful people with their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.” 

Greetings, darlings!

Back in July, I attended the first ever Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within (UPW) LIVE VIrtual 2020 event. Suffice to say I am still integrating everything that was covered in this epic 4 day event which was 12-14 hours in length every day. To say that it was a high energy, highly charged, transformative event is an understatement. Just ask anyone who’s attended one of these in-person events.

Due to the pandemic and all venues cancelling events, TR built a multi-million dollar virtual studio to be able to pull off this first-ever UPW virtual live event which hosted over 20,000 people from all races, cultures, genders and from over 135 different countries. It was  fascinating, wild and interactive! 

Since this is an event that must be experienced, I will not even attempt to get into much detail about it. However, I thought this would be a good time to share some “Tony-isms” with you. What are Tony-isms? They are principles he’s known for hammering home throughout his trainings. 

As you will find, some may resonate for you, some may ignite a fire in you and others may propel you to start doing some major self-inquiry, reflection and inner investigation. As I like to say, “Take what you need, and leave the rest!”

“There is a powerful driving force inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision, dream, or desire a reality.”

“People’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.” 

“Life is the dance between what you desire most and what you fear most.”

“Life happens for us, not to us.” 

“You don’t change yourself, you change your patterns.”

“Resources are never the problem. A lack of resourcefulness is the problem.”

“Divorce your story of limitation, and marry the truth.”

“Disappointment will drive or destroy you.”

“Home is your habitual emotional state”

“What you focus on equals quality of life.” 

“The quality of your life is where you live emotionally.”

“What you focus on, you feel.”

“Our physiological state and story determine the success of the strategy.”

“Your state changes your story.”

“Someday leads to nowhere.”

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.”

“Trade expectation for appreciation.”

“Questions are the answers.”

“Stop asking lousy questions.”

“Learning leads to action.”

“Success leaves clues.”

“Find someone who’s done what you want and see/learn how they did it.”

“A belief is a poor excuse for an experience.”

“Perceptions are controlled by beliefs.”

“The words you attach to an experience become your experience.”

“Everyone’s life is either a warning or an example.”

“We are the creators of our own life, not just the manager of our circumstance.”

“Beliefs create or destroy.”

“Patterns are the difference between success and failure.”

“We are wired to grow and give.”

“If you stop growing, life will give you something to make you grow.”

“Commit yourself to raising your standards.”

“When you are the most tired, you get the most growth.”

“Condition your nervous system.”

“You can wire yourself for pain or pleasure.”

“Demand more of yourself every day.”

“Compete with your capacity.”

“Feed your mind every day.”

“When it’s a must, you find the way.”

“Certainty is created within you, not by your environment.”

“Change is never a matter of ability, it’s always a matter of motivation.”

“Momentum is the difference between success and failure.”

“Repetition is the mother of skill.

“Change your story, change your life.”

“What got you to Egypt won’t get you to the Promised Land.”

I love all these quotes because they can be used in a myriad of ways. Not only are they guiding principles to live by, but they can also be used to take a deep dive inside ourselves. Additionally, each and every one of them can also be used as a prompt for journaling or for taking action.

And action is precisely what this “great reset” we are experiencing globally is calling for us to take. We are all being called to do things very differently, to get creative, innovative  and  to question and examine everything that is no longer serving us individually and collectively. It’s also a time to explore the different ways we are being of service to others as well as the value we are bringing to the lives of others- whether they be family, friends, clients, employees, and even  our social media audience.

Old outdated systems that have been dehumanizing and devaluing people and destroying our planet are crumbling because they must. Now is the time for all creators, visionaries, innovators, and every other human being alive to feel the calling to leave this world better than they found it.  My hope is that the “Tony-isms” I shared ignite a fire within you to unleash the greatness that exists in YOU!

May we continue to move forward in love and intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts and minds wide open, JTC

Happy Blogaversary!

“If we don’t challenge each other to use our platforms for better than our niches or what our quote-un-quote brand is, what are we doing as influencers? If we can’t activate our audiences at the time it’s important or needed, then what do we have these platforms for?” Luvie Ajani

Three years ago today, I birthed the InspireLoveServe blog. I’m a firm believer that as we learn  we need to teach, that sharing is caring and that our stories help to heal ourselves, others as well as the collective healing of humanity. Here it is three years later and 165+ blogs written… Cheers! 

So why did I start blogging? I started blogging because lived experiences- our own and that of others- provide us with learning and growth opportunities and a level of wisdom that can be used to guide us throughout the darkest and most trying times of our lives….through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between. These experiences show us what is possible when we tap into our inner fortitude, strength, exercise our resilience muscle and take accountability for our life-long learning, growth and overall contribution.  

As we have witnessed in this digital age we’re living, social media platforms of all kinds have the ability to influence and accelerate our learning, growth, activism and contribution in unimaginable ways. While social media often gets a bad rap, especially from people who aren’t even on it or haven’t taken the time to explore it, I believe the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. In my humble opinion, the key is to “curate” our social media profiles in a way so that what shows up in our feeds and who we choose to friend and follow are voices, leaders and change-makers who are adding to our growth factor and to the human collective. The times we are living have shown us all the empowering, as well as the disempowering, impact  social media has on us. So why not opt for empowerment and upliftment…our own and others?

Whether we realize it or not, we are all influencers in life. However, it’s my belief that we must be accountable for the energy we choose to put out there- not only in all our personal and professional relationships and spaces- but on social media as well. I think we can agree that we all have a great impact on people’s lives whether intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously. The energy we put out there is either constructive or destructive, positive or negative, influential or ineffectual, wouldn’t you agree?

I’ve often said that our influence is exponential. Now, more than ever, we are all being called to teach, coach, write, speak out, advocate, and lead. Regardless of our positions, careers and roles we play, we all have leadership abilities that can be used to unite not to divide, to love not to perpetuate fear, to praise not to demean or devalue, and to impact and encourage  others in positive and unimaginable ways. Our voices can influence others in all areas of life and can especially influence our circle of friends, family, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, friends of friends of friends of friends….you get it…..exponentially!  

Successful and admired leaders from all walks of life have the exceptional ability of being able to connect with the human experience – with one’s humanity. I think this is primarily due to the fact that effective and successful leaders have solid, unshakable  core values, beliefs, morals and a social consciousness that enable them to do so. And sprinkle in a little sense of humor, and viola! News flash here: we all have this ability! All we need to do is tap into it, develop it, refine it and put it to good use. 

Given the historical times we are living, the political and social unrest in our country, and the  hatred and vitriol we are witnessing right before our very eyes on TV, in our communities and splashed across headlines, don’t you think it’s high time we all “checked” ourselves? And by checking ourselves I mean taking a deep dive into the roles we individually play as part of the collective and how we are contributing to it. It’s called accountability…wink, wink!

Do we show ourselves love, compassion, understanding and empathy? If we do, then we have the ability to extend that to all our fellow humans because it is a choice we make. If we don’t treat ourselves with love, compassion, understanding and empathy- which is also a choice-  then chances are that we are not capable of extending those same qualities to others and are most likely adding to the states and narratives of fear, division, separation, depression, loneliness, anger and hatred (just to name a few) that we are seeing in today’s society and splashed across all media outlets. All of it is an assault on our nervous system and, as a result, it is bringing up traumas of all kinds in people. Some of these traumas may be  historical, generational, ancestral, shock or developmental. And make no mistake about it, trauma is at the root of all violence….both outward and inward!

Traumatic events that we experience throughout our lives are overwhelming to us physically and/or emotionally. This causes the nervous system to jump into high alert and bringing our mind and body back into balance is affected. If trauma is not addressed and dealt with, it will remain trapped in our body and will cause disturbances at the biological, physiological, emotional, mental or behavioral levels. Unresolved trauma impacts our ability to self-regulate- causing us to respond impulsively and emotionally- and affects our ability to process information. Our brains get compromised by overwhelming amounts of cortisol, thereby causing fragmented memory and compromising social awareness and organizational ability. In a nutshell, the traumatized brain will act as it is cognitively impaired.

If you are interested in reading up on trauma, I highly recommend the following two books:

  1. The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  2. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A, Levine

So back to the subtle art of checking ourselves. By checking ourselves I also mean to check in with our body and its sensations throughout the day and upon interacting with others (something we are always being called to do on our yoga mats): 

  • Pause
  • Be the witness 
  • Observe the feelings that are a result of our thoughts.
  • What emotions were elicited by these thoughts? 
  • What are these thoughts revealing?

Another way we can check ourselves, and one that was mentioned on various energy forecasts I was recently watching, is to listen to the story and the narratives behind the fear and divide we are seeing in our country. We are being encouraged to ask ourselves the following:

  • Why are people trying to create fear, anger and hate?
  • Do I want to believe this narrative?
  • Do I want to be a part of this narrative?
  • How does this narrative make me feel?
  • Is there another narrative I can choose?

And, lastly, some of my own questions:

  • What is my leadership style?
  • Do I hold myself in love, compassion, understanding and empathy? Why/why not?
  • How do I influence those around me?
  • How do I leave people feeling after I interact with them?
  • How am I using my social media platform?
  • What energy am I putting out in the world via my social media platform?
  • Am I using my social media platform to influence, educate, inspire, uplift, advocate, entertain, raise awareness or to add to those fear, division, hate and separation narratives?
  • Do I choose to act or react in challenging situations?
  • What self-regulation tools can I use to keep me from reacting negatively?
  • What added value do I bring to the lives of those around me?
  • What are ways I can start/continue to be of service and contribution?
  • In what ways can I invest in myself and continue my personal and professional growth so that I can further be of influence?

Darlings, we are all part of a human family and part of  history in the making!. What kind of human being are you? What kinds of human beings do you surround yourself with? Are there any personal traumas in your mind/body that need addressing? 

I sincerely hope that you can relate to the content in this blog on some level and want to thank you for taking the time to read it. On this 3rd Blogaversary, I want to thank you if you are an avid supporter and always read my blog. Thank you if you occasionally drop in to read it. Thank you if you care enough to share when you feel called to do so. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your comments with me. Thank you for being inspired to do your own work. Thank you if what you’ve read in this blog causes you to pause, reflect and become more conscious and intentional with how you use your own social media platform.

May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, clarity, unity and hearts and minds wide open! JTC

All Black Lives Matter…no ifs, ands or buts

“The response of “All Lives Matter’ is not understanding that a social justice movement would not have to exist if all lives were treated as if they mattered equally.“  Sit. With. That.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States, recently wrote an extensive piece that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In it she writes: 

It has been more than 150 years since the white planter class last called up the slave patrols and deputized every white citizen to stop, question and subdue any black person who came across their paths in order to control and surveil a population who refused to submit to their enslavement. It has been 150 years since white Americans could enforce slave laws that said white people acting in the interest of the planter class would not be punished for killing a black person, even for the most minor alleged offense. These laws morphed into the black codes, passed by white Southern politicians at the end of the Civil War to criminalize behaviors like not having a job. Those black codes were struck down, then altered over the course of decades eventually transmuted into stop-and-frisk, broken windows and, of course, qualified immunity. The names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or have breached the social order has remained. In a country erected on the explicitly codified conviction that black lives mattered less, graveyards across this land hold the bodies of black Americans, men, women and children, legally killed by the institutional descendants of those slave patrols for alleged transgressions like walking home from the store with Skittles, playing with a toy gun in the park, sleeping in their homes and selling untaxed cigarettes.

Here it is, July 2020, and we continue to see case upon case where a black life has not mattered. There are thousand of names we’ll never know of- we only know of the ones that we’ve been made aware of over recent years thanks, in part, to social media. And despite all this, I still cannot believe how the phrase Black Lives Matters hits a nerve in some of us white people who are quick to point out that All Lives Matter. It’s pretty disheartening to see how twisted and defensive people can get,  given the 400 years that carefully crafted systems of racism and oppression have been dehumanizing, destroying, killing, incarcerating,  and inflicting racial wounds on people of color.

If we stop, feel, listen, be willing to become accountable for our own learning and unlearning, we will see see how saying “All Lives Matter” is a form of racism in and of itself. It’s called White Centering.

White centering is invisibilized and normalized. We can’t dismantle what we can’t see, so unless we consciously take an active part in learning, unlearning and trying to “get” it right (not “be” right), we will fail to see how these norms further marginalize and attempt to erase Black and Indigenous People of Color. That in itself is a deadly aspect of White Supremacy. 

Another dangerous aspect which is at the core of White Centering, White Fragility, White Superiority, White Privilege, White Silence and all matters dealing with racism, is this feeling of being “attacked” some of us white people feel when we are not ready to hold ourselves accountable for how our actions, behaviors, biases, prejudices, stereotypes and the internalized racism we were born into actually harm BIPOC.

We’ve become so accustomed and comfortable with looking away, letting others do the work, or looking at the world with our own set of White lenses, that we fail to see there’s something morally and consciously wrong with how we are personally perceiving equality and justice related issues. We’re unaware of our blindspots. Ultimately, we fail to see how this feeds into the hierarchy that White Supremacy upholds and, therefore, are just as quick to join the All Lives Matter caravan. Or, as we’ve all witnessed on many occasions, a whole lot of silence or spiritual bypassing ensues because God forbid we should feel “uncomfortable.” Remember darlings, silence is violence…as is Whitesplaining!

How have we become so numb to the violence? Are we truly comfortable with the numbness? How is that serving us? How is that serving our health and well-being? How is that serving our society, the world at large and future generations? What stories are we telling ourselves? How are they serving and honoring our ancestors and the work they did in the name of change? 

Change and growth are not comfortable. Trauma is not comfortable. Social Justice is not comfortable. Activism is not comfortable. Not getting it right is not comfortable. Speaking up is not comfortable.  Feeling frustrated is not comfortable. Constantly seeing BIPOC killed again and again should not be comfortable, acceptable or excusable!

If we were to stop, breathe and tune into our bodies every time we feel “uncomfortable” we will sense different things going on in our body and that’s because our nervous systems are on high alert. The nervous system is sensing for danger, the protective brain takes over,  and it’s ready to fight, flee or freeze. It’s important to take a pause here when in this state and check ourselves. Allow ourselves to feel. Allow our pre-frontal cortex to take over. Allow ourselves to question why we are feeling this way. Allow ourselves to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Allow ourselves to open our minds and hearts and  be willing to look through another set of lenses… that aren’t White Centered. 

Darlings, if there is anything that has become apparent as I continue to learn, unlearn and learn again and again these days, is that proclaiming to be a “good white person” is not enough today. This work we are being called to do is life-long work we need to commit to doing. While I’ve always been saddened  to see how some people aren’t committed to self- growth or aren’t willing to keep learning and evolving, I can now clearly see the harm those behaviors inflict on BIPOC when we are unwilling to take personal responsibility for our own anti-racism education. It’s White Apathy at its best! 

Instead, we white people have the audacity to feel “attacked” when asked to  be accountable for our antiracism education and grow in our understanding of White Supremacy and what dismantling it looks like. We become defensive, silent, or even put an end to the conversation. Why? Because God forbid we should feel uncomfortable! 

During this historic moment of our lives, one that will define what kind of white people we were for future generations, we are being asked to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. We are being asked to do things differently. We’re being asked to question everything. We are being asked to stop making excuses. We are being asked to engage. speak up, and have hard conversations amongst ourselves, our families, friends and co-workers. We are being asked to hold ourselves accountable for learning and unlearning. We are being asked to accept responsibility for being complicit when we didn’t even realize we were doing so. We are being asked to show up. We are being asked to disrupt our thinking and our behaviors in the name of racial equity.

We are being called to accept that anti-racism works starts with us, that is uncomfortable as hell and more complex that we  could have ever imagined. Failure to do any of these things just feeds White Supremacy. 

Those of you who know me, know that I’ve always turned towards the discomfort. For me, discomfort signals that change is needed. That growth is awaiting. This is a space of possibility, of expansion, vision and alchemy. I tend to thrive in this space. Being committed to life-long learning sets me on fire. It brings me joy. It shakes me up. It’s one of my passions. More importantly though, it humbles me because there’s so much I’m learning and want to learn.

How much time do I have left on this earth? I don’t want to squander it! I know I’m here to make a difference, and I’ve always taken that responsibility to heart. “How can I serve?” is a question I’m always asking myself. 

Darlings, as I noted in my previous blog, There is No Neutral, we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression that were intentionally created  to uphold white dominance. Whether we want to accept it or not, it is truth….an uncomfortable one albeit. Just remember, comfort is not the key here. We have a responsibility to humankind to sit in our own discomfort and unpack layer upon layer of uncomfortableness in the hopes of creating a better world for future generations.  

If after reading this blog you still don’t understand the All Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and continue to rally that “All Lives Matter,” I will leave you with the following, which has made its way around social media, in hopes that you will see through a different set of lenses:

  • When the Boston Marathon was bombed and everybody’s profile picture changed to “Boston Strong,” nobody said “All Cities are Strong.”
  • When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles to “Stand with Vegas.” Nobody said “Stand with Everywhere.”
  • Have you ever seen someone counter a breast cancer post with  “Wait, what about colon cancer?”
  • But for some reason if someone says “Black Lives Matter” it turns into an all inclusive “All Lives Matter,”
  • This is not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis, we have always rallied around that particular group/city/cause. It does not diminish any other group/city/cause, it just brings awareness and support where it is needed.
  • No one is saying all lives don’t matter, but right now our Black friends, families, colleagues, neighbors and strangers need our support. 

Are you willing to do the work? 

Darlings, I started my blog almost 3 years ago as a way to inspire, love and serve: hence, the name. I’ve always shared resources, practices, and tools that have gotten me through the darkest and most challenging times of my life and that have allowed me to be resilient in the face of adversity and hardship.  I’ve shared my stories, life experiences and wisdom gained and have always encouraged the reader to “take what you need and leave the rest.”  I will continue to share the work I’m engaged in and things I continue to learn or that call to me. I hope you stay along for the ride, that seeds of change continue to be planted, and that we all collectively and consciously work to create a better and just world for future generations.

May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts and minds wide open, JTC

PS- Shout out to all my friends, family and teachers who are holding spaces for us to dig deep, do the work and engage in difficult conversations. You inspire me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is No Neutral

“What’s your dharma center, teacher, church, synagogue, pastor, Rabbi, reverend, yoga center, ashram, spiritual-not-religious instagram meditation leader saying about Black lives.” Angel Kyodo Williams

Hello, darlings!

It’s been almost a month since my last blog, Inspired Action, on May 24th. The following day, our world saw the police brutality that took George Floyd’s life. The fact that this brutal murder was captured on video, we got to see the killer’s face and body language, and bear witness to what’s been going on for lifetimes for Black and Brown people has awakened and propelled the masses to yet another level of truth, re-examination, demonstration, and activism. We are living through the  most historic and monumental civil rights movements the U.S. has ever seen. And the global impact it is making speaks volumes!

During this time, there has been a call to action to FINALLY listen to the voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color). For those of us who are white (or pass as white), we have been called to educate ourselves on White Supremacy, White Privilege, White Fragility and how knowingly, or unknowingly, we have been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression. These words alone make many people uncomfortable…as they should. Change and growth do not come from being “comfortable.”

Resources of all kinds- from  books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, articles, videos, TV shows to information that has always been available in various formats- have been circulating for us all to truly understand the systems that were specifically created to uphold white dominance. The time to start  dismantling White Supremacy is upon us.  However, the change must start within. Truly taking a deeply uncomfortable dive within ourselves to examine our own biases, stereotypes,  prejudices and discriminations  is shockingly revealing regardless of how evolved, open-minded, anti-racist,  socially conscious or “woke “we think we are. The work we white people (or people who hold white privilege) are being called to do is raw. It’s humiliating, and it’s humbling to say the least…and it’s our responsibility to continue this work day in and day out.

For almost 3 weeks now, I’ve silenced my voice on social media. It started as the “amplify melanated voices challenge” on June 1st, but I’ve kept it going.  This has allowed me to continue to do my  work, keep educating myself, intentionally use my social media platform to share what  I learn and what deeply resonates for me, and share the voices of BIPOC leaders and teachers of all kinds and from all walks of life from whom I’m learning. I’ve also had hard and meaningful conversations with friends and family. Being in community with people who are talking the talk AND walking the walk has provided me with lots of learning opportunities. Re-examining how I spend my time, energy and money has also led me to look at the businesses, organizations and individuals I want to support. I’ve already made a few changes in those areas. I feel like it’s just the beginning, but every little bit matters. Being neutral is not an option in my book. There is no neutral!

While the work is unnerving, heavy, raw, emotional and can be disturbing, it’s only a fraction of what my BIPOC brothers and sisters have been living with for generations. Generations of being dehumanized, oppressed and destroyed! I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is NOT my place to speak about these experiences because they are not my lived/shared experiences. We white people tend to jump in and throw our voices into the ring- “Whitesplaining” as it has been coined- as if we could even remotely begin to speak to injustices we have never lived…talk about white privilege!?!?!?!

The most profound lesson I’ve learned thus far has been to be quiet and deeply listen….oftentimes, the silence from white people, friends, businesses and organizations,  is actually deafening and clearly speaks to white privilege, white fragility and white apathy. The other thing I learned deals with conversations that go nowhere. These dead-end conversations speak to a person’s unwillingness to recognize and accept that knowingly, unknowingly, and oftentimes unconsciously, as a white person (or a person who passes as white) has internal biases, stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations  built in as a result of being born (or living) in a country where systems and institutions were intentionally created to uphold white dominance.

If a person is not remotely interested or willing to to examine their relationship to the systems they engage in and navigate every day, then I have no desire to waste my energy or resources on them. There’s too much work to do! I want to engage with  people who are truly and authentically making a difference with their voices and their activism. So this is the road I find myself navigating these days.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, White Supremacy is a system we were born into. There are layers and layers to unpack! For the last 400 years, these carefully crafted systems have been dehumanizing, destroying and inflicting racial wounds on People of Color resulting in historical and generational  trauma. When will it stop? How? By whom?

It simply speaks to the fact that dismantling systems of institutionalized racism and systemic oppression FIRST begins with each and every white person (or person holding white privilege). We need to genuinely make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on things what we were not educated on in schools. Are we so arrogant of a species that we feel it is beneath us to do so? The answer is simple: yes, because that’s something that comes with holding white privilege.

One of my biggest history lessons came from the Netflix documentary 13th. If you’ve never seen it, that’s a great place to start! And if you are serious about taking a deep dive and creating change from within, pick up Layla F. Saad’s book, me and white supremacy-Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. The work is difficult but so transformative! These two bodies of work will impact you in powerful and profound ways.

The way I see it is that regardless of our political affiliation, religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all have work to do. It’s a privilege and an honor to be alive at this precise moment in time. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to waste it or just sit around waiting for others to do the work and then weigh in or criticize the decisions and actions being taken by those who are in the trenches doing the work.

The time for personal truth-telling and reckoning has arrived for all of us. We can truly change the course of the new nation that is waiting to be birthed and the new world that is waiting to emerge. We can all have a hand in the reimagining and the remaking of this  white institution of power that orders our lives and continues to dehumanize, criminalize, incarcerate and kill BIPOC.

I believe the time has come for us to get really clear. This is not a time for neutrality. There is no neutral. This is not the time to sit back. This is a time to take action. This is not a time for spiritual bypassing. That in itself is privilege. This is not a time to say we are all one. We cannot all be one until ALL people have the same access to civil, political, economic and social rights…until we can truly say “liberty and justice for all.” This is not a time to say all lives matter or blue lives matter. All lives cannot matter until ALL Black lives matter….it doesn’t get any clearer than that!!!

And on that note, may we all remember to check in with our black and brown friends. The trauma, stress, frustration, anger, fear, emotional and physical pain, and feelings of overwhelm white people are feeling are no where near what our black and brown friends have been feeling for generations.  They don’t need to see or hear our white narratives, comments or  explanations. They need our support. They need us to listen. May we hold that space for them, and hold them close!

I will leave you with the words of Sonya Renee Taylor:

“If your spirituality  or self-care practice invisiblizes oppression and harm, then it’s just another form of oppression and harm.”

 May we continue to move forward with intention, unity and hearts wide open, JTC

 

 

 

Inspired Action

“You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control what happens through you.”  Carl Lentz

Greetings, darlings!

How are y’all doing? I don’t know about you, but I feel like the days, weeks and months are flying by since quarantining started back in March. I simply can’t believe it is already Memorial Day Weekend, can you?

What have y’all been up to? Have you found your groove? Are you feeling settled? Unsettled? Are you reacting from a place of fear, or responding from a place of love? Are you letting the times control you, or are you taking control of the times?

If there’s one thing that having a consistent meditation and yoga practice has done for me throughout this time is that it has kept me calm, peaceful, harmonious and inspired. Not much has changed on that front. I am very well aware of what I can or can’t control, the actions I consciously choose to take or not take as well as the thoughts and conversations I am willing to entertain. Ahhh…the power of discernment!

Our spiritual / emotional muscle is one that, when exercised regularly, really strengthens our resolve. It keeps us mentally stable and emotionally regulated. This is a time when our self-care practices need to take front and center stage. For me personally, self-care practices are key to being resilient, especially during trying, difficult or challenging times.

Needless to say, I have not veered from my non-negotiables (aka self-care practices). During this time of collective grief and loss, I am choosing to do all I can to keep my vibrational frequency high and to fill my little corner of the universe with positivity, encouragement, hope and inspiration. I am enjoying being engaged in deep conversations with some of my peeps who are also using this time creatively and purposefully and working the work of inner inquiry, growth, expansion and  transformation. I love hearing what they’re dreaming up and all the ideas they have “percolating” (my new favorite word that my friend Kat has been using).

Percolating. There’s no greater feeling than being in a state where you feel like you’re in an inspirational vortex of energy.  As I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the Sheri and Nancy Show, Sheri referred to this inspirational vortex as “being in the quantum soup.” I just love that too and can so relate!

We all have the ability to tap into these higher dimensional frequencies. However, the one precursor for doing so is that we catch ourselves and stop with the complaining, negativity and all the doom and gloom jargon. The only purpose that serves is to attract more doom, gloom and negativity. It’s a mindfulness practice to catch ourselves when we’re veering off course and course-correct. Remember, energy flows where attention goes!

In my humble opinion, I feel these are times we must be impeccable with our thoughts,  actions and with what we bring forth to offer.  Imagine if we all took responsibility for the energy we are bringing to those around us and to the energy we are releasing into the collective. Hmmmm…What is your energetic offering?

Only we can control what happens through us. Only we can determine what inspired action to take. Only we can make the decision to shift from barely surviving to gloriously thriving. Only we can shift from reacting to responding. Only we can reframe what is happening “to us” to what is happening “for us.” Only we can hold ourselves accountable for the ways in which we choose to show up during these times of uncertainty. And if there’s anything we know, it’s that we all show up differently because we are each uniquely different and we are all on our own path to self-realization.

This isn’t a competition by any means. This is about our own individual lifestyles, behavior patterns and habits of mind, how they play out in our lives and how they influence the conscious (or unconscious) choices we make and the actions we take.

I’ve chosen to be pretty proactive during this time of quarantining. Since the sheltering at home started, I have made sure to show up for myself each and every day. I’ve even upped some of my practices. So please indulge me as I attempt to document what the past few months have entailed. And full transparency here…I am not boasting nor bragging. It’s just that if I ever feel the need to reference what I did during this period, a blog post is easier to find than looking through a stack of journals.

When the quarantine started, I had a few books that I had recently purchased- The Beautiful No; A Year of Yes; Untamed; A Gift of Forgiveness; and More Myself. I loved and devoured them all in no time. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good book. Especially non-fiction books filled with good story telling and a healthy dose of inspiration. I save juicy and trashy ones for beach reading. Podcasts have also accompanied me on many walks.

Once all the non-essential establishments closed and yoga studios started zooming classes, I joined the ranks of those taking livestream classes. I am sort of amazed that I just completed my 80th consecutive livestream class.  Not skipping a day, and even doubling up on classes now and then, has served me well. I’m working my yoga practice and, in turn, my yoga is definitely working me. Peace. Calm. Tranquil. Centered. Grounded. Inspired.

In addition to my regular meditation, prayer and gratitude practice, I found this lovely meditation by Nadav, on Insight Timer that I keep telling everyone about. It’s called Lokah- Mantra for Happiness, Health & Freedom. And it repeats 108 times. His voice is beautiful and peaceful as is the melody. More commonly known as Lokah Samastah Sukino Bavantu, this mantra basically translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy and free.” There’s something very peaceful and fulfilling in sending these vibrational wishes out into the universe. I have been doing this meditation in the early mornings and before going to sleep at night. It has been a real source of comfort for me.

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen and have gotten very creative with some of my dishes. What can I say? I’m a foodie, so I don’t mind cooking. Having said that, I do miss my occasional breakfast, lunch or dinner out with my girls. But after cooking everyday for the past 2+ months, I have finally started doing curbside pick up once or twice a week. And I am now entertaining partaking in responsible physical distancing in small gatherings with two or three other people.

As we’ve all witnessed, social media and the internet have been overflowing with course offerings of all kinds- some free and others reduced or on a sliding scale. The lifelong learner in me has been taking full advantage of things that call to me. The way I see it is that we can never go wrong with investing in ourselves!

The free Off the Mat Leadership Summit was just finishing up when the quarantine started. Since then, I completed  The Return of the Priestess Summit; Dr. Melody Moore’s Self Approval Summit; Seane Corn’s The Yoga of Awakening workshop; Hala Khouri’s Yoga for Self-Regulation and Trauma course; and Ashley Turner’s Resilience Summit.

A couple of my friends also participated in some of these, so it was nice to be able to expand and delve deeper into our conversations around what we were learning, the organizations the presenters founded and/or are involved in, the work they are doing and how they are living a life of purpose.  We also got lots of free resources from them as well (and a list of recommended books, available programs and other resources to consider). The next round of books waiting to be read are The Body Keeps Score- Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma; Waking the Tiger- Healing Trauma; Me and White Supremacy- Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor and The Success Principles Workbook.

These books will support the next leg of my journey. My next endeavor is the Level One training I signed up for with Little Flower Yoga that will enable me to teach yoga and other mindfulness practices to children and adolescents aged 3-18. Let’s just say I heard the calling in meditation one morning and, when you hear the voice, you don’t ignore it! It was clear as a bell, and then all sorts of synchronicities followed. 

Then I looked back to the physical traumas (accidents, falls, surgeries, disabilities) I’ve had in my life, my 33+ years as an educator in an at-risk school district where trauma, violence, abuse and crisis was an every day part of many of the students’ lives and how I was always involved in student and staff support services to the point where, when I became a school administrator, I was the educational leader in charge of support services.  Crisis intervention was a daily thing most days. In looking back, I see the call to volunteer in an orphanage or group foster home and perhaps with children who may have physical disabilities very clearly. Divine Alignment. Vortex of Energy. Quantum Soup. Inspired Action. 

Speaking of inspired action, I am in awe of the many people and boots on the ground organizations doing so much good and providing much needed services as well as opportunities to be of service. They are all a source of deep inspiration! This is a time we are all being called to serve in our own unique way….but we can only do so at our best if and when we put the oxygen mask on first. 

Being a HUGE self-care advocate, I’ve often referred to self-care practices as my non-negotiables. So, in addition to yoga, prayer, meditation, music / mantra, reading, self-study,  and nutritious food, I’ve been making sure I get my sleep, silent time, and time away from my phone. I drink plenty of water, juice regularly, take all my supplements, get out in nature, work out a little each day, slather on the lotions and potions, work with essential oils, treat myself to fresh flowers, and even allow myself some PJ mornings in bed. There have been many a day I’ve been called to rest, and that’s good too! Our bodies are always talking to us, so it’s wise to listen. Listen and feel. Then take right action. And sometimes, right action may look like doing nothing at all.

Phone calls, FaceTime and/or zoom calls and celebrations with friends have provided that sense of connection that we as humans need. Making sure to reach out to friends or people I haven’t spoken to in a while is important to me. And I’m so grateful for the people who’ve called to check in on me. We are wired to connect and, as a species, we are interdependent. If there is anything we are all learning through this time of physical distancing is that it’s not about the “I/Me” but the “We/Us.”

As I reflect on these times we’re all experiencing, and other times in my life when I’ve been resilient, I’m thankful that I have the practices and a toolbox crammed with resources to tap into. These practices and resources have always allowed me to take accountability for my life, establish healthy boundaries, call upon my inner fortitude, embrace change, live fearlessly, do hard things, deal with loss and grief, be bold and unapologetic about some of my choices and move through life happily, positively, optimistically and with an attitude of gratitude. And whether you realize it or not, You have a resilience muscle that you’ve engaged when tough times have come calling for you. Now is as good a time as ever to think about that.

So… as a way to thank you for entertaining this personal “documentation” of sorts, I would like to share a brief self-inquiry practice you can do if you feel like you could use a little inspired actionIt’s one that was offered to me at one of the Resilience Summit’s sessions.

Before doing so though, I invite you to maybe light a candle, burn a little incense or maybe even burn a little sage or palo santo to clear your space of any stagnant or unwelcome energy. Have a piece of paper or a journal nearby and something with which to write…a pen, pencil, colored pencils, gel pens, markers….whatever floats your boat. You may also decide you want some soothing music in the background. Get comfortable, close your eyes if it feels safe to do so, take 4-5 deep breaths, exhaling slowly, then return to your regular breathing,

Take a moment to look at the following questions then, when you are ready, close your eyes again and ask yourself the questions:

  • What does resilience mean to me?
  • How does it look like?
  • How does it feel?
  • What are the qualities I possess that I feel are resilient?
  • What are my strongest qualities?
  • What are the qualities that I actually want to build within myself?

After sitting with these questions for a bit, contemplate the following:

  • Remember a time (or the last time) you had to be resilient. Take yourself back to that time and place. And when you recall that place, remember what it felt like to be resilient, to tap into that inner strength, or that place of wisdom / inner knowing. 
  • What were your tools?
  • How did you move through whatever obstacle, challenge or difficulty you were facing?
  • How did you overcome the obstacle, challenge or difficulty? 

When you are ready, open your eyes and START WRITING. When you feel that you have written all that there is to write, ask yourself:

  • How can I move towards what strengthens me?
  • How can I move away from what weakens me? (These can be people, places, situations, thoughts, activities, habits, etc.) and write some more.

At some point, you may also want to consider documenting your own version of what this period of sheltering at home or working on the frontlines has looked like for you, especially if you have young children, grandchildren or maybe even for future generations. We are living through unprecedented times. But just like past generations of our resilient ancestors, we, too, will get through this and move towards a new world.

Darlings, when the going gets tough, we must rely on our tools. We must use them. Embody them. There will always be things we can’t control, but our tools will always help us in responding to them in a way that serves us…and in deciding how we chose to move through whatever happens. So let’s decide to move through these times with patience, much needed positivity, grace, fierce determination, inner fortitude, loving-kindness, and a heart wide open. 

Here’s to us and to our skillfulness, capabilities and resourcefulness…Stay calm and percolate on! JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five, Four, Three, Two, One

“Orienting refers to knowing where we are in space and time. When we are oriented, we are in present time.” Hala Khouri

Hello darlings!

I hope these uncertain, chaotic, overwhelming and disturbing times that we’re facing haven’t taken too much of a toll on your mental and physical health and that you’re utilizing your tools and resources to keep your Self regulated.

Speaking of self-regulation, sometimes, a quick body scan and something as simple as looking around and noticing our surroundings will take us out of the chaos, overwhelm, anxiety, fear and panic mode and put us in the present moment. That’s where the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique comes in.

Some time back in February or early March, I was scrolling through IG and came across Elizabeth Gilbert’s post where she talked about this technique and guided the viewer through it. It was so powerful that I filed it away in my mind until, recently, when it resurfaced as I was taking a course on trauma informed yoga with the wonderful Hala Khouri. She is one of the co-founders of Off the Mat and Into the World along with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling. If you’re not familiar with their work, I lovingly encourage you to check them out.

Back to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Utilizing all our senses to notice and take in our immediate surroundings can regulate our nervous systems. During this historical time we are living through, and especially if you are a news junkie, our nervous systems are being assaulted to the point where we may feel ourselves paralyzed my fear , unable to catch our breath and/or unable to settle our minds …or the minds of those with whom we are quarantining.

Whenever our minds are hijacked, and we find ourselves lost in thoughts of the past or uncertainties about the future, you can bet our nervous systems are getting a hefty dose of adrenaline and cortisol- thereby getting us all jacked up…. maybe even en-route to having a full-blown panic attack.  When this happens, our thoughts spiral and become all consuming, our breathing and heart rate are affected, as is our digestion, and we may even feel all sorts of uncomfortable sensations in our bodies. Not fun or pleasurable to go through or witness!

So how does  5, 4, 3, 2, 1 work? This resource helps us to look around our environment, regardless of where we are, and induce a physiological response whereby we start to feel calm, relaxed and in the present moment. You can literally be ANYWHERE to do this. You can even give it a try right now!

As you slowly look around your surroundings, direct your attention to the following:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can feel
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

The point here is to get you back to a place where you are in present time and mindful of your surroundings. If you like, you can even place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. By doing this, you are tracking your inhales and exhales. The beauty of breathing is that it’s a tool that we can easily tap into and one that brings our attention back into our bodies.

Another similar technique I would like to share with you, because sharing is caring, is one that Hala Khouri used in the course I just took with her. It’s even simpler than the one above. All you basically do is:

  • Look around the room you are in and simply notice the different colors and textures. This is another way that can help us slow down and bring us back to the present  moment.

If you use this technique with someone else, you can even take it a step further by asking them to name a certain number of objects of a particular color.

While Orienting tends to do the trick, it may not work for everyone, Like every other tool, resource, practice or technique out there, we don’t  really know if it resonates for us until we try it.

And we can’t forget the little ones out there. Sadly, more and more young children are becoming depressed, overwhelmed and/or fear and anxiety ridden these days.  It is understandable and certainly unavoidable given the particular circumstances under which they may find themselves living. The best gift we can give them are tools for self-regulation. However, it’s important for them to see us utilizing them as well.

As we’ve all been experiencing, tough times call us to get even tougher. This is the time we pull out ALL our tools and resources and put them to use. Yes, it’s easy to numb ourselves but, in the end, it’s not helpful nor sustainable for our well-being. What is sustainable? Our self-care. It’s imperative given our current living conditions. Remember, oxygen mask on first!

Sharing self-care tools, resources, practices and life experiences that help us to rise and be resilient, is one of the reasons I started blogging. I still can’t believe this blog you are reading is number 161…you can literally scroll back to any random blog post, and I am sure you’ll find some kind of inspiration or support to help you along your own personal journey. And speaking of support, let’s not forget our personal support systems and the people who show up for us and for whom we show up. There’s nothing like deep, meaningful conversations to help us process things, share stories as well as share our own personal practices and gifts.

Whether it be yoga, meditation, visualization, breathwork, affirmations, coloring, drawing, painting, reading, dancing, reiki, therapy, acupuncture, journaling, singing, chanting, playing music, being in nature, gardening, cooking, practicing gratitude, or other mindfulness practices, find what works for you and get to it. You’ve got this! We’ve got this! And we’ve got each other!

Darlings, I hope the two techniques I shared will serve you or someone you know. Share if you care…or not…wink, wink.

Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC