Reverence and Radical Self-Awareness

“Your crime lies in your ignorance.” Cicely Tyson

Greetings, darlings, and happy almost Valentine’s Day!

This time last year, which seems like a lifetime ago, I was up at Kripalu in MA for several days of self-care, yoga, meditation, music, dance, and continued learning. As a matter of fact, I intentionally planned that little retreat as a Valentine’s Day gift to my Self. I finally put gift certificates I had received for my birthday, the previous October, to good use!

Little did I know that, within weeks, everything was going to shut down due to the global pandemic and the art of quarantining becoming a “thing.” Little did I know that the days I spent at Kripalu were the launching pad for a 2020 filled with lessons and blessings of all kinds. That stay at Kripalu, and our subsequent “stay at home” mandate propelled me into a year of continued learning and personal growth. If you know me, follow my blog, or just happened to come across it, you know I’m all about the learning, inspiring, having a growth mindset and a commitment to self-inquiry and inner-investigation.

So… it should not have come to any surprise how my 2021 started. I knew “Reverence” would be my word for 2021 and, therefore, I had to take a deep dive into the reverence and sacredness of ALL things….my thoughts, actions, choices, decisions, practices, habits. It called for radical self-awareness. And what better way to delve into all it than to go back to Yoga’s roots, its history and philosophy!

Given the state of our world and all of us being called to unite to “help heal the soul of our nation,” it only seemed the logical thing to do. After all, the healing, revolution and evolution must first start within each and every individual! As with all things divinely ordained, a long time mentor and yoga teacher, whose online yoga community I’m part of, started our 2021 practice with weekly themes based on the ethical precepts of yoga philosophy otherwise known as the Yamas.

This is just what I needed! The 4 weekly classes and monthly processing call with Seane Corn offered us an invitation to deeply explore these principals. True to form, she also offered questions for us to explore and work on (often times when we were holding poses)- which I will share with you in a bit. Because you know how I feel about sharing. Sharing is caring…wink, wink.

You see, you don’t have to be a yogi to explore, employ and embrace these practices. They are simply ethical principles which guide us in how we relate to ourselves, others, our actions, thoughts, speech, the world, our planet and all sentient beings.

The purpose of this blog is to invite you to do some of your own radical self-awareness. Perhaps inspire you to look at ways you’re living and contributing, or not, to unity, peace, equity, justice, and healing our individual and collective souls.

My intention is not to go into the deep teachings of each of The Yamas, but to simply list them and some of their meaning and provide you with self-reflection questions. You can investigate them on your own with just a few clicks on your keyboard.

Ahimsa – Non-violence, non-injury, do no harm, loving-kindness, compassion for all beings:

What negative self-talk or unkind messages do you tell yourself each day?

Have you engaged in hurtful, harmful, judgemental, or negative talk, including gossip, to someone behind their back? Can you name a recent event where words or action caused harm?

Does your interaction with the physical world create harm or suffering? What about the food you consume, products you use, or the impact your diet has on our animal friends?

Do you watch movies, or read social media, or books that cause stress, fear, or frustration and perpetuate feelings of lack, comparison, or not enough-ness? How does this impact your well-being?

Satya- Truthfulness, right communication, honesty in behavior and thought:

Where are you with your integrity? With your truth?

In what areas of your life are you being dishonest and out of integrity?

How does truth inform your choices?

How do non-truths perpetuate harm? In what unconscious ways do you perpetuate harm?

What would it mean to live in truth and in love? What would need to shift within yourself for that to happen?

Asteya- Non-stealing, non-covetousness, not taking what isn’t freely given:

Where do feelings of “not-enoughness” show up in your life?

How are you robbing yourself of joy, contentment, or peace by playing small, negating or minimizing your talents or skills, or by overextending yourself?

How are you stealing from yourself or others by taking more than you need, including resources, time, money, food, attention, or even credit for ideas or visons that may belong to someone else?

In what ways do you steal from this world by not showing up fully as the authentic person you truly are?

Do you know what cultural appropriation is? And for yogis out there, how does Asteya apply to cultural appropriation and yoga?

How have we stolen from the oppressed to enhance the dominant culture? How have we benefited from it? Exploited it?

Brahmacharya- Moderation in our actions, turning inward, dedicating our energies to both our inner and outer work in the world, merging with the God consciousness and the Divine:

Since we went into lockdown this past year, what are some of the ways you have experienced excessive or indulgent behavior? It it in your sleep patterns, eating habits, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, TV, screen time, online shopping…?

What would happen if you chose one of these behaviors and committed to doing a “detox” for the next week?

Where do you experience a sense of lack or not enough-ness? Is it material? Physical? Since COVID, did a sense of lack show up in your need to stock up on toilet paper, can goods, hand wipes, etc.? How did you respond to that feeling of lack? What are other examples of lack in your life and your response to them?

Excess can include overthinking, overworking and over-consuming: things that our US culture often values above moderation and balance. Who would you be if you slowed down? How would that affect your identity? Where dod you learn that more was better?

Aparigraha- Non-grasping, non-greediness, non-possessiveness, non-attachment:

How do your wants differ from your needs?

Do you really need more things? If yes, what do you actually need? What are the things that bring you joy, and is this happiness fleeting or sustainable? Do you need more to sustain your joy?

Do you live minimally and sustainable, or do you covet and hoard? Is you stuff important to you?

In what areas of your life are you accumulating “things” just for the sake of having? What would it feel like to declutter you life and give things away or get rid of them?

Do you have a fear of losing what you appreciate and cherish? Do you cling to things too tightly?

How can you be more balanced and judicious in how much you take, use and keep?

Do you sometimes overeat, over-consume, overthink, overwork and how does this make you feel? How do any of these impact your identity or your attachment to how you are perceived by other people?

What limiting beliefs do you have and what is your attachment to these narratives? These include resentment towards other people. What would you experience if you could let go of these resentments? How has it served you to stay stuck in the story and unwilling to see a bigger picture as to why things unfolded as they did?

What does aparigraha mean to you and why is it a restraint? How does practicing non-grasping, non-possessiveness, non-attachment deepen our relationship to the Divine and move us towards liberation?

Darlings, there’s a whole lot of food for thought here! For me, this was the reset and focus I needed in my quest to bring more reverence and radical self-awareness to 2021.

There’s no excuse for ignorance or not doing better when we know better. Not in today’s world and not with all the available resources we have at our disposal….many of which are free!

I hope that in some way, shape, or form this blog has helped or inspired you. I hope it has got your wheels spinning or lit a fire under you. I hope you feel compelled to determine what radical self-awareness means to you and make a commitment to honor it. Lastly, I hope that you share this with anyone you feel could use it.

In closing, I will leave you with this beautiful and appropriate quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers gave birth to them, but…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

May we continue to rebirth ourselves and move forward with reverence and radical self-awareness so that we may heal our souls and the soul of our nation! JTC

Hello 2021

“What in your life is calling you, when all the noise is silenced, the meetings adjourned…the lists laid aside, and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest… what still pulls your soul?” Rumi

Happy New Year, darlings!

If you’re like most people I know, the general sentiment regarding this new year is that we are ready for change. A change that includes hope, kindness, compassion, empathy, peace, unity, community, a reverence and respect for all of humanity and, above all, love.

The thing is that it all starts with each and every single one of us. You know the saying (which happens to be my guiding principle) “Be the Change”…. whatever we want to see in the world, we must actively, consciously, and wholeheartedly expect that from ourselves first. We have to transform from within.

In order to do so, we must fully and consistently come home to ourselves. All it takes is the willingness to sit, be still and listen to the wisdom of our hearts. If the question, “What still pulls at your soul?” is too esoteric then…..

Here are 3 simple questions to ponder:

What do I know how to do?

Where is the need in my community?

What can I do?

These 3 simple questions are a way to guide every step of your journey. It’s an outlook to have, and intention with which to greet each new day and, more importantly, a way to inspire, love, serve. The answers your heart delivers will be sure to include the hope, kindness, compassion, empathy, peace, unity, community, a reverence and respect for all of humanity and, above all, the love we are all craving in 2021.

If you missed my previous blog, Dear 2020, I encourage you go back and read it. I believe (or so I’ve been told) it captured the shared essence of 2020. Looking back on it now, I think it will also provide an opportunity to see the multiple blessings we were gifted despite a year of collective grief, loss, violence, trauma, and heartbreak. It allows us to find meaning in the mess of it all. Above all, it also opens a window into the many areas of life, society and humanity that need our light, our gifts, talents, and expertise. Dear 2020 may also give you insight as to what you can do and how you can do 2021.

Yesterday, New Year’s Day, I took a gentle yin yoga class on YouTube with Kassandra. Throughout the practice and with each asana/pose, she gives an affirmation and prompts you to explore how it resonates for you. Typically, New Year Resolutions fall by the wayside by February. I believe affirmations and mantras are a more practical and meaningful way to approach each day. After all, each day is full of opportunities for us to show up for ourselves, others and to inspire, love and serve.

As I looked over them when I sat down to write this blog, I felt inspired to share the affirmations with you for they may inspire you in some way, shape of form in this new year, and you know how much I value inspiration of all kinds! Here goes:

I release the past and joyfully welcome in the new year.

My priorities are crystal clear.

I am a force of good in the world.

My potential is endless.

My life is full of prosperity and abundance.

I dedicate my time to what matters most to me.

I am self-motivated and full of energy.

As I look back on my year, I am deeply proud of myself.

I allow myself to dream big.

I easily balance work and play.

I look forward to the future.

If you enjoy yoga, or are new to the practice, Yoga with Kassandra has all sorts of practices- from simple 15 minute stretches to longer practices. She also has some short meditations as well. Overall, there’s something for everyone and for every body. Oh, and she has a lovely, soothing voice!

Darlings, I wish us all a 2021 that fills our hearts and souls with a sense of purpose, inspiration and all sorts of post-traumatic growth. May these affirmations give us a sense of clarity, direction and guide and direct us. May we all leap into this new year with a sense of hope, joy, wonderment and magic….the kind of magic that takes our breath away! May we live with intention each and every single day of 2021.

Lead form the heart…Right from the start! JTC

Dear 2020

The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.” James E. Faust

Oh what a year you’ve been, 2020!!!

You’ve slammed us, ripped us open, turned us upside down and inside out and brought us to our knees. You’ve presented us with unimaginable challenges, unfathomable heartbreaks, traumatizing losses and left us no other option than to reframe, realign and find meaning in the mess of it all.

The stars, astrologers and sages alike told us you’d be bringing us a year filled with much needed change, shifts, awareness, truth, revelation, tumultuous emotions, enlightenment, new paradigms, realignment of values and beliefs, reframing of perspectives….the list can go on and on. I guess you did not disappoint on that front. Are congratulations in order, 2020?

In a nutshell, 2020, you have made us re-evaluate every single facet and aspect of our lives. You’ve made us look into the dark corners and crevices of our being. On the bright side- because there is always a bright side- deeper, more meaningful relationships, friendships, and creative ways of being, living, loving, working, parenting, playing, learning, celebrating and grieving have been at the core of you.

You’ve led many to life-altering revelations and the freedoms and liberations that only come from our own dark night of the soul and the excavation that comes with it. This work isn’t easy, 2020, and you know it. Perhaps that’s why you did what you did? Perhaps there were so many of us so asleep, disconnected, disassociated, numbed, clueless, ignorant and walking through life like a zombie that we needed to feel and experience your wrath?

Through it all, 2020, you’ve given us opportunity after opportunity to open our hearts to love and open our eyes to see….to truly see!

You’ve made us angry, sad, distraught, question, analyze, reason, doubt, observe, value, appreciate, and connect with ourselves AND our shared human experience like never before in the history of humanity. You’ve made us repeatedly pivot. You’ve tested our patience, beliefs, resilience and faith. You’ve taught us the importance that letting go, change and impermanence play in our lives and mental and emotional well-being. You’ve shown us our unconscious biases and internalized racism. You’ve exposed the faulty cracks in our foundation. You’ve made us unlearn only to continuously learn again and again.

The Great Reset; The Reckoning; those are but only two of the monikers you’ve been given, 2020. I personally don’t find them offensive, do you? After all, you’ve been showing us for years that we’ve needed a reckoning. You have sent us wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, demonstrations, protests, mass shootings, a global pandemic, quarantine, a presidential election unlike any other in the history of the United States (just to name a few) and exposed bullies, modern day lynchings, corruption, abuses of all kinds and white supremacists. You’ve made people speak truth to power, exposed the ills of greed, racism, oppression, human/sex trafficking, and have even made people take hoarding to another level. You’ve made us look at marginalized communities in a different light and shown us the difference between equity and equality, fairness and justice, and the oppressor and the oppressed.

How about all the trauma, 2020? All the PTSD that will change people’s lives in ways yet to be imagined? The healing that has yet to occur? The businesses and jobs lost? People’s livelihood? The people that have been suddenly taken from our lives in epic numbers? The people who died alone? The families that were unable to be by their loved one’s side? The millions of people affected by these deaths? Are you done with us yet?

However, one of your miracles, 2020, is how you have made people come together to help those in need. You’ve put faces to names by showing us essential and front line workers who’ve been taken for granted in the past. Everyday, ordinary people from all walks of life, artists, actors, writers, musicians, entertainers, chefs, lawyers, sports figures, health and wellness professionals, mentors, and even young children have been stepping up to help others. Now that’s a beautiful thing!

Through it all, 2020, you’ve shown us new ways to be hopeful, humble, thankful and grateful. You’ve shown us to have reverence for Mother Earth and her native people. You’ve implored us to value and appreciate people of all backgrounds, different heritages, cultures, races, color, and gender and to put judgement aside. Judge less and love more seems to be your mantra! The realization that we are more alike than we are different has even been demonstrated by geneticists and agencies such as Ancestry and 23 and Me.

You’ve given us opportunity after opportunity to be accountable for how we show up for ourselves, our communities and how we show up in the world…the importance of human dynamics and interpersonal relationships. And let us not forget the importance of creativity, innovation and Post-Traumatic Growth you’ve been nudging- no scratch that- forcefully pushing us towards by way of our own personal expansion and receptiveness. Time and time again, you’ve shown us what it means to be kind, compassionate and have empathy. Like Ellie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate and activist is known for saying, “Even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.”

You’ve worked me, 2020, and I’ve worked you. I’m not the same person I was back in March. I’m tapping into the post-traumatic growth mindset as much as I can! It’s something I’ve always done and will always do. I’m actually looking forward to where this post-2020 journey takes me and the infinite possibilities that await to inspire, love, and serve.

Being the perpetual, self-proclaimed gratitude junkie that I am, I’m thankful for your lessons and blessings, but I can’t say I’m going to miss you. I think it’s time for your final curtain call….take a bow and exit stage left. However, the realist in me tells me that you may have just been a dress rehearsal for what awaits in 2021. Hmmm….

See ya 2020….

Are You Grieving?

“Grief is varied and unpredictable. Grief may bring surprises. No two people grieve the same, even for the same death. We each experience grief in our own unique way.”

Greetings my darlings,

Regardless of you are on this planet, I think we can all say that 2020 has brought with it much loss in the way of unprecedented deaths due to the pandemic. On top of other loved ones dying as a result of unrelated illnesses, accidents, etc., pandemic related deaths seem to have left everyone with an overwhelming magnitude of grief and trauma that will will no doubt be triggering as we move into the holidays.

Holidays are always difficult when you’ve lost someone. And especially difficult is the “first” of any holiday without that person. As adults, we sometimes forget that children and teens grief too, and it may look very different than the way we are grieving. Overall, grief has it’s own way with each and every individual. It has its own timeline, it’s varied, unpredictable and life-altering.

If you know me or follow my blog, you know that I am a HUGE self-care advocate. As one of my lovely soul sisters told me the other day, “You play hard and self-care hard.” Indeed! I think that’s an accurate depiction of me.

As with all things divinely ordained, I happened to come across a booklet I picked up when arranging some funeral details with a family member a few years ago. I happened to open up to the page on tips for grieving people, which then was the inspiration for this blog. Since we are heading into the holidays, I thought I’d share these tips with you:

Self-Care:

Comfort yourself with nourishing foods.

Surround yourself with pleasing sights and calming sounds.

Limit caffeine, alcohol and other mind-altering substances.

Develop an evening routine to help transition toward to sleep; create a comfortable place to rest.

Learn about the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of grief so that you can accept and adapt to your current limitations.

Recall your special qualities that endeared you to your loved one.

Keep a journal of your activities, thoughts, feelings and dreams.

Listen to your favorite music; do something creative.

Activity Level:

Engage in mild exercise such as walking, swimming or biking.

Carry out fulfilling activities when you can tolerate them.

Start slowly; set minimal goals; pay attention to fatigue and emotional limitations.

Directly discuss your work concerns/limitations with a supervisor.

Resist making major changes right away.

Adjust expectations of yourself and others.

Let others know that you may need to leave early from a social event or decide not to come at all.

When it feels right, find new activities or make new friends.

Support from Others:

Keep in touch with supportive people; unburden yourself with people you trust who can offer “receptive presence.”

Seek others with whom you can share memories of your loved one.

Structure some time alone to be in touch with yourself.

Limit contact with those who are less than supportive.

Let others know specifically how they can help.

Join a bereavement group where others can relate to what you are experiencing.

Seek a grief counselor if you think this might be helpful.

Seek the spiritual care you need from a designated person in your spiritual community.

Relating to Other Family Members:

Give one another time and space to allow each to react in his or her own way.

Avoid engaging in conflict. If there are differences among you, trust you’ll gradually find firmer ground with each other.

Commemorative Activities:

Recall your loved one’s values, principles or ways of doing things.

Continue to do things and repeat traditions you did with your loved one, as you’re able.

Start new traditions and rituals at holidays and other special times.

Support projects or good works in your loved ones name and let his or her spirit live through your actions.

Carry out plans you weren’t able to complete together.

Affirm the meaning of your loved one’s life by recording memories of who he or she was and will always be.

Visit the cemetery and talk with your loved one.

Continuing the Bond:

Intentionally saver pleasurable memories. By remembering, actively call your loved ones presence to mind and heart.

When feeling uncertain, listen for what your loved one would say and how he or she would affirm your accomplishment.

Ask for guidance from your loved one. Take comfort in knowing you rely on his or her continuing influence.

Find ways to include your loved one in your day – by preparing a favorite dish, going someplace to enjoy together, etc.

Examine any “unfinished business” with your loved one by talking it out with a trusted friend, faith practitioner or counselor.

Write a letter to your loved one, sharing things you would like to have said before the death.

Finally, remember to tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can today.“

It is my heartfelt wish that you have found some level of comfort and/or understanding of the grieving process and that these tips may assist you as you move forward throughout your days.

Darlings, please remember that grief is a process with no expiration date. Being physically and/or socially distanced makes grieving even more challenging and traumatic. Sadly, this is our new reality these days.

As we head into Thanksgiving Week, may we remember to be kind and gentle with ourselves and those around us! JTC

Mirror, Mirror

“Imagine a country whose citizens-maybe even its leaders- are brave, calm, and open towards each other; A country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense.” BR. David Steindl- Rast

Today is Election Day here in the U.S., and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this moment in history that I (and everyone who I reading this) am blessed with being alive to experience. We are all part of history in the making.

I’m not attached to any election outcome. Non-attachment is a Buddhist mindset I’ve learned to cultivate over the years because of the simple fact the attachments lead to suffering. Nonattachment is a practice, and I’m a firm believer that whatever happens is happening for a reason and that life happens FOR us not to us.

I believe the past four years- and especially the past eight months since the pandemic- have held up a mirror to all of us. A mirror to look at the divide and brokenness within ourselves, our own internal biases, prejudices, anger, trauma and see where we can be more compassionate, loving, and accepting. This, of course, is a practice as well.

During these times of uncertainty, the one certainty is that what is occurring in our nation is a direct reflection of the heart and soul of each and every one of us.

As one of my teachers and mentors often reminds us, the times we’ve been living have been challenging us to step fully into all of it: our fear, anxiety, division, and transform that to empathy, compassion, and a deep love of self and of others.

The mirror that is being held up to us is there to truly and deeply examine our own lives, challenges, attachments, privileges, thoughts, actions, entitlements, speech, choices, relationships, beliefs, biases, and the role we are each playing in the healing of humanity and of our planet. I believe the mirror is there for us to deeply examine our own personal integrity and values.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, what will be revealed is the true nature and soul of our country… of its people.

Weeks ago, I came across a post that my neighbor borrowed from a friend- who probably borrowed from a friend, etc., etc. It’s a piece that was written by a President Trump supporter and one that really spoke to me. It speaks to the times we’re living and experiencing- individually and collectively- it speaks to the failure to communicate, to our humanity, integrity, dignity, values, disappointment, reverence for life and the fracture of relationships, friendships and society. I’ve shared it with many friends since having read it, and I’ve come back to it again and again. It’s both haunting and sobering.

So on this Election Day, I will leave you with that post. I don’t know who wrote it or where it originated. All I know is that whomever has shared it has “borrowed it from a friend.”

“I know you think I’m preoccupied with this President; that he is the reason I’m so angry and bitter and frustrated these days—but you’re wrong. This isn’t about Donald Trump.

It’s never been about him.

It wasn’t about him during the campaign or on Election Day.

It wasn’t about him when recordings of him boasting about sexual assaults surfaced.

It wasn’t about him when he said protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up.

It wasn’t about him when he left refugee families stranded at the airport.

It wasn’t about him when he attacked the press.

It wasn’t about him when he sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t about him when he blamed racial violence on “both sides.”

And it isn’t about him today: it’s about us.

This is about me and it’s about you.

It’s about my grief at the ugliness you feel emboldened to post on social media now, the nastiness you seem newly capable of, the disgusting words you now so easily toss out around the dinner table.

It’s about my disbelief at your sudden tolerance for his infidelity, his cruelty, his intellectual ignorance, his immorality, his disrespect for the rule of law, his alliances with dictators — things you once claimed you could never abide in a leader.

It’s about my incredulity at your surprising resentment for marginalized people; for your inability to muster any compassion for those who are hurting or frightened or threatened.

It’s about my disappointment at your easily manipulated nationalistic fervor; how the God and Guns, America First, Love it or Leave it rhetoric, so easily took root in your heart — how hostile to outsiders and foreigners you’ve become.

It’s about my amazement at your capacity to make your faith so pliable, that you could amen a compulsive liar, a serial adulterer, a fear-mongering bully; a man in nearly every way antithetical to the Jesus you’ve always said was so dear to you.

It’s about my sickness seeing you excuse away his coddling of racists, his public attacks on the FBI, his impulsive firings of Cabinet members, his Tweet rants against individual citizens and American companies.

It’s about my grief seeing you respond to his near-hourly display of recklessness and overreach, with a shrug of your shoulders or a turning away from it all.

It’s about me watching you ignore in him and even celebrate in him, the very things you claimed made Hillary Clinton the ‘greater of two evils’ when you voted: blatant corruption, financial impropriety, pathological lies, lack of morality.

It’s about my sadness at seeing you make a million tiny concessions—and how easy it now is for you to consent to actions, that only three years ago you’d have told me fully disgusted you.

Most of all, it’s about me realizing that when all this is over—we are still going to have to deal with all of this. Our fractures are going to outlive this Presidency.

You see, I really don’t give a damn about Donald Trump.

He doesn’t matter to me. He never has.

He’s a three-time married, C-level reality TV celebrity, with a long and well-documented resume of sexual misconduct, financial disasters, and moral filth.

He’s a professional predator who’s spent his life exploiting people for personal gain. That’s who he was before and who he will be when he leaves office.

Donald Trump, the President will be gone one day, and his disastrous Presidency will be well preserved.

History will have documented his every lie, every misdeed, every abuse of power, every treasonous betrayal — and he will be fully revealed as the monster that many of us are fully aware that he is.

That’s not why I am so disgusted and so filled with sadness these days.

I don’t care about Donald Trump because I don’t know or live alongside or love or respect Donald Trump.

I know and live alongside and love and respect you — or at least I once did, and I’m going to have to try and do that again.

Our relationship and our family and our church and our neighborhood and our nation are going to be trying to clean up the messes long after this President is gone.

When this is all over, the divides and the fractures and the wounds between us are going to remain.

This is why I’m angry and bitter and frustrated; not because of Donald Trump — but because of me — and because of you.”

Borrowed from a friend.

Darlings, regardless of the outcome of today’s election, our lives will go on and we all will be faced with letting go, moving on and stepping into our place in our human family, community, and the world with love, peace, intention and purpose. Showing up any other way would be a disservice to humanity. We’ve had many an opportunity for healing ourselves and healing humanity and, if we don’t get this right, this magical universe will continue giving us opportunities to do just that. Let’s work on ourselves, my darlings. Let’s leave the world a better place for future generations. Let’s honor our ancestors and continue the work they started!

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the work to heal the individual and collective fractured divide will continue…. what role will you be playing?

Be well, stay safe and God bless us all!

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

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

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