Mind over Matter

“The real meditation is how you live your life.” Job Kabat-Zin

Jon Kabat-Zin is known as the Godfather of modern Western mindfulness meditation. He’s been preaching and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for decades. This is a program that teaches us mindfulness skills to use in our daily lives.

I had the pleasure of seeing him at an Omega Institute Being Yoga Conference many years ago where he was one of the keynote speakers. It was so impactful to see and witness how “present” and powerful he was. Even when silent, and scanning the audience as he made eye contact, he exuded power and presence.

I recall remarking to myself that I wanted to have this effect whenever I had to speak before a large crowd. I wanted to drink the “mindfulness cool-aid.” And that I did because, ever since then, one of my daily goals and aspirations in life has been to show up and be present wherever and with whomever I am.

Being able to stay afloat in today’s world, and having tools to self-regulate, was part of several conversations I had with a couple of friends this past weekend. Everything today is fast and furious, and the sands of time seem to be slipping by rapidly. Having tools, and utilizing them, can help us to slow down, regroup, regain some clarity, enjoy time with friends and loved ones and even strengthen relationships.

The point of being mindful is to live in the moment and appreciate whatever it is that shows up without having a meltdown or feeling like we’re just spiraling into a dark abyss. In order to do this, we must be mindful or “in the moment.” We must allow ourselves opportunities to “land and arrive” in our bodies and then be fully aware of whatever it is we are doing in that moment. Even sipping tea, washing dishes, or cutting vegetables are all opportunities for us to be present and focus on what we are doing.

So…..after a weekend of much conversation, home-made scrumptious food and jokingly “trying to solve the problems of the world,” I chuckled as I came across the latest issue of Breathe magazine. It is appropriately titled The Mindfulness Special.

If you’ve never held this beautiful magazine in your hands, I suggest you treat yourself to one. The magazine contains articles on wellness, kindness, mindfulness and inspiration…. right up my alley! It’s filled with practical, short pieces that allow us to inhale and exhale deeply. I guess that is why the magazine is called Breathe.

I decided to peruse it when I got on the train for my ride home from visiting my friends this past weekend. As I flipped through the articles and the pages, I came to the back of the magazine. I took the time to read Mind over Matter because it was all quotes, from a variety of people, designed to inspire us to live in the moment. Who doesn’t love a good quote?

I, for one, am a sucker for good quotes; so, in the spirit of stewardship, love, caring and sharing, I will leave you all with these precious gems that will allow you to pause, land, arrive, inhale and exhale deeply.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. Mother Teresa

Training your mind to be in the present moment is the number one key to making healthier choices. Susan Albers

In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want to much, and forget about the joy of just being. Eckhart Tolle

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou

Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts. Buddha

Look for the answer inside your question. Rumi

Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life. Mark Williams

The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear. Prasad Mahes

Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it’s outside when it is inside. Ramana Maharshi

Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance. Amit Ray

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little. Jon Kabat-Zin

Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world. Amit Ray

Mindfulness is like that-it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life. Thich Nhat Hanh

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax. Bryant McGill

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without figuring it will always be the way (which it won’t). James Baraz

It is my hope that the above quotes touch something in all of us, and that we all continue to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart… right from the start!

Breathe…

Inhale Love and Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

College Admissions Scam

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” Khalil Gibran

Greetings darlings!

As I was checking my emails this morning, I came across Mallika Chopra’s blog on the college admissions cheating scam. Being all too familiar with the expectations, absurdities, insane practices and stresses related to getting a child into college, I put aside the blog I was working on for today and instead decided to share the outstanding blog Ms Chopra wrote.

Not only is it on-point, but it also puts parenting styles into perspective and places what is truly most important in clear view: a child’s overall well being. In addition, it offers us all opportunities to have meaningful conversations with our children, colleagues, peers, friends and family.

Enjoy the read and share if you care!

Dear Friends

As my phone exploded with texts from friends about the college admissions cheating scam, my reaction was sadness and non-surprise. It also forced me to reflect on my own achievement orientation and parenting style.

In the last month, my frustrated conversations with friends and family has involved testing accommodations, affirmative action against Asian student, sports recruiting, legacy admissions, inherent advantage for the affluent, donations, and most importantly, the tragic reality of suicide in colleges. I have also had really honest, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations with friends about how an elite college education can transform the social and economic path for some families and communities whereas for others (like mine) it is assumed it is part of our children’s path.

The college bribery and cheating scandal is about fraud, and how rich parents have made moral sacrifices and criminally participated in a scheme to get their kids into college. But the problem lies deeper and we need to start addressing the root causes of a system that is not only rigged, but creating anxiety for our kids.

Our kids are anxious, stressed out, tired, over diagnosed, and over medicated. The system as a whole is to blame – schools, colleges, testing organizations, counselors, therapists, and the list goes on and on. And while the system is broken, we as parents need to take responsibility. 

When we send kids messages that success is dependent on getting into a certain college, we are stripping their soul of living a meaningful life. When we overschedule our kids so they can pad their resumes with varsity sports, club teams, volunteering, and justify that they love it, even if they don’t get enough sleep, we as parents need to take responsibility. When we let our kids take an overload of AP’s and honors classes, and say that their counselor said they can do it and it’s necessary for college admissions, and then we see our kids on edge, we as parents, need to take responsibility. When we stress about our kid’s ACT or SAT scores, and burden them with extra tutoring, we are playing into the system. When we justify getting our kid’s extra time on testing or letting them have unneeded medication to stay alert, while perhaps deep down inside knowing they don’t need it or we didn’t do everything to avoid it, we are sending our kids a message about what matters most to us. 

As parents we need to send our kids a different message. 

• Sleep, right now, is the most important aspect of your health and happiness.

• Who you are as a person matters more than what you achieve.

• I believe in you and your abilities, and am proud of what you choose to do.

• Teenage years should be a time of discovery. 

• If you aren’t passionate about something, even if you have been doing it for a while, its ok to try something else.

• It is ok to fail. By failing, you learn.

• Be bored. That’s when creativity often bursts forth.

• Just because “everyone” is doing it, doesn’t mean you need to.

• When you are kind, I am so proud of you.

• How can we give back to the world?

• I love you.

Kahlil Gibran reminds us that:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

As parents, it is our responsibility to transition from an achievement-oriented discussion in our homes to one of nurturing our kids to know that they are special. Our role is to help guide our children to discover their unique talents to find connection and to serve their communities and their world. Let us remember that our children are sacred gifts. We can best serve them, and ourselves, with unfiltered love and genuine acceptance.

It is my hope that Mallika Chopra’s blog will get everyone thinking about our children’s overall well-being and perhaps even how we perpetuate a system that is destroying our children’s physical, mental and emotional health. May this blog spark reflections, questions and opportunities for deep-diving conversations.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Mingle All the Way

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

Greetings, darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay calm, and mingle on!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

How Do You Cemetery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Living a Succulent Life

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” -Khalil Gibran

One of the beauties of disconnecting from social media and taking a digital detox is that we can appreciate the fullness of life and the spaciousness of all the hours in a day’s time. It’s like having this huge vessel called “time” at our disposal for us to do whatever we want…to fill it however we want without getting caught up and sucked into endless and mundane hours of social media feeds, emails, texts and phone calls.

Whenever I get away, which is usually for a 3-4 week period, I intentionally unplug. I want to take in Mother Nature’s elements, eyes wide open, feel her gifts and allow the sense of spaciousness, awe and wonder carry me to parts unknown. Oftentimes, those parts unknown are the deep dark places in my soul that are calling for some attention and want to come out and play. I find myself so totally present and immersed in my surroundings, that I lose track of the time of day. As a matter of fact, time isn’t even an issue, unless I have to be showered, dressed and  ready to go out somewhere.

What I found this past August was that my days seemed extra long. There was a sense of expansiveness and vastness, as if extra hours had miraculously been added to my days – more so than other times I’ve unplugged and disconnected. In addition to being off social media, I barely had my phone on me. When I got to it, I got to it. The other thing I find during these periods is how my creativity gets sparked, how ideas for future blogs seem to pop up, and how many books I get to read. More importantly though, I love the sense of lightness, clarity, mindful presence, and the peace and calm that washes over me and carries me through my days. I like how being 100% present for whomever I am with feels deep down in my soul. Time is sacred my darlings, and we should not take it for granted by filling it with meaningless pollution that robs it of its sacredness.

These periods also offer a window into the lives of people who are living in a total state of distraction. People who can barely complete a sentence without looking down at their phones and getting caught up in a text, alert of some kind, or sucked into the dark hole of social media feed “oblivion.” Forget about even having a meaningful conversation when they can’t even complete a distraction-free sentence.

I may have asked you before, but do you cringe when you  hear people go on and on about how “busy, very busy, very very busy they are?”  Or is it just me? I often wonder if being able to say how “busy” we are is some sort of badge of honor. A badge of honor that leads to exhaustion, lack of sleep, meaningless conversation, lack of wonder, creativity, and appreciation for the enormous amount of untapped beauty, nature and magic that surrounds us. A badge of honor that is keeping us from living a wild and succulent life. Mother Nature’s gifts are all there for us to see, feel, hear, smell and taste. What are we waiting for? Why are we waiting? The time is NOW to live fully and to take big juicy bites out of life. If not now, then when? Darlings, let this blog be an invitation for living a succulent life!

As if on cue, when I got home and was unpacking and putting away my journal, magazines, etc., I happened to notice that one of my favorite books seemed to pop out of nowhere. The delightful book, Succulent Wild Woman – Dancing with Your Wonder-Full Self! by SARK is a fave of mine because it is jammed packed with inspiration and topics like being and becoming a succulent wild woman, fears, outrageous adventures, blocks to succulence, healing, sexuality, love and romance, creative expression, money and power, building a succulent community, and more. At the end of each chapter there are even books, resources and music to further guide and awaken our wonder-full Self.

Also on cue, when I picked up the book it opened to a very colorful page and the title, which spanned both pages, read “Being a Succulent Wild Woman.”  The book is also adorably colorful, entertaining and done in her handwriting by the way. Well, I just have to share all these little golden nuggets with you. Some of these nuggets may seem a little “out there” for some of us, and for others of us it will be nothing short of an ordinary happenstance. So, if you feel like you want to delight Mother Nature or feel that you could use a little succulence in your life, here’s a good starting point:

Being a Succulent Wild Woman 

  • Bathe naked by moonlight
  • Marry your self first –  promise to never leave you
  • Buy yourself gorgeous flowers
  • Practice extravagant living
  • Invent your life over if it doesn’t feel juicy
  • Cradle your wonder places like precious babies
  • Be delicious
  • Eat mangoes naked – lick the juice off your arms
  • Discover your own goodness
  • Smile when you feel like it
  • Shout: I’m here! I’m succulent and I’m loud!
  • Be rare eccentric and original
  • Describe yourself as marvelous
  • Paint your soul
  • Investigate your dark places with a flashlight
  • Make more mistakes!
  • Weave your life into a net of love
  • Your are enough you are enough you are enough
  • Celebrate your gorgeous friendships with women
  • Tell the truth faster
  • End blaming
  • Dress to please your self
  • Let your creative spirit rush. Flow. Tumble. Leak. Spring. Bubble. Stream, Dribble out of you
  • Be inwardly outrageous
  • Seek out other succulent wild woman – encourage the sharing of mutual treasures 

I think it’s time I re-read this book, considering I am entering a new decade in life! As a matter of fact, I may just start as soon as I finish writing this blog, especially since it’s a rainy, gloomy Sunday, and that sets the stage for a perfect and quiet day of reading.

Wishing you much succulence today and always!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Be a Queen & Own Your Power

“May you listen to the voice within the heart even when you are tired. When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead. May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding and leads you to freedom.” 

In honor of Mother’s Day,  I didn’t want to approach this blog in the  traditional way of celebrating all our mothers and everyone out there, men included, who do their fair share of “mothering.” Instead, I want us to celebrate the Mother who lives in each of us. Where or how do we start? Well, going within of course!

Please pause for a moment to center yourself. You may want to clear your space with some sage , incense or even light a candle. Take a few deep, slow breaths. As you do so, feel your heart expand. Feel the Love that is the essence of who you are. You may want to close your eyes here, and take as many breaths as you need to feel grounded, centered and serene. When ready, ask yourself these questions….. and you may even feel inspired to journal away!

  • How do you mother yourself?
  • Do you listen to the great mother voice within?
  • If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you allow your inner Mother to take care of you?
  • If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you approach your inner Mother with a heart wide open?
  • If so, in what ways?
  • Do you approach your inner Mother from a place of loving-kindness, compassion, understanding, and wisdom of the ages that has been handed down to you?
  •  If not, why not?
  • Do you operate from a place of Love, or do you keep your heart padlocked under lock and key?
  • If your heart is secured tighter that a federal reserve bank, what are the blocks, obstacles or limiting beliefs that are keeping you from operating from a place of Love?

The art of writing / journaling offers us opportunities to delve deep. The deeper we dig and go within the heart and soul, the more layers we peel away, the more cobwebs we clear away, and the more we will be able to step into our power…the more we can claim our glory. And if that isn’t liberating, then I don’t know what is!

In honor of our inner Great Mother, I want to share something that was written by Oprah Winfrey. I found it in one of my many notebooks, of course, as I was trying to piece together inspiration for today’s blog. Another source of inspiration came from one of my beautiful teachers who planted the “inner mother” seed in class today, and it got me thinking…. So, on this Mother’s Day;

Be a Queen…Own Your Power

Be a queen. Dare to be different. Be a pioneer. Be a leader. Be the kind of woman who in the face of adversity will continue to embrace life and walk fearlessly toward the challenge.

Take in on. Be a truth seeker, and rule your domain, whatever it is: your home, your office, your family – with a loving heart.

Be a queen. Be tender. Continue to give birth to new ideas, and rejoice in your Womanhood.

We are daughters of the “Goddess” here to teach the world how to Love. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, where you came from, who your parents are, or your social or economic status. None of that matters. What matters is how you choose to express that Love through your work, through your family, through what you have to give to the world.

Be a Queen. Own Your Power and Your Glory.

So on this Mother’s Day,  regardless of your gender, love your inner Mother.  Love her some more. Better yet, just love more. Love everyone and everything. Glance at strangers, and send them love too. And remember to send out your love to our Great Mother Earth while you’re at it!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

Your Creative Power

“Life is a work of art and we are its artists.” –Sandra Magsamen

I love Sandra Magsamen! A friend of mine turned me on to her art years ago. You’ve probably seen her plaques, mugs, books, cards, ceramics, and calendars bearing her signature images, motifs and messages from the heart. They are colorful, uplifting and make you smile. Just the other day, I pulled her book, Living Artfully, off the shelf. I haven’t looked at it in about ten years or so, and I think it’s about time to start perusing it again.

Her book reminds us that we are indeed the artists in our lives. The problem is that many of us have let our paints dry, we’ve put away our brushes, forgotten our dreams,  have let 24/7 electronic connectedness consume us and have forgotten how creative we were as children. We have forgotten the power of our imagination and the possibilities that dwell in our creative force field. It’s time we reclaim the dreams, possibilities and rediscover our creative power. Why? Because it’s fun, and I’m sure you will agree that we need to have more fun!

We all have creativity inside of us. It lives in our hearts and minds every single moment of every single day. When we were children, we lived in this field of creative energy. I invite you to take a moment to ponder these questions:

  • What did I love to do when I was a child?
  • How did I fill my days?
  • What mattered?
  • Who and what made me happy?
  • What are my most cherished memories?
  • What things and activities did I truly treasure?
  • What things did I really not like? 

Let your imagination run wild here as memories flood your mind. Allow all your senses to engage you. Visualize every last detail of those memories – the sights and the sounds. Connect with the feelings that these memories evoke. Think about the hours you spent playing, imagining and creating all sorts of things.

Even people who’ve had less than pleasurable childhoods used their imagination to create a life they would want to have someday. And guess what? Many of them did. They held onto hope and tapped into their dreams, strength and became resilient. Along the way, they learned the power of creativity, visualization and the law of attraction. At some point in all our lives, we must take the time rediscover our creative power. In doing so, we come alive…..in living color! Oh, and we must ask questions, a whole lot of them!

In Living Artfully, there’s mention of a UCLA study that documented the following: on average, at age five we engage in creative tasks 98 times a day, laugh 113 times a day and ask 65 questions. By age forty-four, the numbers fade to 2 creative tasks a day, 11 laughs and 6 questions. Keep in mind, this book was published in 2006. Also, I don’t know when that study was done, but I would be willing to say that in today’s world, where children as young as one and a half are already addicted to their parents phones and even have their own iPads, the numbers have really dwindled.

And on this note, please allow me to digress a moment. Sadly, a child’s creativity is already being squashed by overuse of these technologies. I believe there should be a designated place and time for technology use. Brain development is being affected and social skills impaired since technology makes it difficult for a child to pick up on social cues. Overuse of technology is keeping children from developing the ability to think critically or be creative. Oh, and the lack of exercise and physical play is causing us to see obesity in children on the rise. And let’s not forget about posture. Let’s face it, children will model what they see the adults in their lives doing! Hmmmmmm

All the more reason we must foster an environment of creativity, fun and play. And what better way to do it than to meet that head on, full throttle, and in hot pursuit! It starts with us adults learning how to be a child again and awakening our senses and lust for play, imagination, curiosity and invention…..each and every day. In doing so, we gain confidence, and it does wonders for our self-esteem! Tapping into our creativity encourages us to color outside the lines and to take risks. We become more flexible and open. We embrace mistakes and find creative solutions. More importantly though, we are able to live more fully as we actively engage all our senses and savor the beauty, magic and possibilities around us. Just think how inspiring this could be to the little ones in our lives!

How can we tap into our inner child, and our creative, artist Self? If you are at a loss, or need a place to start, here are a few ways to do so:

  1. Give yourself permission to be you
  2. Have fun and have a sense of humor
  3. Get curious and ask lots of questions
  4. Learn to meditate 
  5. Invite creativity to be part of your everyday routines and activities
  6. Play loud music and dance freely 
  7. Think of yourself as a creative person and you will become one
  8. Act as if everything you do is a creative expression of who you are
  9. Be innovative, recycle and reuse
  10. Look at things from a different perspective
  11. Get yourself an adult coloring book or download ready-made images for coloring
  12. Take dance classes
  13. Get together with friends and paint, make pottery or play games
  14. Go bowling, ride a bike, pick up a new hobby
  15. Play tourist in your own town
  16. Learn about crystals / maybe learn to make jewelry
  17. Learn how to knit / crochet / sew / play an instrument 
  18. Read the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
  19. Watch travel films / home renovation shows
  20. Redecorate by simply moving furniture around
  21. Experiment with color anywhere and everywhere
  22. Make “play dates” with friends, play dress up and do things that bring you joy
  23. Experiment with new recipes and different cuisines
  24. Start / join a book club…or any type of club
  25. Smile and laugh more and see what happens

Darlings, I hope this blog joyfully inspired you and that you discover more ways to live a life that vibrates with creativity and inspiration. Now go out and tap into your creative power and create away!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

Special Edition… ‘Tis the Season

‘Joy is Prayer. Joy is Strength. Joy is love.” -Mother Teresa

Season’s Greetings darlings! I read a most beautiful article written by Elizabeth Lesser  yesterday, featured in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I love, love, love Elizabeth Lesser and her style of writing! Her messages are always so deep, profound and life-altering! So, here it is:

10 Ways To Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday

by 

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as “The Holidays,” when into the dark little months of late November and December, we squeeze Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years Eve, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, dysfunctional family feasts complete with political disagreements, airplane flights and long drives, darker days, colder weather, budget-busting shopping, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress for most, and for some, real depression and loneliness.

Some greet the season with excitement and joyful expectation. Others dread the whole thing. Personally, I harbor both excitement AND dread. So I’ve come up with some ways for all of us to stay healthy and sane, to celebrate and enjoy, and to dig into the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, another option is just to ignore the madness completely (good luck with that) or to knock yourself out trying to live up to all of your holiday expectations (good luck with that, too).

Here are my ten ways to approach the season with reasonable expectations and good cheer.

1) Be Kind: Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us, so remember to take a few breaks during a busy day or at a family gathering or whenever you feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot—even if you have to go into the bathroom and lock the door—and just sit still for a minute or two. Put your hand on your chest and pat your heart gently. Then take a nice deep breath into that spot and flood yourself with warm feelings of kindness toward yourself first. Breathe in acceptance and forgiveness and appreciation. If you only have time to do that, it’s enough. You can add this to the practice, too: As you exhale, let the breath of kindness move back out and feel it all around you—as if you were wrapped in a cloak of light. Now inhale again, and breathe kindness into your belly, your organs, your bloodstream. Exhale, and feel that cloak of light expanding. Inhale again, all the way down to your fingers and toes and deep into the center of your bones, flushing every cell with warmth and vibrancy. On each inhale, bring kindness into your body. On each exhale, extend the cloak of healing light further and further—embracing the people in your life, those in the world with whom you disagree, and finally our whole big, amazing, hurting, evolving world. This is a wonderful practice to do when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or whenever you like during the day. 

2) Simplify: We live in an excessive culture. There’s just too much going on. But there’s one thing we seem to have too little of: time. We fill each day with too much activity, too much stuff, too much media, and too many responsibilities pulling on us in too many directions, and time races away. We go to bed at night and wonder where the heck the day went. We wake up and do it again. And now at the holidays, we’re supposed to add more excess to the excess. More food, more socializing, more presents that require more money. I think it’s a revolutionary act to resist the more-more-more culture and, instead, to simplify. Purchase fewer gifts and put more thought and meaning into the ones you do give. Say ‘no’ to engagements that will only add more stress to your week. Say ‘yes’ to gatherings that fill your soul and make you and others happy. Unplug from the 24/7 news and social media. Spend time in nature. Look at the stars. Find a little kid and hitch your wagon to their wonder.

3) Roll With the Changes: As families change and grow, traditions change as well.  For example, if you are a working woman who had a stay-at-home mother, instead of knocking yourself out trying to reproduce the exact old-fashioned holiday of your childhood, relax your standards. Do what fits YOUR life and infuse it with meaning, humor, and love. Or if you are a divorced dad or mom, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure up. It will be the best gift you give to your kids this year. If you are far away from your family (or choose not to be with them), invite others into your home and give the words “extended family” new meaning. 

4) Help Others: not because you SHOULD but because it feeds everyone—the giver and the receiver. Find someone who is struggling financially or emotionally or physically, and lend them a helping hand, soothe their loneliness or hunger or confusion or pain. Check out the stories of every holiday tradition—from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas. If you celebrate any of these holidays, you might as well get down to what they are really about: generosity, connection, the promise of light-in-the-darkness. Be that light for someone else.

5) Drop In: to a church or mosque or synagogue or temple or . . . you get the idea. Even if you have no religious affiliation or belief—even if you have deep-seated problems with religion in general—these kinds of spaces have a mysterious quality that can bring peace to a visitor. They carry within their walls the prayers and songs of our human family. Most places of worship welcome all people, even those just looking for a touch of grace. Instead of hurrying by that church you have passed a hundred times on the way to work, take a moment to enter its doors and sit quietly, imbibing the beauty.

6) Take Care: Eat well, drink water, exercise, and then be merry. Instead of making one more feeble New Year’s resolution to join a gym or cut back on the drink or sugar or Twitter, do it right now. You will be amazed at how just the littlest bit of movement and healthful habits will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. And sleep for goodness sakes, do whatever it takes to get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is at the root of so many of our mental and physical problems.

7) Love Everything: Even the hard times; even the cranky and crooked people of the world; even yourself, with all of your embarrassing shortcomings. If loving everything seems impossible, start with forgiveness. Forgive all sorts of people—those from your past, your work, your family, even those abhorrent jerks and so-called enemies in the news. Bitterness towards others is like drinking poison. Put down the bitter cup and take up… 

8) Tenderness: See what happens if you keep your heart open and soft. When you feel fear, or anger, or judgment clutching at your chest, put your hand on your heart and pat lightly. Instead of shutting down, stay open. Stay tender. Just try this and see what happens. Your mind will tell you it’s not safe to be open, that you don’t want to soften, that you’ll tenderize only if the other person changes first. But those strategies haven’t really worked, have they? Try something new.

9) Connect: When you practice love, forgiveness, and tenderness sincerely and consistently, you begin to feel so connected to other people and to life itself that your sense of “me” frays at the edges, loosens, merges. I heard a man at a retreat with the teacher, Eckhart Tolle, say that he’d been practicing compassion meditation and a weird thing was happening to him. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” the concerned man said. And Eckhart replied, “Congratulations.” When you let go of that firm sense of who you are, and what you must protect, and why you are better or worse than anyone else, you are free. There’s less fear, less striving, less of the need to prove your case. There’s more room to let others in, more comfort with the world just as it is, and at the same time, more courage to speak up for truth and beauty.     

10) Joy to the World: How strange that we have everything we need to cheer up right this minute, but so often, joy alludes us. You may recoil at this idea. You may think, “She has NO idea what I am going through; cheering up is not possible.” But I have met some of the most joyful people in the most unlikely, difficult places, including jails and hospitals. And some of the gloomiest, most aggrieved people in luxurious homes and privileged situations. Albert Einstein said that the most important thing to pursue is “sacred awe.” If you think about it, how awe-some—preposterous really—that we are here at all. That YOU showed up here on this little blue marble floating in space. Each one of us has a joyful core that is truer than the worry, the sadness, the blame, the fear. Find your joyful core. Trust it. Be it. Share it.

ELIZABETH LESSER is the author of several bestselling books, including Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most. She is the co-founder of Omega Institute, recognized internationally for its workshops and conferences in wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She has given two popular TED talks, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of a hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.

 

Together we can all inspire, love, serve. And if you choose to Lead from the heart…right from the start, you will see a big shift in your life and the lives of the people around you. Now go out and Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday!

See you all back here on Wednesday for my own little holiday to-do list.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Special Wishes for AJ

“And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him” Luke 2:40

Today’s blog is dedicated to a very special little man named Arie Joseph  (AJ). He is my God-daughter’s son who is being baptized today.

In addition to all the prayers, blessings and special wishes that will be showered upon AJ on this day, it is also a very special day for his parents, as is with any rite of passage in a child’s life. On baptism day, parents are up close and personal to the sacrament that brings their child into Christianity. It’s a commitment parents make. It is also a responsibility they have as caretakers of their child’s beautiful mind and soul to instill some sort of belief / faith in them. As a child grows and matures, they may stray from their religion / faith  or maybe even find another one that resonates more for them. Regardless, parents have laid the foundation for spiritual, faith based practices, beliefs, morals and values in hopes of creating a kind, loving, compassionate, wise, responsible and productive citizen of the world.

The experiences of being a first time parent, diapers, dishes, sleep, lack of sleep, food prep, doctor appointments, teething, runny noses, fevers, food allergies, work schedules, child care and other dilemmas (remember- the bigger the child – the bigger the problems) can be daunting and overwhelming. Then throw in how one will discipline the child and the parenting style that both parents may or may not see eye to eye on. Having been in education for 33+ years, I experienced first-hand the chaos, confusion, angst, anxiety, destructive behavior, and struggle that families go through when they are at odds with the basic tenets of how to raise a child. After I ended my career, I came across Dr. Shefali. I don’t recall if I first saw her TED talk or her interview on Super Soul Sunday, but what a game changer she is!

Once you see Dr. Shefali, listen to her, and really hear what she is saying, your life, world and awareness will be forever changed. Had I come across Dr. Shefali’s work sooner, I swear I would have created a parent workshop or parenting classes around her first book, The Conscious Parent. Furthermore, if I ran a private school, this book would be mandated reading for parents and/or caretakers before accepting the child into school. It would also be required reading for the teachers. I am telling you, it’s a book every parent-to-be (or person responsible for raising a child) should read way before they even plan on starting a family (and for anyone working with children). THAT is how POWERFUL Dr. Shefali’s books are! As a matter of fact, I gifted The Conscious Parent to AJ’s parents when I learned they were expecting and also gave my girlfriend Barb (Grandma / Abuela) Dr. Shefali’s other book, The Awakened Family. My darlings, this is definitely a gift that keeps on giving!

If there is anything we have learned by now, is that the “Authoritative” approach to discipline and public shaming does not work. It’s not healthy and is destructive to say the least. Instead of building a child up, enforced disciline and punishment tears the child down – leading to shame, resentment, self-esteem issues, eating disorders, insecurities, hostilities, behavioral issues and other self-sabotaging behaviors…..and yes, it is a form of bullying. One of the things that struck me is how she is able to show us that children are a mirror of our own unresolved issues. In her book, The Awakened Family, Dr. Shefali also shows us how and/or why children’s needs aren’t being met and why they truly feel they are not being “heard” by parents or don’t feel a connection to the parent(s). She poses some profound questions for parents to ask themselves:

  • Where am I as the parent failing to connect with my child?
  • What in the child longs to be recognized, but is being ignored?
  • How can I help mitigate the feelings of inferiority and shame that my child experiences?
  • And most importantly, how am I projecting my own internal shame onto my own child?

In Dr. Shefali’s words, “Unless we begin to turn the spotlight within and ask these difficult questions, our children will live in the legacy of shame that will continue into future generations. And the epidemic of bullying will continue to soar.” Dr. Shefali’s books integrate Eastern and Western philosophies and show us how to parent in an evolutionary and conscious way. She gives us daily skills and tools that are transformational, healing and lead both children and parents to a place of calm, ease and joy. I highly recommend Dr. Shefali’s book to anyone thinking about starting family, just started one, is struggling with the “my way or the highway” style of parenting and/or caretakers responsible for raising children. Her books make an awesome gift for anyone who is being blessed with a new baby in their family. The books are blessings in and of  themselves!

So, on AJ’s special day, I am sending the Diaz-Spencer Families many heartfelt special wishes and blessings and will close with a beautiful prayer from Marianne Williamson’s book, Illuminata – A Return to Prayer.

Dear God, Thank you for the birth of Arie Joseph into the world and into this family.  We offer ourselves this day as caretakers of his spirit and his higher mind. May we fulfill with strength the glory of our role, in AJ’s life and in the lives of his parents, Erica and Doug. May the spirit of this family, from generations past and into the future, burst forth to bless and sustain Arie Joseph. Amen.

Let the celebration begin!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC