Happiness is an Inside Job

“If you want instant happiness, the secret is to open your heart and give freely without any expectations. The intention behind your giving is the  most important thing for when you give unconditionally and from the heart, the energy and joy in the art of giving increases many times over.” Chopra Center Happiness Series

Have you ever listened to someone say, “I want to find happiness” or perhaps found yourself uttering those words? Sometimes we expend so much energy on that “quest for happiness” when, in reality, it’s been inside us all along. We tend to treat happiness as if it’s this mysterious state that can only be attained by looking and searching for it in the external world or something that only “another person” can make us; yet, it’s a superpower we’ve had all along and one that has been sitting in the middle of our chest since birth. The source of all happiness, is found in the heart. Once we learn to open our hearts to the love and compassion that reside within, we really step into and embrace this superpower.

Years ago, I participated in an 8 week online event given by the Chopra Center. It was called The Happiness Series. Each week explored a different component, and one of them was called Open Your Heart. That particular week, we looked at and explored what they called four intangibles that really bring people happiness. They are Attention, Appreciation, Affection and Acceptance. If we look at these as gifts from the heart, set intentions to practice them, and pay attention to the feelings, sensations and emotions that arise when doing so, we will find our heart opening more and more over time. With the passing of time, and the more we practice these four intangibles, we will actually “feel” our heart center getting wider and more expansive.  The key is to remember to give these gifts freely and without expectation (yes, without any expectation at all).

Characteristics of the four intangibles / gifts of the heart:

Attention– Deep listening, presence, being open, understanding the other person’s perspective – even if we don’t agree with it, not giving advice (unless asked), not  interrupting (we’re all guilty of doing this). By listening attentively to someone, we are actually helping to calm their brain (the amygdala in particular as it is the center for emotions).

Appreciation– Letting someone know you value them and are grateful they are in your life, appreciating them for who they are (the qualities you love about them).

Affection– Caring deeply, expressing it through words, physical touch, and/or other actions, being there for them (loving touch is vital – it releases pain and mood elevating chemicals throughout the body).

Acceptance– Seeing and accepting someone completely even with all their weaknesses, inconsistencies and shortcomings (one of the most deepest human needs).

In light of everything going on in our world today, Mother Nature is really calling us to step up. Yes, prayer is good, but our actions are more powerful, impactful, life altering and much needed! It starts with each and every one of us wanting to take part in the healing of our world. How do we step up? Where do we start? How can we navigate the madness, destruction, devastation and crisis humanity is experiencing? It simply starts with our willingness to open our hearts! I invite you to focus on consciously opening your heart this coming week in ways that perhaps you’ve never done before. Set the intention to weave those four intangibles into your every day existence and watch what happens. You may even want to keep a journal / list of your experiences, the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that show up for you (oh, and they will show up, the good, bad and everything in between – just hold the space for it in your heart center). Perhaps you’d like to keep a gratitude journal or even write a thank you letter to someone you deeply care about, admire, has inspired you, challenged you or is struggling with a life event. These are just a few ways that you can incorporate Attention, Affection, Appreciation and Acceptance in your daily life. If you sit and tap into your creativity, I am certain you will come up with your own unique ways to offer your gifts of the heart.

However you choose to document, memorialize and personalize your experiences, one thing will be certain: this art of giving unconditionally without expectation, and from the heart, will impact you in unimaginable ways. It will also trickle down to the people around you and will impact them as well. You will find yourself feeling lighter, happier and joyful.  If and when someone says, “I want to find true happiness,” you can look right in their eyes, and with a whole lot of love, compassion, understanding and a heart wide open, you will confidently respond with, “Happiness is an inside job all you have to do is open your heart!

My darlings, inspire, love, serve with a heart wide open. Be that light that lights the way for others, and be the change this world so desperately needs. Every single day and encounter presents us with an opportunity to lead from the heart…right from the start. Please use your Superpower always and in all ways!

Inhale Love… Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Ask and You Shall Receive

“When someone we love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”

Dedicated to Zenaida Figueroa Carricarte, my Mama, on the 9th anniversary of laying her to rest 10-6-2008

As the last leg of Mama’s journey began on her 84th birthday on June 5, 2008, I asked God, Guardian Angels, Powerful and Divine Beings for the following: that Mama go peacefully; for me to be there by her side; for lots of PATIENCE, compassion and under standing. I will forever be grateful for God’s grace and the way the Universal and Divine Plan unfolded.

I remember it was around mid-morning, and I decided to take a half day from work, bring a birthday party to her, and go to to the hospital to see Mama. After all, I just knew this was Mama’s last birthday on earth. Work was just not that important once I put things in perspective.  Upon leaving work, I went to the store and got party hats, balloons, snacks, party decorations and headed over to the Argentinian bakery for the decadent cake they are known for making. When I got to the hospital, I really thought that we were going to lose her that day and was thankful for having the presence of mind to put Mama before work. You see, at another time in my life, work came first, second and third! That was quite a day with a bunch of her admirers coming to see her, staff from the nursing home popping in, and doctors, nurses and aides she had gotten to know at the hospital over the years dropped by as well. I just kept taking pictures. I took pictures of everything and everyone! She was discharged back to the nursing home a few days later, and the party continued there. I decided not to go away for the month of July as I was accustomed to doing and just spend it with her….a stay-cation of sorts. I kept taking pictures….of everyone and everything!

I will be forever grateful for the honor of being able to play “Mother” and do things with her that kept me fully present in the beauty of the moment and the awareness to treat each day with her as if it were her last. I will be forever grateful for the simple things that brought Mama joy and for the opportunity to spoil her, plan her last birthday party, feed her, massage her legs and arms, scratch her back, play dress up, do her makeup and even cut her hair. I will be forever grateful for wheeling her along the river, taking her to the cemetery to visit Papi’s grave, visit the Our Lady of Fatima statue that was at Lourdes’ and Jorge’s house, buy her all the foods she craved (even though she only ate 2 bites at best), and spend time reading the dozens of cards and letters my Robert Waters Panthers and Pantherettes wrote to her. And I kept taking pictures… of everything and everyone!

Mama had a couple of good months, but once September rolled along you could tell that she was done. October 2nd, her last day with us, was filled with an on-going stream of visitors coming to say their goodbyes, so I was glad to just have it be the two of us once the last of the visitors left. I still remember the awesome wine Sara brought and the delicious home-made Italian food Francine brought to the nursing home that night. We talked, laughed, ate and drank wine because I had decided to spend the night by Mama’s side. It was obvious that Mama was leaving us any moment. As I lay in bed with her, a couple of hours before she crossed over, I caressed her, chanted and sang to her, talked to her about my lifetime of memories, and named all the spirit family members who were waiting for her. Their light and energy could be felt around us. I told her how God, the Angels and other family needed her now. My dharma, or purpose, in my mother’s life became crystal clear to me at that precise moment. Upon coming into this lifetime, I chose her  so I could play “Mother” to her (she was left motherless at the tender age of three). And that loss was something she never got over. Mama referenced her mother “Mamaita” almost daily as well as how much she missed her. Mama had only one tattered picture of her in her possession…how sad. She guarded that picture with her life! As I sit here typing, a memory of Mama asking me if I “would take care of her” came to mind. She took to asking me this over the years as her health declined more and more. She wanted to be taken care of “like a little girl.”  She even had a few stuffed animals by her side.

I will be forever grateful for the alone time I had with her that last night. I will be forever grateful for all the pictures I took of everyone who came to see her, pictures from her party, our field trips in July, activities in August, pictures from her last day and even pictures from the day of her burial and repast. Lastly, I will be forever grateful for the gift of being able to do her make-up once she was dressed and coiffed in her casket. That was the BEST 50th birthday gift!! You see, Mama died 2 weeks before my 50th. What an honor to spend that sacred and alone time with her and make sure she looked like her fashionista self. It took a lot of perseverance, negotiation and ultimately releasing it into the universe, but my wish was fulfilled!  And, yes, I kept taking pictures….. of everyone and everything! I was creating memories….cherished memories that became my treasure.

Mama passed peacefully. I was by her side. And boy did I walk away with a lot of patience, compassion and understanding. “Ask and you shall receive!”

I encourage all of you to live each day with intention and purpose and as if it were the last day. When we do so, we have more fulfilling days. We are able to really see who and what matter. We are more present, Alive and in tune to the precious gift of life we have received.

If you are interested in the dying process, and what the body goes through emotionally, physically mentally and spiritually as it prepares to cross over, I recommend you download Crossing the Creek by Michael Holmes. My mom’s Hospice social worker gave me a hardcopy years ago, and I have since shared it with numerous people. This book is no longer in print, but the author has made it available for free download. It is an absolutely wonderful and valuable resource. In addition, the Zen Hospice Project always puts out wonderful articles too. If you go on their website, you see the beautiful ways they honor palliative and end of life care. Remember darlings, we are all terminal….some of us are just lucky enough to know it!

It is my belief that death, like any other rite of passage, is something that can, and should be celebrated. It does not have to be all doom and gloom; after all, we are celebrating someone’s life and the contribution they made while on this earth. It’s also a meaningful, memorable and sacred act to send our loved ones off with much love, intention, appreciation, respect, honor, integrity and dignity (and bubbly, fun, laughter and even a dance party). It’s equally important for us to express OUR wishes to our family, friends and loved ones as well. When you think of it, there’s always a reason or opportunity to Celebrate Life! Ask and you shall receive…Just remember to take pictures…of everyone and everything!

Inhale love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Strong Calm…A Season of Change

“Each day is a gift…Open with joy”

Fall is such a beautiful time of year. It’s when Mother Nature takes out her richly colorful pallet and paints for us in the most beautiful shades, tones and hues. We capture this season’s beauty on our iPhones and cameras and, if you’re the artistic type, you take out your paint brushes, canvas,  or color pencils and sketch pads and capture its beauty through your creative lens. Fall is also a time of shedding, falling leaves and is synonymous with the art of letting go. Fall brings with it many holidays commencing in September through the end of the year. It’s also a time of year that people tend to get sad, miss their loved ones who have passed on,  send young children off to school for the first time or even off to college leaving them to be empty nesters, or are simply wallow in the fact that life isn’t exactly how they “expected” it to be.

Fall months have been a time of a lot of loss in my life and lots of endings, especially in the month of October. I had not yet given this much thought this year until last week when I was in yoga. My teacher passed out cards and instructed each one of us to pick a card. The card I pulled read Strong Calm. Hmmm, I found this to be quite interesting. I placed it down on my yoga mat and decided to remain open to whatever arose throughout my practice. At some point, it hit me. I set the intention to take a different approach and outlook on the fall season this year. Rather than be reminded of the many losses and allow myself to get funky and sad, I decided to approach this time of year with a “Strong Calm”  much like yoga – grounded, rooted, inner calmness and a strong core. In doing so, I can shift my perspective and look and all the beauty, abundance, miracles,  magic and wealth, and wisdom that has shown up in my life after losing my parents, selling my Florida sanctuary, putting down my beloved Blackie-Mama, ending relationships, having surgeries and ending my career.

When we take the time to reflect and count our blessings, we have the opportunity to carefully examine our life, choices we’ve made, their outcome, people who’ve come into our lives and others who are no longer part of it. The lessons we’ve learned become crystal clear. More importantly though, we are able to see the richness and fullness of our lives. We see the depth, scope and significance of the relationships we have with our friends and loved ones as well as the relationship we have with our Self.  We appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and gain an understanding of the destruction around us. We are better equipped to see the light and the dark, as well as the love and the fear. With a sense of “strong clam,” we can hold a space for all of it.  In this space, is where grace and gratitude can be found.  Gratitude opens our hearts!

By now y’all know that I’m a gratitude junkie. Gratitude is miraculous! Being grateful fills our hearts with endless amounts of love and pure joy. It is what gets us through anything we are going through, regardless of how challenging and difficult it may be. Our mindset is the key. I don’t know about you, but I am choosing to approach this beautiful Season of Change with a Strong Calm. Here’s how you can do the same: Write down the ten hardest or most terrible things that ever happened to you. As you look over the list, can you see the gifts that each of them brought? Take the time to write about each of these gifts and feel the sense of joy and gratitude that fills your heart center.

I now leave you with beautifully written piece by John O’Donohue. If I had to give it a title, it would certainly be Strong Calm:

“May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses. May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon. May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path. May the flame of anger free you from falsity. May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger around you. May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul. May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention. May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.”

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Broken Down or Broken Open

“Being Alive and present with those I love is how I want to live my new life. This is what I want to motivate me: quality of life, quality moments and quality love”        JT Carricarte

How ironic that I finished Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open – How Difficult Times Help Us Grow just days before my “epic” orthopedic surgery in 2012. Whew! Was that book preparing me for something of great magnitude without me having the slightest inkling! Little did I know that I would be in for yet another self discovery journey over the three years following that surgery (only to have surgery again in 2016). Broken Open not only prepared me for the change I was about to undergo, but it equipped me with the strength and inner fortitude I needed to battle the most difficult, challenging and life altering event I was about to experience. Oh, this most fascinating and funny universe of ours surely knows how to deliver!

I took the book out as I sat to write this blog, and I had written the following on the inside cover: “This book, by far, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As if divinely ordained, I finished reading it just days before I went into the hospital (and I had ordered it quite some time before that). I must have purchased 10 copies and gave them to  my Girls for Christmas. It’s an absolutely  beautifully written book that makes you embrace The Phoenix Rising.” In case you’re interested in reading this book, Elizabeth Lesser shares stories about people who’ve “risen from the ashes” after suffering all types of loss such as death, divorce, illness, loss of a job, and how they did so with love and wisdom.

If you’ve ever heard Elizabeth Lesser speak, seen her interviewed or have read any of her books, you know how, real, heart-warming, compassionate and honest she is.  She’s such a gifted writer and storyteller. Talk about total transparency! In her book, Elizabeth asks, “Will we be broken down and defeated, or broken open and transformed?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve always opted for the later. I’m not sure who instilled that in me. Was it my father? Was it my mother? Did I, in an effort to be independent from a controlling Cuban mother? Somehow, in their own way, my parents instilled in me the knowing that I could get through anything I was faced with head on. Thanks, Mama and Honey-Honey – I don’t know how you did it, but it worked! Is there such a thing as being too independent? Let me not even go there….that’s for another blog!!!

We all have choices in this life, and we can either choose to break down and succumb to the poor me/why me/victim mentality, or we can be broken open and forge ahead with strength, grace, faith and gratitude knowing that whatever experience we are going through is for our highest good, and we will come out of it transformed. We can call them lessons and blessings alike for there is, indeed, a silver lining in every single challenge and life event with which we are faced. Furthermore, these life events are also “priming” us for something much greater than we can imagine. Sometimes we are so caught up in what is happening, that we fail to see the big picture or, at the very least, acknowledge there even is a big picture even though we may be unable to see it at the moment. One thing I have learned though, is that these moments are somehow tied to our life purpose,  rich in learning experiences, and the wisdom that comes with it.

When I read Broken Open, I was planning on ending my career in the near future, but this magical universe of ours had a different plan of sorts. If you read my first blog, I mentioned how unfulfilled, underutilized, suffocated, and compromised I felt on the job. I knew I needed to get out of there. My soul desperately needed expansion and air. I am a free spirit and my wings felt like they had been clipped. I desperately needed to fly free! Despite my spiritual practices, yoga, meditation, working out, being out in nature, etc., I was constantly fatigued, exhausted, and sick. My quality of life was taking a hit, as was my personal and social life. All I did was work, work, work and saw less and less of my friends. I couldn’t wait to get home to go to bed. Sometimes, I’d be sleeping by 7PM. More importably though, while I was in tune with my body, I wasn’t listening to it. You know very well what happens when we don’t listen to our bodies, right? It will find a way to get our attention. In the end, if we fail to listen to these signs and messages, we will certainly broken down. That is precisely what happened to me. I went to work one day, suffered an injury that evening and was unable to return to work. I’m sure you can relate and can share your own experiences of being brought down to your knees. The game changer is what we choose to do once this occurs. Do we accept defeat, or are we willing to be transformed? In either case, our mindset will be the determining factor. Will we blossom into something extraordinary or wither away? The key my darlings, is the willingness to change and do things differently.

Even if we love change and accept it freely and willingly, it’s all together a different thing when the quality of our life is affected. It poses a new set of challenges. In my particular case, I found myself being able to do less and less, suffered from chronic pain 24/7 and was forced to establish “new normals” with each passing day. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other in hopes of getting through that particular day. When I looked in the mirror, I was unrecognizable. Stressful situations take a toll on our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, especially when the joy is seemingly zapped from our life. This is when our limits are tested, and we have ask ourselves, “Will I be defeated or transformed?” No one can do this for us. This is when we dig deeper than we ever have before, down to the very core of our existence. This is when we re-evaluate everything we think we know and have learned only to have to re-adjust our thinking and re-learn all over again. But it’s all good! You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” No kidding! In the end though, the outcome is sweeter, more meaningful and rich in lessons and blessings alike. This is when we are able to look back, connect the dots, and have a sense of deep gratitude for the opportunity to start anew.

Personally, my experience and brush with death in 2012 not only made me thankful to be Alive, but it gave me a major attitude adjustment. It made me re-group, re-think my quality of life and re-assess my boundaries. It motivated me to re-commit  to living a life of inspiration, love, and service while being totally mindful and present each and every step of the way…..quality life, quality moments and quality love! And part of that quality of life, quality moments and quality love is having the opportunity to share my lessons and blessings with you via my blogging in hopes that you too will find ways to inspire, love, serve even when facing the challenging times in your life. Use these times, your talents, gifts, uniqueness and whatever platform you have each and every day to share your stories and  lead from the heart…right from the start!

When faced with a difficult or challenging life event or loss of some kind, will you  choose to be broken down and defeated, or will you choose the beauty of being broken open and transformed?

Inhale love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

Be Good to You

“To love yourself as you are is  a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself, for now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are.” Annie Lamott

I love how Annie Lamott  added “for now” in this quote because the art of finding ourself is an on-going process. Just when we think we’ve mastered the art, some other lesson or blessing comes around that makes us dig deep into our souls and and explore this journey of ours called “Life.” Hopefully, we are able to see the miracle of love that our life is and how unconditionally God loves us (if you’re not comfortable using the word God, please substitute it for your higher power/maker). What comes to mind is this: If we are loved so unconditionally, that the universe always has our back, then why do we have such a difficult time loving and accepting ourself? I truly believe we have all been there at some point in our lives, don’t you?

So how do we get to that place of love and acceptance? By “doing the work.” We can call it whatever we like….a process, a spiritual journey, working the work, self discovery, self inquiry, inner investigation, finding ourself or, my favorite, peeling away the layers of the onion. We owe it to our magnificent, miraculous, sacred self to grow and evolve into better versions of ourself. It requires a lot of patience, compassion and understanding of our true essence (which is Love) in order to deal with whatever self-defeating and limiting beliefs, attitudes and unhealthy habits of mind we have chosen to use as our self sabotage weapon of choice. Oh, and let me not forget lots of tears! It’s an on-going process that changes over and over again as we grow and mature during the different phases of our lives. Over time, with grace and much gratitude, we learn to shed layer upon layer and let go of what doesn’t serve us along with the “attachment” to an end state of being. There is no end  because everything changes! What truly matters is that we are committed to honoring, loving and accepting our precious and miraculous life right NOW, and for now.

If you tend to feel guilty, greedy, irresponsible or self-centered when it comes to discovering who you are, be sure to check out what Elizabeth Gilbert says in her September piece for Oprah Magazine. She essentially expands on the following: “You have the right to figure out who you are; A spiritual journey bears no resemblance to a spa vacation (love this one); Doing something for yourself isn’t by definition selfish; Going on a spiritual journey can be a public service.”

So how else can you Be Good to You? Here’s some 1st Aid for the Soul, and you can start right now:

  • Be yourself, truthfully.
  • Accept yourself, gratefully.
  • Value yourself, joyfully.
  • Forgive yourself, completely.
  • Treat yourself, generously.
  • Balance yourself, harmoniously.
  • Bless yourself, abundantly.
  • Trust yourself, confidently.
  • Love yourself, whole heartedly.
  • Empower yourself, immediately.
  • Give yourself, enthusiastically.
  • Express yourself, radiantly.

Please remind yourself that everything is a process and not a perfect! Let these principles marinade inside of you. You may want to use each one as a springboard for journaling or identifying what is keeping you from embracing them. Each one of these “remedies” can be explored as deeply as you are ready, willing and able to do so. Perhaps you work on one a week, one a month or, for you overachievers out there, all at once (you get the picture). Let me just say this….less is more! It’s about quality not quantify. It’s not a competition. It’s about how you choose to show up for yourself and honor the sacred gift of YOU.

I will leave you with a very real, raw and relevant quote and affirmation by Tannaz Chubb from her lovely little book, Messages for the Soul. (Shout out to my Yaya Maria for gifting us Yayas this treasure trove of a book)

“Do you feel the love that you have for yourself radiating through your being? Can you look in the mirror, deep into your eyes and say to yourself – I love you? Today is the perfect day to practice this”

Affirmation:

“I honor my body, mind and soul and treat it with love and respect. Everyday I am finding new ways to Love myself more. I love you.”

 

Love who you are darlings!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

If Not Now…When?

Boundaries allow me to take care of myself. Boundaries enable others to take care of themselves. Boundaries create freedom of choice. To give, share, or support need not mean taking care of. I can say no and still give love and support. Boundaries keep me in my divine, right space.” Iyanla Vanzant

Do you find yourself getting irritated, being unforgiving of your slip ups, questioning your self-worth, giving away your personal power, giving too much of yourself to others, not valuing your time, being too self-critical, feeling compromised, and perhaps even feeling fatigued, drained and exhausted? Well, then someone needs to work on setting boundaries! We all need boundaries darlings. As children we needed them, and we need them even more so as adults. Why? It’s quite simple. We need boundaries because we need our mental, emotional and spiritual health in tact.

Today, more than ever, the art of setting boundaries needs to be honored if we want to face each day with grace, hope, inspiration, kindness, understanding and ultimately engage with others in the best way possible. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like we are on “fast forward” and everyone is just scurrying around. The minutes, hours days, weeks, and months feel like they’re just slipping away and into some black hole somewhere.  Despite all the wonderful self-help tools and resources out there, a great many of us are still giving more and more of ourselves away and doing less and less to honor our Soul’s needs. As a result, our quality of life is deteriorating and will only worsen unless we stop, take stock of the things we know we should be doing to take care of ourself,  look at the areas of our life that are out of balance and are being compromised, identify areas in need of healthier boundaries, and love our Soul enough to finally draw a line in the sand…”If not now, when?”

Back when I was working with establishing boundaries (circa 2005 shortly after I found my yoga practice), I’ll admit it was a little challenging. Not everyone around me, especially loved ones, were very happy. However, it was about my mental, emotional and physical well-being and not about them. I was working on myself and changing; unfortunately, that didn’t sit well with everyone. Sometimes people aren’t comfortable being around someone who is changing and morphing before their very eyes. People can be very set it their ways and would never dream of stepping out of their comfort zone and rocking the boat. And others simply may not be able to understand because they have a different perspective.  However, I will tell you this – I felt better and healthier once I learned to set boundaries and was very clear and committed to what I was willing to do if the line was crossed. My mental, emotional and physical health improved by leaps and bounds!

Our life is a miracle, a precious gift, and we need to honor our own sacredness. Imagine if we all made that a  priority?  Think of it as your moral and spiritual obligation to the miraculous gift of life and love you were given. One of the best ways you can do this is to take care of yourself. If you aren’t already doing so, then I humbly ask you, “What are you waiting for?”  If you answered “yes” to some of the questions I posed at the beginning, I am certain your physical, emotional and spiritual body have been sending you signals and trying to get your attention.  Are you listening? What has to occur to you before you start to shift and make changes? Right now is a great time to just pause, reflect and make a list of the things that are keeping you from taking care of yourself. No excuses, no blaming, no shaming, no judging…..just the facts! Take time to be still and listen to what your body is trying to tell you, feel it, see what shows up, maybe even journal on the thoughts and emotions that arise. It may not be as easy as it sounds for you personally. After all, every one is different. Regardless, be as truthful, authentic and open as you possibly can, and remember to be patient with yourself! Furthermore, ask yourself this: If your life isn’t working, whose responsibility is it?

Next up….loving yourself….. Check back on Friday for more ways to be good to yourself,  inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart… right from the start.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Love

“Love is an action, a choice. Love is not really an emotion” Mastin Kipp

On this love-filled family wedding weekend, I’m taking a short cut and leaving you with this beautiful piece on Love from Mastin’s The Daily Love, which I came across a while back. It is an essay I am certain you will want to read over and over as well as pass on. I dedicate this to Carly and Thomas….enjoy darlings!

To love someone is to choose to show up to be devoted to The Divine through that person. So often in life these days we think that Love is easy or that Love only feels good, but that is not the full extent of what Love is- especially relationship Love. People think that relationship Love must mask your true feelings, it must always be a euphoria of some kind, or that Love must be a trade.

But that is not what Love is.

Love is a constant offering to serve the Heart of the person you are in relationship with. Love is a constant surrendering of your protective ego, so that the Heart can open even more and show you the unknown beauty of its depth. Love transcends language, religion and belief systems. Love is the deepest gift that we could ever be given by someone and the greatest gift we could ever give ourselves.

Love is not a trade. Love is not a power trip. Love is not some grandiose expression of infatuation. Love is a humble and subtle power that guides us to grow into titans of giving. Love asks us to see beyond the fear of our partner and to dive deeper than their egos would want us to and not to leave, even when all that is triggering us wants to run.

Love shows up when fear is present and asks for more… Love is bigger, Love is brighter, Love is more powerful than any other force in the Universe, because at the core of every cell  in the universe, is the deep yearning and desire to Love and be Loved. Love does not march in with pomp and circumstance. Love whispers. Love silently beckons us to get over ourselves so that we can see the beauty that lays within us and in every other sacred soul.

We are not sent to judge, for judgement is just a request for Love. We are sent to Love the parts of ourselves and the world that lacks it. We were sent to be the Love in the seeming void of Love. We, indeed, are the answer. No one is coming for what we had already come.

Our job is to wake up to the Love then be it.

Our job is to Love.

Affirmation

“I am Love…I give love where I see it lacking…My ego is the servant of my heart”

 

 

 

 

Rise and Shine…An Attitude of Gratitude

“Gratitude turns what we have into more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for the future”  Melody Beattie

I don’t remember exactly when I became such a “gratitude junkie.” Perhaps it is something I grew into as I deepened and expanded my spiritual practice and deepened my faith. However, I do recall watching the Oprah Winfrey Show back in the day, and she shared how she started keeping a gratitude journal. Being a self-proclaimed “student of life” and hearing how Oprah’s life was shifting with her gratitude practice I, too, started keeping a gratitude journal. Every day, I wrote 3-5 things for which I was grateful. It was just a matter of time before I started feeling so much lighter and happier! To this day, I have a gratitude journal that I write in almost daily. If I skip a day, then my list of things I’m grateful for is longer that next day. My gratitude practice has evolved greatly since then, and sometimes I use a quote or The Chopra Center’s 21 Days of Inspiration booklet, which is based on Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Days of Success as a springboard to start writing. One thing I learned long the way, is that our nervous system can NOT be happy and sad at the same time. It’s an impossible feat. Given the choice, don’t you want your nervous system happy and have all those feel-good endorphins running through your body? It’s a natural “high” my darlings!

Aside from my gratitude journal, which I usually write in at the end of the day, I love starting my day with an “attitude of gratitude.” I love this morning ritual. After saying “thank you” as my feet touch the ground, and take care of the bathroom necessities,  I make my bed, brew a cup of Yogi Tea, read the little message on the tag (which may also spark a journal or gratitude journal entry), and hit the floor ready for my “morning practice.” Everything I may need for my morning practice is within reach: prayer books, yoga mat, bolster, essential oils, mala beads, singing bowl, journals, gel pens in all colors, angel cards and books upon books to support my practice. This “discipline” for a lack of a better word, is truly a lifestyle. For me personally, it’s one of my non-negotiables You are probably wondering what are my non-negotionables ….they are yoga, meditation, prayer, sleep, water, nutritious foods and other self care practices (how non-negotiables came to be are for yet another blog). These daily rituals evolved over time, but really took on a new meaning when I went on a yoga retreat, with the lovely Christy Naida, and stayed at Lumeria Maui (educational and adventure retreat oasis). Shout out to my Maui Sisters by the way!!!!

At the time, this was back in 2013, Lumeria Maui had Daily Rituals and Core Values that emphasized “An Attitude of Gratitude.” As I read them, they truly resonated for me and allowed me to visualize how I wanted to live each day of my life. I was so touched by their core values, that I even wrote them in my notebook. Here they are, straight from their website:

  • Reverence –  “We actively honor each day, the land, our ancestors and teachers, one another, the process and ourselves.”
  • Beauty – ” We delight in revealing and protecting the beauty that surrounds and inspires our environment.”
  • Wonder – “Life is dynamic. We remain open to new ways of learning, sharing and being. We look forward to and enjoy imagining the possibilities.”
  • Collaboration- “We are inspired by the potency of what we can create together and seek paths to inspire our collective growth.”
  • Nourishment- “We are committed to providing that which feeds our bodies, souls and minds in a sustainable way.”
  • Presence- “We strive in all actions and interactions to be fully present to the gift of ourself, our friends, and the opportunity to serve with love, compassion and enthusiasm.”
  • “We end each day in ritual to the setting sun.”

What a beautiful practice and manifesto for living, don’t you agree? So, over time, these core values and daily rituals became part of my everyday existence. Can you imagine if we all lived from this place of grace and gratitude??? Just pause for a moment and think how your life, the life of those around you, the life of your family and friends, colleagues, and even strangers would be like if we all subscribed to this way of being. Think of the peace and healing the human spirit would experience and the enduring impact on the healing of this most beautiful planet we share.

Regardless of the problems and losses we all experience, having a formal gratitude practice is life altering. It allows us to experience joy and happiness regardless of the life situation we are experiencing. We become more resilient. As a matter of fact, having a gratitude practice has been instrumental in my healing over the years and helps me to get through any challenging situation I may experience. Along with my Tribe, this practice has gotten me through some of the darkest and most difficult  times of my life. Having an attitude of gratitude allows me to approach each day from my heart center and affords me the ability to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. 

If there was one, lasting “quick fix” I would recommend for anything you are going through – whether it be an illness, loss, grief or major life event – it would be to start keeping a gratitude journal. Rise and shine with an attitude of gratitude, and watch the ripple effect it creates around you…..it’s magic!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

The Unexpected Shift

“Perfection is an Illusion”

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely source and arrives in the midst of chaos. Can you relate? It was circa 1998-99, I had just turned 40, my father was dying and my mother was having a breakdown. Caregiving was taking its toll on me, and I experienced my first and only panic attack. Where was my breath? I knew how to breathe….after all, I was a gym rat at the time, cardio queen, spin master, and had run many races leading up to the NYC Marathon. You could say I knew a thing or two about breathing. Nevertheless, it was extremely alarming as I fought to understand what was happening to me. Shortly thereafter, my then husband, Jorgie (such a beautiful, thoughtful and caring soul), decided to “take me away” for the weekend.

I recall going over the Tappan Zee Bridge and being able to see the tower belonging to the Castle Hotel in Tarrytown, NY. It was so beautiful! We were shown to our room which, by the way, resembled an Upper West Side NYC apartment….we could actually see the Hudson River from our windows. Needless today, the room was beautifully appointed and topped off with not one, but two, four poster beds complete with spectacular bedding, linens,  and luxurious treats of all kinds. Aside from a few mishaps such as leaving incense burning in the room, setting the fire alarm off, and our waiter accidentally giving me a “regular” cappuccino (instead of decaf) which kept me totally sleep deprived and awake most of the night, we had a lovely stay. Oh well…stuff happens…So much for much-needed R&R!

At some point upon our return home, I guess my brother and I were having a conversation where I must have mentioned my panic attack. In typical Jules fashion, he proceeded to ramble on an on about mental illness statistics and how my “quest for perfection” was MY mental illness, and there is NO SUCH THING AS PERFECTION! You know how you turn on a light switch? Well, I immediately felt the flip of a switch in my head. It was an epiphany! Who would have thought that “Bro” would have been the catalyst for the shift I was about to embark on !?!?!?!?!

I had gone to therapy on and off over the course of a few years to work on certain things, and I remember the analogy the therapist gave me that has stuck in my mind since then. It’s one I often find myself sharing with others who are at crossroads in their lives. Imagine you are on a boat with a toxic person, and the boat is sinking right along with this person. Are you sinking with them? Or, are you jumping ship? I don’t know about you, I am certainly not going down with a sinking ship. This act, like all self-care acts, is called self-preservation! The heavy weight on that boat can be a person, belief, attitude, situation, or circumstance. My quest for perfection was drowning me, and some of the toxic people around me were keeping me from coming up for air. I quickly started shifting and learning the art of letting go!

Letting go is freeing! Letting go of the need to be perfect, to control, or anything associated with the notion of perfection is liberating. Letting go of anything, or anyone, no longer serving us is the best gift and the highest form of self-love  and self-care we can give ourselves!

I’m sure you all have a story of someone who shifted your perspective, how it impacted and shaped your life, and how it may have saved you from further pain and suffering that you were causing your Self……and we do know a thing or two about the subject of pain and suffering. All the great masters will tell you, pain is an inherent part of life, but suffering is optional! I am forever grateful for that lesson my brother taught me for it allowed me to shift, let go and live life more fully and at ease. I said good-bye to the A- Type characteristics and my OCD tendencies that, unbeknownst to me at the time, were causing me so much suffering. Wow!….Talk about life-altering!

We now know how dis-ease in the body manifests into full blown diseases (I did not know this at the time). Just pick up the timeless treasures and international best sellers Louise Hay wrote, Heal Your Body and/or You Can Heal Your LifePeruse a catalog from Omega or Kripalu, or anything from a mind, body spirit wellness organization and see all the different healing modalities being used to treat all these dis-eases and diseases in the body. Look at all the books on the topic of health, well-being and mind, body and soul connection. There’s so much research out there on the mind/body connection and how our bodies intuitively know how to heal. I also like Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book, You are the Placebo –  Making Your Mind Matter. The point is that our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, actions and beliefs impact our well-being. Our thoughts and emotions can, and do, affect our body and well-being both positively and negatively. The choice is ours. Hopefully, by now we have mastered lessons on conscious choice making, self defeating beliefs and other habits of mind that either support us or get us sick. One thing I learned for sure is it all starts with being more loving. kind and compassionate with ourself.

Darling, is there something that’s causing you suffering: a behavior, habit, belief, emotion or attitude that is weighing you down and no longer serving you, impacting the people / relationships around you, or getting you physically sick? Is there an area of your life you would like to experience more balance? As with many things in life, the art of letting go is a practice, so be patient with yourself should you want to give it a much needed try. The “unexpected shift” you will undergo will be like being in that sinking boat and having a life preserver thrown your way!

You are the artist, now go out and create a new masterpiece. Remember, we are always a work in progress. Embrace the shift, and watch others also want to Inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart right from the start! 

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye Fear…Hello Faith & Love

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom”  Anais Nin

Oh darlings…..the “F” word…Fear! Volumes upon volumes have been written on the subject, yet we sometimes allow fear to hijack our minds and kidnap our souls. Yet, in the end, it’s actually quite simple. As Michael Singer asks in his book The Untethered Soul, “Do you want to be happy?” Your answer will be either yes or no. Hopefully, it’s a resounding YES……no “ifs, ands, buts” allowed….don’t “qualify” that yes or attach “conditions” to it. Make no mistake about it, fear will paralyze you….and do I have a first hand experience for you, but that’s yet for another post.

So what happens when we allow fear to take over our thoughts, when we ignore our gut feeling (our internal GPS), operate from a place of fear and/or allow fear to be our default setting? Well, you can answer that for yourself. Just pause for a moment and reflect on a time you made a decision based on fear, took a certain action because you feared what would happen, ignored the “feeling” you had that was guiding you to do otherwise, or just feared the thought of allowing yourself to do something differently. My guess is that nothing good came of it, am I right?  After all, nothing good ever happens when we act from a place of fear! It’s truly simple….we either have faith or fear. We either operate from a place of love or fear. When we operate from a place of fear, we are forgetting our connection to the divine, our oneness with that power that is greater than us and we are actually creating a whole lot of suffering in our lives simply by being sucked into the “stories” we are telling ourselves.

Do you want to “live” a juicy, joyful, rich, peaceful, meaningful and fulfilled life or “fear” life altogether? Do you want to continue to suffer or do you want freedom? Well, the first step is to get out of your comfort zone….aka the “prison” you have created for your Self. To be fearless, fierce in your conviction and faith is knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are Divinely guided, guarded, directed and protected. This is why it’s so important to take the time to be still, listen and connect. Meditate, breathe, practice yoga, let the uncomfortable feelings to come to the surface, get the blocked energies that do not serve you out of your system, release them and let them go. Continue being “the witness” to your thoughts, and let them go. Letting go is an art and a practice in of itself. And just when we let go, more “stuff” in need of letting go shows up. Yup! There are layers upon layers of things in need of letting go before we come to that place where we can breathe a sigh of relief and feel liberated. The key is to have an open mind, be willing to stay in that flow of connection, and creating that space and those rituals that will allow you to delve into the sensations, feelings and emotions that arise. It’s like a purification process. It’s growth, transformation and evolvement at its best. It allows you to soar and fly free!

What’s the flip side? I am willing to guess you know the answer to that as well…..more inner turmoil, tension, anxiety, blocked energy channels, dis-ease in the body, the body breaking down….just to name a few. If we operate from our heart center, the knowingness that we are love and that the universe is always conspiring in our best interest, we will be better equipped to inspire, loveserve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. There is no other way! The heart will soften as opposed to feeling rigid, it will feel expansive rather than closed off and we will feel confident, deeply rooted in our faith and unafraid. We will be grounded, centered, peaceful, calm, serene and feel a sense of expanded awareness. More importantly, we will feel divinely guided, guarded, directed and protected. Why? Because the choices we make will be from our higher Self and be more evolutionary.

So, are you saying bye bye to fear and hello to faith & love? Remember what the late, great Maya Angelou used to say, “When you know better, you do better.” Enough said!

I leave you with this short prayer from the Live Your Yoga Conference at Omega that I came across while perusing through one of my notebooks:

“May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we create strength among one another. May our study be filled with light. May we not oppose each other. Om, peace, peace, peace” 

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC