Reverence and Radical Self-Awareness

“Your crime lies in your ignorance.” Cicely Tyson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are you with your integrity? With your truth?

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

How does truth inform your choices?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do your wants differ from your needs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets of Inner Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret of Inner Peace

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC