In the Privacy of Your Own Heart

“Your soul…that inner, quiet, empty space…is yours to consult. It will always guide you in the right direction.”

Hello my darlings!

As I was re-reading my last blog, The Never Enough Problem, I realized that I wanted to expand a bit more on the topic of comparison and that what truly matters along our journey.

As you are probably aware, there was a recent challenge on social media where people were posting pictures of themselves from 10 years ago as well as pictures of themselves now. In case you’re wondering…no, I did not partake. I just felt that it was some ego-driven activity which instead of being fun, probably caused a whole lot of anxiety, stress, discontent and self-loathing for many. Comparing photos, devoid of meaning and purpose, will just leave many of us feeling that we’re not enough, not good enough, etc., etc.. And we all know the unhealthy and unproductive places where that leads!

As I was looking at some of the pictures (which was extremely obvious that they had been “tinkered” with), I wondered what the message behind it all meant. What was the purpose? Was it something that made people feel better, or just raised the bar of comparison and distress to new heights? What’s with the use of filters of all kinds and an array of finishes that can make a 90 year-old face as smooth as a baby’s behind? Thanks, but no thanks….you can keep the “altered reality.”

Then I came across my friend Loriana’s post. She kind of expressed the thoughts that were in my head. Had she taken residency up in there? Her words echoed the thoughts that were swirling in my brain, but I had yet to make sense of them all. She went on to ask us, “Is this really what matters and defines us?” Good question! And if that wasn’t enough, she then she went on to say, “We criticize the advertising agencies about putting pressure on all of us for aging and body image issues…then we play along.” Aha…How very true! Let me not even get started on the 20 year olds in ads for “anti-aging” products. Hello….their skin is flawless because they are 20 not because of the use of a product “intended” for “mature” skin!!!!!! Like I said, don’t let me get started…that’s for yet another blog…wink, wink.

So back to Lori…she posed a better option which entailed some dynamite questions that I am going to share with you. After all, you know how much I love to share and how much I love questions and opportunities for reflection and journaling. Her questions were a perfect follow-up to my previous blog and speak to the issue of comparisons. And considering we just had a Super Blood Moon Eclipse, which is a perfect time for rituals, reflecting, meditating and journaling, I thought Loriana’s questions are spot on as we leave past energies behind and move onward.

But, in order to move onward, we must first move inward. Astrologers are encouraging us to use this new energy to go within and connect with ourselves. There is no better place than the privacy of your own heart to get some answers and clarity. We’re not going to get answers “out there” in social media fantasy world. Nope! It’s by tapping into our soul- the quiet and stillness within- that will always guide us in the right direction…OUR right direction.

So…if you are up for some soul-searching and tapping into the jewels and the wisdom that are housed in there, I invite you to set aside some time to look over Loriana’s questions, reflect on them and write away! These are meaningful and thought-provoking questions that will really put our lives and our soul’s  purpose in perspective. Thanks, Loriana (aka Princesa), for posting these great questions and encouraging us to Go about or day, slay our dreams and IGNORE what AGE we look and how we got there and instead LOOK WHERE WE ARE GOING!

  • How did you improve your Self over the last 10 years?
  • Did you find your SOUL PURPOSE?
  • Did you CHASE your dreams?
  • Did you CRUSH your goals?
  • Did you FIND your VOICE?
  • Did you determine, challenge and FIND YOUR STRENGTH?
  • Did you BUILD your CHARACTER?
  • Did you FIND COURAGE to so something you would not normally do or leave a situation that was toxic?
  • Did you MAKE MEMORIES?
  • Did you MAKE time for those you LOVE?
  • Did you MAKE a DIFFERENCE in someone’s life?
  • DID you ArmorUp for LIFE and transform your life through nutrition, fitness and lifestyle – to prepare for whatever illness comes your way?
  • Did you ArmorUp for LIFE  and find balance and the strength to be BRAVE and be the best version of yourself, so you can be prepared for the next challenge you face?

And, if I may add my two cents, after you answer these questions, go back and ask yourself HOW you went about doing the things you answered YES to. And for those in which you answered NO, as yourself, WHY NOT? My darlings, we need to keep digging, keep revealing!

This kind of work is what makes us BADASSES! It’s what keeps us moving. It’s what allows us to keep learning, loving and growing. It’s what gives us direction and builds resilience. It’s what gives us the inner fortitude and strength to face the never-ending multitude of challenges that come our way. It’s what allows us to live with intention, purpose, meaning, grace and gratitude.

Here’s to your magnificent and awesome Self!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

PS   ArmorUP is a movement created by Loriana Hernandez-Aldama and inspired by her passion to encourage wellness in others after her battle with Leukemia and a bone marrow transplant. She is a journalist  with more than 20 years of on-air television experience in TX, anchoring prime-time and morning news as well as reporting on a national and local level. Loriana also does speaking engagements and works tirelessly at encouraging us all to ArmorUP for Life. You can check out her work at http://www.armoruoforlife.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season to Sparkle

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. All things can be mended. Not with time as they say, but with intention. So go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for light that is you.” -L.R. Knost

I saw the above quote on my neighbor’s Instagram, and it spoke volumes to me. It got me thinking, and thinking some more, and then realized I had to use it as inspiration for a blog.

It’s safe to say that the world has always been a broken place, or we would not have the advancements, developments, and changes that have taken place since the dawn of time. We humans have been broken and flawed as well and, with each generation, we hope we do better and leave things a little better than our parents and their parents before them.

If it weren’t for things gone wrong in history and over the progression time and space, things wouldn’t be fixed, and there would be no reason for just causes. Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” wouldn’t be on the tips of everyone’s tongues, on clothing, accessories, furnishings and a myriad of social media platforms.

What’s important is that we, as a human race, are awakening and evolving more rapidly than what seems like any other generation before us. That’s what technology has done for us. Every thing we need to know, what to do and how to do it is at the tips of our fingers…merely keystrokes and seconds away. However, it’s what we do with the knowledge we obtain that is the key.

How we integrate this knowledge into our being and everyday life is what propels us to those higher levels of awakening and ascension. It’s what allows us to tap into our inner light and shine it brightly. It’s how we integrate this knowledge and apply it to everything in life… our encounters, struggles, challenges, interactions and personal and professional relationships.

We cannot master a skill without experiential knowledge though. We can have all the book smarts in the world, but unless we immerse ourselves in practicing, engaging, sharing, comforting, giving, serving and allowing ourselves to be an active and vulnerable participant in the shared human experience, we may as well dig a hole and jump into it. We cannot light the way for others if we do not see our own light… our own influence, which is remarkably exponential by the way!

What else is exponential? Love. At the core of all our actions, is love. It is the love of self that permits us to “love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.” It’s our love of self that fuels us to be and do better…to grow, expand, awaken and evolve. It’s this love that ignites our passions and makes us want to share them with the world. It’s what makes us ask, “How can I serve?”

Well, we can start by acknowledging all those broken places in us, in our families, communities and in the world and asking ourselves how we can be the light that seeps in. What work do we have to do that will ultimately lead us to sharing our stories, insights, knowledge, passions, strengths and gifts with everyone around us? What work have we done that we can share with others? What mountains have we had to climb that has prepared us to do just that?

I have been having conversations with friends recently about our individual mountains. Whatever it is we’ve gone through/are going through, can NEVER be in vain. It’s all so connected to our life’s purpose and our ability to be the light that mends our broken world with love, peace and harmony. While it may take some time, and many lessons, we start to look back and connect the dots, we start to see the big picture… that which is our distinct essence- our higher calling and higher purpose/destiny. We may even have more than one purpose!

Darlings, our stories, experiences and challenges need to be shared, books written, support groups established, speaking engagements solidified, articles authored, websites designed, blogs started, programs, businesses, trainings and webinars created, non-profits founded, gardens planted, cakes baked, venues decorated, art (in all forms) created, songs and poetry written, movies and plays directed, produced and filmed and performances of all kinds scheduled. The list goes on and on…this is how we shine our own unique and essential light. This is how we climb our individual mountains, integrate all our experiences and celebrate our doing so. This is how we light the way, forge a path for others and leave our broken world a little better than when/how we found it. This is how we mend it, contribute and pay forward. This is how we inspire, love, serve.

What are your experiences calling you to do?

Whatever it is our experiences are calling us to do, me must tap into our inner artist, dreamer and creator to lead the way, and our desires are guaranteed to be driven by love and passion. And speaking of passion, I will leave you with some exceptional and inspirational quotes that are sure to get all of us thinking, dreaming and creating!

“You have to be burning with an idea, or problem, or wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Steve Jobs

“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” Jon Bon Jovi

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey

“There is no passion to be found playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” Unknown

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Amelia Earhart

Tis the season to sparkle, my darlings! So how about we all go about doing just that? Let’s all shine brightly…and remember to love extravagantly, intentionally and unconditionally!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Dedicated to my niece, Megan, on being chosen as Teacher of the Year by her peers. She’s had her own mountains to climb this past year, but she did not let that affect her performance, love of teaching or her studies. At the age of 30, she is most definitely on the path to greatness!

Who Inspires You?

“If you want to inspire the world, first inspire yourself.” -Scooter Braun

The times we are living in are catastrophic to say the least. But as we all know, we have to go through dark times to then emerge into the light again….refreshed, renewed, recommitted and with a sense of intention, empowerment, purpose, ambition and drive.  These are the times that bring about change. These are the times we seek inspiration, vision, guidance and all sorts of motivation and practices that will keep us grounded, focused, centered and calm. These are the times that are calling out for us. These are the times we must get clear on our priorites. These are the times we can look to the people who inspire us.

In today’s technological world, we have instant gratification at our fingertips. We have a world of inspiration to tap into if we take the time. We don’t have to look very far to surround ourselves with inspiring beings who can guide and motivate us to make whatever changes we seek to make in our lives, in our communities, and in the world.

As I was looking for inspiration for this blog, I came across this quote by Karen Marie Moning: “Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”  

There is a Spanish saying that probably all Cuban mothers used to tell their kids (especially daughters): “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.” This usually came on the heels of your mother not liking whomever’s company you were keeping. It pretty much translates to something like tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are. The modern-day version, “Your vibe attract your tribe” succinctly sums it up.

Like I said, we don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days. Between all the social media platforms, You-Tube, TED talks, webinars, on-line courses, seminars, forums, blogs, classes at local libraries, high schools and community centers, we can scoop up valuable content and insight in just minutes. And let’s not forget the art of reading good books, book clubs and other types of groups/clubs as well. If there is something we like, we can most certainly form a group and talk about everything and anything. Just remember the snacks…wink, wink!

It’s much easier to get through dark and troubled times when we have people who can help us navigate the rocky road we are on. Connecting and spending time with “like-minded” individuals who are positive, enlightened, forward thinkers, and exemplary role models afford us opportunities to learn how they’ve gotten through tough times, how they’ve become successful and perhaps whom they have sought our for inspiration. Turning to our faith, religious and spiritual thought leaders, mystics, astrologers, coaches, therapists and visionaries alike also provide us with “wisdom of the sages and for the ages.”

In one of my early blogs, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I referred to these people in my personal life as “my spiritual board of directors.” The members on my spiritual board of directors are the people whose works I turn to and who I seek to be like. These are the people who inspire me each and every day. Who inspires you?

  • Who can you turn to during your darkest and most challenging times?
  • Who helps you up when you have been brought down to your knees?
  • Who gives you the strength to forge ahead when the road is rocky or uncertain? 
  • Is there an enlightened being you would like to emulate?
  • If so, make a list of their qualities you would like to emulate.
  • List the ways you could practice those enlightened qualities on a daily basis.

These questions are a good place to start.  I will also leave you with further key questions that were included in my aforementioned blog. The questions were from a  global seminar that was facilitated by Craig Hamilton, the founder of Integral Enlightenment. These questions  help us to further identify the people who will accelerate and support our awakening and evolution. Remember, if we want to inspire the world, we must first inspire ourselves.

  • Of everyone I know, with whom can I really be myself?
  • Among all my friends, family and colleagues, who truly shares my deepest values and highest spiritual aspiration?
  • Do I have any social structures in my life where I feel free to stretch myself – and my relationships- beyond my comfort zone?
  • Is there someone in my life who presents me with healthy challenges and encourages healthy risks, rather than being afraid to “rock the boat” with me? Someone I trust to stand up to me with pure intentions and care for my own betterment and that of our shared higher ideals?
  • If a number of people come to mind, count yourself among the fortunate. Then, arrange with your newly identified “evolutionary partners” to begin creating a conscious container for ongoing growth and shared inquiry.

Did Ihear you say conscious container? These are the groups, forums and circles we form that help us to deal as well as heal. The groups / people we turn to when we feel like we are drowning and need a lifeline. The friends with whom we can laugh, cry and celebrate. The enlightened beings with whom we can have transformational interactions. The conscious container that will hold the enlightened being we are evolving into.

When we are living from a place of awakening, evolution, enlightenment, and willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone, we are better able to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. We are better able to have clarity of mind. We are better able to have transformational conversations. We are better able to come up with solutions. In a nutshell, we are better able to engage from a place of higher awareness.

Soooooooo….given the profound and tumultuous times we are living in, the stress and trauma we are all witnessing on SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS, and across all party lines, I cannot emphasize  the importance of having a community, a group, or a tribe who will hold a sacred space for us to reveal ourselves, our emotions, our hurts, our traumas, our darkness, our struggles and our desires without judgement. Pure unconditional acceptance and support….period.

Here’s to living an inspired life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scandalous Grace

“Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valerie Kaur

I have been reflecting a lot on life’s events from 10 years ago. It was one of the happiest times in my life yet one of the saddest. Light and dark. High and low. As I recalled my memories of the last few months of my mother’s life, I couldn’t help but also think of the person who was in my life at the time.

A person who was instrumental in bringing Mama and me so much joy.  A person who was by my side when we laid my mother to rest two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. A person who took me sky diving for my 50th. A person whom I have been reluctant to write about but did mention briefly in a couple of blogs last year. A person who I said I would “leave for a future blog” on multiple occasions. Well, I think this is finally the occasion and the blog. Allow me to introduce you to “Scandalous.”

Scandalous had many nick names….some given by me and others that friends coined. This particular one was given to him by a school secretary. Frankie came to school, where I was a vice-principal, to take me on a lunch date. Now mind you- this is a man who dresses to the nines, can sport conservative clothes as well as the most outlandish, is an engineer by trade,  has been truly gifted with the most logical, orderly, and organized left brain as well as the most creative, imaginative and artistic right brain. It’s no wonder we got along so well. There was never a dull moment between us….each moment was powerful and wonder-filled! But what did he choose to wear the day he came to pick me up?

Would you guess if I told you that he picked me up on his motorcycle!?!?!?! If you guessed leather chaps, you guessed right (and a leather vest, bandana on his head…the whole enchilada). I still recall Sara, the school secretary, calling me with a sense of urgency in her voice. When he showed up and “strutted” into my office, I understood why the urgent tone in Sara’s voice. OMG! Although I tried not to show it, I cringed when I saw him and immediately fast forwarded to how I was going to introduce him to my principal AND how I was going to get him out of the building without many people seeing him. Well, I did, and we did, and the rest is history. We often joked and laughed at the memories of that day.

So now you understand how the nick name “Scandalous” originated. On that fall Friday afternoon, we rode off on his LOUD, colorful motorcycle and, unbeknownst to me, the principal gathered  the office staff, and they crowded by the window to check out the entire scene as “Ms. Carricarte” got on a motorcycle (probably in high heels) and with a “scandalous” looking guy.

Scandalous and I had known each other for about 6 years or so at that time. We would frequently see each other at the gym on the weekends. During the summer of 2008, as my mother was in hospice and coming to the end of her life, I decided I would spend most of the weekends with her. However, I had to make sure I took care of Me first if I was going to hole myself up with her in the nursing home every weekend. And it was then that Scandalous and I saw each other after a while of me being absent from the gym. As with all things in life, timing and circumstances brought us together like never before.

Scandalous had always been a flirt, but I rarely paid any mind to it. Actually, I always found him entertaining. However, this time around was different. I found myself being the flirt…or overly enthused and happy to see him. Take your pick. Perhaps  I needed to laugh, as I was already starting to grieve my mother’s pending loss. And believe me when I say that laughter was a mainstay with me and Scandalous. No one has ever brought out my inner child the way he did. We were like two little kids whenever we were together. Talk about mindfulness and being present…..it’s as if time stood still whenever we were together. We were so engrossed in whatever we were doing, or whatever antics he would be up to, or we would be up to, that I could not help but be 100% engaged in any given moment.

Scandalous’ life was “complicated,”  which is one of the reasons I never got involved with him prior to that point in time. However, it got even more complicated once our souls connected and our grand love affair took flight.  We spent as much time together as we could. It was easy, it was fun, romantic, he’d stay over, we’d go out all the time, and we’d go away quite a bit…until the time came when I realized this “complicated affair” was not serving my highest good… nor his. Our 15 months together were the equivalent of having been together for 10 years.

Throughout those first few months we were together, Scandalous got to meet my Mama and made sure she knew that he would take care of me when she was gone. Scandalous always had a very charitable and generous spirit and always knew how to handle things, so that just made him even more endearing. And during those last few months of Mama’s life, Scandalous brought a lot of love, joy, fun and laughter into her world. His sense of humor,  jokes, zaniness and thoughtfulness made her laugh, cry and also brought her a sense of peace and serenity. Mama even called him “mi segundo hijo,” which translates to “my second son.” In her mind, she was handing me off to him, and all would be well in my world.

Needless to say, he was there for both of us and was instrumental in helping me to  honor my mother in fun and creative ways. However, full-blown grief came out to play once I ended the relationship. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a period of grief that, compounded with other losses (which I’ve written about in past blogs), would amount to about six of the darkest years of my life.

The years that followed our breakup were times of much growth for me. Labels, ego, expectations and letting go of attachments was something I was working on at the time we came together. Scandalous taught me what unconditional love in a relationship looked like, along with compassion and patience.  When all was said and done, I learned acceptance – seeing, loving, respecting and honoring others regardless of where they are along their own path / journey. I also learned how to speak my truth clearly, calmly and compassionately without raising my voice, getting angry or heated. Most importantly though, I learned to value my worth and my own values.  However, it didn’t make the breakup, nor the six years that followed, any easier. Those post-Scandalous years were very difficult, painful, and dark to say the least.

At the time  our relationship expired, which was a year to the day after burying  Mama, we woke up together on what would be our last day of doing so. You see, I realized I was done. For the first time since we had gotten together, my soul felt compromised. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had learned whatever lessons I was meant to have learned at that particular juncture in my life, and so had he. But it wasn’t about him…it was about Me.

I vowed to myself to honor what my soul was guiding me to do. No more complications, no more hurts, and no more lies.  Even though the lies were on his part, I was still part of them and an active participant as long as we stayed together. I no longer wanted to be a part of the double life he was living. At this point, I was entrenched in my yoga practice, studying yoga philosophy and knew I was compromising my soul, values, morals, ethics and beliefs. I just couldn’t do it any longer. Authenticity was a MAJOR life lesson for me in my 50’s. I worked hard (and still do) at living my yoga, both on and off the mat, with intention, integrity and grace.

Ahhhh “grace”…those mindful and meaningful moments of grace were a constant after our breakup, as well as continued faith, joy, gratitude, inner fortitude, resilience, peace, calm……and grief. These were such dark and sad times for me. I tried to find the grace and joy in each of those moments no matter how I was feeling. Actually, I felt like a part of my soul was missing, I felt like I had lost my best friend. More than anything I missed, and still miss, our friendship more so than the romantic relationship.

For years after our breakup, I couldn’t listen to dance music, and I felt like a light had been extinguished in my soul. That’s when I started to experience the “grief is the price of love” thingI was grieving my mother, the breakup, and an injury that brought with it yet more losses, including the end of my career (not on my terms), and much physical, emotional and psychological pain. Through it all, my light-filled Treehouse oasis (which I moved to a few months after the breakup) became more and more of a sacred healing place filled with much love, light and joy.

The Treehouse became a place for me to  retreat to and pamper my mind, body and spirit. It was, and still is, where I leave the world behind and go within. I cook, read, write and reflect a whole lot at home. I enjoy the peace, quiet, serenity, tranquility  and ambiance within the walls and the nature that surrounds me.  Little did I know that Scandalous, as well as these last ten post-Scandalous years, would lead me to the place and the woman I am today.

One month shy of my 60th, I think its safe to say I have grown into someone who is brave and fearless yet vulnerable; wild and free yet responsible;  fierce and steadfast yet flexible;  compassionate and kind yet discerning; open and accepting, yet conscious of healthy boundaries; honest, truthful, transparent and unapologetically real….AND the bonus was I learned the beauty of leaving one’s ego at the door. It’s amazing how the universe is always presenting me with opportunities to use these skillful gifts. Yep, the lessons keep coming, deeper, with more layers and more complexities each time. Like the saying goes, “We can be a masterpiece and a work in progress.”

What can I say?  Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Scandalous!  While I feel these are pretty healthy, balancing, abundant and harmonious gifts, I also know they constantly need tending to, chiseling and polishing. Our work is never done! One thing is for sure though: taking the time to “do me” these past ten years have blessed me with these endless gifts of grace….Scandalous Grace. 

I guess I should mention that, on a few occasions over the years, Scandalous has even shown up at my door…unexpectedly. We’ve spoken about the “void” and have even tried doing “the friend thing.” Although the energy and soul recognition / connection will always exist between us, the “friend thing” just does NOT work for us. Especially when it’s apparent to you that you are not on the same playing field, nor on the same page, and you realize the woman you have grown into will not compromise her Soul ever again. There’s no turning back. Now that is scandalous grace!

So, my darlings, there you have it. Scandalous 101- done and done!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- For more on relationships, you may want to check out two of my previous blogs, Relationships Expire and You’re Not Alone. As always, thanks for caring and sharing!

 

 

 

100 Blogs…A Prayer of Gratitude

“When the personality comes to serve the energy of the soul, that is authentic power.”

-Gary Zukov, The Seat of the Soul

Greetings, darlings, and welcome to blog number 100! I can’t believe it was one year ago today that I published my first blog after lots of encouragement and the support of some friends. I guess it was the right time, and I was in the right place. Happy Anniversary, InspireLoveServe!

While I was away this past month, I toyed around with ideas for an anniversary blog, scribbled some things down, yet ultimately knew that what I wanted to convey was just a profound sense of gratitude for being able to inspire, love and serve from the very depths of my soul.

Gratitude for the love and support of friends, family and acquaintances. Gratitude for their support and encouragement. Gratitude for my yoga and meditation teachers. Gratitude for being able to share my lessons, blessings, struggles, mistakes, successes, eccentricities, energy, passion, guidance, reflections, tools, resources, thoughts, ideas, insights, and, oftentimes, my wit and sense of humor, and my overall animated self. Gratitude for being able to speak from the heart. Gratitude for a lifetime of journaling. Gratitude for my inner fortitude and resilience. Gratitude for those of you who participated in one of my personal homework assignments and shared the three words / sentences that best described me. Gratitude for the over achievers who couldn’t stop at three. Gratitude for not being overly preoccupied with the number of followers or comments I receive (or lack thereof). Gratitude for the bloggers out there who have found me and are following me. Gratitude for the people who take the time to read, reach out to me and share how a particular blog resonated for them. Gratitude for those of you who have shared or passed on my blogs  to others. Gratitude for the strangers who have  found their way onto my blog and have shared it too. Gratitude for a year that has been filled with much creativity, reflection, courage, transparency, openness, healing, growth, fun, laughter, transformation, confidence, authenticity and, above all, joy.

And speaking of joy, I have joyfully and unapologetically stepped into my authentic power at this stage of my life, and upon deciding to start a blog. Yippie!  It’s been a long road. The blog has evolved and will continue to evolve, as I have evolved and will continue to evolve as well. No stagnation for me! I truly feel a deep sense of accomplishment and purpose in being able to use my personality to serve what my soul came here to do: inspire, love and serve. 

And speaking of inspiration, I recently completed the latest Deepak and Oprah 21 Day Meditation Experience, The Energy of Attraction, and I loved it so much that I purchased the series (as I oftentimes do). As I started listening a second time around, I came upon a comment that Oprah shared which really hit home for me: “You’ll know when you’ve hit your sweet spot when your desires are more about being than getting.” Perhaps that’s why I am not overly concerned at this point in time with numbers and statistics related to my blog??? Instead, I am allowing my soul and my purpose to be my guide every time I sit down to write. Handing my writing over to God and the Divine always works best! After all, they are the overseers and keepers of my soul here on earth.

While I ultimately would like to gain more followers and have more interaction with my readers, I know it will occur when the time is right. As a matter of fact, I have quite a bit of homework to do in that department! For now though, my hope is that each blog lands in the hands of whomever is meant to read it. As they say, “Take what you need and leave the rest.” That’s the approach I have taken up until now, and it feels genuinely good in my soul. It truly is about being and not gettingso I guess I’ve hit that sweet spot.

And on that note, I will leave you with a lovely prayer that I hope fills your heart with joy and inspiration. It was written by Joyce Rupp. I’m not sure where I picked it up, but it is most appropriate as my heart is currently overflowing with gratitude as I write this anniversary blog.

Prayer of Gratitude

To be grateful for what is, instead of underscoring what is not.

To find good amid the unwanted aspects of life, without denying the presence of the unwanted.

To focus on beauty in the things of life, as well as being deliberate about the great beauties of art, literature, music and nature. 

To be present to one’s own small space of life, while stretching to the wide world beyond it.

To find something to laugh about in every day, even when there seems nothing to laugh about.

To search for and to see the good in others, rather than remembering their faults and weaknesses.

To be thankful for each loving deed done by another, no matter how insignificant it might appear.

To taste life to the fullest, and not take any part for granted.

To seek to forgive others for their wrongdoings, even immense ones, and put the past behind.

To find ways to reach out and help the disenfranchised, while also preserving their dignity and self-worth.

To be as loving and caring as possible, in a culture that consistently challenges these virtues.

To remember to say or send “thank you” for whatever comes as a gift from another.

To be at peace with whatever cannot be changed.

Heartfelt thanks for allowing me to come into your world, your home and your heart! Infinite love and gratitude, Jo-Ann T. Carricarte

The Issues Are in the Tissues

“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Stored way down deep on a cellular level is the history of past traumas, life experiences, all types of loss, grief and family and cultural belief systems. Welcome to the pain body. My guest blogger Blondie, spoke about this in one of her essays, Red Lipstick is My Armor. If you missed it, be sure to check out the blog titled My Guest Blogger Returns.

These unresolved traumas, life experiences, losses, family and cultural belief systems are so deeply stored in our bodies that, unless we muster up the courage and consciously work at dislodging them, we risk all sorts of illnesses as well inability to fearlessly move forward in life. We have all experienced what happens to our minds, bodies and emotions when we are trapped in a state of fear. Fear paralyzes us…both physically and emotionally. Fear eats away at us and keeps us stuck in a cycle much like that of a hamster wheel. The good news is that we can liberate ourselves and free ourselves from this prison that we’ve been in for way too long.

Once we know our individual demons and where they stem from, we are better able to look at why we have allowed fear to hold us hostage. We can identify the triggers that set off alarm bells. We can examine how these fears came to be, the damage they have/are causing us mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We can see how fear has played out in our personal and professional lives and in all our relationships. Once we do so, we come to a place where we no longer allow fear to run the “semblance” of a life we are living. Let’s face it, when fear is the master, we aren’t living. We’re barely surviving. When we gain the courage we need to face our fears head on, WE learn to BE the Master of our fears. Welcome to Fearless Living!

Fearless Living, by Rhonda Britten, is the book I am reading in my book club as I write this essay. I’m only about half way through (because it also requires work, exercises, journaling, etc) and have already recommended it to numerous friends and acquaintances. It also has a wonderful study guide that can be found at the back of the book. As a matter of fact, one of my yoga teachers even did a workshop on it, which I missed, so I was glad when our Goddess Book Club chose it as our next selection.

Whatever issues we are dealing with, have dealt with and have yet to deal with, absolutely get stored in our tissues. Hence, the discomfort, dis-ease, disease, self-destructive behaviors and poor choices we make that do not serve us. They only serve at keeping us stuck in our “stories” and threatening our immune system and overly taxed nervous system. Rhonda Britten refers to this state as our Wheel of Fear. While we each have our individual fears, the “mechanisms” that keep us spinning in our individual wheel of fear is identical for everyone.

Essentially, the wheel of fear has 4 components: The trigger, fear response, core-neagtive feelings and the self-destructive behavior. So, I want to give you a glimpse of what the “mechanism” that keeps us on our wheel of fear looks like. And if it speaks to you (which I am certain it will), then I strongly recommend you read the book and do the work. Maybe even start your own little book club or get together with a couple of friends to do the work. It always helps to have a support team to keep us accountable. Oh, and if you’re getting together with friends, don’t forget the snacks!

The following “mechanisms” are found in the second chapter in the book:

“First, something happens that triggers your fear of being thought of by yourself or anybody else as having what you believe to be, a serious character flaw. You urgently want to avoid that outcome, so your body prepares to handle the emergency.

Second, your fear response makes you do something, usually unconsciously, that is meant to ensure that you avoid the dreaded outcome. Just as you would run away from an object you perceive to be a snake, you try to run away in the figurative sense from the thought that terrifies you. Ironically, your response – for example, trying harder to succeed or making promises you can’t possibly keep- almost certainly guarantees that the outcome will in fact happen. In a cruel trick of nature, we unerringly choose behavior that only serves to confirm our worst fear about ourselves.

Third, as you realize you haven’t avoided what you fear, the consequence is that you experience the gut-wrenching, negative feelings of not being good enough – whatever your particular version of that is. And that is what you are truly afraid of. The thought you are trying to avoid is a cover for the feelings that you can’t bear to face. That feeling is always underneath your thoughts and responses, both of which keep you distracted, helping you to avoid the very thing you must confront; your version of not being good enough. Self-loathing is next, You globalize from this one instance, and you fear that you can’t do anything right.

Fourth, you find some way to numb the emotional pain, almost invariably through self-destructive behavior such as drinking, gambling, eating unhealthy food, or shutting yourself off from the very people who could support you. And you use these behaviors as evidence that you’re not good enough. The wheel keeps spinning.”

As we know all too well, because we have all been there, these mechanisms are indeed the same for all of us. While our own hamster wheel, carousel or, like Rhonda Britten calls it, The Wheel of Fear, is different of for each of us, the book helps us to identify what keeps us on that wheel and gives us tools and skills to identify the negative feelings we attach to us “not being good enough.” The common fear responses and self-destructive behaviors listed in the book are really an eye opener, as are the “symptoms” that help us to see when we are operating from a place of fear. These symptoms cause us to feel: impatient, exhausted, self-righteous, misunderstood, paralyzed, shamed, defeated, out of control, confused, over-whelmed and victimized.

I am big into self-inquiry and inner-ivestigation practices, so I think it is key for us to look each of these symptoms and see how they all play / have played a part in our life. How have they shown up? When? Under what circumstances? If we take the time to do so, we can better understand the roles they’ve assumed throughout the different stages of our life. These are the issues that are in the tissues. Unless we deal with them and show them who the Master is, we will continue to suffer inside a prison we have created for ourselves.  It takes some courage, but it’s worth it. It’s liberating!

And speaking of liberation, the book also provides self-affirming behaviors for us to choose from that will kick us off our wheel of fear and place us on our Wheel of Freedom. Yes, there is such a thing! Along with what are called “Fear Buster Exercises,” the chapters on Fear Junkies, Expectations, Excuses and Complaining will definitely catapult us to another level and put us on the path to living fearlessly.

The irony is, not only will we be able to identify the “fear junkies” in our lives that help to keep us stuck, but we will also see how we, too, have unknowingly played the role of fear junkie in the lives of others. It’s the whole duality thing at its best.

As of this writing, I still have much reading and work to complete in the book. However, I am fascinated by the unexpected “aha” moments that I am experiencing each time I peel away a layer, and another layer revels itself. And if anyone out there has the audacity to think “I have no issues,” just you wait and see…..wink, wink! That’s just a story you are telling your Self….the question is why?

Much like our journey through life, each decade brings with it opportunities for digging deeper and applying the meaningful lessons we’ve learned along the way – just in a more significant and grander scale. Each year of life on earth will invariably always bring us traumas, life experiences, losses, and ingrained belief systems to question – maybe even dismantle. The key is to ask yourself, “Do I want to live on the path of Fear or the path of Fearlessness?” As always, you have the free will to choose.

Choose wisely darlings!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

The Art of Conversation

“As modern culture embraces social media and digital chatter, valuable aspects of face-to-face conversation are being lost.” – Breathe Magazine

Can we talk? The one and only Joan Rivers brought that question to a whole new level during her time here on earth. Not only was she funny but her humor, combined with the ability to connect with people, is what allowed her to get away with the stuff that would follow her “Can we talk” one liner. She was bold, brave and brassy! I think it was her personal interactions and ability to read people which further allowed for this level of “straightforward-ness.”

In today’s culture,  personal interaction has been compromised because of the way people are digitally communicating as well as evolving. Everything is so rapid… the accumulation of knowledge, the ability to research, shop, learn, entertain, educate, obtain information in minutes and, yes, communicate point-blank words that are exchanged via texts that are devoid of eye contact and emotion. Sadly, the art of face-to-face conversation is becoming a lost art. We can change that though!!!!!

Have you experienced conflicts via texts because the message was received and interpreted NOT the was intended? Texting serves a purpose in that we can get a quick answer when needed. However, we all find ourselves in these lengthy threads of conversations that take more time and energy than picking up the phone does, or meeting for tea/coffee or a bite to eat. We have all become quite “laid back” in our communication styles. How many of us don’t even take advantage of FaceTime? At least we can better gauge emotions, a person’s state of mind, their need and intention via FaceTime. That’s not something we can do via texting. And boy, can THAT create unwelcomed and unexpected  problems!

I came across a line in an article I was reading,  which inspired this essay, and it seemed to compliment my previous blog, Keeping It Real. I think it succinctly states the conversation crisis we are experincing in today’s times:

“If more people are more connected than ever before thanks to technology, paradoxically there are also more people so immersed in the digital world that they forget to experience life in the real world, ultimately losing the ability to communicate in person.”

There is a word in this quote that is key. And that the word “ability.” The art of conversation takes ability, skill, talent, practice, discernment, eloquence, tact, truth, intention, meaning and language….just to name a few. We each have our own communication style. Our styles have taken years and years (and perhaps even tears) to develop. It’s as if we’ve tried on different styles of communication throughout our lifetime until we find one that suits our personality. While some of us feel comfortable in all types of conversations, there are others of us who freeze at the thought of initiating conversation, much less taking part in meaningful or sensitive dialogue.

It’s my belief that face to face conversations either make you feel alive or they scare the crap out of you. What do face-to-face conversations do for you?

  • Do you enjoy human interaction?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in different settings?
  • Are you comfortable approaching a complete stranger and initiating a convo with them?
  • How do you feel when a stranger approaches you?
  • Do you enjoy eye contact?
  • Are you a touchy-feely type of person?
  • Do you enjoy the art of a good, real, raw, oftentimes messy and significant conversation?

It’s also my belief that we can all use some conversation etiquette these days. As with all things in life, we periodically need to assess what we are doing, how we are doing it, and decide if we need to alter or make a change in our approach to a given situation. Well, the article I was reading in Breathe Magazine (The Well-being Issue), listed the following guidelines to help us improve our conversation skills:

How to start a conversation:

  • If you feel anxious, ask questions first, so you become more comfortable about sharing your thoughts.
  • Avoid discussing the weather (seriously!) and direct the conversation to more interesting matters.
  • Avoid contentious topics on first acquaintance and try to establish common ground instead,
  • Once a mutual connection is reached, turn the trivial chitchat into something more meaningful.
  • When joining a conversation, be aware of the tone and mood so you can adapt accordingly.

How to take conversation beyond small talk:

  • Share anecdotal details about your life and experiences relevant to the subject being discussed.
  • Be genuinely curious and ask open-ended questions to invite people to talk about themselves.
  • Pay attention to body language so you can change the subject if you see signs that others are no longer engaged.
  • If you are open, honest, show compassion, and maybe a touch of vulnerability, people tend to mirror these qualities.

Conversation Etiquette:

  • Be approachable. Smile. Be friendly, Keep eye contact, and listen without interrupting.
  • Show interest. Displaying attentiveness and asking meaningful questions will show that you really care and also encourage other people to open up to you.
  • Be passionate but don’t try to convert people to your beliefs. Maintain an open mind and make an effort to understand other people’s perspective.
  • Don’t make it feel like an interrogation or be a conversation narcissist. Ensure a balance in the dialogue to avoid constant questioning or boring monologues.
  • Don’t revel too much about yourself. Disclose unwelcome information and you may find an awkward silence.
  • Be yourself and be natural. If you are an introvert, be brave and practice many different social situations. Many people don’t like small talk but try to consider it as an opportunity to learn about others as well as yourself.

The aforementioned guidelines can help us all be a good “conversationalist” and enhance our ability to talk and listen effectively. And again, as with all things in life, it is a practice! And as far as difficult and sensitive conversations go? I truly believe in speaking the truth kindly, calmly and compassionately. Like Yogi Tea tags often advise: “Say it straight, say it simple and say it with a smile.”

The other guideline I like to adhere to pertains to gossip. When it comes to gossip, unless it is the absolute truth, kind and helpful, I do not partake in it. “He said / she said” scenarios are toxic, and they take on the characteristics of the “telephone game” in that each time the story is told to another person, and that person repeats it, the story has changed entirely. It truly is a waste of energy and a detriment to our mental health….just sayin’.

So my darlings, what do you say? Let’s put away our phones a little more often, and seek out a friend, co-worker, family member or complete stranger, and let’s practice the art of face-to-face conversation. And remember to be aware of the message that a phone in hand, or at the table, sends to our friends, family and colleagues when we’re in their company: that they don’t matter. Will you join me in having more face-to-face conversations where we are totally present for each other?

And if you are one of those people who are petrified and afraid to step out of your comfort zone….take baby steps. One step at a time, You may just be surprised at how you blossom and come to life. And speaking of life, the world needs more people to come alive!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

My Guest Blogger… Act III

Sister Mother Friend

by Shannon Green

Sister: Technically I AM a sister. I have an older brother, but growing up I always wanted a sister. My brother was into sports, and I liked dolls and dress–up. Occasionally, we would play games together, ride bikes, do sibling-type things, and we would get along; but he would also tease me endlessly, and I remember tears flowing on many occasions.  Because we were not very close, I learned to play alone and entertain myself. As we got older, the teasing stopped and we just became two people living in rooms next to each other.

We were a grade apart in school and, once I started high school, we sometimes even shared classes. I definitely got the feeling that my big brother did not like me being in any of his classes. I don’t remember him ever taking me under his wing, showing me around, or introducing me to people. What I do remember are other kids coming up to me in the hallway asking me why I didn’t come with my brother to a certain party… feeling a little embarrassed and let down I would reply, “because he didn’t tell me about it.” I knew other sibling combinations at school where the older sibling looked after the younger, brought them to parties, acted like friends, and it definitely made me sad to realize that my brother seemed to prefer not to have me around. We were more like strangers who just happened to share the same last name and live in the same house. I distinctly remember being incredibly happy my senior year because my brother was going to be at college and I would now have the bathroom all to myself!  I can honestly admit that I did not miss him while he was gone.

As the years passed our relationship continued to change, and we grew a bit closer.  There was even a time in my late 20s when my husband and I lived with my brother in California. This time period probably brought us closer than any other, and I think we now even have a friendship, albeit a strange one where we rarely talk and still don’t share personal feelings. My brother even surprised me one time by calling me his “best-friend.”  Wow! I felt honored.

My brother is a very busy person, and we don’t see each other often. We mainly talk when I call him, but occasionally he surprises me with a phone call or random text message. I worry about him living alone, eating right and exercising enough, but I know he will never listen to his little sister. So, while I technically am a “sister,” I still  feel like I missed out on something by growing up with a brother. I always wished to have a “sister” of my very own … someone I could talk to about “girl” things, ask advice, share clothes, etc… older, younger, doesn’t matter. In my mind there seems to be a special bond between sisters, and I have always longed for it.

Mother: Yes, I have a mother. NO, I am NOT a mother. Growing up I remember always wanting to be near my mother. I wanted to cuddle and hug her. I wanted her affection and to feel safe. I was often shy, especially in new situations, and I remember I would try hiding behind my mother’s legs so people wouldn’t talk to me. I also vividly remember hearing her say things to me like “stop hanging on me” or “stop being so sensitive”.… I wish I had more memories of us doing things together and having special “mother/daughter” time, but I don’t. I do remember her taking time to be my Girl Scout Leader and that she volunteered as a Class Mom at my elementary school, but one memory that never seems to fade is that, during the four years I was on our High School Swim Team, she never came to one of my meets. This always makes me sad when I think about that.

I have a lot of hang ups about my relationship with my mother. I don’t feel like she has ever known who I am or ever tried to get to know me. Probably the most painful memory is the time I called her extremely upset about a very personal incident that had occurred. My husband and I had been hoping to start a family, but it just was not happening. As you can imagine, this was an upsetting time in my life and very emotional and stressful. On this particular day, we had just received news that my husband’s younger brother had gotten his girl-friend pregnant. I was devastated. I had dreamed for so long of starting a family and having the first grandchild in the family, and now it seemed like my dreams were crushed.

My heart was broken, and I felt like it had literally been ripped in two. I called my mother to talk to her, hoping to get some motherly love. As I was telling my mom the situation and waiting for her to offer me some compassion and love, the only thing I remember her telling me was that I needed to “get over it.” That is the memory I have… Those are the words I remember…  Maybe there were more words in the conversation, but I think I stopped listening after that. My heart was broken, and I was crushed by her words and lack of empathy and love. At a time when I really needed love and support, my own mother seemed to be invalidating my feelings as she told me to stop being so sensitive and just “get over it.”

That was the day I stopped telling my mother anything personal about myself. I tried for a while to see if I could change our relationship and make it more a little more friendly.  I knew people who talked to their mothers daily and had nice friendly conversations about life and personal issues, so I made it a point to call her frequently hoping that she would start to enjoy talking to me and reach out to me in return. But she never did. At one point, I was so distraught as to why my mother just did not seem to love me that I reached out to my brother. Since he was the only other person who knew her like I did I figured he might have some insight.  It was that conversation that made me realize she did love me and that she was loving me, but in her way, and I accepted that she was probably doing the very best she could. It was just that our styles of “love” are so completely different and, unfortunately for me, it just wasn’t the love that I craved or needed.

That conversation with my brother changed the way I viewed my Mom and helped me release the resentment I felt towards our relationship. Sometimes. we may not think that people love us when the reality is that they are doing the best that they can with what they have. The truth is that she is giving me the love she is capable of giving me, and I cannot be angry with her for doing her best. We may not have the mother/daughter relationship that I have always wanted, but I accept it for what it is and have released the belief that she does not love me. Arriving at that realization shifted something inside of me and helped me accept our relationship for what it is rather than what I wished it was.

Friend: Some people don’t like the kind of friend I am. Maybe I scare them off with my personality? I believe that I can come off as too needy, too bossy, and a bit of a know-it-all. Over the years I have realized these harsher parts of my personality, and I have worked on them. I think I have become a “softer” version of myself as I have matured. I have realized that I can be a bit much to handle, but I have also realized that some people just aren’t meant to be in your life for the long haul, while others are with you for a lifetime.

As a result, the friends I have are limited in quantity, but are of EXTREMELY HIGH quality. To say I love them like family is probably an understatement because I think I love them more than my family. These are the people who “get me.” They are the ones who stick around through the ups and downs. They know my struggles and successes. They are the ones I call crying or with whom I want to share good news.  They are the ones who provide support and bolster me up when I am having a rough time.

Over the years, we have stuck by each other on our respective journeys and evolution as human beings. We are miles apart in location but always just a phone call away. Throughout the years, our shared interests have brought us to similar paths as we explore the meaning of life and our purpose on Earth. These amazing women have become my “soul sisters.” In them I found what I was always craving as a child. I found big sisters and little sisters. In them I have found mothers and have been able to be a mother as well.

Recently, I read something that really helped put things into perspective. My friend Christy encouraged me (rather enthusiastically) to buy the book The Archetype Diet by Dana James. In the book the author talks about 4 archetypes of women. Very interesting stuff…I highly recommend the read. Upon reading the book and the description of the various archetypes I discovered, surprisingly to me, that I would be classified as “The Nurturer.”  The following passage describing the Nurturer Archetype really hit me, like an arrow in a bullseye:

“Because she was deprived of the maternal attention young girls need, she learned to fill this void by protecting and nurturing others, especially taking on the role of mother she lacked. Although the recipients of her nurturing could not make up for the failing of her own mother, she depended on them to give her the acceptance she so craved. By showing love to others, she hoped to get it in return.”  

After reading this passage, I realized that it described me to a tee! It was as if my whole life now made sense! Why I always wanted to check in on people and make sure that they were doing well. Why I always wanted to help my friends be successful, even back in high school helping them with homework or studying for a test. In college, I would be the one to drive to a party to make sure everyone got there and home safely. Why I always double checked that no one left anything behind, made sure people had enough to eat, and weather-appropriate clothing. Why I always felt drawn to take care of people and why I want to be there for them when they are having a difficult time, needing advice, needing to vent, needing to cry, or needing a hug.

According to Dana James’ chapter, The Nurturer:

Showing affection for others and caring for them is your gift and it should be celebrated. But choose the recipients wisely. Pause before you bestow your kindness, time, love, or money. Ask yourself if this person genuinely needs your help or if they can handle things on their own.”

It suddenly made sense. Why there were some people who seemed put-off when I tried to offer help. They didn’t want it. They didn’t need it, but I couldn’t see it. These past few years have helped me to understand many things about myself and, as I mentioned earlier, I feel like I have become a “softer” version of myself. I am working on my “hard edges” and learning to develop things like patience, managing expectations, and letting go of things I cannot control. I am filling my tool box with the help of Yaya and her book suggestions, but also with the time I set aside to read, journal and meditate. I have taken myself on as a student, teaching myself as I am learning and honestly trying to be the best version of myself I can imagine.

As a result, I have found that my relationships have improved. My friendships have deepened. I have become able to offer my help to those who genuinely seem willing to accept it, and it fills my heart with such love knowing that I am able to help… whether it is on the receiving end of a phone call or creating a spreadsheet. I told my friend Christy once that I did not know what my purpose in this life was, and that the only thing I wanted most and that I enjoyed the most was helping those I love. She was quiet for a moment and then said, “That is your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be your job.”  I have to say that I think I absolutely agree with her.

I do not think it can be better expressed than in the below passage which closes out “The Nurturer” Chapter in The Archetype Diet:

“Embracing the positive attributes of the other archetypes will help you achieve balance and rise to the crown… When you layer in these attributes, you will transform from a Nurturer seeking to heal your childhood wounds to a woman who heals the world with her loving presence, compassion, dignity, and nobility.”

Sister Mother Friend….I have found these. I have become these. In my “Vibe Tribe” (the named bestowed to our retreat group back in April from the outstanding owner of the amazing Pranamar Villas Yoga Retreat Center in Costa Rica), I have found my FAMILY.  I feel loved. I feel understood and accepted in a way I never did before. Even more importantly, I feel these things from myself.

I now realize that I cannot put expectations on my relationships with people, whether it is my brother, mother, or friends. I must accept that what they are giving to the relationship may be the very most they have to offer at that moment. The most important person whose love I need to feel, and whose support I need in my life, is ME. In giving my love and support to others freely and openly, with no strings and expectations, I have found the love I always felt was missing. I have found a peace in my relationships and appreciate them for what they are –  not what I wish they would be. By letting go of how I thought things should be and accepting things for what they are, I have been able to find joy in those hard relationships that used to bring me pain.

You can’t be everything to everybody, and they can’t be everything to you. Sometimes, you find the love of a mother in someone who was just a stranger to you five years ago, and the relationship of a sister in a friend you have known for over two decades. Blood does not make the relationship. Accepting people for who they are, and releasing the expectations I set on them. created what I can only call “freedom” for me. By accepting situations for what they are, I now find myself less worried over outcomes and more able to enjoy the present. I find there to be far fewer conflicts in my relationships and much more peace and harmony.

Relationships, whether family or friend, are never easy. But I truly believe they can be made more harmonious.

  • Is there someone you wish you had a different relationship with?
  • Are you willing to try things in a new way?
  • Are you placing expectations on the relationship that is creating discomfort for you?
  • Can you release those expectations and instead accept that what is being given to you is the very best that can be given at the moment?
  • Have you examined your relationship with the most important person in your life, yourself?

Wishing you peace and love in all of your relationships!

I’m here if you need me…Your sister mother and friend, Blondie

 

 

Grow Through It All

“When our souls are healthy, we change the environment; the environment doesn’t change us” -Pastor Carl Lentz

This past week I have been finishing up the numerous books I’ve been simultaneously reading. While I still have 2 more to go, I did finish Own the Moment by Carl Lentz. And not only did I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoy reading it, but I finally made it to service at Hillsong Church this morning. What an experience! One can’t help but getting that feeling of  coming alive and getting our souls infused with a healthy and relatable dose of “the all-knowing word.”

I will be taking a few weeks off from posting my blog, because I need to diligently and fervently work on all the blogs I want to write and schedule before going away and disconnecting from social media. I usually schedule one per week, usually on Wednesdays, while I am away. I will keep you all posted!

But not to worry…I am going to leave you with some meaningful food for thought, conversation, guidance and perhaps even some writing for the next couple of weeks while I devote some uninterrupted time to writing myself. Should you choose to deeply explore the questions, it is my hope that you will be left feeling an expansive sense of Self. There is always room for growth, darlings! The key is to be accountable and keep plugging away at this most powerful, pure-hearted, heart-centered and self-loving process.

So, I leave you with some questions from Own the Moment. The questions were scattered throughout the book. I may have tweaked some questions and added a few of my own. Nevertheless, I selected the ones that spoke to me in hopes they speak to you as well. Like I said, reflect on them, talk about them, journal or simply explore them in which ever way serves you best:

  • Do you know where you are going?
  • What drives you?
  • What shapes you?
  • What fuels you?
  • What guides you?
  • Are you changing?
  • Are you influencing?
  • What are you listening to today?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it life-giving?
  • Where do you put your focus?
  • What are your challenges?
  • Who challenges you?
  • Do you have broken relationships because you’re consumed with the wrongs somebody else committed and you have failed to own your part in the matter?
  • Can you be more constructive and look inward to bring change in your life?
  • Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
  • What do you demand for your own life?
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Do you know your convictions –  the “yes, I wills” and the “no, I won’ts?”
  • Are you changing your environment, or is your environment changing you?
  • Have you had to adjust your standards to fit in?
  • Have you lived with such conviction as people start rethinking their standards because of you?
  • How can you influence others?
  • Are you clear about your intentions?
  • Do the people in your life feel valued and appreciated?
  • If so, why? What do you do that makes them feel this way?
  • What would you do if you truly didn’t care about what other people thought about you?
  • How would you live, what would you pursue, and ultimately  how much fun would you have?
  • How many things in life would you have already tried if you didn’t fear failure?
  • How many people in your life might you be holding to an unrealistic standard of completeness when you have areas that are in the process of healing?
  • Do you find yourself living in the past?
  • Are you constantly in a hurry?
  • If you take a genuine hard look at what influences you today and the relationships that you hold most dear, are they helping or hurting you?
  • Could it be said that some things that should not be an option in your life have been given the opportunity to grow?
  • What makes you the most insecure in life? Why?
  • Where can you find time to stop and be grateful for all that you have in your life?
  • What is the one thing you can do today that can make a huge difference in the life of another?

We can look at our answers and realize our journey, and our task, is to do the work in order to grow through whatever it is we are going through and, ultimately, evolve into the best version of ourselves AND live a full, meaningful and purposeful life in the process! We have much to do in terns of growing. By the same token, we can also look to see if we are allowing the way we live to suck the passion out of our lives.

We can further investigate our answers and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life- and one that is filled with peace, tranquility and serenity. We can see, and feel,  if we are operating from a place of love or fear. We can look to see if we’re choosing to live in joy despite of the life circumstances that befall us all.

Ultimately, our answers will reveal if we are living from a place of truth, transparency and authenticity, or of we are living a life of dishonesty, fraud, lies, deceit, half-truths, and omissions that are compromising our soul’s integrity. Remember, the choice is always ours to make!

Darlings, stay calm, cool and continue to grow through it all

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Our Nation’s Birthday

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul” – Moshe Dayan

Greetings!

If you subscribe to Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and read it this past week, you may want to skip this blog and catch up on some other one. You see, I humbly decided it was appropriately fitting to share her blog with you. Why?

Well, as I was mulling over what I wanted to write in honor of the 4th of July, I decided to hit “pause” and catch up on some unread emails. For some reason, I had not gotten around to reading this past week’s Sunday Paper. And……drumroll…..there it was!  Anything I could have imagined, that we could have imagined, said, felt and more was right there in black and white. Maria’s Sunday Paper resonated so much for me, that I decided right then and there I needed to share it with you. Not doing so would have been a disservice to her beautifully written and thought-provoking essay.

Regardless of our party politics, which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you are blue, red or purple, I am certain you will find comfort, solace and hope in her words: Enjoy the read my darlings!

“The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.

One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.

Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.

We really do live in “you never know” times. Parents send their kids off to school and hold their breath. Journalists go to work and hold their breath as they pursue the truth. Many people hold their breath now as they watch the turnover in the Supreme Court. Students who are graduating from high school and college hold their breath as they head out into an uncertain job market. Boomers hold their breath hoping that they won’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other horrendous disease.

When I think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. That’s when I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep, long breath. I remind myself that these negative images are only a small part of what’s going on.

I remind myself of what I do know and believe to be true. I believe that we still live in a great nation — one that we are all so lucky to call home. I believe that we live in what I like to call “A Purple Nation” — one where it’s not red vs. blue, but where red and blue mix together to give us the majestic and brilliant color purple. Purple may be my favorite color, but it’s also a color of independence, unity and freedom.

I believe we have more in common than we realize. I think the two political parties drive us apart and make us live in a state of distrust and judgment, but I believe that if we all sat still every morning for just 10 minutes, then we would calm our minds and our central nervous systems and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe that if we all took a moment to take off our blinders and widen our gazes, then we would be able to look into people’s hearts, listen to their life stories, and realize that we have so much in common. I believe that we would discover that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our office mates are all seeking the same sense of belonging that we are. We would realize that we’re all seeking the same sense of freedom and safety. We would realize that we all have the same desire to do well for ourselves, for our families, and for our country.

Don’t call me naive or tell me I’m in denial. Call me observant and tell me, “Yes, Maria, I see this, too.” 

The vast majority of us are good, kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens who love our country and would stop to help our neighbor. I can see this when my mind and my heart aren’t racing. I can see this when I take a step back and don’t listen to the voices telling me that the sky is falling down.

When I widen my gaze, I see hardworking individuals everywhere who put others before themselves. They work in our hospitals, in our fire stations, in our schools, and in our community centers. They volunteer for our military and for non-profits all across the country. They build houses and playgrounds. They serve in churches, on hotlines, in shelters and in nursing homes.

I see young entrepreneurs trying to solve our most pressing social ills with innovative and socially conscious businesses. Their hopes, their desires, and their determination give me hope. I meet with them all the time and I never ask them what political party they belong to. I ask them what their dreams are, what they want to change, and where they get their hope. Their answers always inspire me.

I also see so many hard-working people who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and who don’t give up. I see people coming together from all walks of life – crossing religious divides, gender divides, and racial divides – to use their skills and their smarts to make life better for others.

Everywhere around us, people are working together. They are listening to one another, trying to understand one another, and trying to make a difference. When I think about all of this, I feel a sense of hope and calm wash over me. “Maria,” I say to myself, “all is well.”

There is so much hope! There are so many good people! People who are working to achieve the American dream, which is still very much alive and attainable. If you don’t believe me, think about what’s been created in recent years alone. We are a nation of people that conceived of Amazon, Uber and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” just to name a few great things. We are creative, conscious, collaborative and caring people. We are big dreamers and on-the-ground doers. 

So, as we look ahead to our nation’s birthday on Wednesday, know this. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have a free press. We are free to practice any religion. We are free to gather, to organize, and to marry anyone we want. We are free to wander off the beaten path, or to jump into the fray. We are free to shout and use our voices, or to just calmly go about our days. And, if you feel like any of your freedoms are under attack, then remember that you have the freedom to vote, to fight for what you believe in, to push for change, and to make a difference.

Let’s remember that when we stay in our goodness, we can see the goodness in others. When we help our neighbors, we can know that we are actually doing the Lord’s work. And, when we use our voices in a calm, confident, certain and clear way, we can know that we are doing what our forefathers and our foremothers fought for us to do.

As Americans, we are what everyone wants to be. Free. So, take a deep breath, look around and within, and celebrate that freedom. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it this week. And celebrate it each and every day. 

Wave the flag this week. Wear your red, white and blue. But also consider wearing a little purple, too. It just might remind you – and others – that you believe in unity. I hope you can see that it’s possible. It’s right there in front of you. Just open your eyes.”

Darlings, I don’t know about you, but I am committed to widening my gaze. Will you join me? Great, I thought so. Now let’s take some long, deep breaths and free our souls!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC