Inner Clarity

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Think about this for a moment, my darlings: the present moment is where we have “an appointment with life” as Thich Nhat Hanh is known for saying. After all, the past no longer exists and neither does the future. Yet, many of us live somewhere between the two… with one foot in the past and one in the future.

What happens when this occurs? We are either depressed or anxious. Sad or worried. Rather than being so fully steeped in present moment awareness and the joy and happiness that can be found there, we are living in some imaginary place where life does NOT exist.

Enjoying and basking in the joys that are ever so present in our lives, even during difficult times, takes practice. It takes work to undo the havoc we’ve created by doing all the things that keep us from being mindful and fully engaged in our everyday lives. I like to say that we are so caught up in “do-ing” that we have forgotten the subtle art of “be-ing.” We’ve gotten so far removed from the simplicity of life!

Instead, we allow ourselves to get caught up in “stuff” that is devoid of meaning. The minutia that robs us of quality life and quality time with ourselves and our loved ones. These are the stressors in our lives. The things that require endless work and drain us of our life energy. And guess what? It’s a choice we make. Yep, we choose our behaviors. And what we allow, persists!

The more important question is: WHY do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the things that keep us from being front and center in our own lives?

For some, it may be the fear of missing out while for others it may be the inability to be enjoy their own company. Some of us may actually enjoy the chaos, maybe even create it, and others may just throw their hands up and feel that there’s nothing they can do about it. And yet for some, running from the present moment can be a defense mechanism which keeps them from “feeling.”

One thing I know for sure is that, when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the vicious cycle that tears us away from our joy and happiness, it is because we are lacking inner clarity. In my book, inner clarity is part of self-care. And the art of self-care is also a practice.

If you are not sure where or how to start, fear not! As with all things divinely ordained, I just finished reading an email from Panache Desai, and in it he listed six steps to help us maintain inner clarity.

  • Avoid chaotic and stressful situations. All they serve to do is derail your focus and draw you into their chaos. 
  • Calm and center yourself several times a day through a habit of conscious breathing. Doing so, lowers stress and reminds you of who you really are and why you’re really here. 
  • Unplug yourself at least once a week from all devices, social media and news cycles. We are drowning in information, much of it increasingly negative. Step away from what’s secondary and focus on what’s primary. 
  • Go out into nature. We are natural beings. We are meant to be in forests, at the seashore and in the open. We are not meant to be tied to screens and cubicles and artificial lighting. 
  • Get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is restorative. Sleep is relaxing. Sleep is necessary to mental and physical health. A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of focus and clarity more than any other cause. 
  • Get as much exercise as you can. We were meant to move. When we move, we are using our bodies, and our minds, as they are supposed to be used. When you are sedentary, your mind and your body become clogged with sediment. Exercise flushes out the unnecessary, leaving you lighter

If you take the time to use these steps as a guide and make them a part of your everyday coming and going, I can assure that you will start to to feel refreshed, renewed, vibrant, energetic, joyous, expansive, peaceful and clear. Invest in your Self, my darlings…you’re worth it!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

New Beginnings

“There’s a universal life force that supports and orchestrates everything. It all works together in perfect harmony. You are one of those moving parts.” -Wayne Dyer

Happy New Year darlings!

The new year is an auspicious time of the year to set goals, intentions, and resolutions of all kinds. A popular tool for doing so is a vision board. There are all sorts of classes, workshops, webinars and how-tos that help us design, create, and execute our very own vision board. All we need to do is google “vision board” and there are sites upon sites to explore and help us create one.

Why are vision boards so popular? Because there is most definitely a power in visualization and manifestation. After all, we are divine co-creators in this most powerful, comical and magical universe.

The art of vision boarding has become quite profitable to say the least, as we can see when we google them. We see supplies and resources of all kinds. In reality though, all we need are scissors, old magazines, glue, poster board and, if we prefer, a nice picture frame that we can use to display our creation.

Currently, I have two vision boards hanging. One is more of a life visioning board in that the images and words represent and guide the life I live, how I want to conduct my life, as well as the meaning, purpose and significance here in this lifetime. The other vision board is more of a dream board…which I made in the new year of 2018 and represented what I wanted to manifest in my personal life last year.

When we use pictures and words to depict our dreams, wishes and desires, we stimulate the emotional part of our brain. In doing so, we also activate the Law of Attraction. I don’t know about you, but anytime I have written anything down, put up images, power words, affirmations or motivational displays representing my wishes and desires, the universe conspired to deliver. I’m amazed when I come across some random journal entry from long ago and how what I wrote about has come to fruition. Darlings, whether you believe it or not, we all have the power to co-create anything we put our minds to. We are powerful beyond measure!

On this New Year’s Day, I took the time to really look at and examine the vision board I made last January. Once I looked at all the images, words and phrases that I had used, I took the time to write each of those words in my journal. It was almost as if by looking solely at the words, I was able to see yet another vision that was created. In a sense, it gave me a different perspective.

Perspective is something a beloved yoga teacher of mine spoke about in class this morning as she decided to start the class with all of us in legs up the wall. For the non- yogis out there, legs up the wall is an uber- restorative and highly beneficial pose. If there’s only one pose you could do each day, it would be legs up the wall. By being inverted, we are forced to look at things from a different angle. Since it was the start of the new year, my teacher chose to talk about looking at things from a different angle while we where in this pose.

And looking at my vision board from a different angle is just what I did. I created the vision board in hopes of attracting a romantic partner in 2018. The images and words I chose represented the lifestyle I would be living. As I looked at my 2018 vision board and the words that I had chosen, I realized that I was, in fact, living that life..sans the romantic partner. Hmmm… how interesting and fascinating!

After looking at my vision board from a different angle for quite some time, I realized I did not want to change or alter it for 2019. Instead, I want to work with it more actively and intentionally. How did I come to that conclusion? Well, I happen to come across a vision board checklist by Jack Canfield in Mantra Magazine, and I realized that I did not “truly” integrate all components of my board all as fully as I needed to.

I thought I’d share the checklist with you so that we can all benefit from some type of guideline on how to best benefit from the time, intention and love we have put forth in creating our very own vision, dream or life visioning boards. And, I will also share the words and phrases I used on my board because I’m all about the sharing. Besides, some words/ phrases may resonate for you and you can incorporate them into your beautiful creation. But first, the checklist:

  • My vision board depicts goals and dreams in all areas of my life, or in just one specific area that I’d like to focus on.
  • The images I chose represent or symbolize the experiences, feelings and possessions I want to attract into my life on my board.
  • There are positive affirmations, inspirational words, quotations and thoughts on my board.
  • Only words and images that best represent my purpose, my ideal future and words that inspire positive emotions and me were used on my vision board.
  • My vision board is neat, and I was selective about what I placed on my vision board.
  • I keep my vision board somewhere prominent, such as near my bed or on my desk.
  • I leave my vision board in a viewable position as often as I am comfortable with.
  • I spend time each morning and evening visualizing, affirming, believing and internalizing my goals.
  • I look at the images that represent my achievements, and feel gratitude as my dreams begin to manifest.
  • I wrote down the date I created my vision board.
  • I create a new vision board each year.
  • I regularly hold my vision board in my hands and really internalize the future it represents.
  • I read my affirmations and inspirational words aloud at least twice a day
  • I see myself living in the manner of my life is on my vision board.
  • I regularly feel myself in the future I have designed.
  • I believe the items on my board are already mine when I look at them.
  • I am grateful for the good that is already present in my life.
  • I acknowledge and celebrate any goals I have achieved.
  • I acknowledge and learn from the changes I have seen and felt.
  • I regularly acknowledge the law of attraction at work in my life.
  • I have fun and never give up.

And now, I will leave you with a laundry list of words, phrases and quotes for you to peruse, ponder and contemplate. Yes, there are so many! That’s because my vision board is quite large and some of the words are in all types of fonts and sizes (it wasn’t until I actually wrote the words in my journal that I was quite amazed at how many there were).

Love-own your glow-light carriers-transform your world-bliss-good times-getting better all the time-live your best life-real-the yoga of awakening-fearless living-widen your world-eternity now-surround yourself with people who lift you higher-give happily ever after-balanced is beautiful-natural spiritual progress-share your passion with the world-when your vacation becomes a lifestyle-yes you can-believe-truly gracious-truly joyful-truly dazzling-truly daring-come out come out whoever you are-the magic-it’s a match-gratitude-when dreams take flight-the beach-great outdoors-shining moments-a place to dream-love begins at home-live in paradise inside and out-a place in the sun-gorgeous-living out loud-beautiful-a little night music-recharge your body and spirit-get away from it all only to discover more-where are we going-see, hear, taste, smell, touch-explore your senses-widen your world-glimpse the possibility of a diverse, peaceful and creative future-bathing beauty-go glam-adventures in the kitchen-homey eternity-bring some glamour to the table-time for reflection-your time is your own-resilience-integrate-self-awareness-engagement-vibrance-getting the love you want...didn’t I tell you were so many!?!?

Finally, a quote that says it all: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, and find eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”

It’s time we all create and manifest the life we want and the changes we wish to be and see in this world. Now go create, dream and inspire… may the force be with you in 2019, my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

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

Expand Your Light

“By expanding and aligning with the light within, you will always be guided, and you will always have the wisdom and knowledge you need to move forward.” Tanaaz

Full Moon Greetings my darlings!

In one of my previous blogs, I shared a portion of a new moon ritual from from one of my favorite sites, forever conscious.com, by Tanaaz. She always has the loveliest rituals for clearing and cleansing, and I find them to be most powerful. As a matter of fact, some of my “Yayas” and I include Tanaaz’s weekly energy reading as one of our “must-do” activities on Sunday evenings. And, quite often, we compare notes on the magnitude of the activity and what arose for us when doing so.

I must confess though, I didn’t get to reading this week’s forecast yet as I got a little side-tracked last night by the 3 pets I am sitting for…..they are so entertaining! I just get lost observing their behavior, dynamics and interactions with each other. There are two adorable little dogs, Diva Mia and Miss Ellie, and the sweetest of cats, Penny (aka Penny-Lishcious). So, it wasn’t until this morning that I opened up my weekly email and realized the full moon is tomorrow. I took a glance at the Full Moon Ritual and decided I wanted to share Tanaaz’s entire article with you.

As per Tanaz, “The May 29th Full Moon in the fiery, adventurous sign of Sagittarius is going to be opening our minds, expanding our hearts, and encouraging us to take that leap of faith.” By now, you are well aware I am all about expanding our hearts, leading from the heart, and always aligning and connecting to the divine light source within us, so how could I not share the Full Moon Ritual for Expanding the Light Within???

I am a firm believer in taking the time each and every day to ground, connect, align, and ask for guidance. I tap into my heart. It’s equally important to take the time to ask,”How can I serve?” One of my personal prayers is, “Dear God, my mind is open. My heart is open. Continue to fill it with your love. Continue to fill it with your light. Continue to guide me, guard me, direct me and protect me.” This little ritual of mine primes my day and truly allows me to go out into the world feeling safe, grounded and with clarity. More importantly, it allows me to go about my intention to inspire, love serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start.

Now back to the ritual! Tanaaz goes on to say:

“This Full Moon is really going to help us get in touch with our true desires, and to think about how we can upgrade and shift our lives to a new level.

This Full Moon also has extra special meaning for me, as it falls on the death anniversary of my sister who passed away last year. Her name means light, and so I felt inspired to make this ritual about finding and expanding your own light.”

Sagittarius Full Moon Ritual for Expanding the Light Within

This ritual is best done from May 28- June 9, 2018

You will need:

  • Smudging tool of choice (sage, palo santo, incense etc.)
  • 3 Candles
  • Pen and 3 paper (plus more for journaling if you wish)
  • Bowl of water

Directions:

1.) Smudge your surroundings and your aura using your preferred method. You can read more about how to do this here. As you smudge, recite the following mantra-

“As I release I become a true expression of my light. As I cleanse, my light shines brighter than before. As I let go and surrender, the light within me glows. I am a glowing, radiant, white light.”

2.) To set up your ritual, light your candles and place them in a row. Take your pieces of paper and write one of these words on each paper- “Action”, “Mindset”, “Expression”. Fold up the three pieces of paper and shuffle them around so it’s not clear which is which. Leave them to the side for later.

3.) Take 7 deep breaths in and out just to relax and settle into your body. Gaze on the candles in front of you for a moment and then close your eyes. See the light behind your eyes, and then imagine a beautiful big, ball of blue energy in front of you. See this ball of energy as a magnificent light that is here to nourish, heal and expand you.

4.) As you inhale, imagine breathing in as much of this blue light energy as possible. See the beautiful blue energy going into your body, see it filling you up and nourishing your insides. See it expanding your energy. See the blue ball getting smaller with every inhale. As you exhale, imagine releasing any junk or toxic muck from inside of you. Really push it out of you. Keep breathing like this until you have inhaled all of that beautiful blue ball of energy.

5.) With your eyes still closed, quietly ask your higher self, spirit guides or guardian angels, to guide you to finding your true light and your true self. When you feel ready, take your three pieces of paper that you wrote on earlier. Shuffle them around and then without looking, choose one paper to go in front of each candle.

6.) Each of your three candles represent the past, present, and future. The word in front of the first candle (the past) represents what you need to let go or release. It represents something that you need to adjust, change, or let go of in order to move forward. The second candle represents the present and what you need to focus on right now. It indicates where you need to put your energy. And the last candle represents the future and what is ahead for you.

Open up the pieces of paper to see what message is in front of each candle for you.

For example, “mindset” may indicate there is something in your mindset holding you back or that you need to use your mindset to become more positive or confident. Mindset can also represent clarity, and feeling clearer on a mental level.

“Action” may indicate that you need to think about your actions before moving ahead, or that you need to stop holding yourself back and take steps to get things moving. Action is very much about adjusting something on a physical level in order to see results and change.

“Expression”, may indicate that you need to express your truth about something, or to connect with how you are really feeling. It can also indicate creativity and perhaps a time where you can really feel confident to share your ideas and bring them to the table. Expression is also about being true to yourself, and expressing your true self out into the world.

Use your intuition to guide you to the appropriate meaning for you.

7.) Feel free to journal or write down whatever insights or inspirations are stirred for you. Accept the message, even if it doesn’t make sense to you just yet, and know that more clarity will come in time.

8.) Take your piece of paper in front of the first candle and burn it while repeating “I am light”. Drop the paper into the bowl of water when it gets too hot. Repeat this for the next two papers, using the corresponding candle.

9.) Now sit with your hands in prayer position. Close your eyes and feel your beautiful energy radiating around you. See the blue light that has filled and nourished you. Feel the message you received about your past, present, and future. When ready, repeat this mantra or write your own:

“Thank you for now I am filled. Thank you for now I know the way. Light is within me, around me, and flows through me. I will spread light. I will be light. I am light.” 

 

Wow! Action. Mindset. Expression. Three powerful words, don’t you think?  Just glancing at these three words gets my wheels spinning! Action is required it we want to do something or change something; Mindset is needed to get that change rolling; and Expression is how it will all unfold and how it leads us to be the fullest expression of who we are meant to be. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to doing this little ritual. Why? Oh, maybe because I am always delightfully intrigued and surprised at what shows up!

Darlings, may you always be guided by your heart, allow it to expand and radiate the light within, and may you allow it to guide you to inspire, love and serve!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

My Guest Blogger

“How I Met My Yaya and Faced My Fears”

 by Shannon “Blondie” Green

Recently, while on a Yoga Retreat with my dearest people in this world, Yaya (as I call her but as you may know as the one and only Jo-Ann Carricarte, the driving force behind this blog) mentioned  that I should guest blog for her, as part of my Yaya mentorship (more to come on that at another time).  As we were discussing the “assignment,” I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t know what to write about. She suggested that I should start at the beginning of my journey.  So that is where this story begins…

Time: March 2013

Place: Lumeria, Maui, HI

Now I will admit that prior to this experience I was the quintessential worrywart and control freak. Reflecting back, I now see that I lived in constant fear. My life consisted of many “what-if” scenarios, and I believed it was normal to worry about things like money, health, cars breaking down, etc.  I set my watch ahead about 10 minutes so I wouldn’t be late, and I always had to wear it. I believed everything had to be planned, and planned, and planned some more. I did not have faith to just let things unfold organically. When things did not go as I planned, I did not handle it gracefully and with ease. I responded very emotionally and often had a difficult time resolving the problem. At this point in my life I was 36, and I knew that these behaviors were not serving me…and I certainly wasn’t happy in my life, but what I didn’t know was what I could do to change things.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing, life long best friend, Christy, who decided she was going to organize a weeklong yoga retreat to Maui. And luckily for me, my best friend from college, Claire, convinced me that we NEEDED to go!

As we began our first class, Christy spoke about being present and living in “Maui Time,” where it didn’t matter what time it was, where life moved a little more slowly, and the idea of being purposeful in what we said, thought and did while we were there. At this point, I did something that I will never regret; I decided to remove my watch for the duration of the retreat.

The second thing that happened was that Christy gave us each a small journal to use while we were there. Each day, she would give us journaling exercises and if we chose to do them or not was left up to us.  I soon became engrossed in writing in my little pink journal. My thoughts and reflections helped me realize that one of the reasons I was sad and struggling in my life was because I was filled with so much fear.

The third thing that happened was I met Yaya.  I honestly don’t remember how the conversation began, but there was some mention of her name “Jo-Ann” but how everyone called her “Mama Yaya”. Somewhere along the way I dropped the “Mama” part, and she just became “Yaya” to me.  Any of you who know Jo-Ann know just how “Yaya” she is. She is this vibrant being filled with love and energy. She is funny and energetic, but serious and very much about living her authentic self.  As the week went on, you would often find her “holding court” at the dining room table after we had finished a meal, sitting at the head of the table while me, Claire, and a few of the other ladies were bombarding her with questions about what books to read, what websites we should check out-  all the while writing down everything little thing she said…the list in my journal includes among them the following books, websites, and authors: Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, A Return to Love, The Law of Divine Compensation, Wishes Fulfilled, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, The Power of Now, A New Earth, Daily Om, Daily Love by Mastin Kipp, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Hay House Publishing, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and even more.

Who was this Yaya person?? How did she know all of this stuff and how could I get some of it??? I knew she held answers, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to find the peace and energy and love she spoke of.  My journal is full of entries that talk about how I wanted to have an open heart and clear mind.  How I wanted to listen to the wisdom of my body, my desire to let go of fear and the things that frighten me. I wanted to make room for miracles and be open to abundance coming into my life.  I journaled about my fears of not becoming a mother, of not finding purpose, of growing old and unfulfilled and my desire to release these fears. I knew I needed to let go of my fears and somewhere during that week I began to learn how.

March 15, 2013:  Journal Entry

“Today I let go of what weighs me down.  I accept that my life is unfolding as it should be. I surrender. I am not afraid of what is not happening. I detach from trying to control that which I cannot control.  I surrender to the will of God and the Universe.  I open my heart to whatever may come into it. I welcome what may come in.  I am not afraid of things that don’t turn out the way I thought.  I will enjoy every moment as it unfolds.”

As I reread these words from my journal the other day, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I wrote them or copied them from someone.  They sound so wise and profound that I believe I likely stole them from someone else- except I didn’t note who said them, which I normally do if I write down a quote I like. Regardless, this was the point at which I surrendered and let go. As I continued to read my old journal, I can see how this day was a turning point where I decided to let fear stop running my life. One thing I know is that the girl who arrived in Maui on March 12, 2013 was not the same girl who left Maui a week later.

The journey hasn’t been easy, and it is still continuing. I won’t lie, it  has been a journey that has taken many years and a lot of work, but it has been wonderful and fulfilling. and I hope to share some of that with you as a guest blogger for Yaya.

So I leave you with the following few questions:

  • Looking back, do you see a turning point in your life where you surrendered and let go of the fears that were holding you back from being your authentic self? 
  • Was there an event that happened that made you realize you wanted to see things differently and live life differently? 
  • Was there a person you met that inspired you to make the change that you had been afraid to make?
  • What tools (journaling, authors, podcasts, etc) have helped you on your journey? 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about that watch, I took of in Maui. It has never been put back on my wrist. ☺

 

Bravo! Thank you, my beautiful Blondie (aka “La Bomba”) for such a beautiful reflection! You took the first step, rose up to the challenge and produced the first of many future blogs to come. I am so proud of how much you have grown, evolved and embraced your magnificence since Maui brought us all together! I am proud of how fabulously you are playing your own version of “Yaya” in your everyday life, both personally and professionally. Thank you for the reflection questions you posed. Thank you for making a difference and making the world a more beautiful place. Thank you for the light you bring to others. Thank you for your love. Lastly, thank you for choosing to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start! I look forward to reading more!!! Love, Yaya xo

When Bad Stuff Happens

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways; either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” – Dalai Lama

Bad stuff  happens to good people. Bad stuff happens to bad people. Bad stuff happens.  Period. And when bad stuff happens, we either fall, or we rise. We either weaken in the face of fear and uncertainty or become strong in the name of love and hope. What would you prefer to do?

Challenging, difficult, painful and heart-wrentching times remind us of what is really important in our lives. It’s a basic tenet of the privilege of being alive. When we take a bird’s-eye view of things, we can see a common thread running through the hardest times – the worst times bring out the best in us. The key, is to have an open heart and to be grateful for the teachings, lessons and blessings these times are bestowing upon us.

Just take a look at everything swirling around in our country and in the world today. I think we can all agree there’s a whole lot of darkness and bleakness that, if we allow it to consume us, will swallow us up entirely. It  will destroy us unless we tap into our inner fortitude and rise above it. We must take action, be patient, steadfast, and wholeheartedly bring our understanding into the world along with our compassion and empathy.

In spite of all the darkness, we can see the light in the cracks that are starting to happen more and more. We see how people are stepping up, coming together for a common good and/or a common purpose. We can look back at tragedies that have occurred throughout history and see the good that ultimately came of it. Destruction must occur in order to rebuild. When bad stuff happens, change occurs. Change that must occur if we are to move humanity forward. And that collective energy that moves us forward is the collective consciousness that is on the rise. We each play a vital role in it, so this is’t a time to lose hope or fall into despair.

We can look at hope and strength as two pillars that build resiliency. During the darkest of times in our lives, hope and strength allow us to keep going…to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And I am not implying that we not allow ourselves to feel pain and sorrow for, if we didn’t, we’d be unfeeling and unloving creatures. Pain affirms that we are alive, that we love, that we are loved, that we are human, that we matter, that we all have pain, and that we all suffer. During these times, we can feel the interconnectedness of a shared humanity.

Challenging times are the greatest teachable moments should we choose to look at them in that light. It’s a time to affirm that we are powerful beyond measure, and tap into that knowingness. It’s when we dig deep, we feel deeply, love harder, and challenge ourselves to rise above…..to empower ourselves with that sense of hope and inner fortitude and be grateful that we have the skills, tools, loved ones and resources to guide and support us. This isn’t a time for self-destructive habits to consume us – for it is the antithesis of self-love, self-respect and self-care. I would hope that we all have people around us that would throw us a life-line if they saw us falling into self-destructive habits. Be grateful if you do. And be sure to hold on to that lifeline should you ever need it!

Here’s a little affirmation /  prayer for you from the May You Know Joy Meditations for Everyday Living book/cards.

May You Know Power

May you know your own power. This power comes from standing firmly in your truth and expressing yourself in the world from that place. It is not about the ego and is never about minimizing others to achieve this. In fact, power comes from recognizing that lessons are constantly presenting themselves to you. Look at every person and event as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your values. These are the seeds of your own self-love, self-respect and empowerment.

Yeah, bad stuff happens, but I am here to remind you that your are powerful beyond measure!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

PS- I will be on holiday this month and disconnecting from social media as much as I can, so my blogs will publish only on Wednesdays throughout the month of March. I will be “defrosting” and allowing the waves to nourish and infuse me with inspiration xo

 

 

 

 

On this Valentine’s Day

“If you want to change the world, love a woman” -Lisa Citorie

In honor of Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate love and all the people we hold near and dear in our hearts, I want to share a beautiful essay with you that I came across long ago. I cannot even begin to tell you where I found it, but I was inspired to save it. So on this day, let’s celebrate the power of women, the sisterhood, the goddesses, the feminine divine, our holiness, our roles as creators in the cycle of life, in nature, in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives, in the workplace and in the world.

To Love a Woman by Lisa Citorie

If you want to change the world…Love a woman-really Love her. 

Find the one who calls to your soul, who doesn’t make sense. Throw away your check list and put your ear to her heart and listen. Hear the names, the prayers, the songs of every living thing – every winged one, every furry and scaled one, every underground and underwater one, every green and flowering one, every not yet born and dying one…Hear their melancholy praises back to the One who gave them life. If you haven’t heard your own name yet, you haven’t listened long enough. If your eyes aren’t filled with tears, if you aren’t bowing at her feet, you haven’t ever grieved having almost lost her.

If you want to change the world… love a woman-one woman beyond yourself, beyond desire and reason, beyond your male preferences for youth, beauty and variety and all your superficial concepts of freedom. We have given ourselves so many choices -we have forgotten that true liberation comes from standing in the middle of the Soul’s fire and burning through our resistance to Love. There is only one Goddess. Look into Her eyes and see, really See! See if she is the one to bring the axe to your head..If not, walk away. Right now! Don’t waste time “trying.” Know that your decision has nothing to do with her because ultimately it’s not with who, but “when” we choose to surrender.

If you want to change the world… Love a woman. Love her for life-beyond your fear of death, beyond your fear of being manipulated by the Mother inside your head. Don’t tell her you’re willing to die for her. Say you’re willing to LIVE with her, plant trees with her and watch them grow. Be her hero by telling her how Beautiful she is in her vulnerable Majesty, by helping her to remember every day that she IS Goddess through your adoration and devotion.

If you want to change the world… Love a woman in all her faces, through all her seasons and she will Heal you of your schizophrenia-your double-mindedness and half-heartedness which keeps your Spirit and body separate-which keeps you alone and always looking outside your Self for something to make your life worth living.

There will always be another woman..Soon the new shiny one will become the old dull one and you’ll grow restless again, trading in women like cars, trading in the Goddess for the latest object of your desire. Man doesn’t need any more choices.What man needs is Woman, the Way of the Feminine, of Patience and Compassion, non-seeking, non-doing, of breathing in one place and sinking deep intertwining roots strong enough to hold the Earth together while she shakes off the cement and steel from her skin.

If you want to change the world… love a woman, just One woman. Love and protect her as if she is the last holy vessel. Love her through her fear of abandonment which she has been holding for all of humanity. No, the wound is not hers to heal alone. No, she is not weak in her co-dependance.

If you want to change the world… Love a woman all the way through until she believes you, until her instincts, her visions, her voice, her art, her passion, her wildness have returned to her- until she is a force of love more powerful than all the political media demons who seek to devalue and destroy her.

If you want to change the world, lay down your causes, your guns and protest signs. Lay down your inner war, your righteous anger and Love a woman…beyond all of your striving for greatness, beyond your tenacious quest for enlightenment. The holy grail stands before you if you would only take her in your arms and let go of searching for something beyond this intimacy. What if peace is a dream which can only be remembered through the heart of Woman? What if a man’s love for Woman, the Way of the Feminine is the key to opening Her heart?

If you want to change the world…Love a woman to the depths of your shadow, to the highest reaches of your Being, back to the Garden where you first met her, to the gateway of the Rainbow realm where you walk through together as Light as One, to the point of no return, to the ends and the beginning of a new Earth.

On this Valentine’s Day, I raise a glass to you-  my darling goddesses, the ultimate expression of the feminine divine…and to all the men and women who know how to love a woman (or who are willing to learn…wink, wink)!

Feel the Love!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

 

 

Now I Know My ABC’s

Accept Differences – Be Kind – Count Your Blessings – Dream – Express Thanks – Forgive – Give Freely – Harm No One – Imagine More – Jettison Anger – Keep Confidences – Love Truly –  Master Something – Nurture Hope – Open Your Mind – Pack Lightly – Quell Rumors – Reciprocate  – Seek Wisdom – Touch Hearts – Understand – Value Truth – Win Graciously – Xemplify Kindness – Yearn For Peace – Zealously Support A Worthy Cause

Precisely ten years ago, I received these ABC’s in a holiday card that I have kept ever since. It too makes its way around my place during the holidays, as does the one I wrote about in a previous post, A Meaningful To-Do List.  Today, more than ever, it seems like the world needs these ABC’s on steroids! I silently give thanks for all the people around the globe who are working hard and tapping into their tools every single day to exemplify these traits, for these human beings are part of our global community helping to heal humanity.

The healing though, as with many things in life, must first start with ourselves. We have been blessed with the privilege of being alive, and with that comes a responsibility to grow and evolve into the very best person we can be. If you are committed to self-improvement, inner investigation and evolving mentally, emotionally and spiritually, you know it’s not an easy job. The work can get ugly, messy, and painful; but, the rewards outweigh it all. Remember, true transformation occurs from the inside out, and it takes time, practice and patience! One of my favorite quotes is, You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.”  Amen to that!!!!

As I was thinking about what to write about in this blog, I came across some questions that one of my favorite people in the world, Seane Corn, posed at a yoga workshop I did with her about 4 years ago. These questions really require us to get to the core of who we are…both our light and shadow side. If we want to be able to live peacefully, coexist and truly effect change, I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves, and the life we have been given, to really dig deep and work hard at chiseling away the dark residue from our shadow side. It’s hard work. It’s also heart work!

Below are numerous questions – I invite you to peruse them, answer them if you like, share them with your tribe, have conversations about them, or just see what thoughts, feelings and emotions arise inside you as you read through them. Hopefully, you will find them useful in some way – if not now, then sometime along your personal journey.

  • How are you showing up for yourself?
  • How are you showing up for others?
  • What tapes are running through your head?
  • What conditioning, grief, dysfunction, pain, sorrow, situations or people who no longer serve you are you still holding on to? Why?
  • What limiting beliefs are holding you back or keeping you stuck in “victim” mentality?
  • Are you in a state of denial?
  • What hurts, traumas, surgery, loss or life situation has shown up?
  • What behavior do you turn to when you want to avoid feeling your feelings?
  • Who or what situation has brought you to your knees?
  • Who or what has broken your heart wide open?
  • Do you choose love over fear?
  • Do you act from a place of love or fear?
  • How can you connect to your pure essence which is Love?
  • How do you show compassion, empathy, understanding and kindness to others?
  • What ways do you show up for yourself from a place of hope, love, compassion, understanding and empathy?
  • Who taught you how to love?
  • How do you contribute to the collective energy of the planet? 
  • Are your thoughts, views, actions and speech negative and judgmental in nature, or are they positive?
  • What words do you use?
  • What type of language do you use to communicate with others?
  • Does your language emanate positive or negative energy?
  • What types of example are you setting for those around you…partners, children, family, friends, co-workers and strangers?
  • Who are your closest relationships?
  • Who or what triggers you?
  • What sensations do these triggers cause in your body?
  • Do you react or pause, then act?
  • What tools can you employ so you don’t react?
  • Do you abuse power?
  • Do you have issues expressing love and acceptance to those of a different race,  nationality, color, gender or religion?
  • What words / language do you use that causes separation?
  • What does peace look and feel like for you?
  • What ways can you contribute to making your surroundings, as well as the collective energy of the world, more peaceful?
  • How can you exercise patience, understanding and non-judgement?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • How do you express gratitude for what shows up in your life?
  • Who were / are your spiritual teachers?
  • What’s your shadow side?
  • How do you shine your light?
  • How do you step into your power?
  • What change do you want to see in the world?

Darlings, may you always feel your essence with each heartbeat…LOVE, LOVE, LOVE…..and send that out to into the world….and feel the earth pulsating with LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Oh, and one last thing – please be sure to practice your ABC’s…wink, wink!

Inhale love and light…Exhale grace and gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

On This Day

“On this day, the Lord gave you life. May you use it to serve here.” Snatam Kaur

On this day, October 25, 1958, a baby girl was born and was given the name Jo-Ann Theresa Carricarte. Yep…..me! Apparently, by what I’ve been told, it was a happily anticipated event (I was late) and my birth brought much joy because a baby girl was born into our family. You see, most of my first cousins were males, and the few female cousins were already much older than me. So, I guess I was like a new toy…a doll.

My mama told me that I drew a lot of attention in my early years. If you saw baby pictures you’d understand why.  Suffice to say I have her to thank for my fashionista ways (among so many other things, of course). She dressed me up every single day. I mean really dressed me up…to the nines! When she would take me out in the carriage or stroller, people asked her if she was taking me to a party. Can you imagine?  Mama was every bit the fashionista herself. Those were the days! Everyone dressed up at all times. Women wore fashionable dresses, shoes, hats, gloves, broaches, necklaces and earrings, stunning coats and furs….you rarely saw them in pants. As a matter of fact my only living grand-mother, at the time, passed at 102 never having worn pants. Can you believe that? And the men! Oh the men were dapper in their slicked back hair, structured suits, ties, bow ties, sweater vests, sports jackets, overcoats, hats and polished shoes. Looking back, all my aunts and uncles were every bit fashionistas too! Guess it’s in my DNA! My favorite picture of me, probably around the age of 3, is sitting on a little stool with my legs crossed and sporting a spectacular pair of black lace high heels belonging to my mother. I can still see them in my mind’s eye. They were absolutely gorgeous and stunning! I’m willing to guess that’s how and when my life-long love affair with shoes started. Shoes are my beloved children…wink, wink!

Now onto lessons and blessings. As I look back at every decade in my life thus far, I can clearly see the lessons I was meant to learn and the people / teachers who were instrumental in my learning, growing, evolving and enlightenment – especially in the area of romantic relationships, which is what I will share with you now. I’ll start with my early teens. They were difficult. I really didn’t feel like I “fit in.” I had a strict mother and the strictest of aunts, and my high school years weren’t as fun as you would imagine. As a matter of fact, my high school years were mortifying! Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make the best of those years. Did I mention I went to an all girl Catholic high school and that we lived two doors away from the school? And that I had a super jealous and possessive Cuban boyfriend? What was I thinking? Was I even thinking?

High school was truly mortifying – I wasn’t even allowed to hang out with girlfriends at night and had to have a chaperone when I went out with the boyfriend! In addition, the “tape” that was running through my head at the time was that of when  I was little and my aunts saying, “What’s wrong with that girl? She can’t sit still. What’s the matter with her?” Now darlings, we know JUST how destructive those tapes can be! In one way, shape or form, they become part of the limiting beliefs we start to construct for ourselves. Regardless though, my mother instilled in me the will, desire and drive to be “different” when it came to how I presented myself as well as when it came to fashion, of course. She used to tell me to be a leader and not a follower, and that  I shouldn’t want to “look” like everyone else in a room despite the current fashion trend. Like I said earlier, she was grooming me to be a fashionista (with out me even knowing it). Seriously though, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the influence my parents, grand-mother, aunts and uncles who are no longer with us had on my life. They were made of substance, integrity and dignity and taught me to live my life in that manner. I’m proud of the legacy they left behind, and I try my best to be conscientious and mindfully uphold the values they instilled in me.

So what brought me comfort? Journaling (surprise, surprise), music, and our Saturday shopping trips to Alexander’s in Paramus. My dad would drive, peruse the store, buy himself some cashews, and sit outside on a bench as his ladies had their shopping fun. And boy did we have fun, and did I enjoy putting outfits together! Presentation, presentation, presentation…Thanks, Mama! And Honey-Honey (that’s what my dad and I called each other), cashews are still my favorite, and I always think of you when I eat them. By the way, when I finally did start to think, it was bye-bye boyfriend!

On to the “trying twenties.” I always joke and remark that a nice Cuban girl leaves the house in either a wedding dress or a body bag (pregnancy being a BIG taboo and don’t even THINK about going away to college). So what did I do? I got married after my freshman year in college to get out of the house. I was “in love,” he looked like John Travolta, cool as could be and came from an absolutely amazing and wonderful Italian family. They took me in as if I was one of their own. Good Italian in-laws always put their daughters-in-law before their own boys. I learned how to cook and keep an uber-clean house. Oh, and they were big into fashion as well!!! My most valuable lesson though, was Respect….especially between two romantic partners. Once that line of respect is crossed, whether by lying, cursing, arguing and screaming to out-do / out-say one another, you’re done. You can kiss your relationship good-bye. And that is exactly what we did.

The “terrific thirties” was a very fun and exciting time for me. I was free and self sufficient. It was a time where I relished being extremely independent and dedicated to my career (my career is for yet another essay altogether). In addition to teaching, I was an adjunct professor at a local community college, tutored on the side and even worked as an optometric assistance – fashion was a hobby I was very committed to, so I had to pay the bills!

During the first half of my thirties, I was in a relationship that commenced in my late twenties and one that worked for both of us. We had the best of both worlds. We each enjoyed our individual alone alone time  and then enjoyed the time we had together. That was an important lesson in itself. What was the other one?  Don’t loose yourself to another person. You see, when we were together, a lot of it revolved around what he wanted to do, when and how. Don’t get me wrong, we loved each other deeply, but there were times I should have spoken up and didn’t. Speak up, or you will lose yourself! You guessed it, I started to lose myself. More lessons learned!

My “fabulous forties” brought a whole lot of change, challenging and stressful situations and, by the same token, were very enlightening. Allow me to rewind a bit and set it up for you, The later part of my thirties brought an unexpected surprise to me, my families and my friends. Little did any of us ever, ever, ever expect me to say I was getting married again….and to a Cuban guy! You see, I had sworn off Cuban men after my super jealous and possessive high school boyfriend. That man I was marrying was a gem! I loved our relationship, the way he loved me and how he showed it. I always remarked that he reminded me of my cousin Al and the relationship he’s always had with his beloved Sheryl Ann. My then husband-to- be may have had an over-bearing, possessive, and jealous mother, but I was always his priority as was our relationship. Truth was first and foremost – as it should be. I always remarked that I felt that I could fall backwards off the Empire State Building, and he would be there to catch me. That’s just who he was…..honorable, respectful, sweet, hard working, a man of integrity and of his word…..and an amazing dresser who loved to shop! You know the feeling when someone has your back? Well, he did. And boy, did I ever enjoy our “hug therapy,” as we coined what we would do the second either one of us walked in the front door. We were always very supportive of each other’s goals, dreams and ambitions.   Sadly, the one guiding principle that was a mainstay in our relationship –  truth, was the one that I failed to honor in the end. I guess I was still grappling with finding my voice on some level and didn’t have the words, courage, confidence or the skill-set to adequately explain what I was feeling and experiencing.

Hindsight is a most powerful tool and, years later when all was said and done, I realized I was peri-menopausal in my early forties. I came to realize that my emotions were all out of control. I was fighting hard to stay in control and even control the behavior of a man I knew for 20+ years when our worlds collided. I ended up dating him and tried to change and save him too. We all know that does NOT work! The only person we can change and/or save is ourself – and that is only if we choose to do so. Another lesson learned! In a last-ditch effort to salvage the relationship, I moved in with him for what I called “my limited engagement of broadway.” You see, I knew it wasn’t going to work, so I was wise enough not to give up my apartment. I still recall my mama saying it was the smartest thing I had done!

The next person I dated for about a year in my mid-forties was like a knight in shining armor. A big lesson I learned from him was that I didn’t have to do it all by myself. I didn’t have to be Wonder Woman, so I took off the cape. I was so exhausted and worn down from what I had put myself though in the previous relationship, that I actually allowed myself to rest and to let someone take good care of me. I remember sleeping a lot. This man would cook for me, watch me sleep and knew what I needed and when I needed it. Sadly, the emotional reality of what I had previously put myself though was starting to take a toll on me and on our relationship. That emotional reality was actually the catalyst for me to do something entirely differently. THAT is when I came to the realization that I needed to be by myself for a while and get to know Me. I had always been in relationships and knew who Jo-Ann was as a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, aunt, lover, wife, teacher, school administrator, colleague, caregiver – but who was Jo-Ann deep down at the core? The other lesson I learned from this man was to do things “the right way” no matter how painful it may be, so I prayed to God to give me the skillful words to honestly convey what I was feeling and why I needed to end the relationship. I asked, and the words were delivered!  This man may not have understood or believed my reasons for ending what “appeared” to be a wonderful relationship at the time, but it had nothing to do with him and everything to do with ME.  There’s that famous line in Sex and the City where Samantha tells Smith, “I love you, but I love myself more.”  Yep, that’s what I was feeling! It was a “conscious uncoupling” and the right thing to do in my heart. I was able to put my head on the pillow at night and know that I did things the “right way” just like we had promised each other we would always do. Lesson mastered, wink wink!

It was also at this time when I found my yoga practice. It saved my life! Yoga opened me up in unexpected ways, softened my heart and started to change me from the inside out. The more I studied yoga philosophy and delved deeper into the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which are ethical precepts / guidelines for yourself and how you interact and show up in the world, the more that I felt like I was coming home. The more I studied and practiced, the more my soul was set on fire. The more self-inquiry and inner investigation work I did, the more I was able to be mindful and present in the “now” and for the people in my life.  Another HUGE lesson I learned at this time was to be in relationship with my Self first (this also prepared me for how I was to “show up” in my next romantic relationship months before I was turning the big 50). Honestly, I had not learned to do that. It was circa 2005 when I went on what I called a “self-imposed tour of celibacy” and dedicated that time to working on me. My sacred living space became my own ashram, my own sacred dwelling place, my own church. I found myself in a relationship with the Divine, Spirit, the Source in unimaginable ways. God is not solely in a building. He/She is in every living, breathing thing we say or do, how we say or do it,  and is ever present in the magnificent beauty around us and in us. My main goal was to be in a relationship with myself, the Divine and learn how to truly love myself unconditionally – the way the Divine Creator has done since the day I was born. This is what allowed me to show up 100% ready, willing and able when “Scandalous” blew into my life (Scandalous needs a blog all to himself…wink, wink). What I will share is that unconditional love, patience and leaving my ego at the door were the fruits born of this relationship. So were detachment, letting go, surrendering and non-judgement. What wonderful tools to have as I was entering my fifties!

Fifties are freeing and filled with much fabulousness! That’s what I always heard the women around me say. I can personally vouch for the fact that they are. However, it requires work. When we work on ourselves, find ourselves, find our path, purpose, and passion and, more importantly, our voice to speak our truth, we are FREE! It requires so much gut-wrenching, heart-opening and soul-bearing painful work; nevertheless, the benefits are all worth it. My fifties were a time of just that. I grew into my authentic Self and loved it. I was able to look back, connect the dots and see how every single life experience led me to this wonderfully freeing and liberating decade, the work I was doing and how I was being of service to my Maker. My goal wasn’t just to talk the talk, but to truly and authentically walk the walk. I have been able to show up this way because I learned how to first make the time to show up for myself. “Lead by Example” became my mantra both personally and professionally. Truth, authenticity, transparency, discernment, integrity, steadfastness, reconciliation, resilience, gratitude, joy and balance have been my guiding principles throughout my fifties. They’ve been valuable lessons and blessings for which I am eternally grateful. As I look back, I see how much love I was blessed with having and how each romantic partner was instrumental in weaving this tapestry of a masterpiece I call ME. I would not change or alter a thing! I approach each new day from a place of  reverence and the deepest gratitude possible that fills my heart with endless love and joy. No one is doing that for me….I AM doing it for ME! My daily request is to be used as an instrument of peace and for the ability to be of service to whomever needs motivation, consolation, inspiration, an ear to listen or some sage advice.  You can bet that God and this most beautiful, whimsically magical, oftentimes mysterious, hilariously comical and infinite organizing Universe always delivers on all counts!

The relationship that has been the most lasting- one even life-long, and others spanning 20-30+ years has been that of my Tribe of Girlfriends. And let me not forget the “Lovelies” that came into my life during this fiercely fabulous decade! The constant, ever supportive, entertaining, amusing, special, creative, passionate, and sacred girlfriend relationship is one I value more than anything. Having said that, beware of women who don’t have female friends and/or their own tribe for that speaks volumes!!!  And if there is one additional piece of sage advice I’ve learned and can share with you regarding “that new special person” in your romantic life, is that Your Tribe Knows Best. SImply stated! Throughout our life, our girlfriends have probably known us better than we’ve even known ourselves for they have seen and been there through it all….the good, the bad, the ugly, the highs and the lows. Remember, they are part of our Spiritual Board of Directors; therefore, they need to be consulted!  FYI though, you may have to ask some of them for their input. Not everyone may be as forthright as you would be or expect them to be. Your Tribe knows when you’re not being yourself, when your energy is being depleted, when you seem overwhelmed, compromised, not being true to your Self and not in a good place. Just ask! I will say no more on the subject other than to quote my lovely Linda Lou, “Period. The end.”

As you know, I like rituals and celebrations, so I am thinking of a word I want to work with this coming year. Maybe even two words. What keeps showing up for me, time and time again, is Grace (and my confirmation came when my yoga teacher was sharing the word she wants to work on as she embarks on a new year as well). I want to find Grace in the places that I never knew it existed. I want to dig deeper than ever before and help others do the same. The start of the InspireLoveServe blog was a good starting point. I want Grace to revel itself in unexpected places, the dark as well as the light places, and I want to be able to share those places with you so we can linger together in those moments of Grace.

Now that I’ve unlearned things I learned, only to relearn them in a way  that better serves me, I also relearned how to be a child again and approach each new day with a deeper sense of wonder, awe, magic, creativity and playfulness. This is something we should all do more of, don’t you think?  We should all want to spend more time in nature and do more of the things that bring us joy and nurture our mind, body and soul….things that bring us a sense of calm, ease and deep peace, and encourage all those around us to do the same. Just look at small children and see how open, loving, free and inclusive they are. They are fearless, open and accepting…they don’t see color, race or religion. They are so spirited, carefree and vibrant! I want to live in that kind of world. It is my deepest desire that we all re-learn to approach life and others from a place of love, compassion and kindness and that we see our souls reflecting back at us when we look deeply into another’s eyes and deeply listen to their words. Another thing I know for sure is that in order to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves. We must move from a place of fear and separation to one of love and oneness.

I’ve recently taken to looking more and more at the life vision board that I created just before going into surgery in January of 2016, and seeing that I am living and doing most of the things I included. More importantly though, I want to continue growing, evolving, serving, learning, deepening and expanding my practice, inspiring mindful seeds of change, making a difference in the world and in the healing of humanity, helping others grow into their best self, empowering and supporting young girls, paying forward, celebrating with friends and family, going on adventurous retreats and cozy getaways, loving deeply and passionately….to sum it up –  Living With Intention! And as far as romantic relationships go, who knows? I am perfectly happy in the most fulfilling and intimate relationship I’ve ever had, and that is the one I’m in with Me. If that realization isn’t a moment of Grace in and of itself, then what is? What I do know for sure is that the appropriate soulmate will show up in divine time, and we will be able to reap all the beautiful benefits of having “worked the work” over the course of the time it took for us to come together. I’ve learned not sweat the small stuff my darlings…I have arrived!

Sixty is virtually around the corner. I’ve heard “60” described as seismic, sensational and spectacular. Starting tomorrow, each new day will bring me closer to that mountain top called 60. Each new day will bring me new opportunities to serve here. I mentioned Snatam Kaur’s song, On This Day, in an earlier post. Please take a moment to listen to it if you haven’t already done so. She has such an angelic voice! Listening to that song is an absolutely sacred and meaningful way to start the day! It allows us to settle in, ground, root, re-commit and set the tone for the way we’d like to approach the day, shine our brilliance and magnificence, and honor that life we’ve been given.  Each day we open our eyes is our birth day. We are given life again. How can we not ask, “How can I serve here?” Yep…Grace it is, and Gracefully is how I’ll do it!

“The ghosts of all the women you used to be are all so proud of who you have become, storm child made of wild and flame.” Nikita Gill

 

This essay is dedicated to all the women, ancestors and guides that paved the way for me, walk along side of me and have made it possible for me to carry out their legacy. With infinite love, grace and gratitude, Jo-Ann Theresa Carricarte