Mirror, Mirror

“Imagine a country whose citizens-maybe even its leaders- are brave, calm, and open towards each other; A country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense.” BR. David Steindl- Rast

Today is Election Day here in the U.S., and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this moment in history that I (and everyone who I reading this) am blessed with being alive to experience. We are all part of history in the making.

I’m not attached to any election outcome. Non-attachment is a Buddhist mindset I’ve learned to cultivate over the years because of the simple fact the attachments lead to suffering. Nonattachment is a practice, and I’m a firm believer that whatever happens is happening for a reason and that life happens FOR us not to us.

I believe the past four years- and especially the past eight months since the pandemic- have held up a mirror to all of us. A mirror to look at the divide and brokenness within ourselves, our own internal biases, prejudices, anger, trauma and see where we can be more compassionate, loving, and accepting. This, of course, is a practice as well.

During these times of uncertainty, the one certainty is that what is occurring in our nation is a direct reflection of the heart and soul of each and every one of us.

As one of my teachers and mentors often reminds us, the times we’ve been living have been challenging us to step fully into all of it: our fear, anxiety, division, and transform that to empathy, compassion, and a deep love of self and of others.

The mirror that is being held up to us is there to truly and deeply examine our own lives, challenges, attachments, privileges, thoughts, actions, entitlements, speech, choices, relationships, beliefs, biases, and the role we are each playing in the healing of humanity and of our planet. I believe the mirror is there for us to deeply examine our own personal integrity and values.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, what will be revealed is the true nature and soul of our country… of its people.

Weeks ago, I came across a post that my neighbor borrowed from a friend- who probably borrowed from a friend, etc., etc. It’s a piece that was written by a President Trump supporter and one that really spoke to me. It speaks to the times we’re living and experiencing- individually and collectively- it speaks to the failure to communicate, to our humanity, integrity, dignity, values, disappointment, reverence for life and the fracture of relationships, friendships and society. I’ve shared it with many friends since having read it, and I’ve come back to it again and again. It’s both haunting and sobering.

So on this Election Day, I will leave you with that post. I don’t know who wrote it or where it originated. All I know is that whomever has shared it has “borrowed it from a friend.”

“I know you think I’m preoccupied with this President; that he is the reason I’m so angry and bitter and frustrated these days—but you’re wrong. This isn’t about Donald Trump.

It’s never been about him.

It wasn’t about him during the campaign or on Election Day.

It wasn’t about him when recordings of him boasting about sexual assaults surfaced.

It wasn’t about him when he said protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up.

It wasn’t about him when he left refugee families stranded at the airport.

It wasn’t about him when he attacked the press.

It wasn’t about him when he sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t about him when he blamed racial violence on “both sides.”

And it isn’t about him today: it’s about us.

This is about me and it’s about you.

It’s about my grief at the ugliness you feel emboldened to post on social media now, the nastiness you seem newly capable of, the disgusting words you now so easily toss out around the dinner table.

It’s about my disbelief at your sudden tolerance for his infidelity, his cruelty, his intellectual ignorance, his immorality, his disrespect for the rule of law, his alliances with dictators — things you once claimed you could never abide in a leader.

It’s about my incredulity at your surprising resentment for marginalized people; for your inability to muster any compassion for those who are hurting or frightened or threatened.

It’s about my disappointment at your easily manipulated nationalistic fervor; how the God and Guns, America First, Love it or Leave it rhetoric, so easily took root in your heart — how hostile to outsiders and foreigners you’ve become.

It’s about my amazement at your capacity to make your faith so pliable, that you could amen a compulsive liar, a serial adulterer, a fear-mongering bully; a man in nearly every way antithetical to the Jesus you’ve always said was so dear to you.

It’s about my sickness seeing you excuse away his coddling of racists, his public attacks on the FBI, his impulsive firings of Cabinet members, his Tweet rants against individual citizens and American companies.

It’s about my grief seeing you respond to his near-hourly display of recklessness and overreach, with a shrug of your shoulders or a turning away from it all.

It’s about me watching you ignore in him and even celebrate in him, the very things you claimed made Hillary Clinton the ‘greater of two evils’ when you voted: blatant corruption, financial impropriety, pathological lies, lack of morality.

It’s about my sadness at seeing you make a million tiny concessions—and how easy it now is for you to consent to actions, that only three years ago you’d have told me fully disgusted you.

Most of all, it’s about me realizing that when all this is over—we are still going to have to deal with all of this. Our fractures are going to outlive this Presidency.

You see, I really don’t give a damn about Donald Trump.

He doesn’t matter to me. He never has.

He’s a three-time married, C-level reality TV celebrity, with a long and well-documented resume of sexual misconduct, financial disasters, and moral filth.

He’s a professional predator who’s spent his life exploiting people for personal gain. That’s who he was before and who he will be when he leaves office.

Donald Trump, the President will be gone one day, and his disastrous Presidency will be well preserved.

History will have documented his every lie, every misdeed, every abuse of power, every treasonous betrayal — and he will be fully revealed as the monster that many of us are fully aware that he is.

That’s not why I am so disgusted and so filled with sadness these days.

I don’t care about Donald Trump because I don’t know or live alongside or love or respect Donald Trump.

I know and live alongside and love and respect you — or at least I once did, and I’m going to have to try and do that again.

Our relationship and our family and our church and our neighborhood and our nation are going to be trying to clean up the messes long after this President is gone.

When this is all over, the divides and the fractures and the wounds between us are going to remain.

This is why I’m angry and bitter and frustrated; not because of Donald Trump — but because of me — and because of you.”

Borrowed from a friend.

Darlings, regardless of the outcome of today’s election, our lives will go on and we all will be faced with letting go, moving on and stepping into our place in our human family, community, and the world with love, peace, intention and purpose. Showing up any other way would be a disservice to humanity. We’ve had many an opportunity for healing ourselves and healing humanity and, if we don’t get this right, this magical universe will continue giving us opportunities to do just that. Let’s work on ourselves, my darlings. Let’s leave the world a better place for future generations. Let’s honor our ancestors and continue the work they started!

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the work to heal the individual and collective fractured divide will continue…. what role will you be playing?

Be well, stay safe and God bless us all!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Birthday Reflections

“ Scorpio is the one sign that can give you sensitivity, moodiness, dominance, stubbornness, advice, laughter, harshness, love… and a headache all in a matter of minutes.”

Yep, that sounds like me and a lot like my fellow Scorpions out there! I saw this posted on my neighbor’s social media, and it got me thinking!

As I look back on my life, the younger me, the older me, and all the different versions of me in between, I see how all of these traits associated with a Scorpio has both helped and hindered me along my path. Would I change any of it? Absolutely and unequivocally not!

The sensitivity has allowed me to feel emotions; moodiness has gifted me with retreating and going within; dominance has allowed me to take charge when no one else does; stubbornness has allowed me to stand up for what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart of hearts; advice is something I give freely to those who come to me for some wisdom; laughter is my go-to medicine for the soul; harshness has allowed me to be critical- especially of myself and holding myself accountable-and has gotten me out of my own way-and, lastly, love has always guided my way- even in the most uncertain of times. Oh, and headaches serve as a reminder I shouldn’t drink red wine. Not all that bad, if you ask me!

As I reflect on my all too quick 62 rotations around the sun, the privilege that I’ve had is something I do not take for granted. The more I learn about White Privilege and this system of White Supremacy we live in, White Feminism, Caste, and how it’s all woven into every single aspect of our life, culture and society, the angrier I get at not having been taught these things in school. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate reality in more ways than I can describe. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I’ve taken learning to another level. The person I was going into this quarantine and the one who is emerging is different and is determining the direction of the next leg of my journey.

I’m very grateful for my parents seeing the communist handwriting on the wall before Castro came into power in Cuba. As a result, they, along with the majority of their siblings, came to the US for a better life, to have more children in some cases, and to give their children more opportunities than they were ever afforded.

My ancestors found their way to Cuba via Portugal and Spain. I only wish I could have met some of them and had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their lives, their traumas, their lived experiences, their wisdom… all things that live in my body and course through my blood.

I’m certain none of them could have imagined this upside down world we are living in. But I do know they, like all of our elders and ancestors, had dreams, aspirations, and things left to do and say when they left this world.

I realize I am the product of their unfulfilled wishes, the dreams they didn’t get to live out, the voice they were unable or not allowed to use, the product of privilege they didn’t have given the times they lived in and the embodiment of a heart overflowing with gratitude each step of the way, each and every day. My attitude of gratitude is what has brought me overwhelming joy, love, and abundance throughout my life…. especially during those dark nights of the soul.

I took a moment this morning to reflect on 62 years of life. I feel very loved, seen and appreciated. For some reason, birthdays get more and more meaningful as the number climbs. The cards I received, the sentiments expressed, and the heartfelt words inscribed have really touched my heart year after year.

This is my 12th birthday without my Mama, and to say that I miss her more each day is an understatement. I realize how lucky I was to have her for almost 50 years of my life. I was an unexpected surprise, and I am grateful that she chose life.

So…..on this day where I find myself reflecting on privileges of all kinds, I am going to share with you yet another handout from the White Conversations class that I took. It’s an activity called Privilege for Sale. It’s an activity that is also a big eye-opener for people who do not understand some of the things that White Privilege affords you, or how you walk through life, if you are white or passing as white.

If you are doing this with a very small group, you may want to each do this activity individually. Obviously, the more people involved, the better able you are to break up into smaller groups and have better conversations and different perspectives.

Before starting the activity, you must put yourself in a mindset of someone having zero privileges whatsoever. Each privilege costs $10 to purchase. As a group, or individual, you will purchase as many privileges as the money you’ve been given allows. It’s up to the facilitator to assign varying budgets- starting with $10- to each group (or individual).

Please note that the phrase “an aspect of your identity “refers to identities including race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity/expression. Identities and privileges represented on this list or by no means exhaustive.

Ready? Here we go…..

  1. Not being subjected to additional scrutiny at school or in your job based on an aspect of your identity.  
  2. Adopting your children. 
  3. Being able to discuss and have access to multiple family planning options. 
  4. Raising children without worrying about state intervention. 
  5. Being accepted by your neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and/or new friends.. 
  6. Going shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed. 
  7. Walking around campus, turning on the television, or opening to the front page of the paper and seeing people like you widely represented. 
  8. Being sure that you or your children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their experience. 
  9. Going into a supermarket and finding the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions.
  10. Not having to educate your children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
  11. Using public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest
  12. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
  13. Having the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of some aspect of your identity.
  14. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical establishments.
  15. Freely being able to discuss your relationship with others. 
  16. If you are assaulted or murdered, an aspect of your identity will not be used as a justification for the crime nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
  17. Having your gender as an option on a form.
  18. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to an aspect of your identity.
  19. Not facing the everyday fear of deportation.  
  20. Expecting to have any/easy access to public transportation, building, parks, and restaurants.  
  21. Being able to plan your day without having to consider health or pain concerns.  
  22. Receiving validation from your religious community. 
  23. If you should need to move, being pretty sure that you will be able to rent or purchase a home in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. 
  24. Being able to go to a doctor visit and have him or her understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  25. Whether using checks, credit cards or cash, you can count on your skin color not working against the appearance of financial reliability. 

Adapted from The Safe Zone Project, http://thesafezoneproject.com/

To say this is a powerful activity is an understatement and would be a disservice to the individual(s) who created it. While there are only 25 privileges listed here, the list can be expanded even more so given the reality of what being born in a body that was not born into a dominant Caste or Race goes through day in and day out of their entire existence.

One thing I know for sure that I will continue learning, especially from BIPOC leaders and teachers, until the moment I take my last breath. My entire life thus far has been around learning, growing, expanding, transforming, loving, inspiring, serving and reflecting…why should it be any different at this age? Our lust for knowledge is something that should only die when we die.

So there you have it…. my birthday reflections. I hope you feel inspired to keep learning, unlearning, becoming and unbecoming. My birthday wish is that you give the White Privilege activity a try and feel compelled to share it with others. It will definitely make for good conversation and inspired action!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

There is No Neutral

“What’s your dharma center, teacher, church, synagogue, pastor, Rabbi, reverend, yoga center, ashram, spiritual-not-religious instagram meditation leader saying about Black lives.” Angel Kyodo Williams

Hello, darlings!

It’s been almost a month since my last blog, Inspired Action, on May 24th. The following day, our world saw the police brutality that took George Floyd’s life. The fact that this brutal murder was captured on video, we got to see the killer’s face and body language, and bear witness to what’s been going on for lifetimes for Black and Brown people has awakened and propelled the masses to yet another level of truth, re-examination, demonstration, and activism. We are living through the  most historic and monumental civil rights movements the U.S. has ever seen. And the global impact it is making speaks volumes!

During this time, there has been a call to action to FINALLY listen to the voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color). For those of us who are white (or pass as white), we have been called to educate ourselves on White Supremacy, White Privilege, White Fragility and how knowingly, or unknowingly, we have been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression. These words alone make many people uncomfortable…as they should. Change and growth do not come from being “comfortable.”

Resources of all kinds- from  books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, articles, videos, TV shows to information that has always been available in various formats- have been circulating for us all to truly understand the systems that were specifically created to uphold white dominance. The time to start  dismantling White Supremacy is upon us.  However, the change must start within. Truly taking a deeply uncomfortable dive within ourselves to examine our own biases, stereotypes,  prejudices and discriminations  is shockingly revealing regardless of how evolved, open-minded, anti-racist,  socially conscious or “woke “we think we are. The work we white people (or people who hold white privilege) are being called to do is raw. It’s humiliating, and it’s humbling to say the least…and it’s our responsibility to continue this work day in and day out.

For almost 3 weeks now, I’ve silenced my voice on social media. It started as the “amplify melanated voices challenge” on June 1st, but I’ve kept it going.  This has allowed me to continue to do my  work, keep educating myself, intentionally use my social media platform to share what  I learn and what deeply resonates for me, and share the voices of BIPOC leaders and teachers of all kinds and from all walks of life from whom I’m learning. I’ve also had hard and meaningful conversations with friends and family. Being in community with people who are talking the talk AND walking the walk has provided me with lots of learning opportunities. Re-examining how I spend my time, energy and money has also led me to look at the businesses, organizations and individuals I want to support. I’ve already made a few changes in those areas. I feel like it’s just the beginning, but every little bit matters. Being neutral is not an option in my book. There is no neutral!

While the work is unnerving, heavy, raw, emotional and can be disturbing, it’s only a fraction of what my BIPOC brothers and sisters have been living with for generations. Generations of being dehumanized, oppressed and destroyed! I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is NOT my place to speak about these experiences because they are not my lived/shared experiences. We white people tend to jump in and throw our voices into the ring- “Whitesplaining” as it has been coined- as if we could even remotely begin to speak to injustices we have never lived…talk about white privilege!?!?!?!

The most profound lesson I’ve learned thus far has been to be quiet and deeply listen….oftentimes, the silence from white people, friends, businesses and organizations,  is actually deafening and clearly speaks to white privilege, white fragility and white apathy. The other thing I learned deals with conversations that go nowhere. These dead-end conversations speak to a person’s unwillingness to recognize and accept that knowingly, unknowingly, and oftentimes unconsciously, as a white person (or a person who passes as white) has internal biases, stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations  built in as a result of being born (or living) in a country where systems and institutions were intentionally created to uphold white dominance.

If a person is not remotely interested or willing to to examine their relationship to the systems they engage in and navigate every day, then I have no desire to waste my energy or resources on them. There’s too much work to do! I want to engage with  people who are truly and authentically making a difference with their voices and their activism. So this is the road I find myself navigating these days.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, White Supremacy is a system we were born into. There are layers and layers to unpack! For the last 400 years, these carefully crafted systems have been dehumanizing, destroying and inflicting racial wounds on People of Color resulting in historical and generational  trauma. When will it stop? How? By whom?

It simply speaks to the fact that dismantling systems of institutionalized racism and systemic oppression FIRST begins with each and every white person (or person holding white privilege). We need to genuinely make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on things what we were not educated on in schools. Are we so arrogant of a species that we feel it is beneath us to do so? The answer is simple: yes, because that’s something that comes with holding white privilege.

One of my biggest history lessons came from the Netflix documentary 13th. If you’ve never seen it, that’s a great place to start! And if you are serious about taking a deep dive and creating change from within, pick up Layla F. Saad’s book, me and white supremacy-Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. The work is difficult but so transformative! These two bodies of work will impact you in powerful and profound ways.

The way I see it is that regardless of our political affiliation, religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all have work to do. It’s a privilege and an honor to be alive at this precise moment in time. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to waste it or just sit around waiting for others to do the work and then weigh in or criticize the decisions and actions being taken by those who are in the trenches doing the work.

The time for personal truth-telling and reckoning has arrived for all of us. We can truly change the course of the new nation that is waiting to be birthed and the new world that is waiting to emerge. We can all have a hand in the reimagining and the remaking of this  white institution of power that orders our lives and continues to dehumanize, criminalize, incarcerate and kill BIPOC.

I believe the time has come for us to get really clear. This is not a time for neutrality. There is no neutral. This is not the time to sit back. This is a time to take action. This is not a time for spiritual bypassing. That in itself is privilege. This is not a time to say we are all one. We cannot all be one until ALL people have the same access to civil, political, economic and social rights…until we can truly say “liberty and justice for all.” This is not a time to say all lives matter or blue lives matter. All lives cannot matter until ALL Black lives matter….it doesn’t get any clearer than that!!!

And on that note, may we all remember to check in with our black and brown friends. The trauma, stress, frustration, anger, fear, emotional and physical pain, and feelings of overwhelm white people are feeling are no where near what our black and brown friends have been feeling for generations.  They don’t need to see or hear our white narratives, comments or  explanations. They need our support. They need us to listen. May we hold that space for them, and hold them close!

I will leave you with the words of Sonya Renee Taylor:

“If your spirituality  or self-care practice invisiblizes oppression and harm, then it’s just another form of oppression and harm.”

 May we continue to move forward with intention, unity and hearts wide open, JTC

 

 

 

Physically Distanced Yet Socially Connected

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was  not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”  Sonya Renee Taylor

I’m sure you’ve all seen the above quote circulating  all over social media these days. It brings to mind one that  I just looked at, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” This quote is one of many little inspirational cards that came in a lovely wooden box, created by Kathy Davis, that was gifted to me by a dear friend. It seems to speak louder than words these days in light of this global pandemic we are living through. We’ve been so busy “making a life” that we’ve forgotten lots of things and people along the way! What will we do with this?

This is  a good time as any to think and reflect on where the art of busyness has gotten us. What good is the accumulation of wealth if we don’t share it? What good is it if we aren’t being of service in some way? How has the quest to obtain more things, make more money, work longer hours or climb the corporate ladder higher impacted the actual quality of our lives? In most cases, the pursuit of these lofty goals have left us feeling exhausted, angry, lonely, disconnected, unfulfilled, peace-less, anxious and, in some cases, in debt. It’s a good time to rethink what’s really of importance. What can we make more space for?

This pandemic, which is shining a HUGE spotlight on inequalities and injustices of all kinds, is also serving as a plague of oneness and wellness. It’s about damn time, don’t you think?

During this time of physical distancing,  this pandemic has gifted us with quality connections and the reality that we indeed are all connected. Technology, creativity and inventiveness have given us new ways to stay connected, celebrate, honor life and death, work, teach, learn, exercise, move our bodies, meditate, pray, sing, dance, worship, express love, donate, contribute, serve and come together globally like NEVER before. We’ve been given an opportunity to deeply question, examine and fine-tune our values. As a result, we are seeing humanity through an entirely new and incredible lens. What will we do with this?

The question(s) we are faced with asking ourselves at this time in history do not differ from the questions past generations asked themselves about this mystery of life. Nor will it differ from questions future generations will ask. Each generation has a way of reframing the same question(s): What does it mean to be human? Who am I? How can I  make an impact? How can I contribute and be of service? 

These are all questions that every generation has experienced in times of social, political, economic, cultural and personal turmoil and unrest. One thing we can’t escape though is the pain. Pain is a price we pay for the privilege of being alive. What we do with that pain is the game-changer! Ahhh….the so called mystery of life!

I think it’s safe to say that we are witnessing a coming together of humanity that will be written about for years. What will we do with this?

“How can we all flourish moving forward?”  That’s a question a speaker I was listening to posed. How can we use the gifts this pandemic (although painful and tragic) has given us and put them to good use? After all, we truly are one another’s keepers. If we don’t watch out for each other, the animals, the earth, who will?

The way I see it is that we  have a responsibility to each other. A responsibility that will shape the way we move forward and how we look at all humans…especially the ones whom we never saw, paid attention to, acknowledged, maybe discriminated against or felt unfavorable towards. This pandemic has certainly been an inconvenience to some but, to those living on the margins, it’s always been a matter of life and death. The pandemic has just exacerbated the magnitude of their daily battle to survive. What will we do with this?

Many of these folks are the ones now deemed  “essential workers.” These are the various individuals who are putting their own lives, futures, and the lives of their families at risk to help each and every one of us. We’re seeing heroes of all kinds and from all walks of life emerge.

Many of us have been so busy “making a life” that not only have we failed to “make a life,” but we’ve failed to to see that the life we were so busy making has not allowed us to see that we are all connected and that our choices impact us all on a global level.

Who will be as a people, a family, community, society, and global citizens? Who do we WANT to be? What changes do we want to see? What change are we willing to be? What are we willing to do about it? 

These are only but a few questions I’ve been asking myself for years and years. But now they seem more important than ever. Constantly going within, questioning and dismantling old thoughts or belief systems is how we grow, evolve, make a difference, serve, contribute and change the trajectory of our lives.  It’s also how we can change the trajectory of our society and how we can change the world. It’s time for a new world, don’t you think? One that fits all of humanity and nature, as noted in Sonya Renee Taylor’s brilliant opening quote. What will we do with this?

For more questions that will allow us to identify the areas of our lives that are not working for us (as well as areas that are), and my thoughts on the opportunities this pandemic brings to the forefront, check out my previous blog, The Global Pause. Many of the questions posed in that blog  provide a window for us to analyze how we want to move through our individual world and the collective world. Should you be looking for some good reads, The Global Pause also contains a list of some of my favorite books to support you through these times.

As technology has shown us, this is a time for creativity, dreaming, inventiveness, imagination, transformation and rebirth. We are all a part of it, so we better make the best of it…wink, wink.

Lead from the heart….always and in all ways, JTC

The Global Pause

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smokey skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Greetings, my darlings!

I saw the above statement posted somewhere on Instagram and found its words to be comforting for, deep down inside, it is exactly how I feel…. like many of us feel. As I mentioned in my previous blog, When Things Feel Out of Control, this unprecedented GLOBAL pandemic of our time is an opportunity for us to re-group, re-align and re-define who we want to be in the space we occupy in the world. It’s a time for feeling, healing- mind, body and soul- awakening, and raising the vibration of the collective consciousness.

It’s a time for recalibration as well as finding balance, truth, freedom and liberation. But in order to attain those states, we must first take the time to feel hard feelings. What are they? Can you name them? A few may be sadness, anger, rage, grief, resentment, a sense of deep loss. What does this feel like in your body? What sensations do you feel?

There is a saying that goes something like, “Our suffering gives us Xray vision to the suffering of others.” But first, we must identify our own human suffering, our traumas,  and how our choices, thoughts, beliefs, actions, speech, lifestyle, hatred, prejudices, consumerism, and activism, or lack thereof, all play a part in the collective suffering of the world.

In my humble opinion, we are all being shown what it means to be human.  After all, we are ONE human race….a race that MUST move forward. There is no going back! Nor should we want to go back. Each and every one of us are part of a beautiful symphony of life that is being orchestrated to move humanity forward and the name of the composition is  Compassion, Empathy and Love….for ourselves and others.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week thinking about how we can move forward. How I can help to move humanity forward. It all starts with ourselves. I find myself asking:

  • “Who do I want to be?”
  • “Who am I becoming?”
  • “How do I want to move through my life?”
  • “What part of life do I want to do differently?”
  • “How do I want to feel today? Everyday?”
  • “What do I have to give, contribute and offer?

I feel like we are living a moment in time that we cannot take for granted. As I’ve pondered the meaning and significance of what it means from shifting from an I/Me mentality to a We/Us mentality, more questions arose around “engagement.”

As a people:

  • How do we want to engage?
  • How do we want to be, feel and act?
  • How do we want to interact with each other?
  • How do we want to work?
  • How do we want to parent?
  • How do we want to play?
  • How do we want to be in community?
  • How do we want to engage with our neighbors?
  • How do we engage with our families? 
  • How do we want to show up in our intimate relationships?
  • How do we want to show up for our finances?
  • How do we want to engage with technology?
  • How do we want to use social media?
  • How do we want to show up for human rights and equality?
  • How do we want our government and our leaders to show up?

These questions also allow us to identify the areas of our lives that are not working for us (as well as areas that are). They provide a window for us to analyze how we want to move through our individual world and the collective world. But, like any kind of transformation, destruction, careful planning and precise vision go hand in hand. We owe it to ourselves to create a space for new visions, new thought patterns and new belief systems. We need to call on our imagination and creativity. And in order to do so, we must create the time and space to do so.

Luckily for us, this pandemic has gifted us with much time. And we can either use our time productively or get swept up with other forms of addictions or unhealthy habits. As a society, and as a human race, we have become disconnected and disengaged from our mind, body and spirit. Sadly, there are more people connected to their electronic devices these days than engaged in human, face-to-face connection. In many cases, they are connected in unhealthy ways.

Ways that lack boundaries, censorship and discernment. I was listening to a podcast with Glennon Doyle about her new book, Untamed (a must read), and she said the following: “Text messages are not the boss of me.” OMG how brilliant! Seriously, how can we allow our devices to be the boss of us? Have you ever been with someone who can’t engage in a conversation or finish a sentence because they are so distracted because they continue to text? Rather than being respectful, mindful, present and fully engaged with a human body before them, they are more concerned with what’s going on in the palm of their hand. Are you one of this people, dearest reader?

I feel like there is this monumental, gargantuan force that is pushing us to go isolate and go within so that we learn to be together again. A force that is showing us what it means to be human. A force that is connecting us all in unimaginable ways despite our “social/physical distancing.” We are being shown alternatives, and taking part in new ways to stay connected.  New ways to interact, work, teach, learn, play, care, support and make a difference. Thanks to the numerous artists, musicians, poets, authors, teachers, meditators, spiritual activists, healers, coaches, psychologists, community leaders, activists, schools and universities, we are re-defining the meaning of human connection. We’ve been so disengaged and out of our bodies for so long, that it now feels like we’ve been dropped suddenly into our bodies anew.

Darlings, we are all a part of a new history in the making. It’s like we are all being called to be a part of this new creation. New world.  New society. New culture. New economy. New politics. New systems. New beliefs. All old systems appear to be crumbling,  falling apart,  making way and opening this new portal for us to step through.

The biggest questions that remains is, “Will you CHOOSE to be left behind or walk through the gateway to a new world?” I don’t know about you, but I’m packing lightly…wink, wink!

In closing, I’d like to offer up prayers for all of us. I think it’s safe to say we have all lost friends and loved ones to COVID19. Here’s a beautiful prayer that spoke to me when I came across it on social media during the early days of the pandemic:

Prayer for Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake. May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable. May we who have the luxury of working form home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent. May we who have the flexibility to care for our children remember those who have no options. May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go. May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all. May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home. As fear grips our country, let us choose love. During this time we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways tp be in the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC

PS: If you’re looking for some good reading or inspiration to accompany you on your own personal journey, or to comfort you during this time, below are a few of my favorite books:

  • A Return to Love,  by Marianne Williamson
  • Revolution of the Soul, by Seane Corn
  • Healing, by David Elliot
  • The Beautiful No, by Sheri Salata
  • Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
  • Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle
  • Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
  • The Gift of Forgiveness, by Katherine Schwarzeneggar
  • More Myself, by Alicia Keys
  • Whatever Arises, Love That, by Matt Kahn
  • Inquire Within, Poems by IN-Q
  • The Wisdom of Sundays, by Oprah WInfrey
  • I’ve Been Thinking, by Maria Shriver
  • Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser
  • When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron
  • The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer
  • The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo
  • Illuminata – A Return to Prayer, by Marianne Williamson
  • Outrageous Openness, by Tosha Silver
  • Change Me Prayers, by Tosha Silver
  • Astrology for the Soul, by Jan Spiller
  • Daily Om, by Madison Taylor
  • Practice You – A Journal, by Elena Brower

 

 

 

Planting New Seeds: Inspiration for Tumultuous Times

“We alive at this time are the luckiest people who have ever lived –and the ones facing the wildest, most terrifying challenges. This is not just a deep paradox, it is an existential invitation to keep waking up, right now.“ Terry Patten for Grateful Word of the Day

Greetings, my darlings!

The title of this blog is actually the title of a piece one of my beloved yoga teachers, Laura Wootton, posted and one you will read a little later on.

I haven’t blogged all that much lately and, with all that is swirling around us these days, I’ve done what I usually do when faced with challenging times: I tend to unplug, go within, journal, be still, practice some silence, color, listen to music and guided meditations and read a whole lot. Taking the time to be introspective fills me up.

This time has also allowed me to be very mindful and selective of what I choose to post and/or share. I don’t want to add to the hysteria and anxiety that is out there. On the contrary- I want to be the calm in the chaos. This is a mindset I’ve subscribed to for many years now.

Our words hold the capability to either ignite fear or inspire love. I choose the latter. Our words, thoughts and our self-care practices help us to self regulate and calm our nervous system. Fear puts us in fight or flight mode, spiking cortisol levels and causing more dis-ease in the body… not an ideal situation for those with an already compromised immune system. I do not want to add to that, so I’ve been uber-cautious.

When I read Laura’s post, I realized her words were what we all need to hear right now. These are the times, as Laura writes , for planting new seeds. So…. I will leave you with her inspiring words for tumultuous times:

The world is shifting in big ways. Our systems and belief systems are being tested and reassessed. Although this time is tumultuous, it is creating space for needed changes.

The feeling of what is happening comes to me as this image… imagine an area of firmly packed dirt. It has been in its place for years, untouched. It is so packed that new seeds can’t penetrate its surface. The process we are undergoing right now is like taking a shovel to this packed dirt… breaking up all that is stuck in it, excavating it, discovering things that have been lodged in the dirt for years. As we break up the packed dirt, we create space for new life. Now seeds can be planted and nurtured in this space again.

Our structural systems and belief systems are being excavated like the packed dirt. It feels tumultuous, but this process is creating space for new experience and more authentically-aligned life paths.

This is a time to:

  • Look at your life and the way you’ve been living it… are there any ways that you have not been living authentically? How can you create space for more joy and creativity in your life?
  • Enjoy quality time with loved ones while you’re all at home… call loved ones who are far away. We are being offered an opportunity to connect deeply with each other.
  • Ponder the dreams that you have kept “on the shelf” for years because there’s “no time” to pursue them.
  • Contemplate the “seeds” you’d like to plant in your life… visualize what you’d like your life to look life if you’re given a fresh start.

Some affirmations that could be helpful in this time:

I am grounded and stable.
I am worthy of love and joy.
I trust the unfolding of my life.
I create space for joy in my life.
I value myself and my relationships.
I am always Divinely Aligned.
I am guided to my most authentic Self-expression.
I love unconditionally, and I am loved unconditionally.
I receive what I need, and I release what I do not need.
Love and hugs to everyone ❤️🤗❤️

Thank you, “Lovely Laura,” for sharing your wise words and for being such a beacon of light during these times. Your inspiration is deeply appreciated. And thank you for being someone who is helping to move humanity forward!

Here’s to each and every one of us planting new seeds AND choosing/finding inspiring words for tumultuous times!

Lead from the heart… always and in all ways, JTC

Blind Clarity

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Antoine de Saint Exupery

There’s nothing as intense and overpowering as the moment of clarity. It’s when our hearts and minds are open, and we are in alignment with all things that are possible for us. It’s blinding!

I spent quite a bit of time listening to and watching several energy updates and forecasts for the new year and new decade, and it seems like clarity of thought is front and center in all things personal, professional, political and worldly. It’s about time, don’t you think?

After all, thanks to the information we have at our fingertips, and the work we’re doing on ourselves, we are evolving, transforming and growing, in rapid rates, faster than ever before. We’re more in touch with our intuition and with our bodies.

As Lee Harris commented on his energy forecast, “People are coming back to their sensory selves faster than ever before.” This, my darlings, is becoming the new normal. Yippie!

When we operate from this connected place, we can’t help but notice that we are leading from the heart. We’re leading from a place of divine truth. We’re leading with ease, confidence, joy and love. Can you relate?

Conversely, it is lack of clarity that creates chaos, frustration, sadness and fear. These emotions are poison. They sabotage our goals, dreams, and our day-to-day living and interaction with others. When we dust off our glasses, put aside the fear mongering we are seeing so much of these days, and connect to our hearts, we are able to see everything clearer, bigger, more illuminated. We are able to intentionally interact with others at much higher levels than ever before. We are blinded by the light of clarity!

I believe that, when this occurs, our senses are heightened. We are more discerning. We have a laser beam focus. There’s an emotional awareness and connection to spirit that comes from operating from our heart center.

I also believe that Mother Nature is one of our greatest teachers and that the universe self corrects in ways that bring in all sorts of disasters so that humanity can come together. Just look at the compassion, empathy, togetherness and love that arises after disasters. Our hearts get ripped open, don’t they? And our hearts may also get triggered just the same.

It’s these triggers that we need to put under a microscope. These triggers may be keeping us from living out our greatness and from serving in ways we were meant to serve… with love.

Serving with love and intention is a practice just like any other practice. And it does take time, effort, patience, persistence and perseverance.

Don’t you think it’s high time we knock down the walls of fear, frustration, tension, conflict, and separation and build foundations of love, patience, ease, compassion, and unity? Don’t you think it’s time we take our thoughts, desires, aspirations and dreams and give them life in the world? Don’t you want to live in alignment with your creative flow? Don’t you want to operative from higher levels of emotional awareness and intelligence?

Are you willing to do the work? Nothing in our lives changes unless we are willing to do the work and get clear in all matters of the heart. It’s time to step up and step out, darlings!

If you don’t know where or how to start, I am here to tell you how simple it can be. Note to self…it may be simple, but it may also be painful! Nevertheless, it all starts with getting to know you better as well as setting daily intentions. I am also here to remind you that your intentions create your reality.

So…before we get to a little practice for setting intentions, allow me to share a few questions I came across as I was perusing many, many pages of the spectacular new issue of Mantra Magazine (my fave). The ENTIRE issue is on wellness. It’s like one big interactive journal!

These questions will help you to get to know YOU. I invite you to peruse them, use them as journaling prompts or topics of conversations with some beloved friends. Use them in any way that will serve YOU:

  • When do I feel most creative?
  • What qualities do I value and desire in my friends?
  • Where do I feel at peace?
  • What makes me feel valued and important?
  • What do I look forward to the most?
  • What do I struggle with the most?
  • What makes me feel calm and centered?
  • What do I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed?
  • When do I feel confident in myself?
  • How do I want to feel in the world?
  • How can I face my fears more?
  • How can I cultivate more confidence in myself?
  • How can I improve my thinking in order to make my life better?
  • What would help me grow as a person?
  • What new ways can I express myself?
  • What do I need more of?
  • What do I need less of?
  • When do I get mental clarity?
  • How can I stay in tune with my body?
  • When do I feel emotionally fulfilled?
  • What makes me feel energized?
  • When am I most empowered?
  • When do I feel joyful?
  • What obstacles are holding me back?
  • What are my greatest sources of inspiration?
  • When do I feel most proud of myself?
  • What makes me feel valued and important?
  • What is my greatest insecurity?
  • What thoughts consume me throughout my day?
  • How much time do I devote to self-care?
  • What are the things I’d like to say no to?
  • What are the things I’d like to say yes to?

Lots to think about, right? Lots to act upon as well lots to excavate and elevate!

Now, for a little practice on intention setting all that is required is your willingness, your breath and your heart.

Upon awakening each day, resist the temptation to reach for your phone or electronic devices. Doing so will only fill your mind with clutter and distractions.

Begin your day by sitting in bed, a chair, yoga mat or meditation cushion. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath a little while. By focusing on how your breath travels through your body, you are practicing conscious breathing. Now bring your attention to your heart center, and see/feel it opening and blossoming like a lotus flower. When you feel ready, ask yourself:

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

Let that word or phrase fill your heart, your mind and your awareness. You may be feeling one way, but your heart may be telling you something else. The key is to honor that voice of the heart, your instinct and intuition because the heart connects us to the flow of love.

When you are ready, open your eyes slowly, and take a few deep breaths. Keep your intention(s) close to your heart, and tap into it throughout your day and throughout all your encounters and interactions.

Darlings, I invite you to make this an every day practice. Remember, consistency creates the change we want to see. Sit as little or as long as you would like. The point is to be consistent with your practice so that you can be open to your spiritual and energetic self. This morning ritual will allow you to move throughout your day with confidence, purpose, ease and love.

As we are always reminded in yoga…. it’s a practice- not a perfect- so leave that judgemental voice out of the picture! Bid it farewell. And speaking of judgemental voices, be sure you check out my previous blog New Decade – New Voice if you have not already done so. Carry on, my darlings!

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

New Decade – New Voice

“We all know it is there, no one is surprised, but we still usually underestimate the volume and tenacity of our internal critic.” Monica Dicristina

Happy New Decade, my darlings! I hope 2020 has greeted you with new dreams, new visions and an awareness of the unlimited possibilities and opportunities this new decade will bring us all.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that 2020 will be BIG!!! I also think it’s FINALLY time to stop thinking small, stop putting ourselves, and others, in boxes and rid ourselves- once and for all- of that old, critical and outdated voice that tricks us into thinking we can control things in our lives.

It’s time we bust our hearts and minds wide open, think LARGE and GRAND, be BOLD and BRAVE and operate from a space of knowing that we are ALWAYS and INEXTRICABLY connected to that higher power that is so much greater than our small ways of thinking and controlling.

The immediate impact of letting go of our old ways and old judgmental voices will be that our mind, body and spirit will finally be at ease (once you get into the habit of letting go, that is). Our hearts will want to do a happy dance. There’s nothing wrong with a little (or a whole lot of) dancing for that matter!

Let’s chat a bit about the issue of control. Wanting to control things is just an illusion- much like perfection. The more we drop the need to control, the easier that life flows. We’re more in sync with our higher self and intuition and the universal guidance that is always conspiring for our highest good.

As Blondie, my beloved Maui sister would say, “Why live in difficult world when you can live in easy world?” As a matter of fact, if you’re reading this Blondie, you are just the person to write a blog on living in easy world!

What I think that many people do not realize is how operating from a place of control keeps us stuck and living in difficult world (I know because I used to live there at one point in my life, but I had myself evicted). Nothing flows, everything is a struggle, grievance or problem, and the dis-ease and discomfort in our bodies show up as depression and/or anxiety, health issues and unhealthy habits. It’s time to kick these control issues to the curb… once and for all!!! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Instead of those nasty, negative and destructive old voices in our heads, we must replace them with new voices that speak to our greatness and grandness that is ours by divine right.

Let’s start with a very basic limited belief that we were taught early in life: the need to please everyone. This is one of the most destructive beliefs we can take on. News flash darlings, we can’t please everyone. We waste so much valuable energy chasing this myth that it leaves us depleted and feeling dejected. That is a far cry from the magnificence which we need to embody!

It’s also time we let go of overworking ourselves to death in an effort to feel accomplished. All we’re accomplishing is getting to a state of perpetual exhaustion and feeling wiped-out, especially when that toxic voice in our head is sabotaging our accomplishments. Gag it. Adios! Ciao! Bye!

I’ve found that acknowledging our accomplishments is a much healthier, positive, motivating and less taxing way to approach things instead of focusing on what we didn’t get done. We can happily choose to celebrate the things we’ve completed.

And speaking of exhaustion, it’s time we let go of the notion that we are able to “catch up” on our sleep. We can’t. Shut that voice down immediately! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Research has shown, time and time again, that we need seven to nine hours of sleep. Furthermore, we now know that constant lack of sleep can harm us genetically, negatively impact DNA repair and immunity. Sleep disruptions that affect the body’s circadian rhythm include the use of cell phones, computers and watching TV in bed or right up to bedtime. Again, research shows that shutting down all electronics about two hours prior to bedtime is the way to go. Personally, I guard my sleep like the sacred ritual it is (although, on some occasions, I am guilty of binge watching Netflix into the wee hours). I’m only human… wink, wink.

You know that irritating voice that makes you feel defeated, frustrated, and inferior when mindlessly scrolling through social media? Time to send that one packing! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Why should we waste time comparing ourselves to others? Why allow that voice to be so destructive? Thanks to IT wizards, we can keep track our screen time, do a social media cleanse of our choice (we must always have choices) or even download apps that help us to stay focused. Today, I learned of the Forest app. It allows the user to a accrue points while building a forest, and then use these points to actually plant a tree in the Amazon (thanks, Denise, for this intel).

By any chance, are you someone who ALWAYS has to be in control at your job or place of employment? How’s that working for you? Yeah, I know, not that great… headaches, migraines, indigestion, anxiety, right? Bid that old you farewell. Adios! Ciao! Bye!

If always having to be in control is your modus operandi, it’s time to let go of that ASAP. I know how hard it can be when we want to do the best we can, provide the best service we can, and want things done in a way that we know only we can do it. But that’s not how many work places function today. There’s more of a collaborative environment these days. While control freaks tend to frown upon this, working collaboratively and in teams are necessary skills in today’s world. We all bring a myriad of skills with us, and our individual uniqueness adds to the flavor of our working relationships- especially when working remotely or with someone on the other side of the world.

A simple exercise to get in the habit of doing- well, it’s more like behavior modification- is to learn to control what we can control. What is ours to control. To be discerning. To pick and choose. To pause. To breathe. To assess. To accept.

Oftentimes, we end up disappointing ourselves when we try too hard at controlling things. Let’s face it, many situations and circumstances are truly out of our hands, so why should we even attempt to control them? Why should we work ourselves into a frenzy or get stuck in a downward spiral of negativity? Why should we get physically sick over it? In those kinds of situations, all we can really control is our attitude and release what is not in our hands to control. Acceptance is a beautiful thing!

Darlings, once we acknowledge, accept and have an unshakable faith in knowing that everything is in divine order and happening just the way it has to happen, we can breathe easier, be more peaceful, have more equanimity and know that the universe is handling all our affairs.

Universal force is something we can’t go up against. It is mighty, strong, intelligent, magical and comical. And if you can’t see it for what it is, then perhaps it’s time to shift your perspective or change your glasses… just sayin’!

It’s a new year. It’s a new decade. What are your wildest dreams for this grand new decade? How are you designing your life this year? What do you need to get clear and honest about? What controlling behaviors are holding you back? What voices inside your head need evicting?

Perhaps you’d like to spend a little time reflecting on this. Enlist your friends. Pick their brains, ask them for help, have some deep conversations around the topic of control… just make sure you have snacks. Snacks are always a must!

Here’s to a new you, a new decade AND a new voice!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Paradox of Our Age

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about ” Henry David Thoreau

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with bountiful blessings and the warmth of family and friendship.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks in a time of “business” unlike any other time of the year. The thing is, all this business has a way of putting us on auto pilot rushing, rushing, rushing and, before we know it, we’re on the other end of the holidays, fatigued, and wondering where the time went and why we didn’t enjoy ourselves.

The key to enjoyment is to be… be present in each and every moment and interaction so that we can savor the beauty of the moment with all our senses. When on auto-pilot, we lose the ability to do so. We become more robotic and less human. More rigid and less flexible. More closed off and less open-hearted. Even our breath becomes more shallow.

As I was randomly looking through a gem of a book, Soul to Soul- Poems, Prayers and Stories to End a Yoga Class, I came across a lovely piece which speaks to the paradox of our age. The piece, along with conversations I had with different people this past week, actually inspired this blog.

Sooooo….on this first day of December, I invite us to take a moment to pause, read the poem below by the Dalai Lama, and see where it lands. Perhaps it will spark some conversation, reflection, or inspire us all to start doing humanity a little differently as we enter a new decade.

We have bigger houses but smaller families; More conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; More knowledge, but less judgement. More experts, but more problems; More medicines, but less healthiness; we’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. these are times of fast food but slow digestion; Tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is so much in the window but nothing in the room.

So….. what are we busy about? And, more importantly, why?

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

Finding Our Common Ground

Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.” Tom Robbins

Greetings, darlings!

You all know how I love to share. Someone very wise once said to me, “Sharing is caring.” It sure is!

You may also know that I love reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. She usually writes about what she’s been thinking during the past week, and she also shares stories and writings from people she calls Architects of Change.

It’s always an enjoyable read. I look forward to making a cup of tea and reading it first thing Sunday mornings. If for some reason I don’t get around to doing so, then it’s one of the last things I read before turning in for the night.

This past Sunday’s piece really spoke to me. It speaks to differences, kindness, compassion, friendship, love, politics, beliefs, respect, judgement, separation and the insanity of it all. So, in the spirit of caring, I am sharing with you the piece Maria Shriver wrote, Finding Our Common Ground:

We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”

Those were the words that Ellen DeGeneres used to defend herself after people became outraged by a picture of her sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game.

It was, and is, stunning to me that she felt she had to defend herself for sitting next to someone who she considers a friend, but who happens to have different political opinions. I mean, let’s all pause and let that sink in for a moment.

Two people watching a football game. Two people enjoying themselves and their friendship. Two people being kind to each other. That makes people mad?

Are we supposed to only talk to, sit with, and be friends with people who share our exact same opinions about God, country, and politics? Look, I was against the war in Iraq, and I was furious that the Bush administration led us into that years-long battle that took the lives of thousands of young Americans. I know their families will never fully recover. I understand their pain.

I also know that many felt their loved ones gave their lives for their country, and that they take great pride in their service. I also understand that many people — regardless of whether they had a loved one fighting in the war — are still angry that the Bush administration got our country into that situation in the first place.

Still, I worry that most who reacted negatively to Ellen’s picture were only reacting because of their own personal opinions. They couldn’t give her the respect to make her own choice about her beliefs, her friendships, or whom she chooses to spend time with.

These days, people just seem to despise anyone who is not in their political wheelhouse. Can we not be friends with someone from a different political party anymore? Can we not be friends with someone from a different religious background? Can we not be friends with someone who comes from a different walk of life, or who is a different color, or who has different experiences than our own? Is that where we are now as a nation and as people? I fear that for many, the answer is “yes.”

I understand that many are reacting strongly right now because tensions are so high in our nation. A lot of people are hurting, scared, struggling, and worried about where we’re headed next. Many fear the “other” because they view those different than them as a threat to their own lives, futures, and beliefs. But if you ask me, our political problems will only deepen if we all retreat into our own corners.

It’s this kind of thinking that is driving us apart. It’s this that is keeping us apart and preventing our families, our friendships, our politics, and our country from coming together and bridging the divide. It’s this kind of thinking — this kind of judgment — that was hurled at Ellen. This should cause us all to stop and dig deep within ourselves.

Is this really who we want to be? Is this really what we want to teach our children? Is this how we truly feel? I don’t believe it is. I won’t accept it, and I don’t think you should either.

Think about how you feel when hate and judgment are directed your way. Does it make you feel good? Does it make you want to show kindness and love to yourself and others? Of course not.

“When I say be kind to one another, I don’t only mean to people that think the same way that you do,” Ellen also said this week. “I mean be kind to everyone.”

The reaction to Ellen sitting with former President Bush presents us all with a teachable moment. Do we, or do we not, want to be leaders of a movement that fosters kindness, acceptance, compassion, understanding, and love? To be such a leader — to be such a warrior — takes guts. It takes an open heart and an open mind.

It’s easy to spew hate, but it’s also small-minded. It’s easy to post a mean tweet, but it is also cowardly and weak. It’s so easy to criticize and judge, but it’s way harder to love someone who is different than you, or who you think is different than you.

I believe it’s our job right now to try and figure out what we have in common. After all, God only knows we are really good at letting everyone else know how divided we are and how much we don’t have in common.

Maybe we both love football. Maybe we both have issues with our parents. Maybe we both have felt like the “other” at some point in our lives. Maybe we both have felt like we don’t belong and like we must cover up our wounds. Maybe we both feel shame about something that we’ve done wrong and desperately want to right. Maybe we both are worried about the state of our nation’s heart and want to find common ground so we can work together to do better. Maybe, just maybe, Ellen and former President Bush were talking about that.

The fact is, we will never know what we have in common — we will never heal our divide — unless we can agree to sit down next to someone unexpected and begin a friendship. Try it and see how it makes you feel. It just might heal your heart, your world, and our world at large.

If you don’t subscribe to the Sunday Paper, you may want to consider doing so. It is one email I love seeing in my inbox first thing Sunday mornings, and I bet you will too!

So what do you say? Are you up for finding our common ground?

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC