Let Go of the Clinging

“Dear Self…You can only lose what you cling to.” – Buddha

Throughout the month of September, I was (and kinda continue to be) on a cleaning out, clearing out, giving away, donating and purging spree. I’ve emptied every closet, kitchen and bathroom cabinet, drawer, rubbermaid bin, and had a shredding feast as well. The more I emptied and cleared out, the more things I found that needed releasing and/or discarding. What a metaphor for life, right? There’s most definitely a sense of lightness, airiness and freedom in letting go.

I think my latest project has something to do with the fact that I will be celebrating my 60th in a couple of weeks. That, and the fact that I’ve been thinking of my Mama since today marks 10 years since she left the physical realm. Mama was the queen of giving away things. It brought her joy and satisfaction. She always said that all she needed when she was ready to leave this world was a bed and a crucifix above it. Well, that was certainly the case since she resided in a nursing facility for the last 3 years of her life. All she had were the essential items for grooming and dressing. When I think back to those years, it was happiest I ever saw her. She was absolutely free! I guess her wisdom and life experience knew what I was only starting to learn at the time.

Reflecting on these times left me with the feeling of wanting to enter this new decade even lighter than ever.  I want even more expansiveness. More space. More freedom of all kinds. I do not want “stuff” weighing me down. Even things that brings me joy, and I’ve been holding onto, have had to go. Let these things bring other people joy.

We often find ourselves wondering why we are holding onto something even if we are not using it. Better yet, we question why we continue to buy “stuff.” That’s a big one for me. I cannot tell you how many filled shopping bags I have given away AND donated. And mind you, I do this a couple of times a year! Truthfully, I get sick to my stomach when I think of all the money I’ve spent on “stuff” over the years. Why do we cling to these behaviors?

Well, in speaking with various friends, I think it has a lot to do with growing up not having had much. Many of us did not grow up in an affluent home. Some of our parents came to this country with very little or nothing at all. Perhaps some parents were children of the depression, and they held on to everything out of fear because they lost so much. So naturally, they instilled that sense of “fear/loss” in their children. For others, it could be that they grew up in messy, disorderly conditions and vowed their own homes would be totally different. Whichever the scenario, I am willing to bet we’ve ALL accumulated more than we could ever need / use.

So, if we find ourselves in this scenario, the charitable and harmonious thing we can do is to pass these items on to someone who will get joy out of receiving and using them.  Allow others to feel a sense of abundance. Besides, it clears our spaces  and allows for more light and energy to flow in. After all, our homes are our Sanctuary, our Soul Spaces, and we should care for them as such. We should  be able to walk in our homes and be greeted with beautiful and peaceful energy. But first, let’s get clear on the whole “detachment” thing.

Detachment and letting go are often misunderstood. Many wisdom traditions speak to the concept of letting go of attachment. Detachment does not mean that we should own nothing, On the contrary, it means that nothing should own us. Yet, how many of us cling to something as if our lives depended on it?

Let’s get something straight here Darlings, detachment in no way implies we must renounce our desires and worldly possessions and live like an ascetic at the base of a mountain. On the contrary, it’s looking at the fears behind why we are clinging to some thing, outcome, or expectation of some kind and choosing to let go of the clinging. This also holds true for people and relationships. There’s freedom and transformation in this, and I think it’s because we are all energy…unbounded, intelligent, intuitive, beautiful free spirits. On a deeper level, we recognize this feeling even if we are unable to name it.

The following quote, by Deepak Chopra, really speaks to me:

“Detachment is a natural quality that emerges as your higher self becomes your internal reference point. You engage in life with joy and passion yet no longer get swept up in the ego’s fears. You are rooted in the knowledge that you are pure love and pure spirit.”

When we seek refuge in this knowingness, I think we put things into perspective. We see through a clearer set of lenses. Instead of seeking something / someone outside ourselves to bring us peace, security, happiness, validation, etc., we come to realize that we no longer have to cling to these notions. The more we let go of our “stuff” (whatever that may look like) and attachment to it, as well as our attachment to outcomes and expectations we set for people in our lives, the freer we become. We have license to soar. In addition, I also believe we have more space for love, wealth and abundance of all kinds to enter our lives.

Darlings, there is freedom in our choices. Even when we pause to take notice of how/why/when we are clinging to something- a thought, feeling, expectation or outcome- and we choose a different behavior, is a moment of expansion. It’s an evolutionary moment. A moment to celebrate. A moment to witness our growth. A moment where we realize where we once were and where we are going. A moment we see who we were and who we have become (and are still becoming). And for some of us, it’s recognizing that we have arrived!

Conversely, some of us have not arrived- yet. We are still clinging, fearful, holding on to dear life and believing we are in “control.” As Maria Shriver notes in her Book, I’ve Been Thinking, some people view holding and hanging on as a sign of strength. However, it takes much more strength to know when it is time to let go, and then do it. Hmmmmm…..powerful, or what?

The act of letting go comes more naturally for some of us than it does for others. If letting go is something you are strugglling with and finding it tough to do, perhaps the following simple prayer from Ms. Shriver’s book can help soothe your soul:

Dear God, letting go is hard for me, because I want to hold on and be in control. That makes me feel safe. Help me to realize that I am safe, even when I let go of the way things are and allow them to unfold in the new ways there supposed to. Amen.

Note to self: let go of the clinging!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Cherished Memories

“Cherish your beautiful memories for sometimes these are the Blessings that you are left with.” 

While writing my Father’s Day Blog, My Honey-Honey, I came across pictures of my dad and his brothers when my Honey-Honey was only 4 years old in 1918. Alongside that picture was another one of them as adults with their mother. It must have been taken sometime in the late 1950’s-early 60’s. Seeing these pictures got me reminiscing.

It got me thinking about the memories I have from when I was a little girl and the obvious love these 4 sons had for their mother. A mother who essentially raised them without a dad (because he left them) and how she was able to sendher boys to the US to boarding school. Once reunited again, the family dynamic, as I saw it, was one of closeness, love, caring, unity and family. Everything was centered around the “hub” of my grandmother’s house.

We all lived just blocks from each other, with the exception of my uncle Eugene and his wife, Juanita (who changed her name to Joan), and who lived downstairs from my grandmother. My uncle Henry (the perpetual eccentric bachelor who I am saving for another blog), lived with my grandmother in the upstairs apartment. These four grown men cared for their mother until the day she died at 102. And, as a matter of fact, my uncle Henry followed her 6 months later. I am convinced he died of a broken heart.

As I was preparing to write this blog, I came across this little 3×5 gratitude book I had purchased about six years ago. It’s called The Gratitude Book – 50 Prompts to Keep the Grateful Feelings Flowing. As I was flipping through the pages, I came across an entry that dealt with an experience from my childhood for which I am grateful. What perfect synchronicity!

The experience from my childhood years that I was and still am grateful for, was having a sense of family beacuse all my aunts, uncles and cousins were an active part of my life. As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I guess the fashionista in me was groomed by these individuals, for they were impeccably dressed at all times. Regardless if we were out, with company  or just lounging at home, it would not be uncommon to see my uncles and my Honey-Honey in a sports jacket and sometimes even sporting a tie or bow-tie. They definitely knew how to dress to impress!

The women were always fashionable in their dresses, skirts, suits, shoes, hats, gloves, etc. My mom was the only one who ever dared to wear slacks when they came into fashion (Mama, like yours truly, was a little rebellious in her younger times).  Oh boy, when my grandmother saw her… and me sporting bell-bottom pants!?!?!?!?!?!?  I thought she was going to fall off her chair. She could NOT conceive of a woman wearing pants or even wanting to. It was all pretty hilarious at the time!

My aunts and uncles all stuck together. I am sure they must have had their disagreements or arguments, but it was never public or in front of the children. Yes, they’d squabble, but only about little “stuff” or “annoying” habits. And it was usually like a comedy act. Overall, I liked the sense of “rituals” that were established. On Sundays, the grown ups on my father’s side would gather at my grandmother’s house for cake, coffee and canasta. On Saturdays, we typically went to one of my maternal aunt’s place for amazing meals. Unlike my mother, her sisters LOVED to cook. Thank the Lord I inherited that trait from them. I may not know how to make Cuban food, but I can cook, and I’m damn good at it!

The sense of cohesiveness was of great impact on my life. Perhaps that is why I love entertaining so much and hosting gatherings. Over the years, my friends have become my family. I’ve always loved having parties where everyone was included…. it’s never  mattered to me if someone was married or single, everyone has always been welcome. Even friends of friends are always welcome. The more, the merrier!

If there’s anything I know how to do, it’s throw a great party. My party planning somehow always turns into an event. What can I say? I can’t keep it simple in this arena- a theme here and there, props, activities, entertainment, delicious food and drink and most times even complete with party favors of some kind. I can’t help myself. It’s all about living, loving and celebrating life!

I love the sense of belonging, camaraderie, unity of purpose, intention and overall gratitude for being able to bring beautiful people together to celebrate their presence in my life. We are all gifts in each other’s lives, and it’s important to celebrate the privilege and honor of being alive yet another day. These memories are the blessings that you are left with when someone is no longer here in the physical world.

While my parents, aunts, uncles and even some cousins are no longer physically alive, their memories, habits, gatherings, rituals, and love live inside me every day. I honor their memories by doing what I do best….celebrate life! And as my Honey-Honey taught me: live each day to the fullest and lead from the heart.

Do you have any memories that you hold near and dear? Well, I will leave you with the following prompt from The Gratitude Book: What is one experience from your childhood that you’re especially grateful for? Write about how it felt at the time and, in retrospect, how it’s affected your life.

Stay tuned to my upcoming blog, where I will share some other prompts from the book. Happy reminiscing!

Inhale Love & LIght…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

My Guest Blogger Returns

Red Lipstick is My Armor

by Shannon Green

I was never a very confident person growing up. 

I was constantly teased by my brother for my “witch-nose,” teased by the public school kids for having to attend Catholic School, mocked for getting good grades, and called anti-social by my 5th Grade teacher because I enjoyed reading books during recess. I’ve had glasses and braces simultaneously, been called too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice.  I’ve been asked “why do you smile so much” like it was a bad thing. 

Over the years, I’ve struggled with trying to figure out who I am and how to love myself despite of all of the criticism.  I’ve tried on a few different masks over the years to try to fit in, but none of them really felt comfortable –  until I decided to take them off completely and just see what being me felt like. 

After returning from Maui and adjusting back to reality, I knew that if I wanted to continue feeling the bliss I had experience while I was there, I needed to do some serious self-work. I needed to overcome the things that were feeding my insecurities and fears. I needed to admit that I was stressed out, which literally took a case of Shingles to make me come that realization. Not kidding.  Five years ago, just a few weeks after returning from my amazing Maui Yoga Retreat, I came down with Shingles. Luckily for me it wasn’t a severe outbreak, but it was enough for me to FINALLY admit that I was stressed out. Years of denial, both to me and my friends, had finally culminated in my body retaliating against me; as if to say,“You aren’t listening to me so I am going to make you listen to me!”

Let me set the stress stage for you. At this time, my husband and I were living with my in-laws while he finished up yet another Bachelor’s Degree (this time in Mechanical Engineering) in hopes of getting a better job than his previous Master of Fine Arts afforded him.  I was terrified we would never have enough money to move to our own place and that we would have to live with my in-laws forever. My work was ok. I wasn’t unhappy at work, but I also wouldn’t say I was happy.  Additionally, I had been hoping to start a family by now, but that wasn’t happening. Because of this, I was seeing various doctors and trying everything I could to figure out the problem.  

After returning from Maui, I realized that I needed to make the “Maui-State-of Mind” a permanent thing. I had a glimpse of how good life could be, and I needed to figure out how to sustain that feeling back home.  So, like everything I do, I tackled this with full force, as if it were a college class I needed to ace. I started reading “May Cause Miracles” by Gabrielle Bernstein. The book promised change in 40 Days, and I worked each chapter religiously.  I bought more books and more journals, and I became devoted to figuring out how to “let go” and “surrender” and how this differed from just “giving-up.” I read about love and forgiveness. 

I became a junky for all things Hay House, which is funny because I don’t think I even knew what Hay House Publishing was at the time.  I became obsessed with Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love,” which has become one of my absolute favorites. I was downloading Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenges onto my phone every time a new series came out. I just kept following any signs I could find. If a name was mentioned in a book I was currently reading, I wrote it down and I researched it later. Who was the author?  What was the book?  I took the list Yaya gave me,  went to the library, and I checked out as many books as I could find. Little did I know at the time but, bit by bit, things started to change.  I had started to change, and life had started to change along with it. 

My husband eventually graduated in December 2013 and, about 10 months later, we found our beautiful home. By 2015 we were living in our house, and he was working at a good job. I realized that the fear and insecurities I had surrounding money had disappeared. Additionally, my job was starting to change too. At one point in 2015, I was working for 6 different people. Wow! That is a lot of personalities, but there was change on the horizon and, by 2016, I was working for the one person I had wanted to work for. 

I had also come to a huge decision about having a family. We were just in the final stretch of closing on our new home, and I was at yet another doctor appointment.  Unfortunately for me, I was meeting with a doctor who had a terrible bedside manner.  I was already on the verge of tears when I realized I didn’t need to keep doing this. I could stop at any time. It was my decision to make. I decided I needed to stop seeing these doctors. I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to continue with the stress of the multiple doctors’ appointments and the disappointment I felt each month when nothing I was doing was working. Once I realized that I could stop going to see these doctors, I had this amazing feeling of peace wash over me. I knew what I had to do. I had to stop going. I had the power to stop. So, I stopped. And I felt free. With this stress now lifted form my heart, I felt a huge relief wash over me. I could now concentrate on living in Maui-Bliss!

With all of those stress creators out of the way, I realized that one of my biggest insecurities still needed to be addressed: how I felt when I looked in the mirror. I believe we are always our harshest critics, and every time I looked in the mirror I heard those voices from my childhood. I knew I had to face this fear – this insecurity head on, and I thought to myself, “What is one thing I have always wanted to try but was always too scared to look foolish?”  The answer was “red lipstick.”

Now, up until this point in my life, I was fairly neutral about my lipstick colors. I tended to wear more natural colors and focused my makeup on eyeshadow and black mascara because I have always liked my eyes. My lips are naturally thin on top. Truthfully, I hardly have an upper lip. I have always been afraid to try red lipstick because I have such a fair complexion spattered with freckles, and I was terrified I would pick the wrong shade… and then end up looking like Bozo the Clown. I was determined to do it though. Face the fear of the red lipstick. So I did what I always do, and I researched the best red lipsticks. Truly I did! I went to my computer and Googled it. 

Once I had purchased the “perfect” red I rushed to the bathroom mirror to try it on. The first day I wore it, I felt a little self-conscious. Like I was trying too hard but, as the days passed by and I wore it more and more, I realized that it was boosting my confidence. In fact, applying my red lips each morning became like adorning my armor to face the world! I had on my war-paint! Once applied, I was ready for battle! I could face anything! Who knew that a little red smear on my lips would give me such confidence?? Just the littlest thing like wearing red lipstick gave me the boost I needed to make other changes in my life. 

After reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,”  I revamped my entire wardrobe and only kept those items that “sparked joy” and made me feel beautiful, powerful, and confident. I realized, as I went through my clothing, that so many items had been bought to make me “fit-in” and “blend” with the crowd so people would accept me as one of them.  My childhood drama of wanting to be liked was still replaying itself because I was afraid to just be me. Enough! I said goodbye to anything that I did not love. 

Fast forward to the present: 2018. I have been back a month from the most amazing Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica and, yes, this past week I was experiencing such inner turmoil that seemed to come from no-where. All of a sudden I felt those old insecurities bubble up to the surface again. I felt like that teenage girl who just couldn’t believe that she was anyone special. The old voices were getting louder and louder each day. Luckily for me, I was able to talk to some very amazing friends of mine who helped me realize this as old drama and not truth. Then, as often seems to happen in my life, the signs started to appear. I am currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ,“A New Earth” and have just got to the chapter titled “The Pain-Body” which he describes as follows: 

Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain….. The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in  every cell of your body. It consists not just of childhood pain, but also painful emotions that were added to it later in adolescence and during your adult life, much of it created by the voice of the ego. It is the emotional pain that is your unavoidable companion when a false sense of self is the basis of your life.  

The energy of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.”

Wow! That was it, exactly what I was experiencing. I read on to the following: 

The pain-body awakens from its dormancy when it gets hungry, when it is time to replenish itself. Alternatively, it may get triggered by an event at any time. The pain-body that is ready to feed can use the most insignificant event as a trigger, something somebody says or does, or even a thought.”

As I was reading this and sharing these passages with my friends, I started to wonder why this was coming up. Hadn’t I already dealt with this issue?  I re-read some of my journal entries from last year and saw I had written about these same insecurities back then, but I had forgotten. I realize now that I had never fully dealt with the issues. I had skimmed the surface but never dug deeper. Now I knew why it was coming up again. Now I could put a name on it. The pain-body. 

“Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?” ~ Echkart Tolle, “A New Earth”

There is no benefit to me by replaying these old negative stories in my head. They do not serve me. They no longer existed; yet, I carried them inside of me where they were eating holes trying to escape back into reality. I was giving them power.  

I believe that this was resurfacing because of the amazing experience in Costa Rica. I had recharged myself. My armor was now more than just on the surface. It was more than just red lipstick giving me confidence.  It was positive energy that was radiating from inside of me and surrounding me. I believe that this old story has come back to me at this time because I am now able to face it completely and finally slay this dragon. I believe that just being able to recognize this has already started me down the path. I know it will probably come back around to test me, but I feel confident that I will be successful in recognizing it for what it is and stop the pain-body from feeding.

During the week, as I was talking to Yaya and other friends about this issue, I thought about how often we try to suppress our true authentic-self in order to appease others and make them feel more comfortable- which in turns leaves us feeling badly because we are stifling ourselves. We end up feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. Why do we do this? Why do we change our behavior? We want to fit in. We want to be liked. We are not often encouraged as children to be confident in ourselves and celebrate our uniquenesses.  So we adorn these masks to fit in, to blend in; until ultimately, we fade away, and we become scared to be ourselves because “what if no one will like me?”…. and we wonder why we aren’t happy??? 

But then we meet people we can take our masks off with…. People who love and accept us for our quirks and differences, and we realize when we are around them we feel like the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, jokes are funnier, food tastes better, and life is just grand! I know I have been fortunate enough to find these people in my life and seeing that this way of life is possible. The hard part is being able to remember this when I don’t have them around me 24/7. It is work, and it isn’t always easy. According to Yaya, that is why they call it “a practice.”  Luckily, I know that support is only a phone call away. 

I realize now that those people who don’t understand the true-me are the same ones who tell me I am “too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice,” but I have realized that I don’t’ want to change those things about me in order to make them feel more comfortable. In fact, those are all things I love about myself!    

I have a huge heart and want to be friendly to everyone. I love to give hugs. I love to smile. I love to cry especially when I am happy. I will be your cheerleader and champion routing you on whenever you need me. I don’t want to change. If I make you feel uncomfortable with my behavior, I am sorry you feel that way; but, I am NOT going to change! I am going to wear red lipstick to yoga class because that is what I love to do.

So I leave you asking this:

  • What old stories do you replay in your head that you have adopted as “truth”? 
  • What are your pain-bodies? Can you recognize them when they appear?
  • What masks do you wear?  Why do you wear them?
  • Are there people you remove your mask for? How does it feel when you are around them?
  • How do you live your authentic self?
  • Is there something you stopped doing that you really liked because someone told you it was “stupid?”
  • Is there something you want to stop doing because it does not serve you, but you are too afraid to stop? This could be a behavior or activity. 
  • What brings you joy?
  • If there something that you always wanted to try but were too scared? Maybe a new hobby or hairstyle?

Sometimes, something as trivial as red-lipstick can make you feel like you have adorned your Knight’s Armor and gives you just enough confidence to slay your dragons. I know for me it surely has. Wishing you the best on your journey! 

 

Thank you, “Blondie,” for digging deep, digging even deeper with each re-write while you were “on assignment,” and for the journey you shared with us. I’m sure it was cathartic and a long time coming! Personally speaking, we can all relate!  I’m certain you have touched many hearts with this blog. I’m honored, blessed and grateful to be part of your life! Love you! Mama Yaya xoxo

PS- Looking forward to your next one!