Secrets of Inner Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret of Inner Peace

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Scandalous Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

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

 

 

 

A Conversation for Your Heart and Soul

APPROACH: Noun

-The act of drawing near, a coming

-An access; opportunity

-A manner in which a problem is solved or a policy is made

-The way of doing something

Several years ago, in one of my yoga classes at Highland Yoga Studio in Butler, NJ, the instructor talked about the word “approach” and ways she related to it and had been working with it. As I listened to what she was saying, the neurons in my brain started working overtime and it started me thinking on ways I approach situations, opportunities, people, challenges, my yoga practice, interactions and life in general. Whew….lots to think about! I  felt like my brain was a pin ball machine!!! However, it also started me thinking of my approach to what would be a new school year  (on the heels  of a change in leadership and the transition that followed……that’s a whole other blog….maybe even a book).

At that point, I “chose” to believe that it would be a good school year. Why? Because, trust me, it could NOT have gotten any worse than the previous year as a result of the many challenges, resources and personnel we lost. Despite the support, or lack thereof, that we might or might not have received, I made a “conscious choice” to maintain a positive outlook and work on my personal “approach.”  So, I share with you some thoughts on the word approach and some questions I found myself asking. I share this in hopes of awakening something – a thought, a feeling within you, a stirring of some sort. And if it makes you uncomfortable….great! That means something inside you is at work. You may be “unearthing” something that needs to come to the surface. Please don’t run from it!!! Sit with it and breathe deeply.

Take some time to converse with your heart and soul as you answer these questions. As with any good, deep, soulful conversion, it may go on for hours, days and maybe even weeks….perhaps even longer! I personally like to journal, you may choose to do the same:

  • How do you choose to show up each day – for yourself, for others you encounter throughout the day?
  • How do you start the day?
  • How do you approach self-care?
  • What does self-care look like to you?
  • Are you kind, loving, compassionate, patient and forgiving of yourself?
  • Do you approach your family, friends, loved ones, spouse, partner and pets with kindness, love, compassion, empathy, dignity, patience, respect, integrity and non-violence?
  • Do you act or react when a challenging situation arises?
  • What’s happening inside of you right now?
  • Do you pause, create space and allow your natural awareness to arise?
  • Do you allow yourself the space to be mindful and non-judgemental?
  • What is your approach to your job?
  • Have you set an intention?
  • What is it?
  • How will you chose to approach a new day, a stranger, a task, meeting, project, person, colleagues, etc.?
  • Are you hopeful?
  • Are you happy?
  • Is there something that needs changing?
  • What is it?
  • Are you rigid or flexible?
  • Do you have an open or closed mind?
  • Will you choose to be optimistic or pessimistic?

Without a doubt, approach is a CONSCIOUS choice, a DELIBERATE, thought-out CHOICE.  Our choices speak volumes! And, we are all role models…..a very powerful and influential position with which we have been graced. We have the ability to create or destroy depending on the approach we take. If given the choice, why not make mindful, patient, positive, inspiring, compassionate, respectful and non-violent choices – straight from out heart center – that create community and help to mold ourselves, children, family, friends, and partners into Peaceful Warriors???

Darlings, I urge you all to AWAKEN your senses and those of the people around you. We only get to do each day once, so why not CHOOSE to APPROACH each day with a sense of mindful awareness, wonder, patience, honor, respect, integrity, compassion, understanding, empathy and peace??? Collectively, we CAN choose to be the peace this world so desperately needs. Our influence is exponential and is just another way to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart….right from the start!

Inhale Love….Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Why Blog?

“Our task is to choose to live our own life as an example of grace and humanity, and to surrender to both the light and the dark, and to create a space within for beauty and devastation and for all that life will reveal”  Seane Corn

Unbeknownst to me, the idea of starting a blog came to me around June 2012. At that time, the seeds were already being dropped into my head and, subconsciously, I began watering them with my beliefs, actions, intentions and, yes, compromises I had made years past and over the next several years. I recall being so sick with an upper respiratory thing and a looming migraine that was threatening to take me down. At the time, I was an assistant principal in an elementary school, and there was a Saturday workshop being conducted for administrators. Additionally, we had to bring in our laptops for something (swapping out? re-imaging? You get the picture). I was so sick that I considered staying home and have the laptop issue resolved at school. However, something was pulling me to go. Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of The First 30 Days of Change, was the featured speaker at our workshop.

Now, if you know me, I LOVE CHANGE…It’s what keeps us alive, thriving, growing and ever-transforming into better versions of our old selves. Something (my internal GPS) was telling me to go despite how violently ill I felt. Through “divine intervention,” the Universe used a dear friend and co-worker of mine as a messenger. My friend sent me a text along the lines of this speaker being someone that would be of interest to me. I immediately googled the author…there it was! I picked myself up, armed myself with some herbal remedies, tissues, water, etc., and I headed to the workshop / seminar.

Our stories and journeys are not only our lessons but they teach others as well. What we do and how we do it has the power to light the path for others in need and can serve as a great source of inspiration, motivation and consolation. We are all on the same path, returning home to find ourselves, our true self, the connection with that force that is greater than ourselves and that resides inside each and every one of us…..and to light and pave the way for others. How we live out our purpose is as unique as we are. It is our responsibility as a human being to want to contribute…to inspire, love, serve and leave behind a legacy of love and service. Let’s be clear, what I just mentioned is our purpose; However, it is up to us, our passion, and our willingness to be vulnerable, broken open, courageous, brave, fearless, fierce, intentional and deliberate that will allow us to grow, transform, flex our resilience muscle, make an impact and affect change. In the end, it’s all about healing ourselves, helping others to do the same and, in turn, helping humanity to heal. I know, without a shadow of a doubt,  we are here on this earth to love, serve and uplift each other.

Oh, and did I mention ask for help? Yes, you heard it…..Ask for help. If you are that rock everyone comes to, the fixer, the handler (come on now, we all have a little Olivia Pope in us), you know how difficult it is to ask for help. Well, my darlings, if we do not learn to ask for help and allow others the joy of helping us, you can be sure the Universe is going to deliver some hard lessons and get us to utter the word help;  I need help; Can you please help me…. Get the picture? Trust me, this will teach us to leave the EGO at the door!

Towards the last several years of my career, I was fed up with what I saw and experienced first hand: fed up with the big egos, the abuse of power, politics, lies, bullying, harassment, intimidation, a system not doing “right” by its clientele and personnel, the back stabbing and everything else that comes with working in a toxic work environment. I felt that my talents and my gifts weren’t even being tapped into. My creativity and light were being zapped! Nevertheless, I was committed to impacting and influencing others by continuing to “work the work” of self transformation, talk the talk and, more importantly,  walk the walk. I committed to living my yoga off the mat. The more my yoga and meditation practice deepened and flourished and the more I studied yoga philosophy, the more that I felt morally compromised and suffocated. The more I spoke my truth, operated from an authentic and transparent place, the more I saw that I no longer fit in that organization and that my soul needed, and was craving, expansion……Be careful what you wish for……that will be for another post!

The only thing that got me through those last few years leading up to 2012 and the last few months on the job, were to Lead from the heart….Right from the start, always and in all ways. And, boy, can I give you ways to do that!!!!!

Hence…….the Inspire Love Serve Blog.

Please stay tuned!

Inhale love….Exhale gratitude, JTC