Lovin’ on YOU

“The most desired human emotion, love, is the energy of the heart and soul that brings balance, harmony, and healing.” David Elliot

Greetings darlings, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I’m such a love and gratitude junkie that this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s not that I need a particular holiday to celebrate love and be loving. That’s an everyday activity in my book!

Living with a heart wide open and loving wildly, fiercely and passionately is, in my book, a non-negotiable. As David Elliot writes in his book, Healing, love expands and uplifts you when felt and expressed. When you feel love you feel connected to all things through your heart. Isn’t that the truth?

Yet, there are many out there who do not approach life and love from this vantage point. People are disconnected from their hearts, minds are fearful and closed off, and emotions are locked away somewhere deep down inside. I was recently listening to a meditation that stated the biggest journey we will ever take is the journey within. Now that is the absolute truth!

It is only when we journey within that we start to peel away the layers of feelings and emotions that have kept us stuck, sick and block us from truly living with a heart wide open. This journey to the self is one of self love. It’s sweet and painful. Revolutionary and transforming. Poignant and profound.

Darlings, the most important relationship we will ever have is that with our Self. It may sound cliche-ish to some, but it’s radically true. Just think about it for a moment- if we do not love ourselves, how can we love another??? And I mean truly love- the kind that is unconditional and one where we’re connected by our values, integrity, differences, and similarities just the same. And not just in a romantic sense either.

If there’s one thing I’m a big proponent of, and advocate for, is radical self love (and self-care).

What does radical self love look like to you?

How do you love yourself?

In what ways are you unloving to yourself ?

These questions can start you on “lovin’ on YOU” in more ways than you can imagine. Once we crack that door and let the light seep in, we’ve taken the first step towards spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being. After all, we are the guardians of our soul and our one precious life in this lifetime. Loving yourself is our responsibility. It doesn’t fall onto anyone else. It’s solely ours!

Part of my Valentine’s gift to myself was coming to Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA for their R&R program. You can do as much or as little as you want and select from numerous daily classes, workshops, and activities. There’s also various healing arts and services that are available should you want to pamper yourself even more so.

In their own words, “Kripalu envisions an awakened, connected, and compassionate world in which all people and communities are empowered to realize their full potential for the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga. Presence, Inquiry, Practice, Compassion, Integrity, and Service are behaviors that positively impact how we manage ourselves, how we treat each other, and how we interact and connect.” What a way to live and love!

As I read and reread the above, it’s ever so clear that all of that starts with our own journey within. Once we show up for ourselves, we can show up for others- in a healthy, meaningful and more sustainable way.

So…on this beautiful, sunny day in the Berkshires, I’m going to share with you my little takeaway from yesterday’s arrival at Kripalu. It’s their Guidelines for Self and Community Care which I think are beautiful ways to live and love…. ourselves and others!

Be present to your own body, mind, and heart. The felt sense of your own inner experience is at the root of your well-being and ability to serve the community.

Inquire into your habits. Notice impulses and behavior that are not fully aligned with your highest intentions. Your words and behavior impact your own experience, the experience of others, and the environment we create together.

 Explore new ways of caring for and expressing yourself. Allow this time to include the potential discomfort of learning something new.

Be kind to yourself and others. Each one of us is learning, growing and doing the best we can in any given moment. Embrace the opportunity for supported growth.

Demonstrate integrity by speaking and acting your truth respectfully and compassionately. Our community flourishes as each of us brings forth what is within. Our shared stories and experiences foster community and connection.

Darlings, my wish for you is that you ALWAYS take the time to be present with yourself, dive deeply into your heart, listen to the wisdom of the heart, and shower yourself with compassion and loving awareness. And…remember…it is always a practice!

Here’s to Lovin’ on YOU!

Lead with Love…always and in all ways, JTC

The Energy of You

“The consciousness of ‘I AM’ pulsates through the entire universe. We attract what we are.” -Teresa Mann

Everything in life is energy.

In yoga class, we are often reminded that we are all made up of the same elements that make up everything else around us. We are moved by the same energetic forces that move the oceans, winds, the stars and keep the planets aligned. Just as the world operates in rhythms like the cycles of the sun, moon, tides and seasons, we do as well.

Yet, as much as we are alike, our internal operating systems are individually unique. And for some reason, it takes most of a lifetime to embrace and appreciate our uniqueness…unapologetically, that is.

While I was away, I was with a few friends one afternoon, and we were talking about how fluid and free today’s younger generation is and how many do not want to be labeled when it comes to their sexuality or sexual preferences. As I have grown older, wiser and more enlightened, I can so appreciate that mindset and subscribe to it as well.

More and more, we must remind ourselves that we are energy. We are spiritual beings housed in a physical form. Our egos, and the need to be in control, accepted or to fit in to what society deems appropriate, would like to keep us trapped within the confines of our physical body. However, we are so, so much more than that. We are all interdependent…connected heart to heart and soul to soul. We are pure consciousness and energy in motion!

I saw this quote that resonated greatly for me because it speaks to this notion of just being:

“Your true self has no gender, race, religion or nationality. It’s dimensionless being and infinite love.”

Wow! When we take a moment to analyze that, we can see the magnitude of our being-ness. Why should be want to be trapped in a box? It’s stifling and suffocating in that box!

On the other hand, when we embrace our vastness and limitless dimensional being that we are, we will attract that which we are, what we need, who we need, and when we need it. And when it comes to relationships, sexuality, or sexual preferences, we open ourselves up to being in an energetic relationship that exceeds gender, race, nationality, or religion. When we connect with someone, and feel that soul connection, it goes beyond our physical form, physical existence and the labeling that goes with it. When that happens, we are able to tap into pure consciousness and infinite possibilities. Now that is BIG!

Tapping into Source allows the Universe to rise up and meet us and our needs in unimaginable ways. When we tap into that powerful flow of energy, we connect to the essential knowledge that everything will unfold in divine order. This allows us to always feel safe, secure, guided and guarded. In doing so, we can become more aware of the subtle nuances that occur throughout our days and with each interaction we have with others. You never know…that new person we happen to encounter could very well be our next lover, partner, spouse, employer, or the help we need at a given time in our lives.

There have been times in my life that I’ve wondered how I was going to get through a difficult live event; but, when I’ve connected to the Divine Source, the help magically appeared or the situation magically resolved itself. Taking the time to notice just makes me more aware of how smoothly and carefully orchestrated my life is when I tap into that “I AM” energy. That energy is magical.  I am magical. We are all magical!

So… I invite you to take a few moments to sit quietly, ground, breathe and reflect on the following questions:

  1. What does it mean when all the parts of your life are flowing smoothly?
  2. What does that look like and how does it feel in your body?
  3. How does it feel in your heart?
  4. Are there areas in your life that are not flowing smoothly?
  5. If so, why do you think that is?
  6. Can you identify any beliefs that may attribute to you being stuck?
  7. Are there parts of you that you are undervaluing?
  8. Are there parts of you that undervalues others because of their beliefs or sexual preferences?
  9. In what ways do you connect with Source and what happens when you do so?

The work of inner investigation is a ground-up process. It’s a process that makes us look at, examine and deconstruct our limited beliefs.  It allows us to tap into that universal “I AM” intelligence that is so much greater than the beliefs we’ve inherited from society, family, our cultures, etc. It’s a process that energetically connects us all and is of great impact to those around us and the world at large.

Darlings, here’s to tapping into The Energy of You!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping It Real

“With a greater awareness of who you are, and a deeper  understanding of how you define a friend, you can clear a path to choosing people with whom to spend time.” -quote from Breathe Magazine

What is a friend? What kind of friend are you? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you embody these qualities? Who would you like to spend your time with? These questions can and do speak volumes when we take the time to listen. Listen to our own answers and perceptions of what friendship means. After all, as in all relationships, friendship is most definitely a two-way street.

How are your friendships going these days? Oh boy, that could be a potentially loaded question given the “political” and “polarizing” times we are living in. Nevertheless, these are the times we need our friends and a sense of community and connection the most, and when we may be called to be there for a friend who is having difficulty in life. Personally, I don’t know what I would do without my circle of like-minded, supportive and soulful friends. They add value to my life. And as I grow older, I’ve place a higher value on the power of friendship to shape and influence my life. I have grown to a place where I am very grateful for the friends who’ve come into my life, both those who’ve remained and others whose time it was to leave. And then there are others who are still there but no longer play a prominent part of my everyday existence for whatever reasons.

Friendship can mean different things to different people. And in the digital society we are living in, friendships take on different forms. Some are up close and personal and some are virtual. Either way, the more we are aware and can deeply define and embody what is is to be a friend, the healthier, stronger, more meaningful and more valuable our circle of friends become. So much so, that somewhere along the line our friends become the family with whom we choose to spend time with, spend holidays with and with whom we celebrate life. These are the people we invest time in, especially if we don’t have a family or if our real family leaves us feeling emotionally and physically drained. As in all life-related things, discernment is key!

We cannot underestimate the power of love in friendships and its significance in our lives. As I was reading an article on friendships, it was suggested that we look at all the people we know and identify the ones who are truly our friends. The ones who make time for us and the ones whose company enlivens and enriches us.

Here are the three traits the article encourages us to look for in a real friend:

Ability to Listen

“Sometimes, the greatest thing friends can do is simply to listen to each other. Friends who are able to put aside their own life experience and focus on the experience of others are the most likely to contribute to relationships in a happy and peaceful way.”

Trust

“Trusting a friend to speak openly from the heart, to do what they say they will, and to understand when something said in confidence should be kept to themselves- are all vital in a true friend.”

Perspective

“Friends who offer fresh perspectives, ideas, experiences, and advice can help you to learn more about yourself, see life from another angle, and grow as a more well-grounded person.”

Darlings, let’s keep it real here…if we want to have friends, we must learn to be a friend. These three traits pretty much surmise what it takes to be a friend. They also give us an opportunity to examine ourselves and identify whether or not we embody these specific traits. The other key piece is discernment.

I plan on looking at these traits to further identify when and how I need to navigate these traits when a friend comes calling. Sometimes, all a person wants is someone to listen. Other times it may be someone whom they can trust with a deep sentiment. And yet other times, a friend may just want some perspective. They key is knowing and being able to identify the need. Personally, I know I have to work at this better. Sometimes, I’m very quick to offer perspective or share an experience when in actuality the person may really just need to talk and be heard.

Ahhhhh the art of practicing deep listening! We are so often quick to jump and offer our assistance or share in a manner that resonates for “us.” However; during such times, it’s vital to hit “pause” and listen…listen and discern the need. In doing so, we tap into our compassionate communication skills. If we are going to be generous with our time, and expect our friends to reciprocate when needed, then we need a major dose of keeping it real.

And speaking of communication skills and keeping it real, be sure to stay tuned for my next blog where I hope to share some guidelines and valuable aspects of face-to-face conversations. I think we can all use a refresher on conversation etiquette, don’t you?

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Love and Connection

“Nobody, but nobody makes it out alone. What really matters is love. I mean, that condition in the human spirit that is so profound it allows us to rise. Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, is what really matters. There has always been evil. But there has always been good, and there is good now.” -Maya Angelou

This has been a brutal week. A painfully, heart-wrentching, brutal week that will impact our history and future generations. A week of trauma, intergenerational trauma, that will be inherited by children of the universe and citizens of our world. A week where I’ve been appalled at the righteousness of fellow citizens who believe that everything is “just fine.” A week where I’ve been dismayed at the indifference of others who do not see, or cannot feel, the separation of infants and young children from their families for what it is: inhumane, barbaric and a violation of human rights.

The flip side though is that we are all being challenged to look ever so deeply inside our hearts. That is what we do in times of darkness. It is a time for us to delve into our own individual consciousness and see how it has been influenced by the collective consciousness of our family, ancestors and society at large. We examine these generational pains and traumas in hopes of understanding, healing ourselves and healing the collective consciousness. We move from out of the darkness and into the light!

And on this day, June 21, the solstice and international / world yoga day, I give thanks for my practice. I give thanks for the shadow work we actively do on the path for it leads to greater understanding. These times are what we have been practicing for. These are the times where we seek refuge in our practice and in the loving, kind and supportive hands of our “tribe.” My heart has been so heavy that I’ve been spending more time in prayer, reflection, in community and on “intervention” duty alongside those who are hurting as well. Can you relate?

This morning I felt the need to ease into my day, make a nice cup of Jasmine tea, and read something that would feed my soul. I grabbed Oprah’s book, The Wisdom of Sundays, and decided to peruse the chapter on love and connection. I came across the following by Sister Joan Chittister:

“Humanity is about identifying with somebody else’s pain, with being there. With somehow or other knowing you cannot pass on the road because it’s not your bird and it’s not your child and it’s not your pain. Humanity is the ability to hurt for others. Because that’s the only fuel that will stop the injustice. You must know people are people, and you must do what they need in the middle of their pain.”

And when it comes to those people around us whom we know are suffering, we can show up. We can be there. We can hold that space for them. We can share in their pain. We can join forces, get involved, do whatever it is we are called to do in order to be of service in some way. By the way, if you happen to find yourself in a state of indifference, ask yourself, “Why?” Dig deeper, connect with your own suffering or perhaps reach out to friends to help you with the process.

As Thich Nhat Hanh states in his book, Practices for Happiness, “Anger, fear, anxiety, craving, greed and ignorance are the great afflictions of our time.” And this is where our tools come in handy. This is when we reach into our spiritual toolbox, and pull out whatever we need: yoga, meditation, prayer, mantra, chanting, singing, tapping, dancing, social activism, etc. We try, more than ever, to stay in that present state of mindful living; where our love is then front and center and leads us to taking collective action. It’s not a time to be indifferent. Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and best-selling author Elie Wiesel shared the following with Oprah, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”

Darlings, I share the following sentiment from the section on love and connection with you: We know humanity is in need of the healing power that comes from love in all its forms. Use your life to serve the world and you will discover the myriad of ways the world offers itself to serve you.

Each and every one of us has the power to do just that. In whatever way, shape or form that looks like to you, go out and do it. We have the power to transform not only ourselves but the collective consciousness of this beautiful planet we call “home.” We are all inextricably connected. The more we tap into this knowingness, the more we see and feel the oneness all around. The more clearly we see that we a human race of billions, we are citizens of the world, and that our children are the children of the universe.

Each and every day, I encourage you do ask yourself the following question upon opening your eyes: “How can I be of service today?” And before closing your eyes at night ask yourself, “How did I live in love and connection today?”

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Charge of Our Own Healing

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls you.” -Akshay Dubey

I came across this quote today which is so on point given the conversations some girlfriends and I have been engaging in recently. They have been revolving around the work we’ve been doing and bumps, craters, landmines and struggles we encounter when we are committed to spiritual work and personal growth.

There’s nothing like those deep, soulful and soul-bearing conversations that are almost healing sessions themselves. The endless, meaningful, and stirring talks my girlfriends and I have are extremely therapeutic to say the least! They are enlightening, encouraging and sometimes even revealing. At times they serve as a compass, a lighthouse or  guideposts as to where we are in need of getting to but are lost in the murky and, oftentimes, rough waters. They may also reveal for us the waters we have yet to chart as we continue our journey to healing and come to a place where damage done to our inner child no longer controls us. Yep, it takes work! It takes patience, perseverance, and  practice…..and our commitment and dedication to do the necessary and life-altering work.

As we all continue to embrace the work we have yet to do, it’s important we take the time to honor how far we have come – acknowledge we’ve done the best we can with the tools we have been given. And, as we acquire more and more tools, we gain more and more resources to continue forging ahead on our path to healing, awakening and enlightenment.

Where do we start? Well, we must connect with our true Self, our pure essence: Love. That pretty much lays the foundation and charts the onset of our course. If you missed my blog, Choosing Love at All Times, you may want to check it out. It wil serve as a lovely blueprint for doing the healing work that will allow you to operate from a space of love.

Next, comes the art of forgiveness. Oh, I know what you may be thinking, “That “F” word”…wink, wink. Sadly, it’s word that tends to get a bad rap. Yet the art of forgiving truly keeps us in a stuck state…unable to make a move. Being unable / unwilling to forgive is the biggest barrier and obstacle keeping us from being able to operate from a space of love at all times.

Rather than being able to expand our heart and dissolve all the contractions that keep us from operating from a place of love, being unwilling or unable to forgive just constricts us even further…it constricts our mind, body and spirit. It clogs up our energy centers and keeps us unable to experience higher emotions such as love, joy, acceptance, understanding, compassion, empathy, tolerance, and peace. The peace that resides deep within us that allows us to brave whatever storm we encounter.

And where do these obstacles that keep us from forgiving come from? Well, as you can probably guess, they come from our childhood and have been stored in our subconscious memory, our cells and in our body. They are the programming we have experienced throughout our lives as far back as our infancy stage. If we do not address, accept, process, and release the emotions, betrayals and hurt our bodies have been holding onto, we essentially are allowing the damage we have experienced to control us…to hijack our capacity to love and our ability to heal.

There’s a section I came across when reading the chapter on forgiveness and betrayal in the book I’m reading (which I mentioned in Choosing Love at All Times) that is so on point and relevant for the crisis humanity is experiencing: “Victim consciousness and its opposite, the tyrant, are holding the whole world from ascending into the new paradigm of heart-centered consciousness. As we unlock the betrayal knot associated with the victim consciousness, we take a giant step forward in moving beyond the polarities of victim-tyrant, of power-powerlessness, of win-lose, and into the paradigm of love and of win-win consciousness.” Holy Cow!

Yep, so simple yet so difficult for some to do. As long as we come from a mindset of self-importance, of wanting to be right, seek revenge, and let the Ego-mind do the talking, we will be unable to get to the root cause of the problem, to let go and move on. We will get so clouded in grievance, resentment, revenge, regrets, anger, hate and who knows how many other self-destructive and self-sabotaging feelings, that we will forever be “lost at sea.” And this my darlings, is the ultimate betrayal…a betrayal to ourselves!

I mentioned earlier that the word forgiveness gets a bad rap. It is still often misunderstood. Some hold on to a belief that forgiving means condoning the actions or grievance that was done. However, it’s quite the opposite. It’s choosing to let go of our self-importance, letting go of the victim consciousness, leaving our ego at the door and releasing ourselves from the notion that we are separate from the “other.”

In choosing to look at things through a different lens, we are often able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and better understand the unresolved hurt and pain they must be experiencing. It takes a certain amount of humility and generosity of spirit to let go of stories we have created for ourselves. When we do so, when we change the narrative, shift the energy, unclog those energy centers, actively participant in our own healing, and experience the freedom in letting feelings of hurt and betrayals go, we experience our true Self.

It is then that we re-establish our connection to our Self – that unbounded, vast energy and essence of Love. It is then that we experience a spiritual and divine awakening. Rather than allowing our hurts, illusions and fabricated stories to control us, we are taking charge of our own healing.

I find prayer very helpful in the healing process. Sometimes, I write my own and other times I reference some that I’ve come across. Sometimes I keep them, and other times I release and burn them. I especially love Marianne Williamson’s prayers from her book, Illuminata- Return to Prayer. The book I am currently reading, Returning to Oneness- The Seven Keys of Ascension, contains beautiful prayers to assist us along the journey. The following prayer is from the chapter on forgiveness and betrayals:

A PRAYER

Oh eternity, please take all of these states of mind which are unbalanced, and balance and clear them. Do this so that I may see more clearly and find my way home more easily. I offer up these feelings of betrayal, and I ask to be able to forgive and to live more in my heart. I give thanks, knowing it will be done.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

Special Edition… ‘Tis the Season

‘Joy is Prayer. Joy is Strength. Joy is love.” -Mother Teresa

Season’s Greetings darlings! I read a most beautiful article written by Elizabeth Lesser  yesterday, featured in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I love, love, love Elizabeth Lesser and her style of writing! Her messages are always so deep, profound and life-altering! So, here it is:

10 Ways To Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday

by 

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as “The Holidays,” when into the dark little months of late November and December, we squeeze Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years Eve, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, dysfunctional family feasts complete with political disagreements, airplane flights and long drives, darker days, colder weather, budget-busting shopping, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress for most, and for some, real depression and loneliness.

Some greet the season with excitement and joyful expectation. Others dread the whole thing. Personally, I harbor both excitement AND dread. So I’ve come up with some ways for all of us to stay healthy and sane, to celebrate and enjoy, and to dig into the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, another option is just to ignore the madness completely (good luck with that) or to knock yourself out trying to live up to all of your holiday expectations (good luck with that, too).

Here are my ten ways to approach the season with reasonable expectations and good cheer.

1) Be Kind: Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us, so remember to take a few breaks during a busy day or at a family gathering or whenever you feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot—even if you have to go into the bathroom and lock the door—and just sit still for a minute or two. Put your hand on your chest and pat your heart gently. Then take a nice deep breath into that spot and flood yourself with warm feelings of kindness toward yourself first. Breathe in acceptance and forgiveness and appreciation. If you only have time to do that, it’s enough. You can add this to the practice, too: As you exhale, let the breath of kindness move back out and feel it all around you—as if you were wrapped in a cloak of light. Now inhale again, and breathe kindness into your belly, your organs, your bloodstream. Exhale, and feel that cloak of light expanding. Inhale again, all the way down to your fingers and toes and deep into the center of your bones, flushing every cell with warmth and vibrancy. On each inhale, bring kindness into your body. On each exhale, extend the cloak of healing light further and further—embracing the people in your life, those in the world with whom you disagree, and finally our whole big, amazing, hurting, evolving world. This is a wonderful practice to do when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or whenever you like during the day. 

2) Simplify: We live in an excessive culture. There’s just too much going on. But there’s one thing we seem to have too little of: time. We fill each day with too much activity, too much stuff, too much media, and too many responsibilities pulling on us in too many directions, and time races away. We go to bed at night and wonder where the heck the day went. We wake up and do it again. And now at the holidays, we’re supposed to add more excess to the excess. More food, more socializing, more presents that require more money. I think it’s a revolutionary act to resist the more-more-more culture and, instead, to simplify. Purchase fewer gifts and put more thought and meaning into the ones you do give. Say ‘no’ to engagements that will only add more stress to your week. Say ‘yes’ to gatherings that fill your soul and make you and others happy. Unplug from the 24/7 news and social media. Spend time in nature. Look at the stars. Find a little kid and hitch your wagon to their wonder.

3) Roll With the Changes: As families change and grow, traditions change as well.  For example, if you are a working woman who had a stay-at-home mother, instead of knocking yourself out trying to reproduce the exact old-fashioned holiday of your childhood, relax your standards. Do what fits YOUR life and infuse it with meaning, humor, and love. Or if you are a divorced dad or mom, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure up. It will be the best gift you give to your kids this year. If you are far away from your family (or choose not to be with them), invite others into your home and give the words “extended family” new meaning. 

4) Help Others: not because you SHOULD but because it feeds everyone—the giver and the receiver. Find someone who is struggling financially or emotionally or physically, and lend them a helping hand, soothe their loneliness or hunger or confusion or pain. Check out the stories of every holiday tradition—from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas. If you celebrate any of these holidays, you might as well get down to what they are really about: generosity, connection, the promise of light-in-the-darkness. Be that light for someone else.

5) Drop In: to a church or mosque or synagogue or temple or . . . you get the idea. Even if you have no religious affiliation or belief—even if you have deep-seated problems with religion in general—these kinds of spaces have a mysterious quality that can bring peace to a visitor. They carry within their walls the prayers and songs of our human family. Most places of worship welcome all people, even those just looking for a touch of grace. Instead of hurrying by that church you have passed a hundred times on the way to work, take a moment to enter its doors and sit quietly, imbibing the beauty.

6) Take Care: Eat well, drink water, exercise, and then be merry. Instead of making one more feeble New Year’s resolution to join a gym or cut back on the drink or sugar or Twitter, do it right now. You will be amazed at how just the littlest bit of movement and healthful habits will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. And sleep for goodness sakes, do whatever it takes to get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is at the root of so many of our mental and physical problems.

7) Love Everything: Even the hard times; even the cranky and crooked people of the world; even yourself, with all of your embarrassing shortcomings. If loving everything seems impossible, start with forgiveness. Forgive all sorts of people—those from your past, your work, your family, even those abhorrent jerks and so-called enemies in the news. Bitterness towards others is like drinking poison. Put down the bitter cup and take up… 

8) Tenderness: See what happens if you keep your heart open and soft. When you feel fear, or anger, or judgment clutching at your chest, put your hand on your heart and pat lightly. Instead of shutting down, stay open. Stay tender. Just try this and see what happens. Your mind will tell you it’s not safe to be open, that you don’t want to soften, that you’ll tenderize only if the other person changes first. But those strategies haven’t really worked, have they? Try something new.

9) Connect: When you practice love, forgiveness, and tenderness sincerely and consistently, you begin to feel so connected to other people and to life itself that your sense of “me” frays at the edges, loosens, merges. I heard a man at a retreat with the teacher, Eckhart Tolle, say that he’d been practicing compassion meditation and a weird thing was happening to him. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” the concerned man said. And Eckhart replied, “Congratulations.” When you let go of that firm sense of who you are, and what you must protect, and why you are better or worse than anyone else, you are free. There’s less fear, less striving, less of the need to prove your case. There’s more room to let others in, more comfort with the world just as it is, and at the same time, more courage to speak up for truth and beauty.     

10) Joy to the World: How strange that we have everything we need to cheer up right this minute, but so often, joy alludes us. You may recoil at this idea. You may think, “She has NO idea what I am going through; cheering up is not possible.” But I have met some of the most joyful people in the most unlikely, difficult places, including jails and hospitals. And some of the gloomiest, most aggrieved people in luxurious homes and privileged situations. Albert Einstein said that the most important thing to pursue is “sacred awe.” If you think about it, how awe-some—preposterous really—that we are here at all. That YOU showed up here on this little blue marble floating in space. Each one of us has a joyful core that is truer than the worry, the sadness, the blame, the fear. Find your joyful core. Trust it. Be it. Share it.

ELIZABETH LESSER is the author of several bestselling books, including Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most. She is the co-founder of Omega Institute, recognized internationally for its workshops and conferences in wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She has given two popular TED talks, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of a hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.

 

Together we can all inspire, love, serve. And if you choose to Lead from the heart…right from the start, you will see a big shift in your life and the lives of the people around you. Now go out and Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday!

See you all back here on Wednesday for my own little holiday to-do list.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Be Still…Connect & Listen

“The degree to which you do not believe you have time to spend ten minutes sitting quietly, is the degree to which you desperately need to spend ten minutes sitting quietly. If we did nothing else in our spiritual practice but reduce our accelerated pace, the world would be transformed overnight” Donna Farhi

I walked into my acupuncture appointment last week at Stillpoint Acupuncture & Yoga in Denville, NJ, and the lovely Terri had this quote posted in her waiting room. I knew the quote was one I wanted to use for the post you are about to read. Donna Farhi,  brilliant author, international yoga teacher and retreat leader, could not have expressed this sentiment more eloquently. By the way, her book, Bringing Yoga to Life… The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living is truly a manifesto for living whether or not you are a yoga practitioner.  If you want to bring your “life to life,” then this is a book for you! It is so chock full of wisdom and depth….This book was given to me as a gift and, in turn, I too have given several as gifts. It’s just one of those books you return to again and again for just about every paragraph is a revelation (thanks, Peem, for this observation, or I could have highlighted the entire book).

So, back to the topic of being still, connecting and listening….call it meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection – or whatever suits your fancy. The point is that allowing ourself to sit in stillness, preferably in the quiet of the early morning,  can and will eventually set the tone for our outlook, attitudes and interactions with people throughout our day. It allows us to connect with our breath (our life force, prana, chi) ease into our morning, and bring clarity to our thoughts and emotions. Let’s be perfectly clear here, our minds will never be empty of thoughts, but we can step into “witness mode” and just acknowledge those thoughts without becoming them and getting all wound up in the stories our reptilian brain is spinning for us. Instead, we can lovingly bring our attention and focus back to our breath.

The practice of being still allows us to connect and align ourselves to our “higher power” the Divine force in the Universe. The more we do this, the more we are able to have a 360 view, like older dragonflies are said to have. The art of being still, listening, connecting and aligning are, like other mindfulness practices, a conscious choice we make. This quiet time we create, allows us to pray, ask for guidance, talk  to God (or whomever your higher power is) and listen to the voice and messages that show up. There is truth in the saying that “stillness speaks“…let the feelings and that wave of peace and calm wash over you! Listen to what your heart is telling you or guiding you to do. In doing so, it allows you to feel deeply rooted and grounded and gives you the confidence, ease and grace to approach the start of a new day like the precious gift it is.

I like to start my day, even before getting out of bed in the morning, by listening to Snatam Kaur’s song, On This Day. It’s actually a birthday song, and it’s significance, the words, and her soothing angelic voice remind me of the fact that I have been given life on this day yet again. I open each day as the gift that it is, and I want to live it to the fullest, use my time wisely, and serve accordingly. For me, this is truly a meaningful, significant, remarkable, powerful and inspirational way to embrace the new day ahead. One of my  beloved yoga teachers, Angela, played this for me at the end of class on my birthday last year. It’s coming up to just about a year of listening to this song every day. And, if you know me, you know I like to share…in turn, I’ve sent it on to some friends on their birthdays. Talk about exponential influence! I’m a firm believer in sharing the love. After listening to the song, I say out loud, “Thank you” as my feet are beginning to touch the ground. I enjoy my early morning quiet time. Oh and a word of advice, shut off your phone! Don’t put it on silence or vibrate…..just shut it off!!! It makes a world of difference, and I like to say that my entire body exhales the moment I turn off my phone. It allows for a deeper level of relaxation, concentration and connection. I have other morning rituals that, as you can very well surmise, are for yet another post!

It saddens me when I hear people say they don’t have time to meditate, or be still….seriously???? Darlings, all we have is time, and what we chose to do with it is another story altogether. These are the individuals that, as Donna Farhi’s quote hammers home, are in need of stillness and quiet the most! These are the individuals who are stuck, tend to be reactive, tightly wound or restless, oftentimes anxious and/or depressed, perhaps have unhealthy addictions, always running away from their issues, spend hours and hours trolling social media and, as a result, are most likely to be their own worst enemy. Can you relate? Do you have people in your life that fit this description? Are you the poster child for this description? if so, then it’s high time you let go of behaviors, situations, and circumstances that aren’t serving you and find a better, more balanced way of living. Your health and peace of mind deserve it!

Another valuable lesson I’ve learned along the way, is that we CANNOT change people. Don’t waste your energy, or you will be the one who winds up sick! Instead, follow the rules the airlines give us, “In the event of a change in cabin pressure, put the oxygen mask on yourself first”…..this is the time for you  to work on yourself, make your Self a priority, dedicate time to your Self. Shower your Self with loads of self-love and self-care. Trust me, people around you will begin to see the change in you – a different, calm, peaceful, centered, glowing and vibrant you. They will most certainly want to know your secret!

Remember, as with any practice…..that’s just what being still is….a practice, and not a perfect. Over time, I can assure you that your mind, body and soul will also want some quiet, down time before you go to bed…..especially when you find yourself sleeping like a baby!  I think we can all agree that we’ve mastered the art of “doing”…..let’s challenge ourselves to practicing the art of “be-ing”…you’ll be surprised at the magic that shows up! I leave you with a beautiful quote and affirmation by Tanaaz Chubb from her precious book, Messages for the Soul:

“Your heart is trying to speak, are you listening? Your heart holds its own type of wisdom that is different from the wisdom of the mind and body. Tune into the smooth hum of your heart, and see what it is asking from you today.”

“I am open to the Divine messages of my heart, and I am ready to hear its message. I trust my intuition and know that my heart will guide me”

Be Still….Connect and Listen!

Inhale Love….Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of We….Who’s Your Tribe?

“Although individual spiritual practice is essential, and can take us a long way on our journey, to truly awaken beyond the fears and timetables of our ego, we need to engage in transformative interactions with other people who share our aspirations” Craig Hamilton

We all need a spiritual “board of directors“….don’t we? I’m not certain, but I think Wayne Dyer, or maybe someone at Hay House, can be credited for saying this. In my humble opinion, I strongly and unequivocally believe it to be so very true!  So, in addition to the Tribe(s) in my life, I decided to create my very own spiritual board of directors. It’s members? Well, lets start with Wayne Dyer, Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Gandhi, Princess Di, Martin Luther King, Louise Hay, my elders and ancestors and the likes of others whom are still on this earth and for whom I’m grateful for the work they do and the impact they are having on humanity. They include, but are not limed to, Seane Corn, Deepak Chopra, Oprah, Marianne Williamson, Tony Robbins, Maria Shriver, Thich Nhat Hahn, Eckhart Tolle, Carloyn Myss, Iyanla Vanzant, Pema Chodron, The Dalai Lama, and Pope Francis. It truly warms my heart to see all the young and aspiring spiritual and religious teachers who are attracting the younger generation and millennials such as Matt Maher, Carl Lentz, Panache Desai, Gaby Bernstein, Maria Forleo, and Mastin Kipp.

When I look back my 59 youthful years of  life, I see that I  primarily always surrounded myself with “like minded” friends, even though I didn’t have the verbage “like-minded” in my repertoire of words back in in my 20’s and 30’s. Nevertheless, I had wonderfully supportive and varied pockets of people with whom I “connected.” We had a “common purpose” (or as my friend Mdm. B from work coined –  unity of purpose). These may have been gym friends, work related colleagues, running buddies, and girlfriends who I could call at 2AM if I needed them (and they could do the same). Oh, and let me not forget my shopping friends…what would we do without our retail therapy? More importantly, though, the last 4- 6  years, have brought my Maui sisters as well my Highland Family, otherwise known as my Highland Tribe or Sangha into my life. They have been instrumental in my spiritual and emotion growth. So many beautiful friendships have blossomed there! I seriously do not know how I would have gotten through all I’ve been through the last 5 years without them……you guessed it, that’s for yet another post!

Having a “sacred space” and our  own “tribe” with whom we can share our deepest thoughts, emotions, values, dreams, challenges, highs, lows and aspirations, without being judged, is vital to our spiritual and emotional growth. It becomes  a way of living as we begin to reap the healing benefits and wisdom each member of the group brings to the table. Trust me, it is very cathartic, therapeutic, healing, and validating to be able to pick each other’s brains without trepidation or the fear of being judged, feeling less than or unworthy. Do you have an environment or tribe that cultivates this level of evolutionary support?

Also essential for our mental, emotional, and spiritual evolution are love and connection. As Tony Robbins says, “Emotion is the force of life.” According to Tony Robbins, love and connection are one of the 6 human needs (the others are certainty, variety, significance, growth and contribution….more on those at another time). Unfortunately, we don’t always have the financial means and wherewithal to stay in the “retreat or workshop” environment in our daily lives. It’s not always feasible for me personally to go to Kripalu or Omega. That’s why I love my Tribe, my Sangha and community of like minded peeps. In addition to books, I seek for guidance and inspiration from the great thought leaders on Super Soul Sunday, watch TED talks, take advantage of the over abundance of free on-line seminars, mediations, and classes. Oftentimes, I also go to events Highland Yoga or some other venue offers.

Remember when I said I was a student of life? Well, I will now leave you with practical questions that Craig Hamilton, the founder of Integral Enlightenment, shared at a global online seminar I was part of several years back. They are key questions to ask yourself in order to have your own community, tribe, or spiritual board of directors. These are the people who will accelerate and support your awakening and evolution. Begin to ask yourself these questions:

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

On a more personal note, it is my tribe, my peeps, my spiritual board of directors, my spiritual gangsters and my good vibe tribe that have gotten me through some of the darkest and most challenging periods of my life – the times I’ve been broken open, brought down to my knees and have come out on the other side…like a phoenix rising from the ashes of transformation, growth and evolution.  Remember darlings, we are NOT meant to go through this journey of life alone!! Together we accomplish so much more and are better able 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