College Admissions Scam

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” Khalil Gibran

Greetings darlings!

As I was checking my emails this morning, I came across Mallika Chopra’s blog on the college admissions cheating scam. Being all too familiar with the expectations, absurdities, insane practices and stresses related to getting a child into college, I put aside the blog I was working on for today and instead decided to share the outstanding blog Ms Chopra wrote.

Not only is it on-point, but it also puts parenting styles into perspective and places what is truly most important in clear view: a child’s overall well being. In addition, it offers us all opportunities to have meaningful conversations with our children, colleagues, peers, friends and family.

Enjoy the read and share if you care!

Dear Friends

As my phone exploded with texts from friends about the college admissions cheating scam, my reaction was sadness and non-surprise. It also forced me to reflect on my own achievement orientation and parenting style.

In the last month, my frustrated conversations with friends and family has involved testing accommodations, affirmative action against Asian student, sports recruiting, legacy admissions, inherent advantage for the affluent, donations, and most importantly, the tragic reality of suicide in colleges. I have also had really honest, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations with friends about how an elite college education can transform the social and economic path for some families and communities whereas for others (like mine) it is assumed it is part of our children’s path.

The college bribery and cheating scandal is about fraud, and how rich parents have made moral sacrifices and criminally participated in a scheme to get their kids into college. But the problem lies deeper and we need to start addressing the root causes of a system that is not only rigged, but creating anxiety for our kids.

Our kids are anxious, stressed out, tired, over diagnosed, and over medicated. The system as a whole is to blame – schools, colleges, testing organizations, counselors, therapists, and the list goes on and on. And while the system is broken, we as parents need to take responsibility. 

When we send kids messages that success is dependent on getting into a certain college, we are stripping their soul of living a meaningful life. When we overschedule our kids so they can pad their resumes with varsity sports, club teams, volunteering, and justify that they love it, even if they don’t get enough sleep, we as parents need to take responsibility. When we let our kids take an overload of AP’s and honors classes, and say that their counselor said they can do it and it’s necessary for college admissions, and then we see our kids on edge, we as parents, need to take responsibility. When we stress about our kid’s ACT or SAT scores, and burden them with extra tutoring, we are playing into the system. When we justify getting our kid’s extra time on testing or letting them have unneeded medication to stay alert, while perhaps deep down inside knowing they don’t need it or we didn’t do everything to avoid it, we are sending our kids a message about what matters most to us. 

As parents we need to send our kids a different message. 

• Sleep, right now, is the most important aspect of your health and happiness.

• Who you are as a person matters more than what you achieve.

• I believe in you and your abilities, and am proud of what you choose to do.

• Teenage years should be a time of discovery. 

• If you aren’t passionate about something, even if you have been doing it for a while, its ok to try something else.

• It is ok to fail. By failing, you learn.

• Be bored. That’s when creativity often bursts forth.

• Just because “everyone” is doing it, doesn’t mean you need to.

• When you are kind, I am so proud of you.

• How can we give back to the world?

• I love you.

Kahlil Gibran reminds us that:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

As parents, it is our responsibility to transition from an achievement-oriented discussion in our homes to one of nurturing our kids to know that they are special. Our role is to help guide our children to discover their unique talents to find connection and to serve their communities and their world. Let us remember that our children are sacred gifts. We can best serve them, and ourselves, with unfiltered love and genuine acceptance.

It is my hope that Mallika Chopra’s blog will get everyone thinking about our children’s overall well-being and perhaps even how we perpetuate a system that is destroying our children’s physical, mental and emotional health. May this blog spark reflections, questions and opportunities for deep-diving conversations.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

A New Year’s Practice

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

It’s the last day of 2018, and I am looking forward to some of my end of year rituals. I already cleaned my apartment, from top to bottom, did all the laundry, emptied the garbage and am currently washing my bedding as I write . With the exception of some throws and pillows, all that’s left to clean is my bathroom… and get rid of any added garbage.

My intentions are to skip the yoga studio this morning and do my last, home practice of 2018. In addition to yoga and meditation, I will spend some time journaling and perhaps even empty my blessings jar and read all of the things I wrote throughout 2018. Afterwards, I will take myself to lunch and pick up some fresh flowers along the way.

I am not the one for New Year’s Eve parties and staying out till some ungodly hour of the morning. As the saying goes, “Been there, done that.” Instead, I like to spend my evening reflecting, journaling, and perhaps doing a guided meditation. This will be my second year going to a friend’s yoga studio for a New Year’s Eve practice from 7 to 9 PM. That most definitely works for me because I am home with plenty of time to light some candles, burn some incense, soak in the tub, and do my evening practices. Oh, and my 12 grapes are already washed and ready for midnight!

Doing some sort of reflection at the end of the year, setting an intention or goals for the following year, or perhaps even working on a vision board are lovely ways to ring in the new year. Why? Because as the quote at the beginning of this blog stated: You yourself, as much is anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Pausing, and taking time for ourselves, are the ultimate expressions of self-love and self-care. What practices do you tap into when you find your Self in need of some TLC? Are there any end of year practices you especially enjoy doing to usher in a new year? Is there a particular ritual or activity you do on the 1st of the year?

My written practice this evening, which I will share with you, comes from Elena Brower’s Practice You Journal. This particular Practice will help us to explore and embody our Self. It will allow us to look at some of our beliefs, labels or assumptions we place on ourselves and perhaps allow us to dismantle or shake them up wherever needed.

There’s nothing like contemplation to shift our perspective. Guided journaling gives a voice to our most unfinished, raw, and passing emotions according to Elena Bower. She further states that journaling allows us to refine our listening, elevate our inner dialogue, meet our deepest self with compassion and love, and amplify the inherent intelligence of our own heart. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE those words! I feel them stirring deep in my soul.

Below is the beautiful Practice I will be doing later in this evening. I have my space all ready with a few new candles, some sage and palo santo, and a yummy throw in case I get cold. The title of this exercise is Embody.

Begin by taking a moment to sit and get grounded. Place your hands on your thighs, palms down, and begin breathing, deeply and slowly. Breathe audibly at first, then make your breathing increasingly more silent. Sense the weight of your seat, and let your spine rise tall. Feel your self embodied, present and steady.

Let the questions serve as continuing contemplations. Your thoughts will evolve over time, so respect where you are right now, stay steady, and be soft with yourself as you write. Keep these questions close as you might find yourself returning to them time and time again. As you come to know yourself, you may be surprised to see what’s unearthed. Let it out!

  • How do you define yourself?
  • Who are you today? Can you note some of the “labels” you’ve placed on yourself, your place in your family, your work, your world?
  • What are the words you would use to describe your current attitude about your life right now?
  • What’s the most visceral, urgent need you have right now in order to feel alive, happy, and at home in yourself?

I sense that these four questions will have us traveling inward time and time again, so we best make sure we keep our journals or paper handy. And if journaling isn’t your thing, then by all means color, draw or use graphics to express yourself. The point is to be You!

Also, if you feel like your juices are flowing and want some more journaling prompts, you can reference “End of Year Review & Rituals, which is the blog I wrote December 27, 2017. It contains close to 30 questions from which you can pick and choose. I will most likely be perusing them as well…. wink, wink!

Darlings… May your 2019 be bountiful, blissful and beautiful. May you know peace in your heart, peace in your home and peace in the world. Namaste!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

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

 

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!

 

 

 

The Art of Conversation

“As modern culture embraces social media and digital chatter, valuable aspects of face-to-face conversation are being lost.” – Breathe Magazine

Can we talk? The one and only Joan Rivers brought that question to a whole new level during her time here on earth. Not only was she funny but her humor, combined with the ability to connect with people, is what allowed her to get away with the stuff that would follow her “Can we talk” one liner. She was bold, brave and brassy! I think it was her personal interactions and ability to read people which further allowed for this level of “straightforward-ness.”

In today’s culture,  personal interaction has been compromised because of the way people are digitally communicating as well as evolving. Everything is so rapid… the accumulation of knowledge, the ability to research, shop, learn, entertain, educate, obtain information in minutes and, yes, communicate point-blank words that are exchanged via texts that are devoid of eye contact and emotion. Sadly, the art of face-to-face conversation is becoming a lost art. We can change that though!!!!!

Have you experienced conflicts via texts because the message was received and interpreted NOT the was intended? Texting serves a purpose in that we can get a quick answer when needed. However, we all find ourselves in these lengthy threads of conversations that take more time and energy than picking up the phone does, or meeting for tea/coffee or a bite to eat. We have all become quite “laid back” in our communication styles. How many of us don’t even take advantage of FaceTime? At least we can better gauge emotions, a person’s state of mind, their need and intention via FaceTime. That’s not something we can do via texting. And boy, can THAT create unwelcomed and unexpected  problems!

I came across a line in an article I was reading,  which inspired this essay, and it seemed to compliment my previous blog, Keeping It Real. I think it succinctly states the conversation crisis we are experincing in today’s times:

“If more people are more connected than ever before thanks to technology, paradoxically there are also more people so immersed in the digital world that they forget to experience life in the real world, ultimately losing the ability to communicate in person.”

There is a word in this quote that is key. And that the word “ability.” The art of conversation takes ability, skill, talent, practice, discernment, eloquence, tact, truth, intention, meaning and language….just to name a few. We each have our own communication style. Our styles have taken years and years (and perhaps even tears) to develop. It’s as if we’ve tried on different styles of communication throughout our lifetime until we find one that suits our personality. While some of us feel comfortable in all types of conversations, there are others of us who freeze at the thought of initiating conversation, much less taking part in meaningful or sensitive dialogue.

It’s my belief that face to face conversations either make you feel alive or they scare the crap out of you. What do face-to-face conversations do for you?

  • Do you enjoy human interaction?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in different settings?
  • Are you comfortable approaching a complete stranger and initiating a convo with them?
  • How do you feel when a stranger approaches you?
  • Do you enjoy eye contact?
  • Are you a touchy-feely type of person?
  • Do you enjoy the art of a good, real, raw, oftentimes messy and significant conversation?

It’s also my belief that we can all use some conversation etiquette these days. As with all things in life, we periodically need to assess what we are doing, how we are doing it, and decide if we need to alter or make a change in our approach to a given situation. Well, the article I was reading in Breathe Magazine (The Well-being Issue), listed the following guidelines to help us improve our conversation skills:

How to start a conversation:

  • If you feel anxious, ask questions first, so you become more comfortable about sharing your thoughts.
  • Avoid discussing the weather (seriously!) and direct the conversation to more interesting matters.
  • Avoid contentious topics on first acquaintance and try to establish common ground instead,
  • Once a mutual connection is reached, turn the trivial chitchat into something more meaningful.
  • When joining a conversation, be aware of the tone and mood so you can adapt accordingly.

How to take conversation beyond small talk:

  • Share anecdotal details about your life and experiences relevant to the subject being discussed.
  • Be genuinely curious and ask open-ended questions to invite people to talk about themselves.
  • Pay attention to body language so you can change the subject if you see signs that others are no longer engaged.
  • If you are open, honest, show compassion, and maybe a touch of vulnerability, people tend to mirror these qualities.

Conversation Etiquette:

  • Be approachable. Smile. Be friendly, Keep eye contact, and listen without interrupting.
  • Show interest. Displaying attentiveness and asking meaningful questions will show that you really care and also encourage other people to open up to you.
  • Be passionate but don’t try to convert people to your beliefs. Maintain an open mind and make an effort to understand other people’s perspective.
  • Don’t make it feel like an interrogation or be a conversation narcissist. Ensure a balance in the dialogue to avoid constant questioning or boring monologues.
  • Don’t revel too much about yourself. Disclose unwelcome information and you may find an awkward silence.
  • Be yourself and be natural. If you are an introvert, be brave and practice many different social situations. Many people don’t like small talk but try to consider it as an opportunity to learn about others as well as yourself.

The aforementioned guidelines can help us all be a good “conversationalist” and enhance our ability to talk and listen effectively. And again, as with all things in life, it is a practice! And as far as difficult and sensitive conversations go? I truly believe in speaking the truth kindly, calmly and compassionately. Like Yogi Tea tags often advise: “Say it straight, say it simple and say it with a smile.”

The other guideline I like to adhere to pertains to gossip. When it comes to gossip, unless it is the absolute truth, kind and helpful, I do not partake in it. “He said / she said” scenarios are toxic, and they take on the characteristics of the “telephone game” in that each time the story is told to another person, and that person repeats it, the story has changed entirely. It truly is a waste of energy and a detriment to our mental health….just sayin’.

So my darlings, what do you say? Let’s put away our phones a little more often, and seek out a friend, co-worker, family member or complete stranger, and let’s practice the art of face-to-face conversation. And remember to be aware of the message that a phone in hand, or at the table, sends to our friends, family and colleagues when we’re in their company: that they don’t matter. Will you join me in having more face-to-face conversations where we are totally present for each other?

And if you are one of those people who are petrified and afraid to step out of your comfort zone….take baby steps. One step at a time, You may just be surprised at how you blossom and come to life. And speaking of life, the world needs more people to come alive!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

My Guest Blogger… Act III

Sister Mother Friend

by Shannon Green

Sister: Technically I AM a sister. I have an older brother, but growing up I always wanted a sister. My brother was into sports, and I liked dolls and dress–up. Occasionally, we would play games together, ride bikes, do sibling-type things, and we would get along; but he would also tease me endlessly, and I remember tears flowing on many occasions.  Because we were not very close, I learned to play alone and entertain myself. As we got older, the teasing stopped and we just became two people living in rooms next to each other.

We were a grade apart in school and, once I started high school, we sometimes even shared classes. I definitely got the feeling that my big brother did not like me being in any of his classes. I don’t remember him ever taking me under his wing, showing me around, or introducing me to people. What I do remember are other kids coming up to me in the hallway asking me why I didn’t come with my brother to a certain party… feeling a little embarrassed and let down I would reply, “because he didn’t tell me about it.” I knew other sibling combinations at school where the older sibling looked after the younger, brought them to parties, acted like friends, and it definitely made me sad to realize that my brother seemed to prefer not to have me around. We were more like strangers who just happened to share the same last name and live in the same house. I distinctly remember being incredibly happy my senior year because my brother was going to be at college and I would now have the bathroom all to myself!  I can honestly admit that I did not miss him while he was gone.

As the years passed our relationship continued to change, and we grew a bit closer.  There was even a time in my late 20s when my husband and I lived with my brother in California. This time period probably brought us closer than any other, and I think we now even have a friendship, albeit a strange one where we rarely talk and still don’t share personal feelings. My brother even surprised me one time by calling me his “best-friend.”  Wow! I felt honored.

My brother is a very busy person, and we don’t see each other often. We mainly talk when I call him, but occasionally he surprises me with a phone call or random text message. I worry about him living alone, eating right and exercising enough, but I know he will never listen to his little sister. So, while I technically am a “sister,” I still  feel like I missed out on something by growing up with a brother. I always wished to have a “sister” of my very own … someone I could talk to about “girl” things, ask advice, share clothes, etc… older, younger, doesn’t matter. In my mind there seems to be a special bond between sisters, and I have always longed for it.

Mother: Yes, I have a mother. NO, I am NOT a mother. Growing up I remember always wanting to be near my mother. I wanted to cuddle and hug her. I wanted her affection and to feel safe. I was often shy, especially in new situations, and I remember I would try hiding behind my mother’s legs so people wouldn’t talk to me. I also vividly remember hearing her say things to me like “stop hanging on me” or “stop being so sensitive”.… I wish I had more memories of us doing things together and having special “mother/daughter” time, but I don’t. I do remember her taking time to be my Girl Scout Leader and that she volunteered as a Class Mom at my elementary school, but one memory that never seems to fade is that, during the four years I was on our High School Swim Team, she never came to one of my meets. This always makes me sad when I think about that.

I have a lot of hang ups about my relationship with my mother. I don’t feel like she has ever known who I am or ever tried to get to know me. Probably the most painful memory is the time I called her extremely upset about a very personal incident that had occurred. My husband and I had been hoping to start a family, but it just was not happening. As you can imagine, this was an upsetting time in my life and very emotional and stressful. On this particular day, we had just received news that my husband’s younger brother had gotten his girl-friend pregnant. I was devastated. I had dreamed for so long of starting a family and having the first grandchild in the family, and now it seemed like my dreams were crushed.

My heart was broken, and I felt like it had literally been ripped in two. I called my mother to talk to her, hoping to get some motherly love. As I was telling my mom the situation and waiting for her to offer me some compassion and love, the only thing I remember her telling me was that I needed to “get over it.” That is the memory I have… Those are the words I remember…  Maybe there were more words in the conversation, but I think I stopped listening after that. My heart was broken, and I was crushed by her words and lack of empathy and love. At a time when I really needed love and support, my own mother seemed to be invalidating my feelings as she told me to stop being so sensitive and just “get over it.”

That was the day I stopped telling my mother anything personal about myself. I tried for a while to see if I could change our relationship and make it more a little more friendly.  I knew people who talked to their mothers daily and had nice friendly conversations about life and personal issues, so I made it a point to call her frequently hoping that she would start to enjoy talking to me and reach out to me in return. But she never did. At one point, I was so distraught as to why my mother just did not seem to love me that I reached out to my brother. Since he was the only other person who knew her like I did I figured he might have some insight.  It was that conversation that made me realize she did love me and that she was loving me, but in her way, and I accepted that she was probably doing the very best she could. It was just that our styles of “love” are so completely different and, unfortunately for me, it just wasn’t the love that I craved or needed.

That conversation with my brother changed the way I viewed my Mom and helped me release the resentment I felt towards our relationship. Sometimes. we may not think that people love us when the reality is that they are doing the best that they can with what they have. The truth is that she is giving me the love she is capable of giving me, and I cannot be angry with her for doing her best. We may not have the mother/daughter relationship that I have always wanted, but I accept it for what it is and have released the belief that she does not love me. Arriving at that realization shifted something inside of me and helped me accept our relationship for what it is rather than what I wished it was.

Friend: Some people don’t like the kind of friend I am. Maybe I scare them off with my personality? I believe that I can come off as too needy, too bossy, and a bit of a know-it-all. Over the years I have realized these harsher parts of my personality, and I have worked on them. I think I have become a “softer” version of myself as I have matured. I have realized that I can be a bit much to handle, but I have also realized that some people just aren’t meant to be in your life for the long haul, while others are with you for a lifetime.

As a result, the friends I have are limited in quantity, but are of EXTREMELY HIGH quality. To say I love them like family is probably an understatement because I think I love them more than my family. These are the people who “get me.” They are the ones who stick around through the ups and downs. They know my struggles and successes. They are the ones I call crying or with whom I want to share good news.  They are the ones who provide support and bolster me up when I am having a rough time.

Over the years, we have stuck by each other on our respective journeys and evolution as human beings. We are miles apart in location but always just a phone call away. Throughout the years, our shared interests have brought us to similar paths as we explore the meaning of life and our purpose on Earth. These amazing women have become my “soul sisters.” In them I found what I was always craving as a child. I found big sisters and little sisters. In them I have found mothers and have been able to be a mother as well.

Recently, I read something that really helped put things into perspective. My friend Christy encouraged me (rather enthusiastically) to buy the book The Archetype Diet by Dana James. In the book the author talks about 4 archetypes of women. Very interesting stuff…I highly recommend the read. Upon reading the book and the description of the various archetypes I discovered, surprisingly to me, that I would be classified as “The Nurturer.”  The following passage describing the Nurturer Archetype really hit me, like an arrow in a bullseye:

“Because she was deprived of the maternal attention young girls need, she learned to fill this void by protecting and nurturing others, especially taking on the role of mother she lacked. Although the recipients of her nurturing could not make up for the failing of her own mother, she depended on them to give her the acceptance she so craved. By showing love to others, she hoped to get it in return.”  

After reading this passage, I realized that it described me to a tee! It was as if my whole life now made sense! Why I always wanted to check in on people and make sure that they were doing well. Why I always wanted to help my friends be successful, even back in high school helping them with homework or studying for a test. In college, I would be the one to drive to a party to make sure everyone got there and home safely. Why I always double checked that no one left anything behind, made sure people had enough to eat, and weather-appropriate clothing. Why I always felt drawn to take care of people and why I want to be there for them when they are having a difficult time, needing advice, needing to vent, needing to cry, or needing a hug.

According to Dana James’ chapter, The Nurturer:

Showing affection for others and caring for them is your gift and it should be celebrated. But choose the recipients wisely. Pause before you bestow your kindness, time, love, or money. Ask yourself if this person genuinely needs your help or if they can handle things on their own.”

It suddenly made sense. Why there were some people who seemed put-off when I tried to offer help. They didn’t want it. They didn’t need it, but I couldn’t see it. These past few years have helped me to understand many things about myself and, as I mentioned earlier, I feel like I have become a “softer” version of myself. I am working on my “hard edges” and learning to develop things like patience, managing expectations, and letting go of things I cannot control. I am filling my tool box with the help of Yaya and her book suggestions, but also with the time I set aside to read, journal and meditate. I have taken myself on as a student, teaching myself as I am learning and honestly trying to be the best version of myself I can imagine.

As a result, I have found that my relationships have improved. My friendships have deepened. I have become able to offer my help to those who genuinely seem willing to accept it, and it fills my heart with such love knowing that I am able to help… whether it is on the receiving end of a phone call or creating a spreadsheet. I told my friend Christy once that I did not know what my purpose in this life was, and that the only thing I wanted most and that I enjoyed the most was helping those I love. She was quiet for a moment and then said, “That is your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be your job.”  I have to say that I think I absolutely agree with her.

I do not think it can be better expressed than in the below passage which closes out “The Nurturer” Chapter in The Archetype Diet:

“Embracing the positive attributes of the other archetypes will help you achieve balance and rise to the crown… When you layer in these attributes, you will transform from a Nurturer seeking to heal your childhood wounds to a woman who heals the world with her loving presence, compassion, dignity, and nobility.”

Sister Mother Friend….I have found these. I have become these. In my “Vibe Tribe” (the named bestowed to our retreat group back in April from the outstanding owner of the amazing Pranamar Villas Yoga Retreat Center in Costa Rica), I have found my FAMILY.  I feel loved. I feel understood and accepted in a way I never did before. Even more importantly, I feel these things from myself.

I now realize that I cannot put expectations on my relationships with people, whether it is my brother, mother, or friends. I must accept that what they are giving to the relationship may be the very most they have to offer at that moment. The most important person whose love I need to feel, and whose support I need in my life, is ME. In giving my love and support to others freely and openly, with no strings and expectations, I have found the love I always felt was missing. I have found a peace in my relationships and appreciate them for what they are –  not what I wish they would be. By letting go of how I thought things should be and accepting things for what they are, I have been able to find joy in those hard relationships that used to bring me pain.

You can’t be everything to everybody, and they can’t be everything to you. Sometimes, you find the love of a mother in someone who was just a stranger to you five years ago, and the relationship of a sister in a friend you have known for over two decades. Blood does not make the relationship. Accepting people for who they are, and releasing the expectations I set on them. created what I can only call “freedom” for me. By accepting situations for what they are, I now find myself less worried over outcomes and more able to enjoy the present. I find there to be far fewer conflicts in my relationships and much more peace and harmony.

Relationships, whether family or friend, are never easy. But I truly believe they can be made more harmonious.

  • Is there someone you wish you had a different relationship with?
  • Are you willing to try things in a new way?
  • Are you placing expectations on the relationship that is creating discomfort for you?
  • Can you release those expectations and instead accept that what is being given to you is the very best that can be given at the moment?
  • Have you examined your relationship with the most important person in your life, yourself?

Wishing you peace and love in all of your relationships!

I’m here if you need me…Your sister mother and friend, Blondie

 

 

Grow Through It All

“When our souls are healthy, we change the environment; the environment doesn’t change us” -Pastor Carl Lentz

This past week I have been finishing up the numerous books I’ve been simultaneously reading. While I still have 2 more to go, I did finish Own the Moment by Carl Lentz. And not only did I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoy reading it, but I finally made it to service at Hillsong Church this morning. What an experience! One can’t help but getting that feeling of  coming alive and getting our souls infused with a healthy and relatable dose of “the all-knowing word.”

I will be taking a few weeks off from posting my blog, because I need to diligently and fervently work on all the blogs I want to write and schedule before going away and disconnecting from social media. I usually schedule one per week, usually on Wednesdays, while I am away. I will keep you all posted!

But not to worry…I am going to leave you with some meaningful food for thought, conversation, guidance and perhaps even some writing for the next couple of weeks while I devote some uninterrupted time to writing myself. Should you choose to deeply explore the questions, it is my hope that you will be left feeling an expansive sense of Self. There is always room for growth, darlings! The key is to be accountable and keep plugging away at this most powerful, pure-hearted, heart-centered and self-loving process.

So, I leave you with some questions from Own the Moment. The questions were scattered throughout the book. I may have tweaked some questions and added a few of my own. Nevertheless, I selected the ones that spoke to me in hopes they speak to you as well. Like I said, reflect on them, talk about them, journal or simply explore them in which ever way serves you best:

  • Do you know where you are going?
  • What drives you?
  • What shapes you?
  • What fuels you?
  • What guides you?
  • Are you changing?
  • Are you influencing?
  • What are you listening to today?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it life-giving?
  • Where do you put your focus?
  • What are your challenges?
  • Who challenges you?
  • Do you have broken relationships because you’re consumed with the wrongs somebody else committed and you have failed to own your part in the matter?
  • Can you be more constructive and look inward to bring change in your life?
  • Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
  • What do you demand for your own life?
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Do you know your convictions –  the “yes, I wills” and the “no, I won’ts?”
  • Are you changing your environment, or is your environment changing you?
  • Have you had to adjust your standards to fit in?
  • Have you lived with such conviction as people start rethinking their standards because of you?
  • How can you influence others?
  • Are you clear about your intentions?
  • Do the people in your life feel valued and appreciated?
  • If so, why? What do you do that makes them feel this way?
  • What would you do if you truly didn’t care about what other people thought about you?
  • How would you live, what would you pursue, and ultimately  how much fun would you have?
  • How many things in life would you have already tried if you didn’t fear failure?
  • How many people in your life might you be holding to an unrealistic standard of completeness when you have areas that are in the process of healing?
  • Do you find yourself living in the past?
  • Are you constantly in a hurry?
  • If you take a genuine hard look at what influences you today and the relationships that you hold most dear, are they helping or hurting you?
  • Could it be said that some things that should not be an option in your life have been given the opportunity to grow?
  • What makes you the most insecure in life? Why?
  • Where can you find time to stop and be grateful for all that you have in your life?
  • What is the one thing you can do today that can make a huge difference in the life of another?

We can look at our answers and realize our journey, and our task, is to do the work in order to grow through whatever it is we are going through and, ultimately, evolve into the best version of ourselves AND live a full, meaningful and purposeful life in the process! We have much to do in terns of growing. By the same token, we can also look to see if we are allowing the way we live to suck the passion out of our lives.

We can further investigate our answers and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life- and one that is filled with peace, tranquility and serenity. We can see, and feel,  if we are operating from a place of love or fear. We can look to see if we’re choosing to live in joy despite of the life circumstances that befall us all.

Ultimately, our answers will reveal if we are living from a place of truth, transparency and authenticity, or of we are living a life of dishonesty, fraud, lies, deceit, half-truths, and omissions that are compromising our soul’s integrity. Remember, the choice is always ours to make!

Darlings, stay calm, cool and continue to grow through it all

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Our Nation’s Birthday

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul” – Moshe Dayan

Greetings!

If you subscribe to Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and read it this past week, you may want to skip this blog and catch up on some other one. You see, I humbly decided it was appropriately fitting to share her blog with you. Why?

Well, as I was mulling over what I wanted to write in honor of the 4th of July, I decided to hit “pause” and catch up on some unread emails. For some reason, I had not gotten around to reading this past week’s Sunday Paper. And……drumroll…..there it was!  Anything I could have imagined, that we could have imagined, said, felt and more was right there in black and white. Maria’s Sunday Paper resonated so much for me, that I decided right then and there I needed to share it with you. Not doing so would have been a disservice to her beautifully written and thought-provoking essay.

Regardless of our party politics, which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you are blue, red or purple, I am certain you will find comfort, solace and hope in her words: Enjoy the read my darlings!

“The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.

One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.

Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.

We really do live in “you never know” times. Parents send their kids off to school and hold their breath. Journalists go to work and hold their breath as they pursue the truth. Many people hold their breath now as they watch the turnover in the Supreme Court. Students who are graduating from high school and college hold their breath as they head out into an uncertain job market. Boomers hold their breath hoping that they won’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other horrendous disease.

When I think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. That’s when I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep, long breath. I remind myself that these negative images are only a small part of what’s going on.

I remind myself of what I do know and believe to be true. I believe that we still live in a great nation — one that we are all so lucky to call home. I believe that we live in what I like to call “A Purple Nation” — one where it’s not red vs. blue, but where red and blue mix together to give us the majestic and brilliant color purple. Purple may be my favorite color, but it’s also a color of independence, unity and freedom.

I believe we have more in common than we realize. I think the two political parties drive us apart and make us live in a state of distrust and judgment, but I believe that if we all sat still every morning for just 10 minutes, then we would calm our minds and our central nervous systems and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe that if we all took a moment to take off our blinders and widen our gazes, then we would be able to look into people’s hearts, listen to their life stories, and realize that we have so much in common. I believe that we would discover that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our office mates are all seeking the same sense of belonging that we are. We would realize that we’re all seeking the same sense of freedom and safety. We would realize that we all have the same desire to do well for ourselves, for our families, and for our country.

Don’t call me naive or tell me I’m in denial. Call me observant and tell me, “Yes, Maria, I see this, too.” 

The vast majority of us are good, kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens who love our country and would stop to help our neighbor. I can see this when my mind and my heart aren’t racing. I can see this when I take a step back and don’t listen to the voices telling me that the sky is falling down.

When I widen my gaze, I see hardworking individuals everywhere who put others before themselves. They work in our hospitals, in our fire stations, in our schools, and in our community centers. They volunteer for our military and for non-profits all across the country. They build houses and playgrounds. They serve in churches, on hotlines, in shelters and in nursing homes.

I see young entrepreneurs trying to solve our most pressing social ills with innovative and socially conscious businesses. Their hopes, their desires, and their determination give me hope. I meet with them all the time and I never ask them what political party they belong to. I ask them what their dreams are, what they want to change, and where they get their hope. Their answers always inspire me.

I also see so many hard-working people who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and who don’t give up. I see people coming together from all walks of life – crossing religious divides, gender divides, and racial divides – to use their skills and their smarts to make life better for others.

Everywhere around us, people are working together. They are listening to one another, trying to understand one another, and trying to make a difference. When I think about all of this, I feel a sense of hope and calm wash over me. “Maria,” I say to myself, “all is well.”

There is so much hope! There are so many good people! People who are working to achieve the American dream, which is still very much alive and attainable. If you don’t believe me, think about what’s been created in recent years alone. We are a nation of people that conceived of Amazon, Uber and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” just to name a few great things. We are creative, conscious, collaborative and caring people. We are big dreamers and on-the-ground doers. 

So, as we look ahead to our nation’s birthday on Wednesday, know this. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have a free press. We are free to practice any religion. We are free to gather, to organize, and to marry anyone we want. We are free to wander off the beaten path, or to jump into the fray. We are free to shout and use our voices, or to just calmly go about our days. And, if you feel like any of your freedoms are under attack, then remember that you have the freedom to vote, to fight for what you believe in, to push for change, and to make a difference.

Let’s remember that when we stay in our goodness, we can see the goodness in others. When we help our neighbors, we can know that we are actually doing the Lord’s work. And, when we use our voices in a calm, confident, certain and clear way, we can know that we are doing what our forefathers and our foremothers fought for us to do.

As Americans, we are what everyone wants to be. Free. So, take a deep breath, look around and within, and celebrate that freedom. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it this week. And celebrate it each and every day. 

Wave the flag this week. Wear your red, white and blue. But also consider wearing a little purple, too. It just might remind you – and others – that you believe in unity. I hope you can see that it’s possible. It’s right there in front of you. Just open your eyes.”

Darlings, I don’t know about you, but I am committed to widening my gaze. Will you join me? Great, I thought so. Now let’s take some long, deep breaths and free our souls!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

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

 

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Life Do You Want?

“You are fulfilled when you get up on the morning. So many times we get up in the morning, we’re depressed. We’re down. We’re angry. We’re frustrated. But when you can wake up saying, ‘I’m glad to be alive. There is purpose to this day.’ To me, that is success. And I would argue that once you have that internal success, then externally it’s just a manifestation of what happens internally in the best possible way.” -DeVon Franklin

The other day I was googling something Oprah related. Actually, I was wondering if there was a recent sighting of her in Newark, NJ days prior. Why? Because I saw someone at the airport who could have been her exact double. The poney-tailed hair, funky glasses, the eyes, the teeth, body type, minimal make-up, complexion all screamed, “Queen O,” except what would she be doing at the airport. After all, doesn’t she have her own plane? I definitely did a double-take. Poor woman! I’m sure she must get hounded by people all the time….I didn’t hound, I just stared!

Back to google…..so I came across some links from her “Life You Want Tour,” when Oprah had been in Newark a few years back. As with all things lately, synchronicity has been playing a major role in my life. Today, as a matter of fact, a few of us went to breakfast after class and the topic of synchronicity came up, as did affirmations, signs, career changes and big life questions. Much of what we talked about is summarized in a link I clicked on. I’m not sure which one it was, but I did take a picture of the 10 powerful Oprah quotes that were shared.

For some reason, I was guided to snap the picture. After this morning’s powerful conversations, I now know that I am meant to share these power thoughts / life lessons with you – today, not tomorrow or some other time, but NOW:

  1. Your purpose is the thread that connects the dots between everything you do. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched.
  2. No gift is made for you to hold within yourself. Everything gets bigger by sharing it with the world.
  3. It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly, that to live a perfect imitation of someone else’s life.
  4. You have no power in someone else’s territory.
  5. Your life is speaking to you all the time. First in a whisper. Then a thump. Then a brick. Then a brick wall.
  6. Everything that has happened to you, was happening for you.
  7. The life you want begins by embracing the life you have. The life you have is miraculous and it matters!
  8. Courage is doing what you know you need to do before you are forced to do it.
  9. What you focus on expands.
  10. When you set the vision, the universe will rise up to meet it.

As long as we are living our purpose, which undeniably is to love, serve, uplift each other, help to heal and move humanity forward, and be the change we want to see in the world, we are on track. We are a success. We are doing what we came here to do. The key is to find what sets our soul on fire, what we are passionate about and then go out and live the life we want. Not sure how or where to start? Well the 10 power thoughts is a great place for starters!

I will now leave you with Carl Lentz’s words from his book, OWN THE MOMENT, which happened to fit right in with the conversations we were having at breakfast. I just love synchronicity! The key is to be open to it.

Do you know where you are headed? Maybe the more important question is: Do you know who sent you? Because if you trust the “who,” the “where” is far more bearable when you face seasons of uncertainty. Purpose is more than a job or a scenario that you think is right for you. Living with purpose is a mentality. We can achieve our purpose in any scenario if we trust the plan and who created the plan in the first place. There is no better time than now to own some of the hardest questions in this life. Why are you here? Where do you find joy and passion in this life and how can you do more of that? One thing is for certain; Avoiding these questions creates more pressure and less peace. God didn’t put you on this earth to merely exist and vanish. Live with purpose, on purpose. Every single day. (From the chapter I Have No Idea Where I’m Going)

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS: I’d like to take a moment to send a “shout out” to my Highland Tribe! We are truly blessed to have such a beautiful place to practice, learn and hold the space for whatever needs sharing and whomever needs holding. Beautiful friendships have been formed at Highland Yoga Studio in Butler, NJ, and friendships continue to blossom. It’s a beautiful place to seek refuge….both on the mat and in each others arms!