Five, Four, Three, Two, One

“Orienting refers to knowing where we are in space and time. When we are oriented, we are in present time.” Hala Khouri

Hello darlings!

I hope these uncertain, chaotic, overwhelming and disturbing times that we’re facing haven’t taken too much of a toll on your mental and physical health and that you’re utilizing your tools and resources to keep your Self regulated.

Speaking of self-regulation, sometimes, a quick body scan and something as simple as looking around and noticing our surroundings will take us out of the chaos, overwhelm, anxiety, fear and panic mode and put us in the present moment. That’s where the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique comes in.

Some time back in February or early March, I was scrolling through IG and came across Elizabeth Gilbert’s post where she talked about this technique and guided the viewer through it. It was so powerful that I filed it away in my mind until, recently, when it resurfaced as I was taking a course on trauma informed yoga with the wonderful Hala Khouri. She is one of the co-founders of Off the Mat and Into the World along with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling. If you’re not familiar with their work, I lovingly encourage you to check them out.

Back to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Utilizing all our senses to notice and take in our immediate surroundings can regulate our nervous systems. During this historical time we are living through, and especially if you are a news junkie, our nervous systems are being assaulted to the point where we may feel ourselves paralyzed my fear , unable to catch our breath and/or unable to settle our minds …or the minds of those with whom we are quarantining.

Whenever our minds are hijacked, and we find ourselves lost in thoughts of the past or uncertainties about the future, you can bet our nervous systems are getting a hefty dose of adrenaline and cortisol- thereby getting us all jacked up…. maybe even en-route to having a full-blown panic attack.  When this happens, our thoughts spiral and become all consuming, our breathing and heart rate are affected, as is our digestion, and we may even feel all sorts of uncomfortable sensations in our bodies. Not fun or pleasurable to go through or witness!

So how does  5, 4, 3, 2, 1 work? This resource helps us to look around our environment, regardless of where we are, and induce a physiological response whereby we start to feel calm, relaxed and in the present moment. You can literally be ANYWHERE to do this. You can even give it a try right now!

As you slowly look around your surroundings, direct your attention to the following:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can feel
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

The point here is to get you back to a place where you are in present time and mindful of your surroundings. If you like, you can even place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. By doing this, you are tracking your inhales and exhales. The beauty of breathing is that it’s a tool that we can easily tap into and one that brings our attention back into our bodies.

Another similar technique I would like to share with you, because sharing is caring, is one that Hala Khouri used in the course I just took with her. It’s even simpler than the one above. All you basically do is:

  • Look around the room you are in and simply notice the different colors and textures. This is another way that can help us slow down and bring us back to the present  moment.

If you use this technique with someone else, you can even take it a step further by asking them to name a certain number of objects of a particular color.

While Orienting tends to do the trick, it may not work for everyone, Like every other tool, resource, practice or technique out there, we don’t  really know if it resonates for us until we try it.

And we can’t forget the little ones out there. Sadly, more and more young children are becoming depressed, overwhelmed and/or fear and anxiety ridden these days.  It is understandable and certainly unavoidable given the particular circumstances under which they may find themselves living. The best gift we can give them are tools for self-regulation. However, it’s important for them to see us utilizing them as well.

As we’ve all been experiencing, tough times call us to get even tougher. This is the time we pull out ALL our tools and resources and put them to use. Yes, it’s easy to numb ourselves but, in the end, it’s not helpful nor sustainable for our well-being. What is sustainable? Our self-care. It’s imperative given our current living conditions. Remember, oxygen mask on first!

Sharing self-care tools, resources, practices and life experiences that help us to rise and be resilient, is one of the reasons I started blogging. I still can’t believe this blog you are reading is number 161…you can literally scroll back to any random blog post, and I am sure you’ll find some kind of inspiration or support to help you along your own personal journey. And speaking of support, let’s not forget our personal support systems and the people who show up for us and for whom we show up. There’s nothing like deep, meaningful conversations to help us process things, share stories as well as share our own personal practices and gifts.

Whether it be yoga, meditation, visualization, breathwork, affirmations, coloring, drawing, painting, reading, dancing, reiki, therapy, acupuncture, journaling, singing, chanting, playing music, being in nature, gardening, cooking, practicing gratitude, or other mindfulness practices, find what works for you and get to it. You’ve got this! We’ve got this! And we’ve got each other!

Darlings, I hope the two techniques I shared will serve you or someone you know. Share if you care…or not…wink, wink.

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

 

 

 

Your Mother Is Always With You

“She’s the whisper in the leaves as you walk down the street, the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold. winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning. Your mother lives inside your laughter. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on Earth can separate you. Not time, not space…not even death.”

Mother”s Day is always a tough one for those of us who’ve lost our mothers. Several  of my friends lost their moms this year as well as over the last couple of years. And speaking from someone who lost hers 12 years ago, it never gets any easier. I often say that we simply learn how do deal with it, but  we never truly get over that vacant hole on our hearts.

Mother-daughter relationships are tricky. Some are stable while others are volatile. Some fluctuate and others are solid. Some are toxic while others are healing. Some are the things dreams are made of while others are a nightmare. Some are non-existent and others overbearing. Some seem to be “perfect” and others are perfectly imperfect.

There is no cookie-cutter recipe to what makes for a “perfect” mother-daughter relationship. And despite the range and types of mother-daughter relationships out there, mothers always fill a huge part of our hearts for better or worse…in life and in death.

Mother’s Day is tricky to navigate for us whether we like to admit it or not. Some of us don’t like to show our feelings, much less talk about them. Or we have shame around it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling your feelings -all of them- especially when you no longer have a mom around.

We live in a culture that is not comfortable talking about death, much less expressing our feelings around how much we may miss someone who is no longer alive. The love we feel for someone never dies along with that person, If anything, sometimes that love gets   even deeper and more expansive over the years. Yet, there is a preconceived notion some people have that they are expected to “get over” their grief in a certain time period. There is no timeline to grief, no magic recipe, and not one path that is better than another. We all grieve differently because we are all wired differently. As we’ve all experienced, grief just comes out of nowhere sometimes and it shows up differently for each of us. Oftentimes, it’s that unwelcome guest at our heart’s door that we need to allow in.

And when we open our heart’s door, and when we allow ourselves to flow with whatever arises, we are sometimes  unexpectedly surprised. Memories suddenly show up, or something that was so insignificant now holds deeper meaning and significance. Sometimes we struggle to remember something to no avail, but instead we are gifted with a precious memory that was long forgotten…perhaps even painful at the time but, with the passing of time, we look at it through a different lens.

Coming from a generation where our mothers tended to never speak about “family” situations, what I advise anyone who still has a mom around, is to ask them questions…all kinds of questions: about their childhood, growing up, experiences, traumas, ancestors, romances, challenges, successes, relationships, wishes fulfilled and dreams unfulfilled…you get the idea. Record videos and take lots of pictures of them. Interview them, have them interview you and record these interviews. Be silly, go deep and don’t leave any stone unturned. These will be some of the things that will comfort you and make you laugh when you are longing for their presence -even if it’s for one more day.

I’m a person who values rituals and enjoys celebrating a person’s life. So, on Mother’s Day, my day starts with a gratitude filled meditation and yoga practice. I usually have my customary white roses and my Mama’s journal that I write in twice a year.  Some years, I look back at what I wrote in years past. I like this quiet time to reflect . It also allows me to see how, with the passing of time, I am growing into being more and more like my mother. And I am owning it. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. It’s all good though…I embrace it all!

My mama was all about love, generosity and service. She loved to dance, celebrate and laugh. She always ended her conversations with “Te quiero” and was very loved by all who knew her. Mama had a huge heart. As I look back, I can see how she felt all her feelings… maybe too much.  I have no doubt that she was an empath. She was compassionate, loving and kind to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, she could have a temper – that Cuban mother temper- but most times she’d end up getting over it- and herself- very quickly. Sometimes she’d even be concealing laughter while in the midst of an outburst. I just don’t think she had a mean bone in her body…it was all theatrics.

All I know for sure is that my mother is always with me. This morning I took out a box of old family pictures ,and l really took the time to look at them, look at the body language, the smiles, the joy and the sadness too. I even found myself looking at pictures of me when I was a baby and a young child and talking out loud to the little girl I was holding in my hands. Talk about powerful stuff! I also read through letters and cards that teachers had their students write and draw for my mom a few months before she passed.

As if by divine intervention, as I sit here finishing this blog, a friend of mine who  lost her mom a couple of months ago sent me a picture of a card she received. The front of the card was almost the same as the title of this blog, Your Mother Will Always Be With You. Go figure! Is that a coincidence, or what?

So….in honor of all of us who’ve lost our moms-whether physically, emotionally or mentally- especially if this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom, I will leave you with the beautiful sentiment expressed in the card my friend received:

“You’ll never forget her face, her voice, her love for you. You’ll never forget the traditions she handed down, the things she stood for… They are her gift and your legacy. You honor her every day in the way you live and the person you are.”

Sending you all much love and many blessings,  from my heart to yours!

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

 

Daily Renewal

“What do you do every day to make yourself come home to your Self?”

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope y’all are lovin’ on your Self and finding ways to shower yourselves with daily self-care practices…

Why? Because running around and burning the candles at both ends, like we are all known for doing at some point, requires a good plan for recovery. Just like an athlete, Olympian or rock star, post-performance practices are key to recovery.

Also, this is around the time of year that New Year’s resolutions start to fall by the wayside. We tend to lose focus, be derailed by the weather, or simply get lazy.

Having the presence of mind to check in with ourselves, periodically, throughout the day allows us stay grounded and focused on our intentions, goals and dreams. In order to do so, we need mental clarity. And mental clarity is one of those things that oftentimes gets sacrificed. As a result, we fall back into old patterns, feel scattered or feel ourselves spiraling.

Daily renewal allows us to hit the pause button and reflect. And it can be as simple as breathing and connecting. Focusing on the breath and connecting to the energy we want to feel (or are feeling) allow us to plug into ourselves. Scanning our bodies for sensations allows us to feel where we may be holding onto tension. Tuning into the sounds around us and becoming aware of our thoughts (without getting caught up in them or creating a story) sharpen our ability to just observe.

All of these things can be done just about anywhere or anytime. This practice of being present to our own body, mind and spirit is at the root of our well- being and greatly impacts our performance and ability to show up for ourselves… and then others.

It’s a mindfulness practice that simply translates to being present and engaged in whatever is going on, whatever it is we are doing or whomever it is we are with at that precise moment. The more we practice, the clearer we get with ourselves and the more likely we are to recognize a behavior or pattern that isn’t serving us, an area where we’re holding on when we should be letting go, or an opportunity to change the way we look at something in order to change the way we go about living our life…and living it fully and meaningfully!

I invite you to take a moment to assess your personal daily renewal practices. What are they? What is your mental state after you do them?

The key is knowing the practices that work for us personally: the various tools we have in our toolboxes that help us to ground ourselves. They can be mediation, yoga, music, chanting, tapping, nature, affirmations, hot soaks in the tub or a warm shower, dancing, journaling, breathwork, color therapy, painting, reading, or a host of other hobbies or activities that engage us in the present moment and let our creative side come out to play.

The beauty of these practices is that we are able to stay in tune with our bodies. They contribute to our physical and mental health, energize us when needed, boost our mood and add to our overall emotional fulfillment.

Any type of awareness meditation can be very revealing, especially if we take the time to journal afterwards. I recently took a workshop titled Reflections on Your Inner World, where we were instructed to sit in stillness for 10 minutes and just observe our thoughts (you can say them silently to yourself as you’re doing so). After the 10 minutes were up, we journaled about it all for 10 minutes.

The presenter encouraged us to write, draw and/or use crayons if we wanted. I immediately created 5 headings in different colors: breath; scents; sounds; sensations; and thoughts. Then I preceded to list words, phrases or sentences under each category. And let me tell you something…. this awareness meditation was indeed revealing!

As the presenter stated, “Below the surface of everyday life is a vast reservoir of wisdom and knowledge, and accumulation of life experiences. Meditation and journaling can help you listen deeply, giving a voice to that inner landscape, integrating what was witnessed in the subconscious and connecting you to your higher Self “

Daily renewal mindfulness practices of all kinds will leave us enjoying our lives more. They will help us sleep better, encourage us to play and be more creative. These practices will transform the way we look at things, at other people, and help us to understand ourselves and our place in the world better. We grow to appreciate everything more, while reducing stress hormones along the way. And lastly, daily renewal keeps us in a constant state of love and gratitude … for all things large and small!

My darlings, if we want spiritual peak performance, we must make the time for daily renewal. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our performance, and tweak/vary our practices along the way. Renew away!

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

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

Blind Clarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

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

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

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

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

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

A New Guest Blogger

“Emotion has no price…
Love is free. “
by Lucy Del Gaudio
Some of my favorite lyrics from a John Waite song. But is Love really free? We speak about love in so many facets of life. We love our families. We love our friends. We love our work but do we really love for free, or is there some sort of cost for loving something or someone?
I once loved someone. I loved everything about this person. The way they talked. The way they engaged me in conversation. Their laugh. Their cheeky smile and gestures. Their passion for Art and Music. But I was more in love with the way I felt when I was around them?
It felt like the frst time you lay down in the grass, look up at the sky and watch the stars on a beautiful clear night. So why did I love them once, or can I still love them since they are technically not mine to love? So is this loving something at a cost? So all these years, was John Waite wrong? Love at a cost but it might, or sometimes, be free?
We define love in so many ways. With affection. With passion. So when I tell someone I love my Starbucks coffee, am I entering an affection relationship with it? Ha. I don’t think so but, sometimes, I swear it’s telling me it loves me back.
My once love is special to me because they were the first person I loved with a full heart. My first love. But when you read that statement, is your first love truly your first love? I often name my dad as my first love. God, do I love that man. He also broke my heart when he passed away in 1989. So back to love is free, not really. You love and cost – the broken heart- and shit has my heart been broken.
I affectionately call my husband “the spouse.” I love “the spouse” for so many reasons. Here’s a man, that entered a relationship with a person that has three kids and was completely- let’s say for a lack of better words- a fuck’n mess. He has managed to help me “un-mess” myself. That helped us, our family and, ultimately, made me a better person. He is also my favorite confidante, my concert partner, my sports talk, my biggest fan and my lover. Someone reading this could possibly say, “Wow, that’s perfect.”  But is it really? Sometimes, I question, is that enough? Is there a need for more love? Sometimes, my insecurities plague me and my self tells me,  “Yes, it’s enough.”  But at times, I have to question.
So, I come back to my once love. Do I still love them? Yes, I do. I will always love them at a cost. Do I love the spouse and love my children? Yes, I absolutely love them and it’s very free. Do I love Coffee – yes at a big cost cause Starbucks is damn fuck expensive.
So, Dear John Waite. I’ve changed your lyrics – “Emotion has no price and love is free with an occasional cost.”
Darlings, I met Lucy ages ago when we both worked for the Union City Board of Ed. While we do not see each other socially, we are friends on social media. I appreciate her posts, her love of music and concerts, the work she does with the Veterans, and I admire her for serving our country. It’s been an honor to be able to witness her physical transformation from afar- which could have only come form the inner transformational journey she’s been on. I even chuckle when she refers to her husband as “the spouse” when she writes about him. I think it’s cute!
Thank you, sister warrior Lucy, for such a fine and thought-provoking piece! Your journeys, experiences and adventures have had you doing some deep diving over the years, and I hope you will continue to guest blog! I am certain you have a whole lot to write about!!! What do you say, are you up to it? You have an open invitation to do so as often as you feel called to do so!
Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Strengthen Your Attention Muscle

“In the rush of modern-day life, it’s easy to push aside small concerns and fail to notice you’re no longer your old, happy self.”

Hello my darlings!

I hope this blog finds you happy and in good spirits!

If you’re not in good spirits, perhaps you and/or your life is tipping out of balance. Perhaps you’ve failed to notice the gradual changes that undeniably occur when we are disconnected from our mind, body and spirit. When this occurs, it’s safe to say that our minds ruminate and our lives feel like we are on a perpetual hamster wheel… spinning, spinning, spinning!

A common practice in yoga class is to be still and connect to our breath. After a few lengthy and deep inhalations and exhalations, we are encouraged to check in with our mind, our body, and our spirit. In doing so, we are able to tap into our thoughts, the sensations in our bodies and the emotions that rise up to the surface.

Our attention is a muscle that, once exercised, can reap wonderful rewards. The more we practice being still and checking in with our feelings, our thoughts, and our surroundings, the more we are able to be present in our bodies as well as in our relationships. And…. the more we are able to connect with Source- “the infinite all” and our higher self.

Today’s society, the happenings in our world and government, and the constant overflow of information that is in our in boxes and on our devices, contribute to the constant simulation of our senses. As a result, we feel a mental overload of huge proportions. Without tools that allow us to sort through the noise, mental clutter and stimulus, we are doomed to feel like our life is spinning out of control. We seem to be doing, doing, doing instead of being, being, being!

Our nervous system is so flooded with cortisol, that we operate from “fight or flight” mode” as opposed to “rest and digest” mode.

If we have any hopes of living a more gracious, connected, joyous, balanced, and peaceful life, we must remove ourselves from this state of overwhelming busyness. We MUST allow ourselves the time and the space to disconnect.

In doing so, we are affording ourselves the opportunity to be, see, hear and feel.

A simple thing we can do at the end of a difficult, challenging, or trying day, is to notice how our body feels. This is one way we can strengthen our attention muscle. Over time, and with practice, it becomes second nature…. trust me!

So where do we start?

-We start by setting aside uninterrupted time to check in. This means powering off our devices or placing them on airplane mode.

-Find a place to sit quietly and comfortably.

– After a few deep cleansing breaths, notice where your body feels constricted.

– Where is it that you hold on to stress or discomfort in your body?

-What do you feel?

-Allow yourself to feel and, If you are compelled to write, journal what ever arose during this time you took to scan your body.

-The more you do this throughout your day, the more you are in your body and the more equipped you become at addressing these areas in your body.

We can look at this practice as a gift we give ourselves. Being able to be in our bodies- distraction free- is a gift. It’s a necessity. It’s life altering. It allows us to be aware of thoughts that may not serve us and encourage us to reprogram our brain with thoughts that enhance our wellbeing.

It has been proven that the quality of our life is connected with our ability to tune in and pay attention. Multitasking, 24/7 connection, fatigued adrenals, and exhaustion do not make for a badge of honor. On the contrary, radical self-care allows us to live a more deeply satisfying life.

So what are some activities that allow us to be in our bodies and add to our well-being? Activities that allow us to care for our inner child?

The following suggestions come directly from someone I follow on IG because I love how she is using her social media platform to help us to heal and consciously create a new version of ourselves (check out the.holistic.psychologist on the gram).

  • Go for a walk or a hike
  • Do yoga
  • Meditate
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Listen to an educational podcast
  • Go to “Youtube University”
  • See a therapist/energy worker/healer
  • Connect with someone you love
  • Spend 15 minutes in total silence
  • Do a tough work out
  • Plan a “staycation”

And what are some of my favorite things to do when I am feeling exhausted or spread too thin, or have had a long day? In addition to the suggestions above, I enjoy soaking in an Epson salt, essential oils infused tub. Sometimes I even throw in fresh flowers. I make sure to light a candle and drink plenty of water when I am soaking (wine on some occasions). Doing a few restorative yoga poses before bed is a must for me, especially after a soak in the tub. I also like to spend a few hours in silence. At times, I purposely shut off the phone. Taking a walk in nature is something I enjoy as well. Getting to bed earlier than usual is a delightful and indulgent treat. And, as you can surmise, journaling is at the top of my list…wink, wink! Writing in my gratitude journal is something I try and do in the evenings as soon as I get in bed.

What are your coping mechanisms when dealing with difficult situations or emotions? What activities allow you to feel renewed or recharged? What practices do you have that allow you to connect to Source?

My darlings, tough times call for tough measures. In order to be our best selves and show up fully engaged and passionately committed to ourselves and for the greater good of all beings, we need to make our self-care a priority. In doing so, we will strengthen our attention muscle in a way that will allow us to live a life of balance, purpose and meaning!

The following is a piece that one of my yoga teachers read to us while we were in savasana. It comes from Danna Fauld’s book, What’s True Here, New Poems and Other Writings. May you be renewed by it as much as I was upon hearing the words!

Renewed by Source

Just as the the steady rain quenches the earths thirst, so too am I renewed by source energy through stillness and through prayer. Without a daily connection to silence, I can’t hear the guidance or feel the love that always moves inside me. The balance of being and doing seems and entirely beyond reach until I grow quiet and allow a wisdom far greater than my own to lead me home.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Empaths and Emotional Hangover

Empaths have an extremely reactive neurological system. We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us. We are so sensitive that it’s like holding something in a hand that has 50 fingers instead of five. We are truly super responders.” Judith Orloff, MD

Greetings, my darlings!

I know, I know, I have been slacking off on my writing. But it’s not to say I’ve been slacking off on my reading (among other things). There’s nothing like being captivated by good books, Netflix feel-good programs, such as The Kindness Diaries, podcasts and meaningful conversations with friends around all of it.

Speaking of conversations, I’ve been having several of them lately around the topic of empathy, empaths and highly sensitive people. These are also topics that often pop up in yoga class. So it’s no wonder that Judith Orloff’s book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, has been the central focus in many of the convos over the past few weeks (and even months). And, just to show you what a genie the universe is, I walked into acupuncture the other day and came across a copy of the book (which I borrowed, of course).

And wouldn’t you know that I opened the book to the section on protection strategies for curing an emotional hangover!?!? The universe is quite the genie!

My, oh my! While these strategies are some of the practices I have been employing for a long time, they didn’t surprise me. However, I was surprised to learn exactly where I fell in the world of an empath (and there are several assessments/checklists included in the book to guide us).

All it took was reading the first paragraph of the first chapter, and I was hooked:

“Though there is a spectrum of sensitivity that exists in human beings, empaths are emotional sponges who absorb both the stress and joy of the world. We feel everything, often to an extreme, and have little guard up between others and ourselves. As a result we are often overwhelmed by excessive stimulation and prone to exhaustion and sensory overload.”

Does this sound like you, your child, a family member or someone you know? Are you prone to fatigue or illness? Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Do you feel overwhelmed with large crowds, loud environments, or toxic people? Do you numb yourself with food, alcohol, sex, shopping or other addictive behaviors? Do you tend to have low blood sugar? Do you dislike arguing? Do you feel overworked? Do you have chemical sensitivities? Does too much socializing and overstimulating situations such as parties and cruises make you feel trapped? Do you feel suffocated in relationships? Well, if the answer to any of these questions is YES, you will want to get a copy of this book for yourself ASAP. I wish I had it in my twenties!!! It would have made my life, and the lives of others around me, so much easier! By the way, these are just a few of the indicators that deeply resonates for me.

Needless to say, this book is a wonderful resource for understanding empaths, empathy and for developing coping skills. And coping skills is something that is much needed in today’s chaotic and overly- stimulated world… a world that is filled with what can be a disturbing array of sights, smells, sensations and sounds, don’t ya think?

As noted on the inside cover of the book, it was created to “support empaths through their unique challenges and help loved ones better understand the empath’s needs and gifts.”

Not surprising is that empaths are usually intuitive, compassionate, creative and spiritually connected. As one of my beloved yoga teachers often says, “Empaths have superpowers.” These gifts and superpowers also bring with them an array of challenges though. And one of these challenges is dealing with people and situations that drain us of our energy.

Why? Because as much as empaths are able to sense other people’s vitality, joy, enthusiasm, happiness and love within ourselves, we also absorb negative energies around us. These energies go right into our muscles, tissues, and organs.

I remember reading the term “energy vampire” in a magazine article I was reading years and years ago- before it becoming so mainstream. That’s when I started connecting the dots and having a greater awareness around the topic of energy. I also started taking note of people and situations that left me feeling depleted and exhausted. In other words, I started identifying the energy vampires in my personal and professional life.

Dr. Orloff identifies seven types of energy vampires in her book. They are:

  1. The Narcissist
  2. The Rageaholic
  3. The Victim
  4. The Drama Queen or King
  5. Control Freaks and Critics
  6. The Nonstop Talker
  7. Passive-Aggressive People

And what happens when we spend too much time in the company of energy vampires, without setting healthy boundaries, having strategies or tools for protecting our energy? We end up overwhelmed, fatigued, drained and with an emotional hangover! Sound familiar?

It sure does! So what are some tools and strategies to protect us against these emotional hangovers?

  • Shower meditations
  • Gemstones
  • Smudging/ Clearing ourselves and our space
  • Negative ion generators or salt lamps
  • Lighting white candles
  • Spraying rose water or other types of aromatherapy
  • Being in nature
  • Sacred space for meditation/ prayer
  • Seeking emotional support with a friend or therapist

The following are additional tools we can use to protect and conserve our overall energy and keep us from getting to the point of overload and/or burnout:

  • Shielding visualizations
  • Grounding and earthing visualizations
  • Cutting energetic chords visualizations
  • Breathwork
  • Yoga
  • Prayer
  • Open to a higher power
  • Loving-Kindness meditations
  • Music and Mantras
  • Detoxing baths
  • Essential Oils
  • Alone time
  • Journaling
  • Getting good sleep and napping
  • Setting clear limits and boundaries
  • Stepping away from what’s disturbing
  • Disconnecting from electronics and social media
  • Eating healthy and nutritious “alive foods”
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Avoiding or limiting caffeine
  • Being fully present in your body
  • Practicing self-compassion
  • Conscious and meaningful conversations

As we may all know by now, cultivating positive self-talk boosts the flow of endorphins- otherwise known as our “feel good hormones,” much like exercise does.

So on this note, I will share with you with some beautiful affirmations from Dr. Orloff’s book. Remember, I’m all about the sharing… wink, wink!

You may choose to write them in a journal (I know I am), post them somewhere, share them or perhaps even use them as a springboard for journaling, meditating or praying. We can also turn to these affirmations if we find ourselves in a toxic, challenging situation or with a person who is challenging to be with.

Empath Affirmations:

  • I vow to honor my sensitivities and treat myself lovingly as I explore what it means to be an empath and embrace my gifts. I will appreciate myself every day.
  • I am strong. I am loving. I am positive. I have the power to clear all negativity and stress from my body. I embrace my physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
  • I will listen to the wisdom of my body. I will eat a healthy diet. I will practice self-care to heal my addictions and stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually balanced.
  • In a quiet state of self-acceptance, tell yourself: I deserve to be in a loving relationship where I feel comfortable. I deserve to express my true needs. I deserve to have my sensitivities respected. I deserve to be heard.
    I will protect my energy around draining people. I will learn how to set healthy boundaries. I will learn to say “no” at the right times. I will listen to my intuition about the relationships that are nurturing for me.
    For children and parents to use: I will embrace my sensitivities and take time to rest and recharge. I will express my needs with supportive people. I will not hide my gifts. I will be authentic. I will stand in my power. I am proud to be a sensitive and loving person.
    I set my intention to attract rewarding work that energizes me. I will practice self-care in my profession to protect my sensitivities. I vow to play and to rest when I’m off work to recharge myself.
    I will honor my intuition. I will listen to my dreams. I will not second-guess my inner voice. I will seek to find balance with my intuition and other aspects of my life so that I can express my full spectrum of sensitivities and be whole.
    I will treasure myself and vow to have people in my life who treasure me as well. I will use my sensitivities to better my own life and the world. I will celebrate the adventure of being an empath.

My darlings, I have shared but only a snippet of the content in this most valuable book by Dr. Orloff. I am certain that you will find yourself, your child, a friend(s), spouse/partner, family member, coworker, or some other loved one on its pages, especially after taking some of the assessments.

If we want to live a life that is rich in love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and meaning, we all need to embrace our gifts and the gifts of the other people in our lives-even those of energy vampires- for they, too, are our teachers. If anything, they propel us to love and heal ourselves. In order to do so, we must first learn to love, support, understand and accept ourselves so that we can then love, support, understand and accept others. This is the gift of healing!

Here’s to embracing our gifts, our superpowers and leading from the heart… right from the start!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Closet Ghosts vs. Closet Beauties

“Closets should be a sanctuary that calm the chaos of everyday life.” Me

Closets come in all shapes and sizes . We do not need to have an enormous walk-in closet for it to be beautiful. A closet, regardless of its size, when well-organized and appointed, should take our breath away when we open its doors.

However, this is not always the case. For many, closets are places that hold many secrets. Closets can be very telling in this way. They reveal insecurities, fears, losses, shame, betrayals, confusion, doubts and a host of other suppressed feelings and emotions.

Feelings and emotions that, when not felt and dealt with, hold us back and forever keep us in a cycle of unrest and wanting more. Cycles that rob us of our peace and serenity. As a result, we tend to store things that no longer serve us and perhaps even cause us suffering because of the sheer volume of things inside of them and the often time disorganization, mess, and clutter that accumulates as a result.

What we fail to realize many times, is that what we hide controls us. It’s heavy. It weighs us down. It cripples/ paralyzes us. It blocks energy from flowing and keeps new things from entering our lives. And if there is anything I know for sure, is that avoidance compounds a problem! In order to eliminate the problem, we must first look at its root cause.

Before doing so though, allow me to rewind for a moment. I had a blog scheduled for last week called Closet Ghosts. The title, and blog, organically evolved from conversations I was having with my Scorpio soul sister Kat, and my dear pseudo-daughter and guest blogger of long ago, Blondie. However, the blog mysteriously disappeared. I know I did not trash it or accidentally discard it. After a live chat with IT people, the culprit and root cause was probably an Internet glitch that prevented my work from being saved at that moment in time.

I exhaled deeply at this point, and came to the conclusion that the cyberspace gods didn’t want that blog to be published…. wink, wink.

What was I to do? Freak out? Stress? Allow it to ruin my day? I don’t think so… absolutely NOT! I just closed my laptop and went about my day. I didn’t even want to expend any more of my energy coming up with a new blog for I could not even remember all the details of it because, many times, I’m just in the “zone” as I write. So…..here I am, a week later, and here is a new blog… inspired by the one that is somewhere in cyberspace.

Let’s fast forward to root causes. An assumption we often make along our journey, is to think that the same mindset that created the problem will be able to fix it. Absolutely not! The root cause of an issue, that is inevitably causing us to suffer, is always buried deep inside of us. We must be willing to do the messy and painful work of going within, dusting off the cobwebs and uncovering the many levels of limited beliefs that are holding us back from moving forward with our lives. And this is one thing the ego mind is most uncomfortable doing!

That is why we must go within and connect to our hearts. Taking a look around our immediate surroundings and our personal space, especially our closets, is a good barometer of the state of our hearts. The clutter, mess, and disorganization in our personal spaces is a clear reflection of the mess, clutter and disorganization that resides deep within us.

Being aware of this is the first step. Awareness doesn’t fight, criticize or judge. It’s simply there, it’s eye-opening, and it’s transformational. And in order for us to grow, we must always be in a constant state of transformation. Our messes and our problems are opportunities knocking at our door.

In Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, there’s a chapter called Removing Your Inner Thorn. In it he talks about the spiritual journey being one of constant transformation. He goes on to say the following:

“In order to grow, you must give up the struggle to remain the same, and learn to embrace change at all times. One of the most important areas requiring change is how we solve our personal problems. We normally attempt to solve our inner disturbances by protecting ourselves. Real transformation begins when you embrace your problems as agents.

Spring cleaning is a wonderful time of year to assess the areas in our lives that need clearing, cleansing, decluttering, organizing and discarding so that vital life force energy can enter the walls that house our physical and spiritual selves. It’s the perfect time to assess and identify what we are allowing to control us and make an intentional, informed and concerted effort to change. A good place to start is our closet(s).

Once we clear away our emotional clutter, the clutter that is blocking that flow of life force energy, we will also be clearing away a lot of the issues that are blocking us in life. Once we clear out our Closet Ghosts, there will only be Closet Beauties to greet us when we open those doors.

So regardless of its size or shape, there are many organizing tools we can utilize that will maximize the space that we have. I love organizing, so I like to open a closet and feel like it’s a store display. Now mind you, I do not have huge walk-in closets. However, I do have things that allow me to maximize the space I have like skinny hangers, clear shoeboxes, matching canvas bins, decorative hooks, baskets and shelving that allow me to store as well as display some of my possessions. Hanging articles of clothing by color is also very appealing to the eyes. What can I say? Having beautiful, well-organized closets brings me joy!

And speaking of JOY, another reason that our clutter can cause us suffering and, therefore, zap our joy, is because we are no longer the same person we were when we bought all those things in the first place, nor are we looking at those things with the same level of awareness and consciousness any longer. We are in a constant and ever changing pattern of ebbing and flowing.

Once we have swept away those issues that have been blocking us in life, we will know in our hearts that we are whole perfect and complete just the way we are and that we do NOT need one more thing to add to that circle of completeness and wholeness. We have transformed to the point where we look at those external circumstances, situations, and emotions that were our Closet Ghosts and have bid them farewell.

In bidding them farewell, we swing our doors wide open for all to see the Closet Beauties that reside within… both in our closets and in our hearts.

Carry on my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS: If you are in huge spring cleaning mode and/or are getting ready to move, check out my Spring Cleaning blog from March 2018. It contains some pointers and guidelines from one of my favorite books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. And in her words: “Clear your clutter and enjoy the magic of a tidy home-and the calm, motivated mind said it can inspire.”

Mind over Matter

“The real meditation is how you live your life.” Job Kabat-Zin

Jon Kabat-Zin is known as the Godfather of modern Western mindfulness meditation. He’s been preaching and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for decades. This is a program that teaches us mindfulness skills to use in our daily lives.

I had the pleasure of seeing him at an Omega Institute Being Yoga Conference many years ago where he was one of the keynote speakers. It was so impactful to see and witness how “present” and powerful he was. Even when silent, and scanning the audience as he made eye contact, he exuded power and presence.

I recall remarking to myself that I wanted to have this effect whenever I had to speak before a large crowd. I wanted to drink the “mindfulness cool-aid.” And that I did because, ever since then, one of my daily goals and aspirations in life has been to show up and be present wherever and with whomever I am.

Being able to stay afloat in today’s world, and having tools to self-regulate, was part of several conversations I had with a couple of friends this past weekend. Everything today is fast and furious, and the sands of time seem to be slipping by rapidly. Having tools, and utilizing them, can help us to slow down, regroup, regain some clarity, enjoy time with friends and loved ones and even strengthen relationships.

The point of being mindful is to live in the moment and appreciate whatever it is that shows up without having a meltdown or feeling like we’re just spiraling into a dark abyss. In order to do this, we must be mindful or “in the moment.” We must allow ourselves opportunities to “land and arrive” in our bodies and then be fully aware of whatever it is we are doing in that moment. Even sipping tea, washing dishes, or cutting vegetables are all opportunities for us to be present and focus on what we are doing.

So…..after a weekend of much conversation, home-made scrumptious food and jokingly “trying to solve the problems of the world,” I chuckled as I came across the latest issue of Breathe magazine. It is appropriately titled The Mindfulness Special.

If you’ve never held this beautiful magazine in your hands, I suggest you treat yourself to one. The magazine contains articles on wellness, kindness, mindfulness and inspiration…. right up my alley! It’s filled with practical, short pieces that allow us to inhale and exhale deeply. I guess that is why the magazine is called Breathe.

I decided to peruse it when I got on the train for my ride home from visiting my friends this past weekend. As I flipped through the articles and the pages, I came to the back of the magazine. I took the time to read Mind over Matter because it was all quotes, from a variety of people, designed to inspire us to live in the moment. Who doesn’t love a good quote?

I, for one, am a sucker for good quotes; so, in the spirit of stewardship, love, caring and sharing, I will leave you all with these precious gems that will allow you to pause, land, arrive, inhale and exhale deeply.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. Mother Teresa

Training your mind to be in the present moment is the number one key to making healthier choices. Susan Albers

In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want to much, and forget about the joy of just being. Eckhart Tolle

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou

Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts. Buddha

Look for the answer inside your question. Rumi

Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life. Mark Williams

The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear. Prasad Mahes

Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it’s outside when it is inside. Ramana Maharshi

Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance. Amit Ray

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little. Jon Kabat-Zin

Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world. Amit Ray

Mindfulness is like that-it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life. Thich Nhat Hanh

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax. Bryant McGill

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without figuring it will always be the way (which it won’t). James Baraz

It is my hope that the above quotes touch something in all of us, and that we all continue to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart… right from the start!

Breathe…

Inhale Love and Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC