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

Fully Engaged and Passionately Committed

“Live life with an open heart.” Panache Desai

Greetings, my beloved darlings!

I hope this blog finds you in good summer spirits and that you are finding joy in the many aspects of your life. This is usually a fairly easy thing to do, despite what calamity or chaos is swirling around, if we operate with an open heart… the operative word being usually..wink, wink!

Leading from the heart and finding joy, even in the mundane things or in painful times, allows us to live fully engaged and passionately committed.

When I reflected on these past couple of months of not blogging on a regular basis, I realized that I’ve been engaged in lots of fun, leisurely and meaningful activities. At one point I even wondered if I had writer’s block, but it’s not as if I wasn’t writing; after all, I was keeping up with my journaling. And it wasn’t as if I was not inspired. There were many occasions in which I was inspired and motivated. I just did not make the time to sit down and blog. One thing I was sure to do though, was NOT to judge, criticize or be hard on myself.

So today at lunch, with my dearest soul sister Kat, we talked about my dilemma, and everything became crystal clear. I have been fully engaged and passionately committed to living joyfully- FINALLY- post retirement, post a life altering injury and epic orthopedic surgery, post living in chronic pain for 3 years, post another very complex orthopedic surgery that gave me my life back and post 5 years of physical therapy. Whew!

For the first time since September 2012, I feel like I’ve FINALLY started decompressing from my stressful career and everything that altered my life as a result of those 2 surgeries- which, needless to say, created yet another level of stress. Like Kat pointed out, the weight of the world was has been lifted off me. For the first time, I feel like I can FINALLY breathe, relax, sleep long hours, stay up late, sleep in, ease into my day, have fun, socialize and do all the things that bring me joy… without being in pain. For during those difficult years, the joy was being zapped from my life more and more as a result of chronic pain.

That’s why writing has been so cathartic for me- especially my earlier blogs (2017-2018). It was a good way to share my life story, my struggles, my journey, and the different things that helped me along the way. Writing allowed me to take stock, process and heal. And, hopefully, to inspire and/or help others along their own journey.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is not to be hard on myself. I tend to go with the flow more these days and allow for magic and spontaneity to show up. I’ve learned to let go of anything and any one that is dragging me down or causing me to have unproductive thoughts. I’ve learned the art of detachment.

While we all need to schedule certain appointments and commitments, I’ve also learned that it’s OK to bow out gracefully when and if I feel like I’ve overextended myself. If not, there would be no joy to be had.

I’m trying to live more mindfully than ever before and to be present and fully engaged in whatever I am doing or whomever I am with at any given time. This can be very challenging for some people given the constant state of distraction they live in. Some people are more fully engaged and passionately committed to their electronic device(s) than they are to face-to-face, present-time interactions. So…it came as no surprise to me when I started to focus on how grace shows up in my life.

So much so, that my word for 2019 was GRACE. As a matter of fact it is written, in colorful chalk, at the top of my yoga mat. One of the things I’ve always strived to do since finding my yoga practice in 2005 is to live my yoga off the mat. This year, I’ve refined that to living my life off the mat with intention and grace. It’s amazing to see everything that shows up when we move through life with intention and take notice of the many ways grace shows up!

In doing so, I feel like I am becoming more expansive. I feel like I’m taking up more space. I feel like I am more focused on living purposefully. I feel like it always brings me back to my purpose and intention. It takes me to the things that bring me joy… and that is to Inspire, Love, Serve.

Darlings, I encourage you to think about sharing YOUR story with others. Our stories can inspire, guide, motivate and encourage others as they move through life’s challenging times.

In order to grow through the challenging times or whatever it is we are going through, we are tasked with doing a certain amount of work in life. The work we do ultimately allows us to take action and evolve. In doing so, we transform and grow into the best version of ourselves, and live a full, meaningful, and purposeful life in the process.

I invite you to peruse the following questions. May they serve you in whatever way you need and may they inspire you to take action wherever you need so that you can joyfully live fully engaged and passionately committed and inspire others to do so as well!

What are 5 words that describe you?

How are you moving through life?

What values shape you?

What people (dead or alive) inspire you and why?

Are you changing and growing over time?

What sort of activities or events do you focus on?

What brings you joy?

What are your challenges at this point in your life?

What areas of your life are in need of changing?

What are you good at?

How can you influence and/or inspire others?

How can you be of service to others?

If you would like more questions to use for meaningful conversations or to use for journaling, please search for my blog titled Grow Through it All. It was published July 8, 2018.

We can further use these questions and answers to explore, investigate and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life. A life filled with peace, tranquility, serenity, truth, transparency and authenticity.

Darlings…. stay cool, remember to hydrate and live with a heart wide open!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Reflections and Intentions

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Happy June, my darlings!

I spent this past Memorial Day weekend on a lovely, peaceful lake pet sitting a dear friend’s little fur baby. I intentionally approached the weekend as if I was going away on a retreat to an oasis somewhere. After all, I was in a gorgeous, spacious, well appointed home which sits right on one of the most beautiful and pristine lakes nearby, and it was only four miles from home. No traffic, no noise, no crowds. In my book, that constitutes as bliss!

Retreating from our daily activities and routines for an extended period of time affords us the opportunity to go within to connect and examine our lives. It’s an opportunity to catch up on reading, reflecting, asking ourselves some questions, seeing and feeling what arises, deep diving into those feelings, unpacking it all and perhaps even doing some stream of consciousness writing (which is just what I did and will be sharing with you). I love having these uninterrupted chunks of quietude at my disposal because it also allows me to catch up on webinars, TED talks and podcasts.

One of my to go to podcasts is Maria Shriver’s Meaningful Conversations which airs on Mondays. The one I listened to this past weekend was her interview with Sharon Salzberg, who is an internationally known meditation teacher and author. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing her speak while away on past retreats, so I wondered what she had been up to of late. This particular podcast dealt with love, connection, significance, longing, meditation and other tools we can use to transform suffering into connection.

Here’s where my stream of consciousness writing comes in….so please bear with me…. wink, wink!

This podcast got me thinking about my own life and how I’ve always felt that one can be the loneliest in a relationship, especially when that relationship isn’t serving us and is causing us to suffer. I thought about the importance of love and connection and how they are necessary to life and to feeling joyful and happy. Being part of a community and having healthy relationships, with people from all walks of life, are known factors in the happiness and longevity equation.

I thought about the concept of “love” and how we often have this idealized version of it in the context of a romantic setting. Afterall, haven’t young girls been taught to equate love with the fantasy of having a Prince Charming come and sweep them off their feet? It’s time we do away with that notion, don’t you think? Who needs a prince when you’re a Goddess????

Love comes from the smallest of places; a smile, an act of kindness, someone’s generosity or generous spirit, a courtesy, a thoughtful note or card or varying expressions of love or service. The key to our joy, happiness and fulfillment is not only receiving these things we call blessings, but to also express our deepest thoughts and heartfelt emotions to others.

We need to connect to our HEARTS- this is how we experience love, connection, empathy, compassion, gratitude, appreciation and significance. This is how we connect to all our feelings and emotions. I truly believe that there is no room for loneliness and suffering when our hearts overflow with love and connection of all kinds and from varied sources. Beautiful, enriching and heart expanding relationships come in all shapes and sizes and NOT just in the romance department!

I am so BEYOND blessed to have a rich network of friends, girlfriends and soul sisters. And by the way, they are of all ages. Thank you, Evelyn Abrams, for the wise words you shared with my thirtysomething-year-old self many years ago!!! I will always remember that spectacular trip to Italy and you telling me to have a multitude of friends- both much younger and much older than myself. Duly noted!

These loving relationships bring me joy, they fill my life with purpose and meaning, and pose opportunities for continued exploring and learning. I view their presence in my life as a form of grace that’s been bestowed upon me from the Divine. My heart overflows with gratitude- daily- for the varied groups of people with whom I get to share my life and walk alongside. And where there is gratitude, you can bet there is joy…a whole lot of joy!

Gratitude, and being of service, are the foundation of the love and joy In my life. Nothing brings me more joy, appreciation and humbleness than writing about my blessings, what I am thankful for, and what arises each day. It is witnessing those little moments of grace that are so easy to overlook when we are stuck in our stories or the narratives we are spinning. It’s being aware of the moments that present themselves as opportunities for us to be of service, lend a hand or just show up. I cannot tell you how much these moments can fill our heart space with joy!

When I am in this flow, I feel like I’m carrying out one of the most important legacies (there were many) that my parents left behind. You see, they left big shoes to fill! They had BIG personalities, generous hearts and touched many lives. My parents were people of service and were very generous with their time and energy.

In my humble opinion, if we all took the time to be still, breathe, meditate, show up for ourselves and others, and write down what we are thankful for, I truly believe there would be more happy people walking around and serving as love and gratitude ambassadors.

The numbers of clicks or likes we get on social media would be insignificant. No one can determine our worth other than ourselves. WE are the ones who need to be examining our own lives! Why give that power away?

I examined my life this past weekend by recalling all the layers of me that have been shed over the decades. I recalled the people, romantic partners, and colleagues who were both in my life- and shed from my life- with love, appreciation, and gratitude for the roles they played. I examined the different layers of me that have since evolved, and keep evolving…and will continue to evolve through the many stages of my life.

Our experiences shape us. Our losses shape us. Our struggle shapes us. Our pain shapes us. Most importantly though, our love and gratitude shape us AND allow us to operate from a deep well of sustenance, support and spaciousness.

It’s in that spaciousness that we can find opportunities to love, connect, as well as a plethora of mindfulness tools to use and move about our days and our lives. These tools are the steppingstones to living a purposeful life. A life that is incredibly filled with an over-abundance of presence, intention, connection, grace, gratitude, love, and joy.

And so this is where my stream of consciousness stopped.

Perhaps you’ll be inspired to set aside some time for reflections and for setting intentions. I love to say that we can be both a masterpiece and a work of art in progress.

Remember, each day presents us with a myriad of opportunities to express our appreciation to the Universe for all the lessons and the blessings in our lives.

Here’s to the beauty of examining our lives and living fully, joyously and intentionally!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Calling All Sister Goddesses

“Open your heart, fling your hopes high and set your dreams aloft. I am here to hold your hand.” Maya Angelou

You know those female friendships that seem all too familiar, comforting, feel good and uplifting, allow you to let your guard down and leave you feeling lighter, brighter and happier when you’re around them?

You know which ones I’m talking about… the ones where you feel a deep soul connection to and is one of unconditional love, un-ending support and acceptance without judgement? The ones that hold a space for us to be messy, real and bat-shit crazy and tearful when need be? Well, darlings, that perfectly describes a sister goddess!

I truly believe that Sister Goddesses are like our life line. They are the air we breathe and provide a safe and nurturing place for us to fully arrive and land in our greatness, magnificence and radiance. Unfortunately, this is not what many young girls are taught and, as a result, are unable to embrace “the sisterhood” as they grow up and get on with their adult lives.

Sadly, there are many women walking around in disconnected and very guarded states. They are not comfortable sharing or having touchy-feely conversations. They even have difficulty sharing celebratory news. To understand why this happens, we must first understand what many young girls/women have been taught about women-to-women relations.

Regena Thomashauer, founder of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, speaks to this notion very clearly and precisely when she says, “We women have been taught that we are not to be trusted, not to be counted on, and not to be brought in close. We’ve been taught to believe that women are backbiting, and envious, catty, emotionally unstable, hysterical, premenstrual, and unreasonable. We have been taught that, given the chance, women will take each other down.”

So… it’s not surprising that this belief system leaves women unable to connect to other women. It leaves women feeling alone, unsupported, unloved, secretive, suspicious and guarded. It leaves women bereft of their most radiant and magical gift of all: to connect, nurture and truly step into their greatness.

When we embrace the goddess sisterhood, we are able to break free of the chains that have kept us bound to archaic, preconceived notions and limitations that have kept us from truly and wholeheartedly loving fully, joyously and with a sense of purpose and inspiration.

Luckily, I didn’t fall prey to the archaic (and destructive) thinking that even my own mother and aunties subscribed to. I recall getting those “lectures” on not trusting other girls/women and all the reasons why I shouldn’t as I was growing up. Thank God I took all that lecturing with a grain of salt and proceeded to create my own little village of strong, supportive, inspirational, funny, loving, encouraging, powerful, connected and extraordinary Sister Goddesses throughout every stage of my life. I guess it’s safe to say I was a little rebel and sister goddess- activist-in-training growing up. As a matter of fact, I still am, and I’m quite proud of it!!!

I don’t know what I would do without the beautiful array of Goddesses in my life!

Do you have a community of sister Goddesses?

Who are the women with whom you have a strong connection or bond?

What messages do your actions, viewpoints and belief systems impart on the little girls/young women in your life?

What are your actions, viewpoints and belief systems teaching the little boys/young men in your life?

Are there any archaic and out-dated belief systems you’ve worked hard at dismantling in your life?

How did this leave you feeling?

How do you celebrate the women in your life?

My darling sister Goddess-yes you- it is our job to open our hearts, to lead from our hearts, to disband the worn-out stories of women that are not true, to embrace each other and each other’s gifts and talents and take them out into the world in whatever way and for whatever cause sets our hearts on fire. We must embrace the feminine divine that resides within each one of us and see that image reflected back at us when we look into the eyes of another woman.

WE are the ones we have been waiting for! WE are the leaders and the problem solvers. WE are given opportunities each and every day to shift the paradigm and re-balance the masculine and feminine energies that are all around us- on the home front, in the workplace, in society and in our world culture.

WE are here not only to hold each other’s hands and dream, but to take each other higher, empower each other and catapult each other to new levels of consciousness, awakening, and enlightenment! And it is when WE empower each other, feel empowered, and operate from more evolutionary mindsets that WE can really affect change and transformation. In my humble opinion, WE CAN DO ANYTHING WE SET OUR MINDS AND HEARTS TO DO!!! Don’t you agree?

The time has come for all Sister goddesses to unite! Come out, come out, wherever you are!

And when you do come out, please take the time to celebrate the amazing women in your life. Make a list of who they are, and find ways you can let them know what their presence in your life means to you. Also come up with ways to lift them up for, in doing so, we also lift ourselves up. Be sure they know you will always hold their hand and have their back. Lastly, find the many ways you can inspire, love, serve!

The world needs YOU! The world needs US!

Carry on… and Shine on!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & 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.”

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

Ease and Effortlessness

“If you align in any moment with the flow of life as it presents itself, it will unfold in the right way at the right time with spontaneity and ease.” -Tosha Silver

There was a time in my life when I had to make sure that I was in control of every little thing, what would happen, when it would happen, how and with whom. The OCD in me maintained such a tight schedule, that the possibility of any sort of magic, spontaneity or synchronicity to occur were less than likely.

No wonder I was stressed! If I was going to entertain a large crowd, I would obsess over it for the weeks leading up to it. If I was hosting a dinner party, I would be setting the dining room table days in advance and making sure every little detail was “perfect.” I would let all the details consume my every waking moment. By the time the day or evening came, I’d already be exhausted.

At times, I’d be so hell-bent on something happening a certain way, that I would struggle when it appeared that it would not work out. And when it didn’t, I’d have a meltdown. I was like a fish swimming upstream. A part of me never paused long enough to notice that perhaps I was being “divinely guided” in another direction.

Whew! When I look back, it’s almost as if I do not recognize that person. Thank goodness those years are long gone!

By no means am I saying to throw planning and scheduling out the window. A certain degree of planning is always necessary. If we don’t plan, we are actually planning to fail. Any solid educator or highly successful person will attest to that. What I am saying is to be aware of that ever-so fine line between planning and obsessing.

Once we cross over the border to obsession, we’re doomed. We often have physical symptoms or get sick. But the sooner we come to that point in our lives where we realize that we cannot control everything, we are on our road to OCD recovery.

That’s when we start learning to sit back, chill out, relax, and have faith in knowing that everything will work out…as we see it happening with our own eyes. Before we know it, we have mastered the art of letting go and just letting life happen. Struggles be gone… how sweet it is!!! There’s absolutely no turning back once we’ve learned to have faith in the process.

For me, there is no better reminder of ease and going with the flow than when I’m on my yoga mat or when I sit on the beach and look out at the ocean. I love watching the waves roll in. Even when the waves crash, they do so ever so effortlessly. It’s as if they just melt into one another. There’s no struggle, no pushback…the pattern just repeats itself over and over again.

Letting go with ease and effortlessness is what we can do when faced with a decision, situation or problem we are unsure as to how to address. We can either get stuck ruminating in our heads or align ourselves with that power that is greater than us. Aligning ourselves with Source, is where faith comes in.

The faith in knowing we do not have to take on that decision, situation or problem and do battle with it in that very instant. We know, deep in our souls, that it’s already being handled. The lovely and delightful book by Tosha Silver, Outrageous Openness- Letting the Divine Take the Lead, is a perfect read in that it opens our eyes to the myriad of ways the Divine is always handling the details and conspiring in our favor. Through the often funny, poignant and practical vignettes contained in the book, we are delightfully and creatively shown how we can release the exhausting pursuit that has us seeking everything from perfection and control to safety and security.

The book club I belong to decided to pick this book last month. While I had previously read it when it was first published, I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it again. It allowed me to reflect and rejoice!

Tosha Silver’s Book a gem. As one of the reviews states: “By allowing the Divine to lead the way, we can finally put down the heavy load of hopes, fears, and opinions about how things should be. We learn how to be guided to take the right actions at the right time, and to enjoy the spectacular show that is our life.”

Darling, if you feel your life is lacking a fair amount of ease and effortlessness, and you feel exhausted and keep hitting dead ends, then it’s time to do something about it. If you feel like your life is a constant struggle and you’re tightly wound up and ready to snap, it’s time to snap out of it!

Know there IS a better way. You don’t have to go at this thing called “Life” alone. Actually, we aren’t wired to “go at it alone.” We are all wired to a path of enlightenment, and this is NOT a solitary path. The Divine is always there to guide us and show us how to live with ease and effortlessness.

All we need to do is be open…. outrageously open!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Inner Clarity

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Think about this for a moment, my darlings: the present moment is where we have “an appointment with life” as Thich Nhat Hanh is known for saying. After all, the past no longer exists and neither does the future. Yet, many of us live somewhere between the two… with one foot in the past and one in the future.

What happens when this occurs? We are either depressed or anxious. Sad or worried. Rather than being so fully steeped in present moment awareness and the joy and happiness that can be found there, we are living in some imaginary place where life does NOT exist.

Enjoying and basking in the joys that are ever so present in our lives, even during difficult times, takes practice. It takes work to undo the havoc we’ve created by doing all the things that keep us from being mindful and fully engaged in our everyday lives. I like to say that we are so caught up in “do-ing” that we have forgotten the subtle art of “be-ing.” We’ve gotten so far removed from the simplicity of life!

Instead, we allow ourselves to get caught up in “stuff” that is devoid of meaning. The minutia that robs us of quality life and quality time with ourselves and our loved ones. These are the stressors in our lives. The things that require endless work and drain us of our life energy. And guess what? It’s a choice we make. Yep, we choose our behaviors. And what we allow, persists!

The more important question is: WHY do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the things that keep us from being front and center in our own lives?

For some, it may be the fear of missing out while for others it may be the inability to be enjoy their own company. Some of us may actually enjoy the chaos, maybe even create it, and others may just throw their hands up and feel that there’s nothing they can do about it. And yet for some, running from the present moment can be a defense mechanism which keeps them from “feeling.”

One thing I know for sure is that, when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the vicious cycle that tears us away from our joy and happiness, it is because we are lacking inner clarity. In my book, inner clarity is part of self-care. And the art of self-care is also a practice.

If you are not sure where or how to start, fear not! As with all things divinely ordained, I just finished reading an email from Panache Desai, and in it he listed six steps to help us maintain inner clarity.

  • Avoid chaotic and stressful situations. All they serve to do is derail your focus and draw you into their chaos. 
  • Calm and center yourself several times a day through a habit of conscious breathing. Doing so, lowers stress and reminds you of who you really are and why you’re really here. 
  • Unplug yourself at least once a week from all devices, social media and news cycles. We are drowning in information, much of it increasingly negative. Step away from what’s secondary and focus on what’s primary. 
  • Go out into nature. We are natural beings. We are meant to be in forests, at the seashore and in the open. We are not meant to be tied to screens and cubicles and artificial lighting. 
  • Get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is restorative. Sleep is relaxing. Sleep is necessary to mental and physical health. A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of focus and clarity more than any other cause. 
  • Get as much exercise as you can. We were meant to move. When we move, we are using our bodies, and our minds, as they are supposed to be used. When you are sedentary, your mind and your body become clogged with sediment. Exercise flushes out the unnecessary, leaving you lighter

If you take the time to use these steps as a guide and make them a part of your everyday coming and going, I can assure that you will start to to feel refreshed, renewed, vibrant, energetic, joyous, expansive, peaceful and clear. Invest in your Self, my darlings…you’re worth it!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Tis the Season to Sparkle

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. All things can be mended. Not with time as they say, but with intention. So go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for light that is you.” -L.R. Knost

I saw the above quote on my neighbor’s Instagram, and it spoke volumes to me. It got me thinking, and thinking some more, and then realized I had to use it as inspiration for a blog.

It’s safe to say that the world has always been a broken place, or we would not have the advancements, developments, and changes that have taken place since the dawn of time. We humans have been broken and flawed as well and, with each generation, we hope we do better and leave things a little better than our parents and their parents before them.

If it weren’t for things gone wrong in history and over the progression time and space, things wouldn’t be fixed, and there would be no reason for just causes. Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” wouldn’t be on the tips of everyone’s tongues, on clothing, accessories, furnishings and a myriad of social media platforms.

What’s important is that we, as a human race, are awakening and evolving more rapidly than what seems like any other generation before us. That’s what technology has done for us. Every thing we need to know, what to do and how to do it is at the tips of our fingers…merely keystrokes and seconds away. However, it’s what we do with the knowledge we obtain that is the key.

How we integrate this knowledge into our being and everyday life is what propels us to those higher levels of awakening and ascension. It’s what allows us to tap into our inner light and shine it brightly. It’s how we integrate this knowledge and apply it to everything in life… our encounters, struggles, challenges, interactions and personal and professional relationships.

We cannot master a skill without experiential knowledge though. We can have all the book smarts in the world, but unless we immerse ourselves in practicing, engaging, sharing, comforting, giving, serving and allowing ourselves to be an active and vulnerable participant in the shared human experience, we may as well dig a hole and jump into it. We cannot light the way for others if we do not see our own light… our own influence, which is remarkably exponential by the way!

What else is exponential? Love. At the core of all our actions, is love. It is the love of self that permits us to “love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.” It’s our love of self that fuels us to be and do better…to grow, expand, awaken and evolve. It’s this love that ignites our passions and makes us want to share them with the world. It’s what makes us ask, “How can I serve?”

Well, we can start by acknowledging all those broken places in us, in our families, communities and in the world and asking ourselves how we can be the light that seeps in. What work do we have to do that will ultimately lead us to sharing our stories, insights, knowledge, passions, strengths and gifts with everyone around us? What work have we done that we can share with others? What mountains have we had to climb that has prepared us to do just that?

I have been having conversations with friends recently about our individual mountains. Whatever it is we’ve gone through/are going through, can NEVER be in vain. It’s all so connected to our life’s purpose and our ability to be the light that mends our broken world with love, peace and harmony. While it may take some time, and many lessons, we start to look back and connect the dots, we start to see the big picture… that which is our distinct essence- our higher calling and higher purpose/destiny. We may even have more than one purpose!

Darlings, our stories, experiences and challenges need to be shared, books written, support groups established, speaking engagements solidified, articles authored, websites designed, blogs started, programs, businesses, trainings and webinars created, non-profits founded, gardens planted, cakes baked, venues decorated, art (in all forms) created, songs and poetry written, movies and plays directed, produced and filmed and performances of all kinds scheduled. The list goes on and on…this is how we shine our own unique and essential light. This is how we climb our individual mountains, integrate all our experiences and celebrate our doing so. This is how we light the way, forge a path for others and leave our broken world a little better than when/how we found it. This is how we mend it, contribute and pay forward. This is how we inspire, love, serve.

What are your experiences calling you to do?

Whatever it is our experiences are calling us to do, me must tap into our inner artist, dreamer and creator to lead the way, and our desires are guaranteed to be driven by love and passion. And speaking of passion, I will leave you with some exceptional and inspirational quotes that are sure to get all of us thinking, dreaming and creating!

“You have to be burning with an idea, or problem, or wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Steve Jobs

“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” Jon Bon Jovi

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey

“There is no passion to be found playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” Unknown

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Amelia Earhart

Tis the season to sparkle, my darlings! So how about we all go about doing just that? Let’s all shine brightly…and remember to love extravagantly, intentionally and unconditionally!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Dedicated to my niece, Megan, on being chosen as Teacher of the Year by her peers. She’s had her own mountains to climb this past year, but she did not let that affect her performance, love of teaching or her studies. At the age of 30, she is most definitely on the path to greatness!

Seeing the Jewel Inside

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” Pema Chodron

Why is it that self-care and self-love are so easy for some and difficult and challenging for others? Why is it that we can easily see and name it when we look at other people’s regimen and practices, regardless of how much they have on their plates, yet can’t muster up the courage and honesty to treat our Selves gently and lovingly?

Where do you fall in the scheme of things, my darling? Are you busy pondering the “how,” “when,” and “why” to the point of mental exhaustion, or are you proactive and loving to yourself and dedicated to your self-care / self-love practices?

Do you realize you are a jewel that needs the polishing and care that only YOU can bestow upon your Self? Are you giving your Self away? Are you fatigued? Frustrated? Angry? Lethargic? If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then allow me to ask you, “Why?” And spare me the excuses…wink, wink! Let’s just keep it real.

Speaking of excuses, as I enter this new decade, one of my new favorite quotes is by Daryl McDaniels (you may remember him for his hip-hop legacy and group Run-DMC). I read the quote in his memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, and it says, “Excuses don’t explain and explanations don’t excuse.”  How freakin’ GREAT is that???? I am applying it to so many areas of my life these days! First and foremost, I am done with giving excuses and, secondly, I don’t care to listen to other people’s BS excuses any longer. Why ? As the quote says, excuses don’t explain and explanations don’t excuse. It’s plain and simple! Essentially, where there is a will, there is a way. More importantly, love will find the way…..as in self-love!

So, back you…the precious jewel that you are. The one who gives, nurtures and takes care of everyone, and the one who makes sure everyone’s needs are met. The one who will go above and beyond…yes, to the point of exhaustion, fatigue and then some. You are precious! You are needed! You have special gifts to share with the world! You have a responsibility to honor, cherish, and protect the gift of life you have been given! You can put down the heavy lifting. Be done with the struggle. Let go of whatever is weighing you down. Release what / who is not serving your highest good. Forget about who thinks what of you. Be you. Do you!

We need to take all that energy, angst, stress, and discomfort and throw it all away. Let it go, release it, acknowledge we are not perfect AND yet perfectly flawed. We are all unique and precious and must courageously, honestly, gently and lovingly treat our Selves that way. We need to hold our Selves in our loving arms and live…..live joyously, peacefully, and happily without the unnecessary demands we put on our lives. It’s a movement we must all be part of and support each other on. Furthermore, we need to hold ourselves, and each other, accountable in doing so. It’s really quite simple when you think about it.

Currently, there is a Spirit Voyage Global Sadhana going on, and Jai Jagdeesh (love her music by the way) is the featured person who posts daily messages and leads the participants in chanting, movement, meditation and stillness. Her message the other day,  which one of my beloved teachers shared in class, speaks to the topic of self-love and self-care perfectly. Her words are so eloquent, that I must share them with you in hopes of inspiring you to look inside and reassess You, your motives, habits, practices, priorities, needs and desires. I can plant a seed of intention, but YOU must do the watering! First though, please take a moment to center yourself BEFORE reading the following:

They say, “With love all things are possible.” I would add the words “self” and “sweet” to make it: With Self-love, all Sweet things are possible.” When we cherish ourselves, taking the time to treasure all that we are and carve space for all that we are becoming, there is no limit to the sweetness we can create. When rested, our minds are limitless. When heeded, our hearts flood us with courage. When loved, TRULY loved by WE OURSELVES, our bodies can rise to any occasion. We can do the work we were born to do easily, joyfully, sweetly. Limitless luminosity, all available to bless the earth.

Beautiful, or what? Inspiring? Motivating? Affirming? Is your heart open? Is your soul speaking to you? Is it crying out to you? How’s your breathing? Are you breathing, or are you holding your breath? How is your posture? Are you relaxed, or are your shoulders scrunched up by your ears? Is your heart open, or is it closed?

You may want to take a few moments to just sit and be still, re-read the words, and connect with the emotions it brings up and the sensations you feel in your body. Breathe into all of it. Inhale and exhale deeply. Hold it all. No judgement….just be the witness to whatever arises without engaging in it. Know you are being held, supported, and loved. When you feel the need to move, do so. You may even want to take a few moments to journal about your experience.  The important thing is that you were courageous and took a moment to look inside. And remember, it’s all good!

My wish for us all is that we always make the time to listen to the whispers of our souls in order to better see the valuable and luminous jewel inside AND live our brilliance!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC