New Beginnings

“There’s a universal life force that supports and orchestrates everything. It all works together in perfect harmony. You are one of those moving parts.” -Wayne Dyer

Happy New Year darlings!

The new year is an auspicious time of the year to set goals, intentions, and resolutions of all kinds. A popular tool for doing so is a vision board. There are all sorts of classes, workshops, webinars and how-tos that help us design, create, and execute our very own vision board. All we need to do is google “vision board” and there are sites upon sites to explore and help us create one.

Why are vision boards so popular? Because there is most definitely a power in visualization and manifestation. After all, we are divine co-creators in this most powerful, comical and magical universe.

The art of vision boarding has become quite profitable to say the least, as we can see when we google them. We see supplies and resources of all kinds. In reality though, all we need are scissors, old magazines, glue, poster board and, if we prefer, a nice picture frame that we can use to display our creation.

Currently, I have two vision boards hanging. One is more of a life visioning board in that the images and words represent and guide the life I live, how I want to conduct my life, as well as the meaning, purpose and significance here in this lifetime. The other vision board is more of a dream board…which I made in the new year of 2018 and represented what I wanted to manifest in my personal life last year.

When we use pictures and words to depict our dreams, wishes and desires, we stimulate the emotional part of our brain. In doing so, we also activate the Law of Attraction. I don’t know about you, but anytime I have written anything down, put up images, power words, affirmations or motivational displays representing my wishes and desires, the universe conspired to deliver. I’m amazed when I come across some random journal entry from long ago and how what I wrote about has come to fruition. Darlings, whether you believe it or not, we all have the power to co-create anything we put our minds to. We are powerful beyond measure!

On this New Year’s Day, I took the time to really look at and examine the vision board I made last January. Once I looked at all the images, words and phrases that I had used, I took the time to write each of those words in my journal. It was almost as if by looking solely at the words, I was able to see yet another vision that was created. In a sense, it gave me a different perspective.

Perspective is something a beloved yoga teacher of mine spoke about in class this morning as she decided to start the class with all of us in legs up the wall. For the non- yogis out there, legs up the wall is an uber- restorative and highly beneficial pose. If there’s only one pose you could do each day, it would be legs up the wall. By being inverted, we are forced to look at things from a different angle. Since it was the start of the new year, my teacher chose to talk about looking at things from a different angle while we where in this pose.

And looking at my vision board from a different angle is just what I did. I created the vision board in hopes of attracting a romantic partner in 2018. The images and words I chose represented the lifestyle I would be living. As I looked at my 2018 vision board and the words that I had chosen, I realized that I was, in fact, living that life..sans the romantic partner. Hmmm… how interesting and fascinating!

After looking at my vision board from a different angle for quite some time, I realized I did not want to change or alter it for 2019. Instead, I want to work with it more actively and intentionally. How did I come to that conclusion? Well, I happen to come across a vision board checklist by Jack Canfield in Mantra Magazine, and I realized that I did not “truly” integrate all components of my board all as fully as I needed to.

I thought I’d share the checklist with you so that we can all benefit from some type of guideline on how to best benefit from the time, intention and love we have put forth in creating our very own vision, dream or life visioning boards. And, I will also share the words and phrases I used on my board because I’m all about the sharing. Besides, some words/ phrases may resonate for you and you can incorporate them into your beautiful creation. But first, the checklist:

  • My vision board depicts goals and dreams in all areas of my life, or in just one specific area that I’d like to focus on.
  • The images I chose represent or symbolize the experiences, feelings and possessions I want to attract into my life on my board.
  • There are positive affirmations, inspirational words, quotations and thoughts on my board.
  • Only words and images that best represent my purpose, my ideal future and words that inspire positive emotions and me were used on my vision board.
  • My vision board is neat, and I was selective about what I placed on my vision board.
  • I keep my vision board somewhere prominent, such as near my bed or on my desk.
  • I leave my vision board in a viewable position as often as I am comfortable with.
  • I spend time each morning and evening visualizing, affirming, believing and internalizing my goals.
  • I look at the images that represent my achievements, and feel gratitude as my dreams begin to manifest.
  • I wrote down the date I created my vision board.
  • I create a new vision board each year.
  • I regularly hold my vision board in my hands and really internalize the future it represents.
  • I read my affirmations and inspirational words aloud at least twice a day
  • I see myself living in the manner of my life is on my vision board.
  • I regularly feel myself in the future I have designed.
  • I believe the items on my board are already mine when I look at them.
  • I am grateful for the good that is already present in my life.
  • I acknowledge and celebrate any goals I have achieved.
  • I acknowledge and learn from the changes I have seen and felt.
  • I regularly acknowledge the law of attraction at work in my life.
  • I have fun and never give up.

And now, I will leave you with a laundry list of words, phrases and quotes for you to peruse, ponder and contemplate. Yes, there are so many! That’s because my vision board is quite large and some of the words are in all types of fonts and sizes (it wasn’t until I actually wrote the words in my journal that I was quite amazed at how many there were).

Love-own your glow-light carriers-transform your world-bliss-good times-getting better all the time-live your best life-real-the yoga of awakening-fearless living-widen your world-eternity now-surround yourself with people who lift you higher-give happily ever after-balanced is beautiful-natural spiritual progress-share your passion with the world-when your vacation becomes a lifestyle-yes you can-believe-truly gracious-truly joyful-truly dazzling-truly daring-come out come out whoever you are-the magic-it’s a match-gratitude-when dreams take flight-the beach-great outdoors-shining moments-a place to dream-love begins at home-live in paradise inside and out-a place in the sun-gorgeous-living out loud-beautiful-a little night music-recharge your body and spirit-get away from it all only to discover more-where are we going-see, hear, taste, smell, touch-explore your senses-widen your world-glimpse the possibility of a diverse, peaceful and creative future-bathing beauty-go glam-adventures in the kitchen-homey eternity-bring some glamour to the table-time for reflection-your time is your own-resilience-integrate-self-awareness-engagement-vibrance-getting the love you want...didn’t I tell you were so many!?!?

Finally, a quote that says it all: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, and find eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”

It’s time we all create and manifest the life we want and the changes we wish to be and see in this world. Now go create, dream and inspire… may the force be with you in 2019, my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Perfect Stillness

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

How very true! Life is indeed simple, and it amazes me how complicated we make it- how we consciously choose to make it. We can come up with a dozen excuses for doing so, but they are just that… excuses.

So then what happens? Over the years, and as we grow in wisdom and insight, we start to pare down, we eliminate clutter, clear out the things that weigh us down as well as the people who drain our energy, we schedule priorities and guard our energies, and we find ourselves keeping things simple.

This holds true for our practices too. We don’t need 3 hours at the gym nor a schedule so packed with social activities that we are running around like a chicken without a head and without true quality time spent with those we love. We find ourselves pausing to breathe… really breathe. And I don’t mean shallow breathing, I mean revitalizing and grounding breaths. Above all, we crave perfect stillness, quiet, tranquility and the peace we feel inside when we allow ourselves to be still.

As I mentioned in a blog this time last year, December can really mess with people’s emotions and energies for a myriad of reasons. I’m sure you can make up your own list that will attest to it. Oftentimes, the end result this time of year is that we are left swirling, spiraling, depleted and perhaps even sad, frustrated or angry.

Last year’s blog, Hold the Vision… Trust the Process included a guided meditation that enhanced our sense of support and stability. I thought I would share yet another lovely guided meditation called Statue of Stillness. It truly is very grounding because it directs breath and awareness to the base of the body, helping to release tension from this area. It enhances a sense of of inner stability and slows down the breath and lengthens the exhalation.

Before getting started, you may want to light a candle, maybe clear your space, put your phone on airplane mode and maybe even burn some incense. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair with your feet touching the floor.

If you would like, you can also add a hand gesture which is called a Mudra. For this particular meditation/Mudra, tuck your thumbs into the palms of your hands and curl your fingers loosely around the thumbs, forming soft fists with both hands. You can then rest the hands on to your thighs or your knees, with the palms facing down. Be sure to relax your shoulders… bring them up to your ears then back and down. You will feel your spine naturally aligned and sitting straight.

The other thing you can do is to have someone read this meditation to you, or you can voice record it so you can listen to your own voice. I just glance down at it, and sit with the vision and the feelings for however long I feel like it. After a few times and with practice, it comes rather naturally, or I practice my own version of it.

The benefit of this meditation, as with most forms of meditations, is that it activates our parasympathetic nervous system thereby initializing the relaxation response. Darlings, there’s nothing like a relaxed nervous system!!!

If you’re new to meditation, you WILL feel it’s benefits almost immediately. And remember, don’t stress yourself… just go with the flow. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. Don’t put added stress on yourself wondering if you’re “doing it right.” Be still and trust the process. Ready? Here goes:

  1. As you hold this Mudra, take several natural breaths to attune to all the feelings and sensations evoked by this gesture.
  2. Notice how your breath is gently directed downward, toward the base of your body, instilling a sense of stability and grounding.
  3. Take some time to sense the natural pause at the end of each exhaling breath, cultivating a space of silence in which your body and mind can deeply rest.
  4. For your next few breaths, attune to these pauses even more deeply, experiencing a sense of serenity that allows you to become completely still, like a statue softly breathing.
  5. As stillness and compasses each area of your body, you experience the absolute peace and harmony that is a reflection of your true being.
  6. Begin by taking several breaths to allow stillness to permeate your pelvis, legs and feet, creating a firm foundation for your statue of serenity.
  7. Now, allow your abdomen solar plexus, low and mid back to enter into stillness and completely relax.
  8. With your lower body still and serene, takes several breaths to sense your heart, lungs, chest and upper back merging with your statue of stillness.
  9. Serenity now fills your shoulders, arms and hands, all the way to your fingertips, integrating these areas into your statue of stillness.
  10. Finally, stillness permeates your neck and head, inviting all of your senses to naturally turn inward and gently rest.
  11. Now, take some time to sense your entire being as a statue of stillness.
  12. Affirm your essential stillness, repeating the following three times, aloud or silently: “In absolute stillness of being, I experience complete peace and serenity.”
  13. Now, slowly release the gesture, taking several breaths to rest an absolute stillness.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes, returning slowly and gently, while remaining aligned with the stillness of your true being.
  • This meditation comes from the book Mudras for Healing and Transformation, by Joseph and Leslie Le Page. This treasure trove of a book is a wonderful one to add to your self-care “toolbox. ” You will learn more about mudras, guided meditations, energy centers (chakras), doshas (constitution), balance and health conditions in the warm comfort of your own home sanctuary.
  • Like a statue softly breathing, may you rest in the perfect stillness of your being throughout the next few days, weeks, and months!
  • Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC
  • Secrets of Inner Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Secret of Inner Peace

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

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

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

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    Defy Age…Quality of Life

    “There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defied age.” -Sophia Loren

    If you happen to be doing Deepak Chopra’s current 21 Day Meditation Experience, Energize Your Life, you too came across this quote on the day the meditation dealt with anti-aging being a skill you can master. That meditation inspired this blog, as I thought it would be an appropriate follow up to my previous blog, Aging or Ageless…What are You?

    I’m a big advocate for quality of life. This from someone who used to be a workaholic.  When we have experienced so many losses in life, some of them tragic and others long-lived, we tend to have an awakening of sorts and start to connect the dots. We come to realize that it’s not solely about the job, career, the big house, over consumption and consumerism, living life in the fast lane and money, money, money. What good are all of these things if we don’t have the quality of life and the energy to live life?

    Who has the energy you may ask? Well, according to Deepak, it’s the people who are mastering the aging process that radiate life and energy. And how we do that? By the choices we make. He further went on to share that studies have shown that the most effective anti-aging results come from a holistic approach that minimizes toxic and unbalancing influences on our bodies, minds and emotions.

    If we take a long, hard look at the people around us, those in our lives, and perhaps even complete strangers, we can pretty much tell by looking at them if they radiate life and energy. Further examine their eating habits, social habits, hobbies, outlook on life, social/familial interactions, listen to their tone and conversations, and we have a good indication if they are on the fast track to aging and whether or not they have any semblance of quality of life. Obviously, it’s just as important to take a good look at ourselves to see if there are any areas we can improve on.

    Here are some questions that came to mind as I was writing:

    • What are your energy levels like?
    • Do you look at the glass half full, or half-empty?
    • Do you feel you are taking life for granted?
    • What are your talents?
    • How do you express your creativity?
    • How do you exercise your mind?
    • Do you live to work, or work to live?
    • What type of physical exercise do you get?
    • Do you eat genetically modified foods, processed foods, foods out of a box or whole, organic, clean and green foods that are not genetically modified?
    • How would you describe your relationships in general?
    • What is the quality of your friendships?
    • Do you partake in any self-destructive/self-sabotaging behaviors?
    • Do you drink, smoke or do drugs?
    • How do you minimize the stress in your life?
    • Can you identify the stressors in your life?
    • What mindfulness resources or tools do you employ to maintain the calm in the chaos?
    • Do you drink plenty of water and get at least 8 hours of sleep?
    • Can you identify the areas of your life which you feel aren’t being lived to the fullest?

    Why so many questions? Well, because these types of questions help us identify areas that need further examining, cultivating and nurturing. It’s that simple! No hidden agendas or complicated formulas. And what is even simpler? The fact that people who age well have the following seven things in common:

    1. Meditation
    2. Wide social support system, friends, family and community groups
    3. Close emotional and familial ties
    4. Take multi-vitamins and mineral supplements daily
    5. Good sleep alternating with daily activity
    6. Life-long curiosity
    7. Willingness to undertake new challenges

    As with all things, habits, attitudes, activities and practices in life, it primarily comes down to balance. And speaking of balance, I will leave you with something one of my nieces (and hopefully a future guest blogger) posted on Instagram a while back. It spoke to me so much that I had her print it on card stock, and I enclosed them in my birthday thank you cards. As you should know by now, I love anything motivational and inspirational!

    Balance is key. In everything you do. Dance all night long and practice yoga the next day. Drink wine but don’t forget your green juice. Eat chocolate when your heart wants it and kale salad when your body needs it. Wear high heels on Saturday night and walk barefoot on Sunday morning. Live high and low. Move and stay still. Embrace all sides of who you are. Be brave, bold, spontaneous and loud and let that complement your abilities to find silence, patience, modesty and peace. Aim for balance. Make your own rules and follow your own path and don’t let anybody tell you how to live according to theirs.

    Remember, my darlings: quality of life, quality of life, quality of life… and in the process, you will find yourself defying age!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    Scandalous Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

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

     

     

     

    Living a Succulent Life

    “Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” -Khalil Gibran

    One of the beauties of disconnecting from social media and taking a digital detox is that we can appreciate the fullness of life and the spaciousness of all the hours in a day’s time. It’s like having this huge vessel called “time” at our disposal for us to do whatever we want…to fill it however we want without getting caught up and sucked into endless and mundane hours of social media feeds, emails, texts and phone calls.

    Whenever I get away, which is usually for a 3-4 week period, I intentionally unplug. I want to take in Mother Nature’s elements, eyes wide open, feel her gifts and allow the sense of spaciousness, awe and wonder carry me to parts unknown. Oftentimes, those parts unknown are the deep dark places in my soul that are calling for some attention and want to come out and play. I find myself so totally present and immersed in my surroundings, that I lose track of the time of day. As a matter of fact, time isn’t even an issue, unless I have to be showered, dressed and  ready to go out somewhere.

    What I found this past August was that my days seemed extra long. There was a sense of expansiveness and vastness, as if extra hours had miraculously been added to my days – more so than other times I’ve unplugged and disconnected. In addition to being off social media, I barely had my phone on me. When I got to it, I got to it. The other thing I find during these periods is how my creativity gets sparked, how ideas for future blogs seem to pop up, and how many books I get to read. More importantly though, I love the sense of lightness, clarity, mindful presence, and the peace and calm that washes over me and carries me through my days. I like how being 100% present for whomever I am with feels deep down in my soul. Time is sacred my darlings, and we should not take it for granted by filling it with meaningless pollution that robs it of its sacredness.

    These periods also offer a window into the lives of people who are living in a total state of distraction. People who can barely complete a sentence without looking down at their phones and getting caught up in a text, alert of some kind, or sucked into the dark hole of social media feed “oblivion.” Forget about even having a meaningful conversation when they can’t even complete a distraction-free sentence.

    I may have asked you before, but do you cringe when you  hear people go on and on about how “busy, very busy, very very busy they are?”  Or is it just me? I often wonder if being able to say how “busy” we are is some sort of badge of honor. A badge of honor that leads to exhaustion, lack of sleep, meaningless conversation, lack of wonder, creativity, and appreciation for the enormous amount of untapped beauty, nature and magic that surrounds us. A badge of honor that is keeping us from living a wild and succulent life. Mother Nature’s gifts are all there for us to see, feel, hear, smell and taste. What are we waiting for? Why are we waiting? The time is NOW to live fully and to take big juicy bites out of life. If not now, then when? Darlings, let this blog be an invitation for living a succulent life!

    As if on cue, when I got home and was unpacking and putting away my journal, magazines, etc., I happened to notice that one of my favorite books seemed to pop out of nowhere. The delightful book, Succulent Wild Woman – Dancing with Your Wonder-Full Self! by SARK is a fave of mine because it is jammed packed with inspiration and topics like being and becoming a succulent wild woman, fears, outrageous adventures, blocks to succulence, healing, sexuality, love and romance, creative expression, money and power, building a succulent community, and more. At the end of each chapter there are even books, resources and music to further guide and awaken our wonder-full Self.

    Also on cue, when I picked up the book it opened to a very colorful page and the title, which spanned both pages, read “Being a Succulent Wild Woman.”  The book is also adorably colorful, entertaining and done in her handwriting by the way. Well, I just have to share all these little golden nuggets with you. Some of these nuggets may seem a little “out there” for some of us, and for others of us it will be nothing short of an ordinary happenstance. So, if you feel like you want to delight Mother Nature or feel that you could use a little succulence in your life, here’s a good starting point:

    Being a Succulent Wild Woman 

    • Bathe naked by moonlight
    • Marry your self first –  promise to never leave you
    • Buy yourself gorgeous flowers
    • Practice extravagant living
    • Invent your life over if it doesn’t feel juicy
    • Cradle your wonder places like precious babies
    • Be delicious
    • Eat mangoes naked – lick the juice off your arms
    • Discover your own goodness
    • Smile when you feel like it
    • Shout: I’m here! I’m succulent and I’m loud!
    • Be rare eccentric and original
    • Describe yourself as marvelous
    • Paint your soul
    • Investigate your dark places with a flashlight
    • Make more mistakes!
    • Weave your life into a net of love
    • Your are enough you are enough you are enough
    • Celebrate your gorgeous friendships with women
    • Tell the truth faster
    • End blaming
    • Dress to please your self
    • Let your creative spirit rush. Flow. Tumble. Leak. Spring. Bubble. Stream, Dribble out of you
    • Be inwardly outrageous
    • Seek out other succulent wild woman – encourage the sharing of mutual treasures 

    I think it’s time I re-read this book, considering I am entering a new decade in life! As a matter of fact, I may just start as soon as I finish writing this blog, especially since it’s a rainy, gloomy Sunday, and that sets the stage for a perfect and quiet day of reading.

    Wishing you much succulence today and always!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    Get Clear on the Why

    “You may very well be the only obstacle separating you from your greatest desires.” -Tegan Trovato

    Why do we sometimes self-sabotage our efforts? Why do we sometimes feel we are not enough? Why do we live to work instead of work to live? Why do we exhaust ourselves trying to prove to “someone” that we are capable, able and more than qualified to do the job? Why do we seek external validation? Why do we focus on what we have not done rather than celebrating all our accomplishments? Why can’t we give ourselves permission to cut ourselves some slack? Why do we find it hard to step into our greatness? Why can’t we accept, once and for all, that we are MORE than enough?

    These are the questions that came up for me as I was reading an article by Tegan Trovato on my flight home from Dallas this past week. She is the founder of Bright Arrow Coaching. The article was titled, “What if You’re the Only Obstacle?” and was featured in Mantra Magazine (one of my faves). I’m going to have to scope out the work she does!

    The article really got me thinking about the career I had, the people I worked with, the people under me, above me, the qualified, unqualified, healthy, unhealthy, stable ones who were a pleasure to work with,  as well as the unstable and challenging ones who were my greatest teachers. It got me thinking of some of the “higher-ups” I worked with who didn’t even know what they didn’t know. It got me thinking of my transition from an elementary school teacher to vice-principal of an urban, at-risk, high school in a very politically charged school district, and the unfathomable number of hours that would be the “norm” for me to put in on any given day. I’m talking 12-15 hour days, some days longer, and the hours some of us put in on the weekends due to sporting events, etc. It got me thinking of how physically sick, and how often I was sick, during the last 12 years of my career. Talk about exhaustion! Why? For what? Approval of course. Acceptance. Validation. What a waste of energy! All because I was not validating my Self. Instead, I was my own obstacle!

    All these thoughts arose, I think, because I’ve been doing some intense writing exercises and journaling as a result of the book I am reading, which I mentioned in two of my blogs: Taking Charge of Our Own Healing and Choosing Love at All Times. Additionally, I’ve been having some pretty deep and healing conversations with a few girlfriends, and we have all been doing a lot of processing and excavating in an effort to get to the root cause of our past and current behaviors, pain, fears, suffering, exhaustion, obstacles, and self-sabotaging limiting beliefs that do not serve anyone. In essence, we were working to get clear on the why! And, by the way, if you missed the previous blog, My Guest Blogger Returns, check it out and see how “Blondie” got clear on her why. And it all started with a little red lipstick…wink, wink!

    Getting clear on the why is necessary if we want to live our fullest and best life and own the greatness that is our birthright. It also offers us a sneak peek into the “why” behind other people’s behaviors. By this, I mean those behaviors that are less than nice and outright mean. Behaviors that we sometimes can’t wrap our heads around because that is not our operating system.

    As I was reading the chapter on forgiveness and betrayals in the book I’ve been working with, I found myself digging deeper into my subconscious mind. Here I thought I was in the clear; that I no longer had any resentments nor was there anyone I needed to forgive. Surprise, surprise! I thought about the betrayals of those “not so nice” colleagues with whom I worked. The colleagues who were my peers as well as higher-ups like some principals, supervisors, assistant superintendents and even a few superintendent of schools. Some of these people were the unhealthiest people I have ever seen: unhealthy in mind, body and spirit. One could see and feel it.

    Having worked my way up the ranks in a primarily patriarchal system, there were certain behaviors of men that, sadly, you could typically expect. Over time, more and more women, like myself, were holding positions that only men once held. The behaviors I had a difficult time understanding at the time were that of the women in power.

    Power in the wrong hands is not a good thing. It’s disastrous! It is detrimental to the work force, the work place, humanity and to society at large. We see that everyday in every industry. But being a woman who has always been about supporting and lifting other women up, I looked back at the toxic and hurtful behaviors, and I saw how destructive they were- to say the least. More importantly, I came to the realization that I needed to forgive these people. Why? Because I was now in a place to better comprehend and get clear on the why they behaved, said and did the things they did.

    What kinds of things? Well, let’s start with intimidation, bullying and harassment. Oh, and yelling, screaming and carrying on! And let me not forget the lies and the back-stabbing. Some of these higher-ups belittled and disgraced many of the qualified, dignified, smart, respected, and empowered women (as well as men) who knew how to lead, how to engage, how to relate to the community and to families, how to solve problems and, yes, how to love. Now that is authentic power if you ask me!

    They would just squash, defame, insult, and disrespect anyone their ego and/or wounded / deprived child was threatened by. God knows I worked with plenty of women whose default setting was to tear a woman down instead of lifting them up, who took credit for the work others did rather that celebrating each other’s successes and accomplishments, who set people up for failure rather than encouraging others to live  up to their highest potential, who were the obstacle rather than the remover of obstacles which, by the way, is the job of a true leader. Rather than illuminating the path for others, these colleagues and higher-ups darkened one’s trajectory. How on earth could they put their head on the pillow at night? Didn’t their souls feel compromised? Did they even realize they had a soul? Did they sell their soul to the devil just to get to where they got?

    It is my firm belief that people act out of their state of consciousness. That is why I try to always choose the miracle over the grievance, anger, resentment and regret. However, as I reflected on how the different types of loss has shown up for me in my life, and how it impacted my own behaviors and beliefs, I found myself wondering how damaged, wounded and scarred these men and women were/are.  I was able to see how the dis-ease in their lives is showing up/ has shown up as disease in their bodies. I was able to see how they feed their “hungry ghost.” I was able to get clear on the why.

    In getting clear on the why, I was also able to release them. I was able to forgive myself for subconsciously holding onto some type of grievance or resentment. Like truth, karma always prevails. We are all living out our own karma in this lifetime. My own karma has allowed me to excel and succeed in ways I never thought possible, and I am forever grateful for all the lessons and the blessings! Speaking of blessings, I even wrote a prayer of thanks in my journal for those people, and in it I prayed for them to awaken to the light of their true nature, so they can heal their lives and the lives of those around them.

    So, back to the questions I posed at the beginning. I think the answer to all of those questions comes from a valid point that Tegan Trovato pointed out in her article: we seek approval and validation from other people rather than granting ourselves the permission tostep into our own power and take action.” As she notes, “I can tell you from spending thousands of hours with adults in the growth and self-development mode that many of us are waiting for some kind of permission.” 

    Darlings, we must accept the fact that we do not need to seek permission or validation from anyone other than our Self. Whether we want to or not, we must also come to the realization that we may just be our own obstacle. Yes, there will be people on our path who will be our greatest challenges, but it’s up to us to take on that challenge. A challenge that calls for us to be courageous, brave and stand in our authentic, able, capable and more than qualified power and not allow the unhealthy behaviors of others to dim our light. In doing so, we cease the need to seek outside ourselves for the often misunderstood and detrimental validation of others. As the saying goes, “Everything we need to know is already inside of us.”  Furthermore, we can finally accept the fact that we are MORE than enough!

    I will leave you with the following questions and invite you to sit with them for a while. You may want to journal, talk to friends about them, meditate on them and maybe even journal some more:

    • What is something you need to get clear on?
    • Do you have any unhealthy habits you need to break?
    • Are you thriving or barely surviving?
    • What are the fears that are limiting your potential?
    • Is their something, or someone, who is keeping you from being your best self? Whom you need to forgive?
    • How / When do you give your power away?
    • Do you always seek outside yourself for answers, approval, validation, or permission?
    • When was a time that you remember being your own obstacle? Your own worst enemy?
    • In what ways are you committed to personal / spiritual growth and self-development?
    • Do you know what your greatest desire is?
    • Do you know just how powerful beyond measure you are?

    When in doubt, just get clear on the why. In doing so, you will be better able to inspire, love serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

     

     

    My Guest Blogger Returns

    Red Lipstick is My Armor

    by Shannon Green

    I was never a very confident person growing up. 

    I was constantly teased by my brother for my “witch-nose,” teased by the public school kids for having to attend Catholic School, mocked for getting good grades, and called anti-social by my 5th Grade teacher because I enjoyed reading books during recess. I’ve had glasses and braces simultaneously, been called too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice.  I’ve been asked “why do you smile so much” like it was a bad thing. 

    Over the years, I’ve struggled with trying to figure out who I am and how to love myself despite of all of the criticism.  I’ve tried on a few different masks over the years to try to fit in, but none of them really felt comfortable –  until I decided to take them off completely and just see what being me felt like. 

    After returning from Maui and adjusting back to reality, I knew that if I wanted to continue feeling the bliss I had experience while I was there, I needed to do some serious self-work. I needed to overcome the things that were feeding my insecurities and fears. I needed to admit that I was stressed out, which literally took a case of Shingles to make me come that realization. Not kidding.  Five years ago, just a few weeks after returning from my amazing Maui Yoga Retreat, I came down with Shingles. Luckily for me it wasn’t a severe outbreak, but it was enough for me to FINALLY admit that I was stressed out. Years of denial, both to me and my friends, had finally culminated in my body retaliating against me; as if to say,“You aren’t listening to me so I am going to make you listen to me!”

    Let me set the stress stage for you. At this time, my husband and I were living with my in-laws while he finished up yet another Bachelor’s Degree (this time in Mechanical Engineering) in hopes of getting a better job than his previous Master of Fine Arts afforded him.  I was terrified we would never have enough money to move to our own place and that we would have to live with my in-laws forever. My work was ok. I wasn’t unhappy at work, but I also wouldn’t say I was happy.  Additionally, I had been hoping to start a family by now, but that wasn’t happening. Because of this, I was seeing various doctors and trying everything I could to figure out the problem.  

    After returning from Maui, I realized that I needed to make the “Maui-State-of Mind” a permanent thing. I had a glimpse of how good life could be, and I needed to figure out how to sustain that feeling back home.  So, like everything I do, I tackled this with full force, as if it were a college class I needed to ace. I started reading “May Cause Miracles” by Gabrielle Bernstein. The book promised change in 40 Days, and I worked each chapter religiously.  I bought more books and more journals, and I became devoted to figuring out how to “let go” and “surrender” and how this differed from just “giving-up.” I read about love and forgiveness. 

    I became a junky for all things Hay House, which is funny because I don’t think I even knew what Hay House Publishing was at the time.  I became obsessed with Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love,” which has become one of my absolute favorites. I was downloading Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenges onto my phone every time a new series came out. I just kept following any signs I could find. If a name was mentioned in a book I was currently reading, I wrote it down and I researched it later. Who was the author?  What was the book?  I took the list Yaya gave me,  went to the library, and I checked out as many books as I could find. Little did I know at the time but, bit by bit, things started to change.  I had started to change, and life had started to change along with it. 

    My husband eventually graduated in December 2013 and, about 10 months later, we found our beautiful home. By 2015 we were living in our house, and he was working at a good job. I realized that the fear and insecurities I had surrounding money had disappeared. Additionally, my job was starting to change too. At one point in 2015, I was working for 6 different people. Wow! That is a lot of personalities, but there was change on the horizon and, by 2016, I was working for the one person I had wanted to work for. 

    I had also come to a huge decision about having a family. We were just in the final stretch of closing on our new home, and I was at yet another doctor appointment.  Unfortunately for me, I was meeting with a doctor who had a terrible bedside manner.  I was already on the verge of tears when I realized I didn’t need to keep doing this. I could stop at any time. It was my decision to make. I decided I needed to stop seeing these doctors. I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to continue with the stress of the multiple doctors’ appointments and the disappointment I felt each month when nothing I was doing was working. Once I realized that I could stop going to see these doctors, I had this amazing feeling of peace wash over me. I knew what I had to do. I had to stop going. I had the power to stop. So, I stopped. And I felt free. With this stress now lifted form my heart, I felt a huge relief wash over me. I could now concentrate on living in Maui-Bliss!

    With all of those stress creators out of the way, I realized that one of my biggest insecurities still needed to be addressed: how I felt when I looked in the mirror. I believe we are always our harshest critics, and every time I looked in the mirror I heard those voices from my childhood. I knew I had to face this fear – this insecurity head on, and I thought to myself, “What is one thing I have always wanted to try but was always too scared to look foolish?”  The answer was “red lipstick.”

    Now, up until this point in my life, I was fairly neutral about my lipstick colors. I tended to wear more natural colors and focused my makeup on eyeshadow and black mascara because I have always liked my eyes. My lips are naturally thin on top. Truthfully, I hardly have an upper lip. I have always been afraid to try red lipstick because I have such a fair complexion spattered with freckles, and I was terrified I would pick the wrong shade… and then end up looking like Bozo the Clown. I was determined to do it though. Face the fear of the red lipstick. So I did what I always do, and I researched the best red lipsticks. Truly I did! I went to my computer and Googled it. 

    Once I had purchased the “perfect” red I rushed to the bathroom mirror to try it on. The first day I wore it, I felt a little self-conscious. Like I was trying too hard but, as the days passed by and I wore it more and more, I realized that it was boosting my confidence. In fact, applying my red lips each morning became like adorning my armor to face the world! I had on my war-paint! Once applied, I was ready for battle! I could face anything! Who knew that a little red smear on my lips would give me such confidence?? Just the littlest thing like wearing red lipstick gave me the boost I needed to make other changes in my life. 

    After reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,”  I revamped my entire wardrobe and only kept those items that “sparked joy” and made me feel beautiful, powerful, and confident. I realized, as I went through my clothing, that so many items had been bought to make me “fit-in” and “blend” with the crowd so people would accept me as one of them.  My childhood drama of wanting to be liked was still replaying itself because I was afraid to just be me. Enough! I said goodbye to anything that I did not love. 

    Fast forward to the present: 2018. I have been back a month from the most amazing Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica and, yes, this past week I was experiencing such inner turmoil that seemed to come from no-where. All of a sudden I felt those old insecurities bubble up to the surface again. I felt like that teenage girl who just couldn’t believe that she was anyone special. The old voices were getting louder and louder each day. Luckily for me, I was able to talk to some very amazing friends of mine who helped me realize this as old drama and not truth. Then, as often seems to happen in my life, the signs started to appear. I am currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ,“A New Earth” and have just got to the chapter titled “The Pain-Body” which he describes as follows: 

    Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain….. The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in  every cell of your body. It consists not just of childhood pain, but also painful emotions that were added to it later in adolescence and during your adult life, much of it created by the voice of the ego. It is the emotional pain that is your unavoidable companion when a false sense of self is the basis of your life.  

    The energy of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.”

    Wow! That was it, exactly what I was experiencing. I read on to the following: 

    The pain-body awakens from its dormancy when it gets hungry, when it is time to replenish itself. Alternatively, it may get triggered by an event at any time. The pain-body that is ready to feed can use the most insignificant event as a trigger, something somebody says or does, or even a thought.”

    As I was reading this and sharing these passages with my friends, I started to wonder why this was coming up. Hadn’t I already dealt with this issue?  I re-read some of my journal entries from last year and saw I had written about these same insecurities back then, but I had forgotten. I realize now that I had never fully dealt with the issues. I had skimmed the surface but never dug deeper. Now I knew why it was coming up again. Now I could put a name on it. The pain-body. 

    “Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?” ~ Echkart Tolle, “A New Earth”

    There is no benefit to me by replaying these old negative stories in my head. They do not serve me. They no longer existed; yet, I carried them inside of me where they were eating holes trying to escape back into reality. I was giving them power.  

    I believe that this was resurfacing because of the amazing experience in Costa Rica. I had recharged myself. My armor was now more than just on the surface. It was more than just red lipstick giving me confidence.  It was positive energy that was radiating from inside of me and surrounding me. I believe that this old story has come back to me at this time because I am now able to face it completely and finally slay this dragon. I believe that just being able to recognize this has already started me down the path. I know it will probably come back around to test me, but I feel confident that I will be successful in recognizing it for what it is and stop the pain-body from feeding.

    During the week, as I was talking to Yaya and other friends about this issue, I thought about how often we try to suppress our true authentic-self in order to appease others and make them feel more comfortable- which in turns leaves us feeling badly because we are stifling ourselves. We end up feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. Why do we do this? Why do we change our behavior? We want to fit in. We want to be liked. We are not often encouraged as children to be confident in ourselves and celebrate our uniquenesses.  So we adorn these masks to fit in, to blend in; until ultimately, we fade away, and we become scared to be ourselves because “what if no one will like me?”…. and we wonder why we aren’t happy??? 

    But then we meet people we can take our masks off with…. People who love and accept us for our quirks and differences, and we realize when we are around them we feel like the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, jokes are funnier, food tastes better, and life is just grand! I know I have been fortunate enough to find these people in my life and seeing that this way of life is possible. The hard part is being able to remember this when I don’t have them around me 24/7. It is work, and it isn’t always easy. According to Yaya, that is why they call it “a practice.”  Luckily, I know that support is only a phone call away. 

    I realize now that those people who don’t understand the true-me are the same ones who tell me I am “too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice,” but I have realized that I don’t’ want to change those things about me in order to make them feel more comfortable. In fact, those are all things I love about myself!    

    I have a huge heart and want to be friendly to everyone. I love to give hugs. I love to smile. I love to cry especially when I am happy. I will be your cheerleader and champion routing you on whenever you need me. I don’t want to change. If I make you feel uncomfortable with my behavior, I am sorry you feel that way; but, I am NOT going to change! I am going to wear red lipstick to yoga class because that is what I love to do.

    So I leave you asking this:

    • What old stories do you replay in your head that you have adopted as “truth”? 
    • What are your pain-bodies? Can you recognize them when they appear?
    • What masks do you wear?  Why do you wear them?
    • Are there people you remove your mask for? How does it feel when you are around them?
    • How do you live your authentic self?
    • Is there something you stopped doing that you really liked because someone told you it was “stupid?”
    • Is there something you want to stop doing because it does not serve you, but you are too afraid to stop? This could be a behavior or activity. 
    • What brings you joy?
    • If there something that you always wanted to try but were too scared? Maybe a new hobby or hairstyle?

    Sometimes, something as trivial as red-lipstick can make you feel like you have adorned your Knight’s Armor and gives you just enough confidence to slay your dragons. I know for me it surely has. Wishing you the best on your journey! 

     

    Thank you, “Blondie,” for digging deep, digging even deeper with each re-write while you were “on assignment,” and for the journey you shared with us. I’m sure it was cathartic and a long time coming! Personally speaking, we can all relate!  I’m certain you have touched many hearts with this blog. I’m honored, blessed and grateful to be part of your life! Love you! Mama Yaya xoxo

    PS- Looking forward to your next one!

    Choosing Love at All Times

    “Love has the ability to multiply itself. It has a mysterious component in that it always multiplies itself, and it never divides.” 

    I just came across this sentence in yet another book I am reading (yep, number 3). Since I was going away, I didn’t want to carry any hardcover, cumbersome books. Instead, I grabbed a small, soft-covered book that I have had for years yet had not read. The book, Returning to Oneness – The Seven Keys of Ascension, by Leslie Temple-Thurston with Brad Laughlin, was the perfect travel companion.

    This has been a love-filled week… the Royal Wedding, time spent with loving friends and family, being the recipient of many acts of lovingkindness and generosity of spirit, as well as opportunities that required me to dig deep and choose love (see previous blog, Love is Wisdom inAction). I’ve also had the opportunity to send out love in many ways to others, some whom were aware and others who may not have even had an inkling I was doing so.

    Which leads me to a little exercise the author noted in a section of the book which goes on to talk about the fact that beyond loss and gain we can always find love:

    If you are feeling love, even for five minutes in the middle of some working day, stop and watch how all-encompassing it is. It connects and contains, Send it out in the form of gratitude, appreciation and wishes for others to receive the gift of grace that you are enjoying in the moment. Just let your heart center create the intentions and the love will do its work of multiplication.

    If we are in a state of choosing love at all times, then we can, in fact, see beyond the loss and gain. Why? Because the energy exchange of love does not involve loss or gain. It just is.  It is a state of heart. It is a state where we have shifted into. It means shifting into a love-based state from a power or fear-based state.

    Getting past a fear-based state requires a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears. Fear, in all its glory, is actually tied to loss. And, as we know by now, loss comes disguised in many fashions. When we think of loss, we tend to think of someone dying, a job we lost or a relationship that has ended. A part of the book which caused me to pause and journal, was the example of the many different kinds of loss we experience in our lifetime.

    As noted, “Some examples of loss would be: disapproval, criticism, blame, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, self-doubt, lack of self-esteem, withholdings, and grievances. Loss can me so many things on so many levels: loss of face, of dignity, of energy, of happiness, of connection, of resources, of inspirations, of your divine state and so forth.”

    Wow! Reading this made me pause for a long time. It made me examine how these losses have played out in my own life. It was a choice I made because I don’t want my Ego’s limited mind messing with my Soul’s natural state of wholeness and boundlessness. Playing “the witness” allowed me to look at the shadow issues that may still be lurking in the crevices of my conscious and subconscious mind. It’s very interesting to witness what “shows up” when we tackle the  patterns surrounding the different states of loss. As I like to say, “our work is never done.” If we want to live in a state of higher vibration, we must take the time to do the work, And remember, it’s a practice, not a perfect. Hence, the lessons that constantly tend to show up for us – especially when we least expect them!

    Each and every day, we are faced with situations and circumstances that will require us to make a choice, Will we choose a low vibrational habit such as grievance, regret, resentment, fear and anger, or will we  let go of all that and choose love? As noted in the book, “Letting go is a very important part of the path of love and, be assured, it gets easier with practice.”

    Ah, there’s that word again: Practice. And you know what I’m about to say next, don’t you? Everything, every THING, is a practice – not a perfect. So you see, the more we practice, the easier it does get. It becomes our default setting (I spoke about default settings in a previous blog, Don’t Be Amazing…Be Available).

    When we tap on the doorway of the heart, fling the door wide open, and welcome that light filled, divine presence within us, we witness our natural state, which is love. It’s inside each and every one of us! We just have to “clean house.” In doing so, we are making ourselves available for that beautiful and abundant exchange of energy that is in a constant state of multiplication. In choosing love at all times, we are opening ourselves up to the grace of knowing the our Ego is not our true self. Rather we connect with our true essence – the essence of our soul, the experience of pure “beingness.” And in the process, we’ve learned to kick the Ego to the curb.

    And if we aren’t there yet, we can rest assured that life will constantly give us opportunities to master this lesson. So even if our Ego hasn’t quite made it to the curb yet, we can at least show it the way to our front door! That is, of course, if we have evicted it from the room / space it is housing in our brain. Just keep choosing love at all times!

    I will leave you with a meditation, from the first chapter of the book, which I just finished. May this blog and the meditation serve you in one way or another. Rest in the knowingness that you will gain from it whatever it is you need. That’s the beauty of guided meditations. We can do the same one consecutively, but what shows up may differ each time!

    A MEDITATION

    Sit comfortably. Take five or seven deep breaths until your breathing becomes calm and deep. Now visualize your core as it is situated along the central axis of the body. It looks rather like a luminous fluorescent tube running down the center of your subtle body. In the physical body, it corresponds more or less to the spine but sits slightly in front of it. By visualizing it, you begin to feel its presence.

    Imagine that you, as your essential Self, are the core. Think of how we write the letter “I,” a straight vertical column. It means us – who we are. The letter “I,” describing who we are, comes from the shape of the core. It is the most powerful energy meridian in all the bodies, and it is actually the “I.” It is where the presence of the “I am-ness” is situated in us. At the same time, it is also situated at the very center of the cosmos. It is not to be confused with the “I am something in particular,” such as “I am a loser,” “I am an artist,” or “I am tall with  brown eyes.”

    Sit with your attention on the core, holding center and feel your ‘I am-ness” for a while.

    Oh, and if you missed Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding, go to youtube and check it out, check it out, check it out…wink, wink. He’s now one of my favorites, right up there along with Pastor Carl Lentz. And one last thing, keep putting yourself in the way of love!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

     

     

    My Guest Blogger

    “How I Met My Yaya and Faced My Fears”

     by Shannon “Blondie” Green

    Recently, while on a Yoga Retreat with my dearest people in this world, Yaya (as I call her but as you may know as the one and only Jo-Ann Carricarte, the driving force behind this blog) mentioned  that I should guest blog for her, as part of my Yaya mentorship (more to come on that at another time).  As we were discussing the “assignment,” I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t know what to write about. She suggested that I should start at the beginning of my journey.  So that is where this story begins…

    Time: March 2013

    Place: Lumeria, Maui, HI

    Now I will admit that prior to this experience I was the quintessential worrywart and control freak. Reflecting back, I now see that I lived in constant fear. My life consisted of many “what-if” scenarios, and I believed it was normal to worry about things like money, health, cars breaking down, etc.  I set my watch ahead about 10 minutes so I wouldn’t be late, and I always had to wear it. I believed everything had to be planned, and planned, and planned some more. I did not have faith to just let things unfold organically. When things did not go as I planned, I did not handle it gracefully and with ease. I responded very emotionally and often had a difficult time resolving the problem. At this point in my life I was 36, and I knew that these behaviors were not serving me…and I certainly wasn’t happy in my life, but what I didn’t know was what I could do to change things.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing, life long best friend, Christy, who decided she was going to organize a weeklong yoga retreat to Maui. And luckily for me, my best friend from college, Claire, convinced me that we NEEDED to go!

    As we began our first class, Christy spoke about being present and living in “Maui Time,” where it didn’t matter what time it was, where life moved a little more slowly, and the idea of being purposeful in what we said, thought and did while we were there. At this point, I did something that I will never regret; I decided to remove my watch for the duration of the retreat.

    The second thing that happened was that Christy gave us each a small journal to use while we were there. Each day, she would give us journaling exercises and if we chose to do them or not was left up to us.  I soon became engrossed in writing in my little pink journal. My thoughts and reflections helped me realize that one of the reasons I was sad and struggling in my life was because I was filled with so much fear.

    The third thing that happened was I met Yaya.  I honestly don’t remember how the conversation began, but there was some mention of her name “Jo-Ann” but how everyone called her “Mama Yaya”. Somewhere along the way I dropped the “Mama” part, and she just became “Yaya” to me.  Any of you who know Jo-Ann know just how “Yaya” she is. She is this vibrant being filled with love and energy. She is funny and energetic, but serious and very much about living her authentic self.  As the week went on, you would often find her “holding court” at the dining room table after we had finished a meal, sitting at the head of the table while me, Claire, and a few of the other ladies were bombarding her with questions about what books to read, what websites we should check out-  all the while writing down everything little thing she said…the list in my journal includes among them the following books, websites, and authors: Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, A Return to Love, The Law of Divine Compensation, Wishes Fulfilled, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, The Power of Now, A New Earth, Daily Om, Daily Love by Mastin Kipp, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Hay House Publishing, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and even more.

    Who was this Yaya person?? How did she know all of this stuff and how could I get some of it??? I knew she held answers, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to find the peace and energy and love she spoke of.  My journal is full of entries that talk about how I wanted to have an open heart and clear mind.  How I wanted to listen to the wisdom of my body, my desire to let go of fear and the things that frighten me. I wanted to make room for miracles and be open to abundance coming into my life.  I journaled about my fears of not becoming a mother, of not finding purpose, of growing old and unfulfilled and my desire to release these fears. I knew I needed to let go of my fears and somewhere during that week I began to learn how.

    March 15, 2013:  Journal Entry

    “Today I let go of what weighs me down.  I accept that my life is unfolding as it should be. I surrender. I am not afraid of what is not happening. I detach from trying to control that which I cannot control.  I surrender to the will of God and the Universe.  I open my heart to whatever may come into it. I welcome what may come in.  I am not afraid of things that don’t turn out the way I thought.  I will enjoy every moment as it unfolds.”

    As I reread these words from my journal the other day, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I wrote them or copied them from someone.  They sound so wise and profound that I believe I likely stole them from someone else- except I didn’t note who said them, which I normally do if I write down a quote I like. Regardless, this was the point at which I surrendered and let go. As I continued to read my old journal, I can see how this day was a turning point where I decided to let fear stop running my life. One thing I know is that the girl who arrived in Maui on March 12, 2013 was not the same girl who left Maui a week later.

    The journey hasn’t been easy, and it is still continuing. I won’t lie, it  has been a journey that has taken many years and a lot of work, but it has been wonderful and fulfilling. and I hope to share some of that with you as a guest blogger for Yaya.

    So I leave you with the following few questions:

    • Looking back, do you see a turning point in your life where you surrendered and let go of the fears that were holding you back from being your authentic self? 
    • Was there an event that happened that made you realize you wanted to see things differently and live life differently? 
    • Was there a person you met that inspired you to make the change that you had been afraid to make?
    • What tools (journaling, authors, podcasts, etc) have helped you on your journey? 

    Oh, and in case you are wondering about that watch, I took of in Maui. It has never been put back on my wrist. ☺

     

    Bravo! Thank you, my beautiful Blondie (aka “La Bomba”) for such a beautiful reflection! You took the first step, rose up to the challenge and produced the first of many future blogs to come. I am so proud of how much you have grown, evolved and embraced your magnificence since Maui brought us all together! I am proud of how fabulously you are playing your own version of “Yaya” in your everyday life, both personally and professionally. Thank you for the reflection questions you posed. Thank you for making a difference and making the world a more beautiful place. Thank you for the light you bring to others. Thank you for your love. Lastly, thank you for choosing to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start! I look forward to reading more!!! Love, Yaya xo