Dreamin’ in Waves

“Being alone without distractions gives us the opportunity to feel a sense of calm that comes from releasing the need to be switched on. Quality alone time can bring the body back to a calm state, switch off the stress response, and help people connect to their intuition and creativity.” Ariadne Kapsali

End of year thoughts as I sip on a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a generous twist of lemon and read Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton in my beloved Hollywood Riviera: I’m a consummate dreamer, avid seeker, hopeless romantic, and a love and gratitude junkie who is always searching. And who gets much pleasure and joy from being of service.

I also cherish the sanctity of my alone time. For years I searched outside myself. In the last couple of decades though, I’ve taken to searching within. The need for solitude is always at the top of my list. It’s been the most rewarding journey ever!

Don’t get me wrong though, the rewards come with a price. Some people aren’t willing to pay that price. However, it’s a price I’ve always been willing to pay- even if it means not playing by the rules of convention, society, culture, etc.

I often remark that we really can’t place a price tag on peace, serenity, and tranquility. I don’t care how much money is involved. I’ve noted that some of the wealthiest people I know are the ones who lack peace and true joy in their lives. And the reason is clear… peace comes from within… we create our own joy…even if it means making the conscious decision of being alone and entering a relationship with oneself.

There is a remarkable difference between being alone and being lonely. People who cherish their solitude will always tell you they may be alone but far from lonely.

When we enter into a relationship with our “Self,” loneliness is not an issue. Learning to know oneself, stripped of all our titles, roles and the expectation of others, is one of the most rewarding gifts we can “gift” ourselves. We know the varied roles we play and how we dance in and out of the many relationships, titles and positions we assume. But there comes a point (at least for me it did) where we want to push back and truly figure out who we are, what we want out of life, how we want to define ourselves and how we want to live and love.

We learn to break with convention and what is expected of us. We become more blazingly daring, more courageous, more vulnerable and, as a result, more liberated!

Free to ponder everything or nothing at all. With me, it’s usually everything (at once too)… purpose, meaning, intention, relationships, all the whys, life and even death. Especially death. The subject fascinates me.

So it’s on this day, the day after a brilliant light and teacher, Ram Dass, transitioned, that I find myself thinking back on my journey and the path that yoga has taken me on.

Ram Dass translates to Servant of God. And that is something that spoke to me many, many years ago when I started reading his books and learning about the work and contribution he’s made to mankind and society. One of his quotes that has always stuck with me is, “We are all walking each other home.” It’s something Ram Dass spoke at length about in his book, Fierce Grace. It’s a book about aging and coming to terms with death and dying.

I think that when we live with the conscious awareness that we are all terminal and make friends with this notion, life becomes more meaningful, richer and significant.

These are but a few waves of thoughts that have been flowing in and out of my awareness. This is what alone time does for me. It allows me to go on an exploration of sorts: reflect on what inspires me, where I’ve been, who I’m becoming only to unbecome and become again, and dream and wonder of possibilities that still await to unfold. That’s why I titled this blog dreamin’ in waves.

As I was finishing up this blog, I came across an article which spoke about the importance of setting boundaries, especially this time of year when we are flooded with invitations to parties, lunches, dinners and all sorts of social gatherings. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that it’s OK to cancel plans and/or decline invitations. That falls under the self-care umbrella for me. Ironically, this time of year calls for much-needed alone time in my book…wink, wink

I’ve also found that responding honestly is best. So, rather than making up a story or telling a lie, decline invitations with honesty, gratitude and warmth. It’s the right thing to do AND the respectful thing to do for ourselves and others.

Darlings, I encourage us all to carve out some alone time- especially before the end of this year. If you feel inspired to get lost in your thoughts and do a little journaling, then do so. If you’d like a few prompts for doing so, be sure to check out my last blog, End of Year Inspiration, for a few questions you may find useful.

In the meantime, I will personally be working on them myself as I prepare to usher in 2020a new decade to fill with much love, endless joy, real compassion, loving- kindness, radical honesty and accountability, fierce grace and gratitude….and hope. There’s always room for hope!

May the long time sun shine upon us all!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

The Paradox of Our Age

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about ” Henry David Thoreau

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with bountiful blessings and the warmth of family and friendship.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks in a time of “business” unlike any other time of the year. The thing is, all this business has a way of putting us on auto pilot rushing, rushing, rushing and, before we know it, we’re on the other end of the holidays, fatigued, and wondering where the time went and why we didn’t enjoy ourselves.

The key to enjoyment is to be… be present in each and every moment and interaction so that we can savor the beauty of the moment with all our senses. When on auto-pilot, we lose the ability to do so. We become more robotic and less human. More rigid and less flexible. More closed off and less open-hearted. Even our breath becomes more shallow.

As I was randomly looking through a gem of a book, Soul to Soul- Poems, Prayers and Stories to End a Yoga Class, I came across a lovely piece which speaks to the paradox of our age. The piece, along with conversations I had with different people this past week, actually inspired this blog.

Sooooo….on this first day of December, I invite us to take a moment to pause, read the poem below by the Dalai Lama, and see where it lands. Perhaps it will spark some conversation, reflection, or inspire us all to start doing humanity a little differently as we enter a new decade.

We have bigger houses but smaller families; More conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; More knowledge, but less judgement. More experts, but more problems; More medicines, but less healthiness; we’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. these are times of fast food but slow digestion; Tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is so much in the window but nothing in the room.

So….. what are we busy about? And, more importantly, why?

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

The Paper Man

“Just when you least expect it, someone’s creativity and agility blows you away, makes you laugh and almost makes you pee your panties.” JTC

Oh what a night!!!

It was a much needed night of laughter, friendship, love, shenanigans, delicious food and fun cocktails.

You see, I’m having my apartment painted as we speak, so everything is all packed up, bundled up and covered up. My otherwise colorful, fun and peaceful treehouse has been turned upside down. There’s nothing peaceful, colorful or fun about it right now. There’s very little room for movement and finding a place to sit without getting paint on me has been an adventure in and of itself.

So…. a night out with a lovely group of girlfriends, otherwise known as The Usual Suspects in our group chat, was just what the doctor ordered. Laughter is, indeed, good medicine for the soul. And the more we laugh, happily, joyfully and unabashedly, even to the point of tears, boogers coming out our noses, or peeing in our panties (that’s if you’re wearing them- but that’s for another blog), the more we can appreciate the little things in our lives in very big and profound ways.

The restaurant was crowded, noisy, we were noisy, and at any given time there were multiple conversations going on at the same time. You know the feeling, right? The one where you feel like a ping pong ball, going back and forth, head spinning, yet in each and every conversation. It’s the antithesis of mindfulness and giving your sole attention to the one task at hand. Fully present and engaged in that one task.

But you know what? Sometimes the task at hand is to BE fully present and engaged with ALL of it….the zaniness, the laughter, the stories, the madness, the shenanigans and antics alike. And let me just say that no topic is ever “too much” for this group. We put it all out there on the table. If it interests you, then run with it. If not, sip your cocktail and be the curious observer.

The beauty of it all is that there are no cautious or fake “representatives” at that table! We are all simply free to be ourselves and that makes it all that more meaningful. And by the way, we’re not an easy group. By that I mean that, with the exception of one or two people, we all have serious food allergies and restrictions, so ordering can get tricky and dicey. Yet, we make the best of it. More importantly, we’re not obnoxious with our questions, concerns or inquiries. Quite the opposite. We make light of it and tend to warn our wait staff beforehand. It makes the oftentimes painful process of ordering much lighter and humorous.

I believe for us it’s all about the humor, fun, entertainment, friendship, camaraderie, honesty, openness, and heartfelt genuine love and admiration we have for each other that makes our times together all the more meaningful. We are real, the conversations are raw and the topics are relevant to each of us. It’s a win-win.

It’s like a giant dose of feel good endorphins when I’m with these ladies. Female friendships are a must in my book. It’s like free therapy when you stop and think about it. How incredible…it doesn’t get any better!

So after a delightful evening of sipping, tasting, munching, chatting, laughing, catching up and planning future adventures, our time together was winding down… or so we thought.

Just when we thought we couldn’t laugh anymore (I was even losing my voice) out comes a gentleman I will lovingly call “Paper Man.”

Paper Man is an older, Asian gentleman who was sporting a Hawaiian shirt, a paper cut out hat with birds on it, and a necklace advertising his services. He was pushing a cart that had a tip jar on it. Ok…. now we were all a bit weary. However, in a matter of seconds, I was instructed to write my name down, look to the left… and voila! He cut out a profile picture of me from black construction paper, complete with my spiked hair, glasses and “Yaya” below it. Wow! Then he glued it to a white piece of paper- like a card.

Since it was my birthday celebration, he then cut out a pregnant woman on her back that, when you pulled on the legs, a baby’s head popped out from between her legs. Oh my! Needless to say, we all cracked up and were somewhat dumbfounded at his agility and how quickly he proceeded to take a paper plate and make a birthday hat for me- complete with a cut out cake and candles on top. He said something about the candles standing for prosperity, peace and happiness or something like that. I don’t recall his exact words, but you get the idea.

Little did we know the best was yet to come. After giving me my hat, he surveyed our table and his eyes landed on the pretty blonde closest to him. With that, he looked at her and told her he had a “trick or treat” for her. Oh boy! In rapid speed, he cut out a skeleton man that, when you pulled on his legs, a big penis popped out…. OMG!!! I think we were in tears. What made it even funnier and more hilarious was that the gal he picked is probably the shyest one in the group. Of all people to have been picked …wink, wink!

Paper Man left with a generous tip. He also left us thinking of how we must have him a future party. However, it will have to be after we have one with our new best bellydancer friend from a precious birthday celebration. We will simply add Paper Man to our list of future soirées.

As for my beloved usual suspects, any time I get to spend with them is guaranteed to make my heart soar, my belly sore from laughter and my throat raspy from all the convo, screaming and hysterics. It’s a night, or day, that leaves me feeling alive, refreshed, exuberant, grateful and blessed to be floating in this magical universe together.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust

Long live The Usual Suspects!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

Standing on Holy Ground: A Reflection

“No matter where life takes you, the place that you stand at any moment is holy ground. Love hard, and love wide and love long and you will find the goodness in it.”

As we age, it seems to me that everything becomes holy: time, resources, friends, family, experiences, trials, and tribulations alike. Every encounter, every decision, and every opportunity that presents itself shows up bearing a myriad of lessons, blessings, and opportunities for healing. More importantly though, I believe that whatever shows up, and in whatever way, shape or form it does, is an opportunity to love bigger and better.

I was struck by the opening quote that was featured in A Network for Gratefulness a few weeks ago (another one of my favorite daily emails). It got me thinking about the 61 years of life on this holy planet that I’m about to celebrate in a few days and the many, many, many (did I say many?) ways love has shown up in my life. A friend once told me that I love hard, deep, and passionately. Wow…when I think about it, that was a beautiful compliment. I’ll take it!

When that compliment came to mind, I found myself reflecting on the friends, family and lovers (some whom aren’t even in my life any longer but I will always love) and how blessed I have been. I’ve had a lot of “love” role models. I’ve been gifted with a circle of people throughout my lifetime that have held and carried me through all the phases of my life. The circle continues to widen, and the significance of that is something I cherish deeply.

Opportunities to choose love over fear, togetherness over separation, inclusivity over exclusion, and sacredness over ungodliness are opportunities to cherish as well. And the common and holy thread among them all is LOVE. As the opening quote reminds us, the place that we stand at any moment is holy ground. So…why not treat it as so?

Reflecting on all of this also got me thinking about the habits of mind that have shaped me and have been important to me. What are my personal ABC’s for thriving, succeeding, and for living a full and happy life? What do I deem sacred and holy for me?

I sat with my list of ABC’s for several days and found myself thinking about how each attribute/quality/habit has shown up and what each one means to me. I guess my ABC list is my own personal list of what matters/has mattered most throughout my lifetime.  As I sit and reflect, I am able to look back now and connect the dots. I see the richness, fullness and holiness that have been a part of my 61 years of life experiences here on this planet (which include the good, the bad and the ugly, of course).

By the time this blog is published, I will have probably tweaked my list several times. Needless to say, many of the words that are also of significance to me got bumped as I revisited the list over and over again over the course of several days. When I think about it, it’s an exercise that assigns weight to the individual words you are choosing. It would have been easier to select more than one attribute/quality/habit for each letter of the alphabet, but I didn’t want easy. I wanted the challenge of digging deep. I wanted to go on an exploration of sorts! Being on a social media detox has gifted me with lots of uninterrupted time. So here goes:

My ABC’s

  • A- appreciation
  • B- boundaries
  • C- courage
  • D- determination
  • E- enthusiasm
  • F- forgiveness
  • G- gratitude
  • H- happiness
  • I- intention
  • J- joy
  • K- knowingness
  • L- love
  • M- memories
  • N- neatness
  • O- optimism
  • P- perseverance
  • Q- quality
  • R- resilience
  • S- spirituality
  • T- truth
  • U- understanding
  • V- values
  • W- wonder
  • X- Xenodochial (had to look this one up… wink, wink)
  • Y- youthfulness
  • Z- zeal

I’ll tell you this much- it’s an exercise I encourage you to make the time to do. And it’s not one to do at a single sitting- for you will keep revisiting your list a multitude of times. But when you’re done, it will serve as your very own validation/ affirmation. It’s a way for you to reflect on your habits of mind, see the essence of who you are, and the sacred qualities and gifts that are uniquely yours to share with the world.  All that’s required is an open heart.

Remember to lead from the heart…right from the start!

Infinite Love & Gratitude, JTC

The Disease to Please

“If you have to change the essence of who you are for people, then there is something seriously wrong with that scenario.”

Do I look OK? Am I dressed right? What will he/she think? Why can’t I just be me? What will they think if I pass? What will they think if  I cancel plans? Can I tell the truth? Am I OK? Am I smart enough? Does what I have to say matter? Are they going to think I’m too much? Should I say anything? Should I voice my opinion? What if I can’t bring myself to…? How will  it look if I…?

Sound familiar? It should. After all, these are but a few of a long list of the unhealthy, detrimental and  disempowering questions we tend to ask ourselves over and over again, throughout our life, when we have fallen ill with the disease to please. 

You all know what I’m talking about, right? We’ve all been there. We’ve all succumbed to the perils of insecurity, incessant  thinking/questioning and the often fatal opinion of others. We spend so much of our lives worrying about what other people will have to say about us that we expend unreasonable, unproductive and unhealthy amounts of time and energy being all things but the most important: ourselves.

Over time, all this worrying, pondering and ruminating just serve to cause dis-ease in the body as well as the feeling that we are inept and not enough. It leaves us questioning our worth and our value.

The thing about disease though- if we don’t address the root cause, it will just spread like a malignant tumor.

There comes a point in our lives- and I think it comes with wisdom and life experience (not just book smarts, looks and youth), that we need to periodically take a step back, regroup, reassess, redefine,  and re-establish that essential essence of the magic, divinity and sacredness of who we are. We aren’t here to play small, succumb to bullshit nor people pleasing. We are here to break free of the chains that bind us- the limited and outdated beliefs that hinder us- step into our power and glory, take a hard look in the mirror and proudly say, “This is who I am…I AM supported, connected, one with the power of the universe, love, truth, open to divine wisdom and one with the infinite all, my higher self and angelic guidance.” And so it is!

The thing is that another person’s opinion of us should not be our problem. It’s their problem, and it usually is their problem because of their own unresolved issues that need tending and addressing. We each need to address our own “stuff” and deal with it. We, and only we, can determine when is the time to put that heavy load down.

When we decide to rid ourselves of that heaviness, we open up the space to let the light in. We open up the space for us to look at our issues and deal with them head on by digging deep into all the dark places. Remember… the issues are in the tissues. I actually wrote a blog by that name a while back. Check it out if you think it may serve you.

If we continue to “choose” to carry that weight around, we can rest assured that it will take  a toll on our health. Sleepless nights, irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, rage, resentment, gastrointestinal ailments,  overeating, not eating, high blood pressure, distraction, impatience, headaches, migraines, substance abuse….and just about every other ailment that comes along with not living an authentically beautiful and meaningful life.

Given the times we are living in, and all the divisiveness, separation and brokenness we are seeing around us, we are all being called to be and to give more of ourselves. In a podcast I was listening to, Sheri Slata said something that hit it right on the mark. She said, “Your best contribution to the world is your own happiness.”

We can do so by sharing our reality from the inside out, not the other way around. By digging deep and exploring who we want to be. We can look at who we spend time with, who is our very own circle of influence, and examine our shared values. We can look at the integrity of the lives we are living and analyze if it is in alignment with such values. After all, when we are out of alignment- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually- our bodies will let us know.

It also helps to lean into our circle of friends, our community, sangha, and other trusted advisors to share our journey, tell our story and celebrate the many accomplishments that have brought us to where we are today. When we look back and connect the dots, we can see and appreciate how every single step was orchestrated to get us to where we are standing this very minute.

Where we’re standing may not be the exact place we’d like to be, but there is beauty in appreciating that as well.

Stand tall… and celebrate it all, my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Spring Cleaning and Moments of Grace

“Going with the flow is responding to cues from the universe. When you go with the flow, you’re surfing Life force. It’s about wakeful trust and total collaboration with what’s showing up for you.” Danielle LaPorte

Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy cleaning out, clearing out, organizing and staging. The change of seasons is an especially exciting time for me.

As I wrote in my Spring Cleaning blog last year (2018), March is all about clearing out, cleaning up from the winter and getting ready for spring, especially in the northeast. As with any type of creative and inspirational project, I believe the key is to have fun doing so. By the way, if you want some specific tips and guidelines to help you organize, clean, donate, purge or pack up to move, be sure you check out my spring cleaning blog from last year.

This past Monday, my plan to write a spring cleaning-related blog was hijacked by an unexpected event. You know the saying “Be careful what you wish for?” Well, let me tell you a little story.

I have been itching to take on a spring clearing or cleaning project but wasn’t sure of what project to tackle. I was also thinking about what kind of blog to write this week. Perhaps a blog dealing with clearing out and organizing closets would be fun. Just like that, a turn of events took place that determined the type of spring cleaning that I would be doing. And this type of spring cleaning would force me to go with the flow.

To make a long story short, the storage area in my condo complex had a leak. This storage area is on the ground floor in another building and, I must confess, it’s not the nicest, cleanest, or pleasant smelling space (if you know what I mean). So what did this mean? It meant that we all had to remove our contents by the end of the day!!!

I took a moment to pause, breathe, and think about my options. One option would be to see if there was another space where I would be able to move my things into. However, upon seeing the space, I realized it was a long schlep which required a maze of twists and turns. Not very practical if you know what I mean. Plus, it would wreck havoc on my body.

The other option, was to rent a storage space, a truck from Home Depot, and move my plastic bins and other belongings in there for the time being and until the repairs in the storage area of the complex would be fixed.

Let me interject something here. The “Me” of 20 years ago would have flipped out, been stressed out, and would be freaking out and spiraling out of control. Today’s “Me” proceeded accordingly with a mind and eyes wide open to infinite possibilities. In other words, I went with the flow. BIG time.

In doing so, I was able to notice the moments of grace that popped up to make this task at hand more bearable and even pleasant.

In order to do so, I re-wound to the beginning of my day to appreciate how the universe “set me up.”

I got to the yoga studio thinking that the class I was going to take, to ease into my Monday morning, was at 9 o’clock. Upon arrival, I was informed the class was at 9:30; so, I decided to make a cup of tea, go into the studio where the class was going to be held, the candles were already lit and so was the incense, and I plugged in my phone to listen to some music, sit in the stillness alone and breathe.

The next thing that happened was that the instructor, Barbara, not only delivered a soothing, therapeutic class, but shared a beautiful reading at the end of class that had to do with water and the flow of life. I will share this piece with you at the end.

I recall laying in savasana and remarking to myself that life is indeed so much easier when, instead of fighting the current or whatever it is that is showing up for us, we just look at the guiding cues from the universe instead. Remember what I said about walking around with the mind and eyes wide open?

That is just what I did when I went to Home Depot to inquire about renting a truck, and learned that it was first come first serve. The fact that I saw one van in the parking lot struck me.

It’s also what I did when I went next-door to the Extra Storage Space, and encountered a friendly and helpful service provider, Joe, who showed me to a space that was pretty close to the elevators. This space would not require me to schlep a long distance with my belongings.

It’s also what I did as I was driving back to Home Depot, to rent the van that I knew would be there for me, and took a moment to wonder who I could get to help me. Immediately, I saw a text from my beloved friend, and pseudo-daughter, Linda Lou. Hmmmm…. could this be yet another cue from the universe? I immediately called her and asked if she had an hour or two to spare. As it turns out, she was my angel for the afternoon.

It’s also what I did when I realized two things: I said I wanted a spring cleaning project, and I have been wanting to organize purge and consolidate the contents of all my storage containers. Coincidence? I don’t think so…wink, wink.

Well, my Darlings, the universe delivered once again! It may not have been what I expected, but I went with the flow, drove a van for the first time, fell out of the back of the van on one occasion, and still managed to have fun and laugh along side Linda Lou. I was even able to provide her an ear to listen. The universe is so magically humbling as it is comical, don’t you think?

As I soaked in an epsom salt and essential oils bath that evening, I reflected back on the day. I was able to appreciate the numerous moments of grace that showed up and carried me as I flowed with the ups and the downs of what could have been a stressful, fatiguing and annoying day. Instead, I found myself filled with a deep sense of grace for all these little moments that were, in fact, big moments. I was held…much like I felt held while immersed in that scented bath.

Over the next month, and at my leisure, I will be able to take the time to go through all my storage bins in a clean, pleasant smelling, spacious and well lit area. And you can bet I will have a helper… and music…and snacks. After all, it’s important to have fun and celebrate life fully engaged in whatever it is we are doing!

The following is the lovely reading that was shared in class: Enjoy!

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility. When the river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on. As we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard, but we always keep going. Water can inspire us not to become rigid with fear a hold fast to what is familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to his past but flows onward without looking back. At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not flee from it, fearful of the dark; instead, it humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of life rather than running away from them.

Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gradually and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance. Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.

Coming up next… the closet blog… stay tuned!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Overflowing With Gratitude

“Find just one thing that you feel grateful for right now and let that gratitude pour through your body. It’s a healing balm, like the warmth of the sun.” -Tosha Silver

Right now, it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing I am grateful for because my heart is still overflowing with gratitude post-birthday celebrating. I’m even grateful for burning the candles at both ends and being sick for two weeks post all the celebrations! If gratitude is a healing balm like the warmth of the sun, then I’ve been scorched! What can I say?

Welcome to my world! As a self-proclaimed gratitude junkie, I am ALWAYS finding gratitude and IN ALL WAYS…from the minuscule to the monumental. It’s simply a way of life for me. Throughout the light-filled, as well as dark times of my life, I find gratitude in each of those moments. Why? Because it fills my heart with joy and it keeps my nervous system happy. I guess you can say that my gratitude practice is one of my non-negotiables. It’s a ritual that keeps me fueled, joyous and humbled regardless on the circumstances that may be occurring around me or in my life. It’s a practice that allows me to  find the light, stay in the light and be the light.

As a result, I seem to have surrounded myself with brilliant light beings…some whom I’ve known forever, some whom I’ve met along the way and others whom have been recently  dropped into my universe. And it is because of these beautiful beings in my life, that I celebrated my “journey to 60” again and again, and in different ways this past October. It was of utmost importance for me to celebrate the beautiful light beings in my life. It’s all about the celebrations, darlings. It’s about always finding ways to celebrate life!

Between birthday lunches and brunches, a karma yoga class that was “designed” to inspire, love and serve, a celebratory dinner complete with Cuban comfort food, and then a 60 for 60 birthday bash dance party, I found myself at a loss for words. All I could do was “feel.” And what I felt was profound!

It took a while to process, but it felt like generations of love and gratitude pulsing through my veins. Generations of legacies left behind flowing through my heart and coming out front and center. There were times where I so strongly felt the presence and pride of my spirit family. Those who sacrificed, cleared the path and paved the way for me, who made it possible for me to be alive and become who I am today: a masterpiece AND a work in progress.

The culmination of all the festivities was the birthday bash, where all the people who’ve been a significant part of my journey to 60 were gathered under one roof. I felt like I was atop the mountain of 60 looking out at the people whom I most wanted to celebrate for their presence in my world. There are not enough words that could not adequately describe the gratitude, love and joy I felt on this most special and beautiful occasion. My heart was, and is still, overflowing  with gratitude. And, I must admit, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

For days leading up to the birthday bash, I reflected on everyone who would be gathered together, and I was humbled by the thought of the many blessings, much love and overwhelming wealth and abundance that show up in my daily life by way of my various vibe tribes: my longtime friends, my Lovelies, my Yayas, my Circle of Sacred Soul Sisters, my Pseudo-daughters, my Shopping Partners in Crime, my Sangha, my adopted Mother Yaya, my Goddesses, my Mama Bear and Papa Bear, my sister/mother/friends who were there in spirit, and family members whom have entertained all my fanciful whims over the years since what were apparently my early days of “Mama Yaya in training.” All I kept thinking to myself was, how can one person be so lucky?

Gratitude, that’s how! Unconditional love, that’s how! Stepping into the legacy my parents left for me, that’s how! Spreading love and kindness, being love, sharing love, being the light and seeing the light in others, that’s how! Celebrating others, that’s how! Proclaiming yourself a gratitude junkie, that’s how! I kept hearing my mama’s voice in my ears, telling me, You are reaping what you have sown…That’s how!

As I further reflected, I realized it wasn’t about the number of people in my life or gathered under one roof, or the number I could have had if space and money allowed, but it was about the QUALITY of my friends/family/relationships: their integrity, character, respect, kindness, compassion, open heart, generosity of spirit, sense of humor, outpouring of unconditional love and acceptance, inclusiveness, intimate friendship, un-wavering support, and the sacred space we all hold for each other during the happy, sad, pretty, ugly, nice and messy times of our lives.

My oldest friend, Ileana, whom I’ve known since I’m four years old, gave a beautifully touching and spontaneous toast, as did another long time friend of mine, Barbara, who had us all in stitches. And boy did I laugh at the Limerick my cousin’s wife, Sheryl Ann,  wrote for me. She’s also known me since I was five. Throughout all of this, as I looked out atop my place on the mountain of 60, I realized their toasts and memories pretty much summed up my evolution on this journey to 60. And on some very deep, emotional level, I felt like the child who always wanted to make people happy, be seen, recognized and validated.

That afternoon, especially after Ileana’s spontaneous toast, I felt seen, and I had to thank her for seeing me. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the words thank you for seeing me. She saw me in ways I had never even seen myself as I was growing up, and I had to express my deep gratitude for doing so. Which leads me to these questions:

  • Have you ever thanked someone for seeing you?
  • Have you ever been thanked for seeing someone?

It’s powerful stuff. Give it a try….you may just surprise yourself with the mind-boggling and breathtaking  feelings and memories that come up for you. I think it’s both a gift to ourselves and the other person when we express being seen. I know I’m going to be more mindful and intentional in expressing the words “I see you” and “thank you for seeing me” to others as I continue on my journey.

And speaking of journeys, when all was said and done, parties over, tears shed and laughs shared, we realize that’s all a part of life. Our lives are made up of moments, and what we do with those moments is what counts, inspires,  touches lives and what creates our legacy. There will always be the light and the dark, but it’s important to find your tribe and create joy in each of these moments, and ALWAYS make and take the time to CELEBRATE LIFE….always and in all ways. Remember, we are all simultaneously masterpieces and works of art progress. Now carry on!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC / Mama Yaya

 

 

 

 

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

The Sky’s the Limit

“Do what makes you happy…on your birthday and every day” 

The Sky’s the Limit is the name of the establishment where “Scandalous” took me to and I jumped out of a plane ten years ago, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve written about that experience before, and I recently came across pictures that I didn’t realize I still had in my possession.

In looking back on that day, it was definitely symbolic of what this past decade was going to be like. Now, skydiving was nothing I had ever thought of doing. But then again, I did a lot of things I never thought I would have done with Scandalous.

I recall sitting inside the little plane as it made itself up and thinking how liberating it was probably going to feel as soon as we jumped.  Fear, nor anxiety, did not play into it at all.  And that’s the truth! It couldn’t because I was so damn present in every second of every moment as the plane ascended into the sky. As a matter of fact, I did not even read anything I was given to sign nor did I pay attention to the video you are instructed to watch. If I had, then I can only speculate that fear may have shown up.

I remember breathing…connecting with my breath…long deep inhales, long smooth exhales. It was like a meditation as I sat there getting in tune with my breath and remarking to myself how I was most likely going to feel one with all things as soon as I was “out there.” Well, it was beyond liberating and freeing and the most zen-like moment    I could have never imagined all in one. There was the rush of the free fall, the silence once the parachute opened and the “appearance” and illusion of stillness even though we weren’t still by any means. The stillness, silence, curvature of the horizon and expansiveness were breathtaking in an exponential way.

In looking back to the past ten years, my 50’s were all about freedom,  liberation and expansiveness….freeing myself of many things, people and circumstances that were not for my highest good. It was about giving up the need to control. It was about pain, loss and suffering. It was about eliminating illusion and attachments. It was about looking at things from a different perspective and having a bird’s-eye view of things. It was about silence and stillness. It was about spiritual expansion. It was about feeling and doing things from a deeper and more meaningful place in my soul.

So what will this next decade bring? I would venture to say perhaps more of the same but on more profound levels, grander scales and with greater heightened awareness. And let’s not forget daily opportunities to celebrate life and the beautiful souls I get to walk with on this path in the light.

And I have to look no further than at how my Mama lived her life. Sharing the love, celebrating in style and leaving her mark is something Mama did very well….on top of being beyond generous, Mama brought  joy to everyone with whom she came into contact. I have a good example for how to live out the rest of my days. Mama was always a good example of how life should be lived as well as celebrated. A friend and co-worker of mine once remarked that Mama was all about the celebration…from her outfits to her outlook. This same friend also shared the following words with me when Mama left this physical world: “Your mom exhibited a true sense of  freedom- free to think, to dress, to act, to speak what she believed in….the true Madame Butterfly.”  

Yep, that pretty much described my Mama! And pretty much describes the person I grew into over the last ten years. So on this day, when Mama gave birth to me 60 years ago, I am grateful for all the characteristics my little 5 ft., sassy, bold, brave, funny, fierce and fashionista Mama somehow managed to leave ingrained in me. She truly showed me, by example, that the sky’s the limit!

Darlings, regardless of your age (for I truly believe it’s just a number), I invite you to take a page from Mama’s playbook, live out loud, and leave your mark wherever you go!

Inhale Love & Light….Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Who Inspires You?

“If you want to inspire the world, first inspire yourself.” -Scooter Braun

The times we are living in are catastrophic to say the least. But as we all know, we have to go through dark times to then emerge into the light again….refreshed, renewed, recommitted and with a sense of intention, empowerment, purpose, ambition and drive.  These are the times that bring about change. These are the times we seek inspiration, vision, guidance and all sorts of motivation and practices that will keep us grounded, focused, centered and calm. These are the times that are calling out for us. These are the times we must get clear on our priorites. These are the times we can look to the people who inspire us.

In today’s technological world, we have instant gratification at our fingertips. We have a world of inspiration to tap into if we take the time. We don’t have to look very far to surround ourselves with inspiring beings who can guide and motivate us to make whatever changes we seek to make in our lives, in our communities, and in the world.

As I was looking for inspiration for this blog, I came across this quote by Karen Marie Moning: “Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”  

There is a Spanish saying that probably all Cuban mothers used to tell their kids (especially daughters): “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.” This usually came on the heels of your mother not liking whomever’s company you were keeping. It pretty much translates to something like tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are. The modern-day version, “Your vibe attract your tribe” succinctly sums it up.

Like I said, we don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days. Between all the social media platforms, You-Tube, TED talks, webinars, on-line courses, seminars, forums, blogs, classes at local libraries, high schools and community centers, we can scoop up valuable content and insight in just minutes. And let’s not forget the art of reading good books, book clubs and other types of groups/clubs as well. If there is something we like, we can most certainly form a group and talk about everything and anything. Just remember the snacks…wink, wink!

It’s much easier to get through dark and troubled times when we have people who can help us navigate the rocky road we are on. Connecting and spending time with “like-minded” individuals who are positive, enlightened, forward thinkers, and exemplary role models afford us opportunities to learn how they’ve gotten through tough times, how they’ve become successful and perhaps whom they have sought our for inspiration. Turning to our faith, religious and spiritual thought leaders, mystics, astrologers, coaches, therapists and visionaries alike also provide us with “wisdom of the sages and for the ages.”

In one of my early blogs, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I referred to these people in my personal life as “my spiritual board of directors.” The members on my spiritual board of directors are the people whose works I turn to and who I seek to be like. These are the people who inspire me each and every day. Who inspires you?

  • Who can you turn to during your darkest and most challenging times?
  • Who helps you up when you have been brought down to your knees?
  • Who gives you the strength to forge ahead when the road is rocky or uncertain? 
  • Is there an enlightened being you would like to emulate?
  • If so, make a list of their qualities you would like to emulate.
  • List the ways you could practice those enlightened qualities on a daily basis.

These questions are a good place to start.  I will also leave you with further key questions that were included in my aforementioned blog. The questions were from a  global seminar that was facilitated by Craig Hamilton, the founder of Integral Enlightenment. These questions  help us to further identify the people who will accelerate and support our awakening and evolution. Remember, if we want to inspire the world, we must first inspire ourselves.

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

Did Ihear you say conscious container? These are the groups, forums and circles we form that help us to deal as well as heal. The groups / people we turn to when we feel like we are drowning and need a lifeline. The friends with whom we can laugh, cry and celebrate. The enlightened beings with whom we can have transformational interactions. The conscious container that will hold the enlightened being we are evolving into.

When we are living from a place of awakening, evolution, enlightenment, and willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone, we are better able to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. We are better able to have clarity of mind. We are better able to have transformational conversations. We are better able to come up with solutions. In a nutshell, we are better able to engage from a place of higher awareness.

Soooooooo….given the profound and tumultuous times we are living in, the stress and trauma we are all witnessing on SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS, and across all party lines, I cannot emphasize  the importance of having a community, a group, or a tribe who will hold a sacred space for us to reveal ourselves, our emotions, our hurts, our traumas, our darkness, our struggles and our desires without judgement. Pure unconditional acceptance and support….period.

Here’s to living an inspired life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC