Inspired Action

“You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control what happens through you.”  Carl Lentz

Greetings, darlings!

How are y’all doing? I don’t know about you, but I feel like the days, weeks and months are flying by since quarantining started back in March. I simply can’t believe it is already Memorial Day Weekend, can you?

What have y’all been up to? Have you found your groove? Are you feeling settled? Unsettled? Are you reacting from a place of fear, or responding from a place of love? Are you letting the times control you, or are you taking control of the times?

If there’s one thing that having a consistent meditation and yoga practice has done for me throughout this time is that it has kept me calm, peaceful, harmonious and inspired. Not much has changed on that front. I am very well aware of what I can or can’t control, the actions I consciously choose to take or not take as well as the thoughts and conversations I am willing to entertain. Ahhh…the power of discernment!

Our spiritual / emotional muscle is one that, when exercised regularly, really strengthens our resolve. It keeps us mentally stable and emotionally regulated. This is a time when our self-care practices need to take front and center stage. For me personally, self-care practices are key to being resilient, especially during trying, difficult or challenging times.

Needless to say, I have not veered from my non-negotiables (aka self-care practices). During this time of collective grief and loss, I am choosing to do all I can to keep my vibrational frequency high and to fill my little corner of the universe with positivity, encouragement, hope and inspiration. I am enjoying being engaged in deep conversations with some of my peeps who are also using this time creatively and purposefully and working the work of inner inquiry, growth, expansion and  transformation. I love hearing what they’re dreaming up and all the ideas they have “percolating” (my new favorite word that my friend Kat has been using).

Percolating. There’s no greater feeling than being in a state where you feel like you’re in an inspirational vortex of energy.  As I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the Sheri and Nancy Show, Sheri referred to this inspirational vortex as “being in the quantum soup.” I just love that too and can so relate!

We all have the ability to tap into these higher dimensional frequencies. However, the one precursor for doing so is that we catch ourselves and stop with the complaining, negativity and all the doom and gloom jargon. The only purpose that serves is to attract more doom, gloom and negativity. It’s a mindfulness practice to catch ourselves when we’re veering off course and course-correct. Remember, energy flows where attention goes!

In my humble opinion, I feel these are times we must be impeccable with our thoughts,  actions and with what we bring forth to offer.  Imagine if we all took responsibility for the energy we are bringing to those around us and to the energy we are releasing into the collective. Hmmmm…What is your energetic offering?

Only we can control what happens through us. Only we can determine what inspired action to take. Only we can make the decision to shift from barely surviving to gloriously thriving. Only we can shift from reacting to responding. Only we can reframe what is happening “to us” to what is happening “for us.” Only we can hold ourselves accountable for the ways in which we choose to show up during these times of uncertainty. And if there’s anything we know, it’s that we all show up differently because we are each uniquely different and we are all on our own path to self-realization.

This isn’t a competition by any means. This is about our own individual lifestyles, behavior patterns and habits of mind, how they play out in our lives and how they influence the conscious (or unconscious) choices we make and the actions we take.

I’ve chosen to be pretty proactive during this time of quarantining. Since the sheltering at home started, I have made sure to show up for myself each and every day. I’ve even upped some of my practices. So please indulge me as I attempt to document what the past few months have entailed. And full transparency here…I am not boasting nor bragging. It’s just that if I ever feel the need to reference what I did during this period, a blog post is easier to find than looking through a stack of journals.

When the quarantine started, I had a few books that I had recently purchased- The Beautiful No; A Year of Yes; Untamed; A Gift of Forgiveness; and More Myself. I loved and devoured them all in no time. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good book. Especially non-fiction books filled with good story telling and a healthy dose of inspiration. I save juicy and trashy ones for beach reading. Podcasts have also accompanied me on many walks.

Once all the non-essential establishments closed and yoga studios started zooming classes, I joined the ranks of those taking livestream classes. I am sort of amazed that I just completed my 80th consecutive livestream class.  Not skipping a day, and even doubling up on classes now and then, has served me well. I’m working my yoga practice and, in turn, my yoga is definitely working me. Peace. Calm. Tranquil. Centered. Grounded. Inspired.

In addition to my regular meditation, prayer and gratitude practice, I found this lovely meditation by Nadav, on Insight Timer that I keep telling everyone about. It’s called Lokah- Mantra for Happiness, Health & Freedom. And it repeats 108 times. His voice is beautiful and peaceful as is the melody. More commonly known as Lokah Samastah Sukino Bavantu, this mantra basically translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy and free.” There’s something very peaceful and fulfilling in sending these vibrational wishes out into the universe. I have been doing this meditation in the early mornings and before going to sleep at night. It has been a real source of comfort for me.

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen and have gotten very creative with some of my dishes. What can I say? I’m a foodie, so I don’t mind cooking. Having said that, I do miss my occasional breakfast, lunch or dinner out with my girls. But after cooking everyday for the past 2+ months, I have finally started doing curbside pick up once or twice a week. And I am now entertaining partaking in responsible physical distancing in small gatherings with two or three other people.

As we’ve all witnessed, social media and the internet have been overflowing with course offerings of all kinds- some free and others reduced or on a sliding scale. The lifelong learner in me has been taking full advantage of things that call to me. The way I see it is that we can never go wrong with investing in ourselves!

The free Off the Mat Leadership Summit was just finishing up when the quarantine started. Since then, I completed  The Return of the Priestess Summit; Dr. Melody Moore’s Self Approval Summit; Seane Corn’s The Yoga of Awakening workshop; Hala Khouri’s Yoga for Self-Regulation and Trauma course; and Ashley Turner’s Resilience Summit.

A couple of my friends also participated in some of these, so it was nice to be able to expand and delve deeper into our conversations around what we were learning, the organizations the presenters founded and/or are involved in, the work they are doing and how they are living a life of purpose.  We also got lots of free resources from them as well (and a list of recommended books, available programs and other resources to consider). The next round of books waiting to be read are The Body Keeps Score- Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma; Waking the Tiger- Healing Trauma; Me and White Supremacy- Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor and The Success Principles Workbook.

These books will support the next leg of my journey. My next endeavor is the Level One training I signed up for with Little Flower Yoga that will enable me to teach yoga and other mindfulness practices to children and adolescents aged 3-18. Let’s just say I heard the calling in meditation one morning and, when you hear the voice, you don’t ignore it! It was clear as a bell, and then all sorts of synchronicities followed. 

Then I looked back to the physical traumas (accidents, falls, surgeries, disabilities) I’ve had in my life, my 33+ years as an educator in an at-risk school district where trauma, violence, abuse and crisis was an every day part of many of the students’ lives and how I was always involved in student and staff support services to the point where, when I became a school administrator, I was the educational leader in charge of support services.  Crisis intervention was a daily thing most days. In looking back, I see the call to volunteer in an orphanage or group foster home and perhaps with children who may have physical disabilities very clearly. Divine Alignment. Vortex of Energy. Quantum Soup. Inspired Action. 

Speaking of inspired action, I am in awe of the many people and boots on the ground organizations doing so much good and providing much needed services as well as opportunities to be of service. They are all a source of deep inspiration! This is a time we are all being called to serve in our own unique way….but we can only do so at our best if and when we put the oxygen mask on first. 

Being a HUGE self-care advocate, I’ve often referred to self-care practices as my non-negotiables. So, in addition to yoga, prayer, meditation, music / mantra, reading, self-study,  and nutritious food, I’ve been making sure I get my sleep, silent time, and time away from my phone. I drink plenty of water, juice regularly, take all my supplements, get out in nature, work out a little each day, slather on the lotions and potions, work with essential oils, treat myself to fresh flowers, and even allow myself some PJ mornings in bed. There have been many a day I’ve been called to rest, and that’s good too! Our bodies are always talking to us, so it’s wise to listen. Listen and feel. Then take right action. And sometimes, right action may look like doing nothing at all.

Phone calls, FaceTime and/or zoom calls and celebrations with friends have provided that sense of connection that we as humans need. Making sure to reach out to friends or people I haven’t spoken to in a while is important to me. And I’m so grateful for the people who’ve called to check in on me. We are wired to connect and, as a species, we are interdependent. If there is anything we are all learning through this time of physical distancing is that it’s not about the “I/Me” but the “We/Us.”

As I reflect on these times we’re all experiencing, and other times in my life when I’ve been resilient, I’m thankful that I have the practices and a toolbox crammed with resources to tap into. These practices and resources have always allowed me to take accountability for my life, establish healthy boundaries, call upon my inner fortitude, embrace change, live fearlessly, do hard things, deal with loss and grief, be bold and unapologetic about some of my choices and move through life happily, positively, optimistically and with an attitude of gratitude. And whether you realize it or not, You have a resilience muscle that you’ve engaged when tough times have come calling for you. Now is as good a time as ever to think about that.

So… as a way to thank you for entertaining this personal “documentation” of sorts, I would like to share a brief self-inquiry practice you can do if you feel like you could use a little inspired actionIt’s one that was offered to me at one of the Resilience Summit’s sessions.

Before doing so though, I invite you to maybe light a candle, burn a little incense or maybe even burn a little sage or palo santo to clear your space of any stagnant or unwelcome energy. Have a piece of paper or a journal nearby and something with which to write…a pen, pencil, colored pencils, gel pens, markers….whatever floats your boat. You may also decide you want some soothing music in the background. Get comfortable, close your eyes if it feels safe to do so, take 4-5 deep breaths, exhaling slowly, then return to your regular breathing,

Take a moment to look at the following questions then, when you are ready, close your eyes again and ask yourself the questions:

  • What does resilience mean to me?
  • How does it look like?
  • How does it feel?
  • What are the qualities I possess that I feel are resilient?
  • What are my strongest qualities?
  • What are the qualities that I actually want to build within myself?

After sitting with these questions for a bit, contemplate the following:

  • Remember a time (or the last time) you had to be resilient. Take yourself back to that time and place. And when you recall that place, remember what it felt like to be resilient, to tap into that inner strength, or that place of wisdom / inner knowing. 
  • What were your tools?
  • How did you move through whatever obstacle, challenge or difficulty you were facing?
  • How did you overcome the obstacle, challenge or difficulty? 

When you are ready, open your eyes and START WRITING. When you feel that you have written all that there is to write, ask yourself:

  • How can I move towards what strengthens me?
  • How can I move away from what weakens me? (These can be people, places, situations, thoughts, activities, habits, etc.) and write some more.

At some point, you may also want to consider documenting your own version of what this period of sheltering at home or working on the frontlines has looked like for you, especially if you have young children, grandchildren or maybe even for future generations. We are living through unprecedented times. But just like past generations of our resilient ancestors, we, too, will get through this and move towards a new world.

Darlings, when the going gets tough, we must rely on our tools. We must use them. Embody them. There will always be things we can’t control, but our tools will always help us in responding to them in a way that serves us…and in deciding how we chose to move through whatever happens. So let’s decide to move through these times with patience, much needed positivity, grace, fierce determination, inner fortitude, loving-kindness, and a heart wide open. 

Here’s to us and to our skillfulness, capabilities and resourcefulness…Stay calm and percolate on! JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five, Four, Three, Two, One

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

Hello darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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