Five, Four, Three, Two, One

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

Hello darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Your Mother Is Always With You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Global Pause

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smokey skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Greetings, my darlings!

I saw the above statement posted somewhere on Instagram and found its words to be comforting for, deep down inside, it is exactly how I feel…. like many of us feel. As I mentioned in my previous blog, When Things Feel Out of Control, this unprecedented GLOBAL pandemic of our time is an opportunity for us to re-group, re-align and re-define who we want to be in the space we occupy in the world. It’s a time for feeling, healing- mind, body and soul- awakening, and raising the vibration of the collective consciousness.

It’s a time for recalibration as well as finding balance, truth, freedom and liberation. But in order to attain those states, we must first take the time to feel hard feelings. What are they? Can you name them? A few may be sadness, anger, rage, grief, resentment, a sense of deep loss. What does this feel like in your body? What sensations do you feel?

There is a saying that goes something like, “Our suffering gives us Xray vision to the suffering of others.” But first, we must identify our own human suffering, our traumas,  and how our choices, thoughts, beliefs, actions, speech, lifestyle, hatred, prejudices, consumerism, and activism, or lack thereof, all play a part in the collective suffering of the world.

In my humble opinion, we are all being shown what it means to be human.  After all, we are ONE human race….a race that MUST move forward. There is no going back! Nor should we want to go back. Each and every one of us are part of a beautiful symphony of life that is being orchestrated to move humanity forward and the name of the composition is  Compassion, Empathy and Love….for ourselves and others.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week thinking about how we can move forward. How I can help to move humanity forward. It all starts with ourselves. I find myself asking:

  • “Who do I want to be?”
  • “Who am I becoming?”
  • “How do I want to move through my life?”
  • “What part of life do I want to do differently?”
  • “How do I want to feel today? Everyday?”
  • “What do I have to give, contribute and offer?

I feel like we are living a moment in time that we cannot take for granted. As I’ve pondered the meaning and significance of what it means from shifting from an I/Me mentality to a We/Us mentality, more questions arose around “engagement.”

As a people:

  • How do we want to engage?
  • How do we want to be, feel and act?
  • How do we want to interact with each other?
  • How do we want to work?
  • How do we want to parent?
  • How do we want to play?
  • How do we want to be in community?
  • How do we want to engage with our neighbors?
  • How do we engage with our families? 
  • How do we want to show up in our intimate relationships?
  • How do we want to show up for our finances?
  • How do we want to engage with technology?
  • How do we want to use social media?
  • How do we want to show up for human rights and equality?
  • How do we want our government and our leaders to show up?

These questions also allow us to identify the areas of our lives that are not working for us (as well as areas that are). They provide a window for us to analyze how we want to move through our individual world and the collective world. But, like any kind of transformation, destruction, careful planning and precise vision go hand in hand. We owe it to ourselves to create a space for new visions, new thought patterns and new belief systems. We need to call on our imagination and creativity. And in order to do so, we must create the time and space to do so.

Luckily for us, this pandemic has gifted us with much time. And we can either use our time productively or get swept up with other forms of addictions or unhealthy habits. As a society, and as a human race, we have become disconnected and disengaged from our mind, body and spirit. Sadly, there are more people connected to their electronic devices these days than engaged in human, face-to-face connection. In many cases, they are connected in unhealthy ways.

Ways that lack boundaries, censorship and discernment. I was listening to a podcast with Glennon Doyle about her new book, Untamed (a must read), and she said the following: “Text messages are not the boss of me.” OMG how brilliant! Seriously, how can we allow our devices to be the boss of us? Have you ever been with someone who can’t engage in a conversation or finish a sentence because they are so distracted because they continue to text? Rather than being respectful, mindful, present and fully engaged with a human body before them, they are more concerned with what’s going on in the palm of their hand. Are you one of this people, dearest reader?

I feel like there is this monumental, gargantuan force that is pushing us to go isolate and go within so that we learn to be together again. A force that is showing us what it means to be human. A force that is connecting us all in unimaginable ways despite our “social/physical distancing.” We are being shown alternatives, and taking part in new ways to stay connected.  New ways to interact, work, teach, learn, play, care, support and make a difference. Thanks to the numerous artists, musicians, poets, authors, teachers, meditators, spiritual activists, healers, coaches, psychologists, community leaders, activists, schools and universities, we are re-defining the meaning of human connection. We’ve been so disengaged and out of our bodies for so long, that it now feels like we’ve been dropped suddenly into our bodies anew.

Darlings, we are all a part of a new history in the making. It’s like we are all being called to be a part of this new creation. New world.  New society. New culture. New economy. New politics. New systems. New beliefs. All old systems appear to be crumbling,  falling apart,  making way and opening this new portal for us to step through.

The biggest questions that remains is, “Will you CHOOSE to be left behind or walk through the gateway to a new world?” I don’t know about you, but I’m packing lightly…wink, wink!

In closing, I’d like to offer up prayers for all of us. I think it’s safe to say we have all lost friends and loved ones to COVID19. Here’s a beautiful prayer that spoke to me when I came across it on social media during the early days of the pandemic:

Prayer for Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake. May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable. May we who have the luxury of working form home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent. May we who have the flexibility to care for our children remember those who have no options. May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go. May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all. May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home. As fear grips our country, let us choose love. During this time we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways tp be in the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC

PS: If you’re looking for some good reading or inspiration to accompany you on your own personal journey, or to comfort you during this time, below are a few of my favorite books:

  • A Return to Love,  by Marianne Williamson
  • Revolution of the Soul, by Seane Corn
  • Healing, by David Elliot
  • The Beautiful No, by Sheri Salata
  • Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
  • Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle
  • Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
  • The Gift of Forgiveness, by Katherine Schwarzeneggar
  • More Myself, by Alicia Keys
  • Whatever Arises, Love That, by Matt Kahn
  • Inquire Within, Poems by IN-Q
  • The Wisdom of Sundays, by Oprah WInfrey
  • I’ve Been Thinking, by Maria Shriver
  • Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser
  • When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron
  • The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer
  • The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo
  • Illuminata – A Return to Prayer, by Marianne Williamson
  • Outrageous Openness, by Tosha Silver
  • Change Me Prayers, by Tosha Silver
  • Astrology for the Soul, by Jan Spiller
  • Daily Om, by Madison Taylor
  • Practice You – A Journal, by Elena Brower

 

 

 

Blind Clarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

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

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

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

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

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

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

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

Finding Our Common Ground

Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.” Tom Robbins

Greetings, darlings!

You all know how I love to share. Someone very wise once said to me, “Sharing is caring.” It sure is!

You may also know that I love reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. She usually writes about what she’s been thinking during the past week, and she also shares stories and writings from people she calls Architects of Change.

It’s always an enjoyable read. I look forward to making a cup of tea and reading it first thing Sunday mornings. If for some reason I don’t get around to doing so, then it’s one of the last things I read before turning in for the night.

This past Sunday’s piece really spoke to me. It speaks to differences, kindness, compassion, friendship, love, politics, beliefs, respect, judgement, separation and the insanity of it all. So, in the spirit of caring, I am sharing with you the piece Maria Shriver wrote, Finding Our Common Ground:

We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”

Those were the words that Ellen DeGeneres used to defend herself after people became outraged by a picture of her sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game.

It was, and is, stunning to me that she felt she had to defend herself for sitting next to someone who she considers a friend, but who happens to have different political opinions. I mean, let’s all pause and let that sink in for a moment.

Two people watching a football game. Two people enjoying themselves and their friendship. Two people being kind to each other. That makes people mad?

Are we supposed to only talk to, sit with, and be friends with people who share our exact same opinions about God, country, and politics? Look, I was against the war in Iraq, and I was furious that the Bush administration led us into that years-long battle that took the lives of thousands of young Americans. I know their families will never fully recover. I understand their pain.

I also know that many felt their loved ones gave their lives for their country, and that they take great pride in their service. I also understand that many people — regardless of whether they had a loved one fighting in the war — are still angry that the Bush administration got our country into that situation in the first place.

Still, I worry that most who reacted negatively to Ellen’s picture were only reacting because of their own personal opinions. They couldn’t give her the respect to make her own choice about her beliefs, her friendships, or whom she chooses to spend time with.

These days, people just seem to despise anyone who is not in their political wheelhouse. Can we not be friends with someone from a different political party anymore? Can we not be friends with someone from a different religious background? Can we not be friends with someone who comes from a different walk of life, or who is a different color, or who has different experiences than our own? Is that where we are now as a nation and as people? I fear that for many, the answer is “yes.”

I understand that many are reacting strongly right now because tensions are so high in our nation. A lot of people are hurting, scared, struggling, and worried about where we’re headed next. Many fear the “other” because they view those different than them as a threat to their own lives, futures, and beliefs. But if you ask me, our political problems will only deepen if we all retreat into our own corners.

It’s this kind of thinking that is driving us apart. It’s this that is keeping us apart and preventing our families, our friendships, our politics, and our country from coming together and bridging the divide. It’s this kind of thinking — this kind of judgment — that was hurled at Ellen. This should cause us all to stop and dig deep within ourselves.

Is this really who we want to be? Is this really what we want to teach our children? Is this how we truly feel? I don’t believe it is. I won’t accept it, and I don’t think you should either.

Think about how you feel when hate and judgment are directed your way. Does it make you feel good? Does it make you want to show kindness and love to yourself and others? Of course not.

“When I say be kind to one another, I don’t only mean to people that think the same way that you do,” Ellen also said this week. “I mean be kind to everyone.”

The reaction to Ellen sitting with former President Bush presents us all with a teachable moment. Do we, or do we not, want to be leaders of a movement that fosters kindness, acceptance, compassion, understanding, and love? To be such a leader — to be such a warrior — takes guts. It takes an open heart and an open mind.

It’s easy to spew hate, but it’s also small-minded. It’s easy to post a mean tweet, but it is also cowardly and weak. It’s so easy to criticize and judge, but it’s way harder to love someone who is different than you, or who you think is different than you.

I believe it’s our job right now to try and figure out what we have in common. After all, God only knows we are really good at letting everyone else know how divided we are and how much we don’t have in common.

Maybe we both love football. Maybe we both have issues with our parents. Maybe we both have felt like the “other” at some point in our lives. Maybe we both have felt like we don’t belong and like we must cover up our wounds. Maybe we both feel shame about something that we’ve done wrong and desperately want to right. Maybe we both are worried about the state of our nation’s heart and want to find common ground so we can work together to do better. Maybe, just maybe, Ellen and former President Bush were talking about that.

The fact is, we will never know what we have in common — we will never heal our divide — unless we can agree to sit down next to someone unexpected and begin a friendship. Try it and see how it makes you feel. It just might heal your heart, your world, and our world at large.

If you don’t subscribe to the Sunday Paper, you may want to consider doing so. It is one email I love seeing in my inbox first thing Sunday mornings, and I bet you will too!

So what do you say? Are you up for finding our common ground?

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & 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

 

Hugging is Healing

“When was the last time you gave or received a hug? Whether it’s a comforting embrace or reminicent of a grizzly bear, hugging is a natural and unspoken way of expressing care and support through life’s ups and downs.” Breathe Magazine

Are you a hugger? Do you like giving and receiving hugs? Are you open to receiving hugs, or do you freeze when you see someone approaching to hug you?

Well…I am a hugger. And, in my humble opinion, there is nothing more satisfying, pleasing and delicious in my book than a juicy hug! There’s nothing like being in an embrace with someone who loves to hug as well.

When introduced to someone (via someone I already know), I immediately reach out to their extended hand if offerred; but, then I pull them close and tell them I’m a lover and a hugger. Then I go in for the hug….and linger for a moment.

Here’s a cute story for you: A couple of months ago, I was picked up at the airport by a driver (and beautiful soul) named Zach. He came highly recommended from one of my Maui sisters. We had spoken on the phone a couple of times prior to my flight, and now I was telling him exactly what door I was at and how easy I was to spot (I was attired in tropical print head to toe). When I saw his car, I moved toward it. He then got out of the car to see me with open arms. His arms were open too. I called out his name and, in turn, he called out “Mama Yaya!” He gave me the best hug ever! It was like being embraced by a bear. I chuckle when I recall our exchange because if anyone was watching us, they would have thought we’d known each other forever. Hugging- the human touch- is so powerfully healing and soothing!

I recently read an article on hugging, and it stated that the word hug is thought to be derived from the Old Norse word “hugga,” which means to comfort. In case you’re wondering where “Old Norse” comes from, no worries- I looked it up. It appears that it’s a spoken language from the North Germanic (Sandinavian) language of medieval Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, up to the 14th century, from which the modern Scandinavian language is derived. And, according to Wikipedia,  it was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia  and their overseas settlements from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Who knew? Well, now we know!

There are so many benefits to hugging! It’s been shown to improve our health and well-being, our immune system, and our nervous system. Have you ever noticed how calm and cared for you feel when you’re stressed, worried, fatigued or out of sorts and someone offers a hug?  How about when you’re sad or just can’t find the words to adequately express how you’re feeling? We’ve all had moments like that. You know, when you’re feeling a feeling but can’t seem to name it or, if you do, you know the floodgates will open and the tears will start so you remain silent? There’s a level of intimacy that gets shared when we hug that is very healing and nourishing.

Since I am not in a romantic relationship, hugs are very important to me. I’ll take as many as I can get…wink, wink. Afterall, how else will I feel this intimate human contact and the level of care and comfort a hug provides? Thank goodness most of my Goddesses, Soul Sisters and yoga teachers share a love of hugging as wel! As a matter of fact, I have one beloved teacher (I call her Lovely Laura) who encourages us all to give or take a hug on the way out of class. Needless to say, she is a delicious hugger!

I am deeply grateful that I do not have tactile/sensory issues or suffer from some past physical trauma/abuse when it comes to hugging…that could be ugly!  Determining whether or not a person likes close, physical contanct is a craft I think I’ve mastered. I can usually tell if I look into their eyes and assess their body language…open or closed? Sometimes, a person may look like a deer in headlights (dead giveaway). If I sense the person doesn’t particularly care for a hug, I’ll usually offer a “quick” hug. Why torture them, right? However, the mischevious, rebellious child in me has been known to torture on ocassion. Oh well!

In my book, mastering the perfect hug can be an art of sorts. First of all, eye contact is a must – as are open arms. You will want to connect heart to heart. Typically, we are used to offerring the right side of our cheek and body.  By offerring the left side, our hearts connect. It takes a bit of practice to break this habit.

Next, linger in the embrace. Lingering is important, as is the breath. Take 3-5 deep breaths, and see if you can feel the other person’s heartbeat.  This can be so therapeutic, especially if we are totally present with our thoughts and feelings. The breath is what brings us into the pressent – the here and now.

We may also want to share a few words or silently wish the other person  some love, peace, harmony, joy, comfort, or ease. Our intentions are important, for we want our hugs to be genuine. Basically, we want the other person to know they matter, they are loved, cared for and connect to that feeling, or soul recognition, that is so much greater than we can imagine.

Since we are on the topic of healing, I’d like to recommend two blogs I wrote last year which you may enjoy and find helpful. The first one is Choosing Love at All TImes. The other one is Taking Charge of Our Own Healing. 

Darlings, we are all here on our own healing journeys, and our stories help others along their own path. We are all conencted. When we heal, others heal. When others heal, the collective consciousness heals. We are all part of the big picture of helping to move humanity forward. We are all the purest embodiment of love. Every moment presents us with the opportunity to choose Love!

So, my darlings, on this 2 year anniversary of InspireLoveServe (and 140 blogs later), I  am sending you all some major virtual love and hugs. Open your arms, feel your heart wide open, take a deep breath and feel my heart connecting with yours. Feel my virtual embrace as we wrap our arms around each other. Let’s just linger there for 4-5 deep breaths and connect with the rising and falling of our hearts.

Let’s take it one step further and take a page from a Thich Nhat Hanh conscious breathing teaching. As we breathe in say, I calm my body. Breathing out, let’s smile. As we dwell in the present moment, we know this is a wonderful moment! FEEL THE LOVE! FEEL THE GRATITUDE! Feel how appreciative I am that you are reading this blog. Perhaps you are a regular follower or  a casual passerby. You may have even shared one/some of my blogs with friends and loved ones. Sharing is caring! For that I am grateful.

Now…feel the love, spread the love and go find someone to hug!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

Strengthen Your Attention Muscle

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

Hello my darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where do we start?

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

-Find a place to sit quietly and comfortably.

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

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

-What do you feel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewed by Source

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

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC