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

Closet Ghosts vs. Closet Beauties

“Closets should be a sanctuary that calm the chaos of everyday life.” Me

Closets come in all shapes and sizes . We do not need to have an enormous walk-in closet for it to be beautiful. A closet, regardless of its size, when well-organized and appointed, should take our breath away when we open its doors.

However, this is not always the case. For many, closets are places that hold many secrets. Closets can be very telling in this way. They reveal insecurities, fears, losses, shame, betrayals, confusion, doubts and a host of other suppressed feelings and emotions.

Feelings and emotions that, when not felt and dealt with, hold us back and forever keep us in a cycle of unrest and wanting more. Cycles that rob us of our peace and serenity. As a result, we tend to store things that no longer serve us and perhaps even cause us suffering because of the sheer volume of things inside of them and the often time disorganization, mess, and clutter that accumulates as a result.

What we fail to realize many times, is that what we hide controls us. It’s heavy. It weighs us down. It cripples/ paralyzes us. It blocks energy from flowing and keeps new things from entering our lives. And if there is anything I know for sure, is that avoidance compounds a problem! In order to eliminate the problem, we must first look at its root cause.

Before doing so though, allow me to rewind for a moment. I had a blog scheduled for last week called Closet Ghosts. The title, and blog, organically evolved from conversations I was having with my Scorpio soul sister Kat, and my dear pseudo-daughter and guest blogger of long ago, Blondie. However, the blog mysteriously disappeared. I know I did not trash it or accidentally discard it. After a live chat with IT people, the culprit and root cause was probably an Internet glitch that prevented my work from being saved at that moment in time.

I exhaled deeply at this point, and came to the conclusion that the cyberspace gods didn’t want that blog to be published…. wink, wink.

What was I to do? Freak out? Stress? Allow it to ruin my day? I don’t think so… absolutely NOT! I just closed my laptop and went about my day. I didn’t even want to expend any more of my energy coming up with a new blog for I could not even remember all the details of it because, many times, I’m just in the “zone” as I write. So…..here I am, a week later, and here is a new blog… inspired by the one that is somewhere in cyberspace.

Let’s fast forward to root causes. An assumption we often make along our journey, is to think that the same mindset that created the problem will be able to fix it. Absolutely not! The root cause of an issue, that is inevitably causing us to suffer, is always buried deep inside of us. We must be willing to do the messy and painful work of going within, dusting off the cobwebs and uncovering the many levels of limited beliefs that are holding us back from moving forward with our lives. And this is one thing the ego mind is most uncomfortable doing!

That is why we must go within and connect to our hearts. Taking a look around our immediate surroundings and our personal space, especially our closets, is a good barometer of the state of our hearts. The clutter, mess, and disorganization in our personal spaces is a clear reflection of the mess, clutter and disorganization that resides deep within us.

Being aware of this is the first step. Awareness doesn’t fight, criticize or judge. It’s simply there, it’s eye-opening, and it’s transformational. And in order for us to grow, we must always be in a constant state of transformation. Our messes and our problems are opportunities knocking at our door.

In Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, there’s a chapter called Removing Your Inner Thorn. In it he talks about the spiritual journey being one of constant transformation. He goes on to say the following:

“In order to grow, you must give up the struggle to remain the same, and learn to embrace change at all times. One of the most important areas requiring change is how we solve our personal problems. We normally attempt to solve our inner disturbances by protecting ourselves. Real transformation begins when you embrace your problems as agents.

Spring cleaning is a wonderful time of year to assess the areas in our lives that need clearing, cleansing, decluttering, organizing and discarding so that vital life force energy can enter the walls that house our physical and spiritual selves. It’s the perfect time to assess and identify what we are allowing to control us and make an intentional, informed and concerted effort to change. A good place to start is our closet(s).

Once we clear away our emotional clutter, the clutter that is blocking that flow of life force energy, we will also be clearing away a lot of the issues that are blocking us in life. Once we clear out our Closet Ghosts, there will only be Closet Beauties to greet us when we open those doors.

So regardless of its size or shape, there are many organizing tools we can utilize that will maximize the space that we have. I love organizing, so I like to open a closet and feel like it’s a store display. Now mind you, I do not have huge walk-in closets. However, I do have things that allow me to maximize the space I have like skinny hangers, clear shoeboxes, matching canvas bins, decorative hooks, baskets and shelving that allow me to store as well as display some of my possessions. Hanging articles of clothing by color is also very appealing to the eyes. What can I say? Having beautiful, well-organized closets brings me joy!

And speaking of JOY, another reason that our clutter can cause us suffering and, therefore, zap our joy, is because we are no longer the same person we were when we bought all those things in the first place, nor are we looking at those things with the same level of awareness and consciousness any longer. We are in a constant and ever changing pattern of ebbing and flowing.

Once we have swept away those issues that have been blocking us in life, we will know in our hearts that we are whole perfect and complete just the way we are and that we do NOT need one more thing to add to that circle of completeness and wholeness. We have transformed to the point where we look at those external circumstances, situations, and emotions that were our Closet Ghosts and have bid them farewell.

In bidding them farewell, we swing our doors wide open for all to see the Closet Beauties that reside within… both in our closets and in our hearts.

Carry on my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS: If you are in huge spring cleaning mode and/or are getting ready to move, check out my Spring Cleaning blog from March 2018. It contains some pointers and guidelines from one of my favorite books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. And in her words: “Clear your clutter and enjoy the magic of a tidy home-and the calm, motivated mind said it can inspire.”

Wholehearted Living

“No one can create negativity or stress within you. Only you can do that by virtue of how you process your world” -Wayne Dyer

Yes, I am a Wayne Dyer junkie! As a matter of fact, in the third blog I wrote last year, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I mentioned that Wayne Dyer sits on my spiritual board of directors. If you have not read it, I invite you to do so. Of the 120+ blogs I’ve written, that one is still one of my favorites. If you do not have a spiritual board of directors, I highly encourage you to form one…wink, wink!

Having like-minded supportive people whom we can connect to, without being judged, is vital to our spiritual and emotional growth. Whether dead or alive, the wisdom and life experiences we obtain from our support network is both therapeutic and validating. Our community of like-minded individuals help us see and process our world. Over time, our perceptions and thoughts change, we move from a scarcity mentality to one of being and having enough, we learn to lead with an open heart, we embody the power of vulnerability and authenticity, we shift from fear to love, we learn to flex our courage, we build our resilience muscle, we value our connections and learn the secrets for wholehearted living.

All of this takes time, energy and a life-long commitment to change, growth, expansion and transformation. We must have that burning desire to learn and push beyond our boundaries. More importantly though, we must learn the art of letting go.

The art of letting go requires us to live and lead from the heart. It requires us to leave our egos at the door and silence the nasty and obnoxious roommate we have living in our heads. It is recognizing everything that is holding us back and learning the skills to move forward. It is the utilization of every tool in our spiritual toolbox. It is when we live and work from that space in our hearts that we are better able to engage with ourselves, our friends and family, our communities and the world at large. That is what the art of letting go and wholehearted living look like.

In Brené Brown’s Book, book, The Gifts of Imperfection,  she designed “guideposts” for living wholeheartedly. These guideposts also make a cameo appearance in her book, Daring Greatly, and I will share them with you a little later. As I read each guidepost, I realized that each and every single one personifies what life here in “Earth School” is all about.

You see, Earth School always brings us people, circumstances and situations to learn from. A lot of the learning comes from the exchange of information we have when we take part in meaningful and enriching conversations with others. These conversations allow us to share our insights, questions, speak our truth, share our wisdom and embrace new ways of looking at things. It goes beyond the nagging and complaining and having the same meaningless, dead-end, and shallow conversations that leave us feeling empty, without purpose, hopeless, negative and maybe even worse off than when we started.

Whether we like it or not, no one is exempt from Earth School’s curriculum or its classes. The lessons may be tailor-made to suit our own individualized curriculums, but the over-arching themes are what lead us to wholehearted living. How we process our world throughout the process of living wholeheartedly is what spiritual awakening is about. Wholehearted living, in my mind’s eye, is about living a quality life AND thriving while doing so!

I will leave you with the ten guideposts that Ms. Brown defined and encourage you to spend some time thinking long and hard about each one. Perhaps share them with your tribe, discuss them and maybe even journal about what may be keeping you stuck or may need tweaking. It is a good way for us to access where we are with our individualized curriculum. 

These guideposts are just that….a guide. Their purpose is not to create negativity or stress. We do enough of that for ourselves! Instead, look at the guideposts as tool to help us dig, delve, excavate and reveal the parts of our lives we may want/need to work on. Oh, and we must remember to acknowledge and celebrate the ones we have under our belts!

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear
  5.  Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion and a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control

Darlings, consider the guideposts your “cheat notes”….do with them what you please, or do nothing at all. As Wayne Dyer would say, the choice is yours by virtue of how you process your life….Change your thoughts, change your life!

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

 

 

 

 

The Sky’s the Limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Inspires You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to living an inspired life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scandalous Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

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

 

 

 

Seeing the Jewel Inside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC