Inner Clarity

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Think about this for a moment, my darlings: the present moment is where we have “an appointment with life” as Thich Nhat Hanh is known for saying. After all, the past no longer exists and neither does the future. Yet, many of us live somewhere between the two… with one foot in the past and one in the future.

What happens when this occurs? We are either depressed or anxious. Sad or worried. Rather than being so fully steeped in present moment awareness and the joy and happiness that can be found there, we are living in some imaginary place where life does NOT exist.

Enjoying and basking in the joys that are ever so present in our lives, even during difficult times, takes practice. It takes work to undo the havoc we’ve created by doing all the things that keep us from being mindful and fully engaged in our everyday lives. I like to say that we are so caught up in “do-ing” that we have forgotten the subtle art of “be-ing.” We’ve gotten so far removed from the simplicity of life!

Instead, we allow ourselves to get caught up in “stuff” that is devoid of meaning. The minutia that robs us of quality life and quality time with ourselves and our loved ones. These are the stressors in our lives. The things that require endless work and drain us of our life energy. And guess what? It’s a choice we make. Yep, we choose our behaviors. And what we allow, persists!

The more important question is: WHY do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the things that keep us from being front and center in our own lives?

For some, it may be the fear of missing out while for others it may be the inability to be enjoy their own company. Some of us may actually enjoy the chaos, maybe even create it, and others may just throw their hands up and feel that there’s nothing they can do about it. And yet for some, running from the present moment can be a defense mechanism which keeps them from “feeling.”

One thing I know for sure is that, when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the vicious cycle that tears us away from our joy and happiness, it is because we are lacking inner clarity. In my book, inner clarity is part of self-care. And the art of self-care is also a practice.

If you are not sure where or how to start, fear not! As with all things divinely ordained, I just finished reading an email from Panache Desai, and in it he listed six steps to help us maintain inner clarity.

  • Avoid chaotic and stressful situations. All they serve to do is derail your focus and draw you into their chaos. 
  • Calm and center yourself several times a day through a habit of conscious breathing. Doing so, lowers stress and reminds you of who you really are and why you’re really here. 
  • Unplug yourself at least once a week from all devices, social media and news cycles. We are drowning in information, much of it increasingly negative. Step away from what’s secondary and focus on what’s primary. 
  • Go out into nature. We are natural beings. We are meant to be in forests, at the seashore and in the open. We are not meant to be tied to screens and cubicles and artificial lighting. 
  • Get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is restorative. Sleep is relaxing. Sleep is necessary to mental and physical health. A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of focus and clarity more than any other cause. 
  • Get as much exercise as you can. We were meant to move. When we move, we are using our bodies, and our minds, as they are supposed to be used. When you are sedentary, your mind and your body become clogged with sediment. Exercise flushes out the unnecessary, leaving you lighter

If you take the time to use these steps as a guide and make them a part of your everyday coming and going, I can assure that you will start to to feel refreshed, renewed, vibrant, energetic, joyous, expansive, peaceful and clear. Invest in your Self, my darlings…you’re worth it!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Sky’s the Limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Succulent and Wild at Any Age

“I think it’s easy to stop ourselves from being too bright, too happy, too successful. Conformity also soothes us. We can predict it, and there is an illusion of control. Unfortunately, we also stop ourselves from being too visible, unusual or vivid.” SARK

How many times has someone remarked, “You are too much,” and you know it wasn’t in a fun way? How many times have you stopped yourself from being too loud, too different or too much?

In her lovely and colorful book , Succulent Wild Woman, by SARK (which I mentioned in my previous blog), she goes on to state how we crave our individuality, our wild, special selves, and how we want to live out adventures and be seen for our essences. Is  that not the truth? Is that not the hero’s journey? Is that not why we fight tooth and nail?

Yet, how many of us allow other people, as well as these people’s own issues and/or insecurities, to diminish our greatness, our individuality and extinguish our light? Who are these people anyway? Why do we allow them to take our power away? Why do we permit them to zap our joy? Furthermore, why are we stopping ourselves from being who we were brought here to be? The struggle in this arena is real my darlings!

This is a topic I am certain we all find ourselves talking about and struggling with regardless our age and stage in life. So,  I am going to keep this blog short and sweet because I want to hammer home a very important message. A message for all women of all ages out there as well as the men out there who are raising young girls. We must cease telling young girls and women that they are “too much!”

In doing so, a little light in their heart of hearts gets extinguished more and more until nothing is left. No self-worth, no creativity, no joy, no aliveness, no zest for life, no vitality, and no purpose or sense of belonging. Instead, they get infused with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, sadness,  aloneness, isolation and emptiness. And, by the way, this goes for young boys and men too (I just happen to love to support and empower the youngest of girls as well as the oldest of women).

The following are some additional golden nuggets from SARK’s book that can guide us to being succulent and wild at any age (if you missed my last blog, Living a Succulent Life, you may want to check it out):

The definition of a Succulent Wild Woman: A woman of any age who feels free to FULLY express herself in EVERY dimension of her life.

A note to young or not yet formed succulent wild women: Stand firm and whole as a woman. You are precious and irreplaceable. Treasure your female self. Choose innocence. Invent ways to feel more free. Investigate your darknesses.

A note to those who love succulent wild women: Learn thoroughly your own female side. Support freedom and release judgements. Be sexual only mutually. Let go of fears. Speak respectfully. Spend real, intimate time with women. 

What do you say? Let’s take it easy on ourselves and on the women around us. Lets encourage each other whenever possible. Let’s call each other out when we are not showering our Selves with love or speaking in a self-deprecating manner. Let’s catch ourselves when we are about to say something disparaging or unfavorable about our own Self. Let’s color outside the lines. Let’s live out loud. Let’s be bold. Let’s be brave. Let’s be fearless. Let’s be juicy.  Let’s be flashy, eccentric, gregarious, or outlandish. Let’s be real. Let’s be raw. Let’s be relevant. Let’s be whomever we want to be….whenever we want! Oh, and those people who think we are too much??? As the saying goes, “They’re not our people.” Cut them loose darlings, for they are not serving your highest good. Trust me. Better yet, trust your instincts!

In a nutshell, we can be wild, free and succulent regardless of our age and stage in life. Carry on…wink wink!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

The Issues Are in the Tissues

“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Stored way down deep on a cellular level is the history of past traumas, life experiences, all types of loss, grief and family and cultural belief systems. Welcome to the pain body. My guest blogger Blondie, spoke about this in one of her essays, Red Lipstick is My Armor. If you missed it, be sure to check out the blog titled My Guest Blogger Returns.

These unresolved traumas, life experiences, losses, family and cultural belief systems are so deeply stored in our bodies that, unless we muster up the courage and consciously work at dislodging them, we risk all sorts of illnesses as well inability to fearlessly move forward in life. We have all experienced what happens to our minds, bodies and emotions when we are trapped in a state of fear. Fear paralyzes us…both physically and emotionally. Fear eats away at us and keeps us stuck in a cycle much like that of a hamster wheel. The good news is that we can liberate ourselves and free ourselves from this prison that we’ve been in for way too long.

Once we know our individual demons and where they stem from, we are better able to look at why we have allowed fear to hold us hostage. We can identify the triggers that set off alarm bells. We can examine how these fears came to be, the damage they have/are causing us mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We can see how fear has played out in our personal and professional lives and in all our relationships. Once we do so, we come to a place where we no longer allow fear to run the “semblance” of a life we are living. Let’s face it, when fear is the master, we aren’t living. We’re barely surviving. When we gain the courage we need to face our fears head on, WE learn to BE the Master of our fears. Welcome to Fearless Living!

Fearless Living, by Rhonda Britten, is the book I am reading in my book club as I write this essay. I’m only about half way through (because it also requires work, exercises, journaling, etc) and have already recommended it to numerous friends and acquaintances. It also has a wonderful study guide that can be found at the back of the book. As a matter of fact, one of my yoga teachers even did a workshop on it, which I missed, so I was glad when our Goddess Book Club chose it as our next selection.

Whatever issues we are dealing with, have dealt with and have yet to deal with, absolutely get stored in our tissues. Hence, the discomfort, dis-ease, disease, self-destructive behaviors and poor choices we make that do not serve us. They only serve at keeping us stuck in our “stories” and threatening our immune system and overly taxed nervous system. Rhonda Britten refers to this state as our Wheel of Fear. While we each have our individual fears, the “mechanisms” that keep us spinning in our individual wheel of fear is identical for everyone.

Essentially, the wheel of fear has 4 components: The trigger, fear response, core-neagtive feelings and the self-destructive behavior. So, I want to give you a glimpse of what the “mechanism” that keeps us on our wheel of fear looks like. And if it speaks to you (which I am certain it will), then I strongly recommend you read the book and do the work. Maybe even start your own little book club or get together with a couple of friends to do the work. It always helps to have a support team to keep us accountable. Oh, and if you’re getting together with friends, don’t forget the snacks!

The following “mechanisms” are found in the second chapter in the book:

“First, something happens that triggers your fear of being thought of by yourself or anybody else as having what you believe to be, a serious character flaw. You urgently want to avoid that outcome, so your body prepares to handle the emergency.

Second, your fear response makes you do something, usually unconsciously, that is meant to ensure that you avoid the dreaded outcome. Just as you would run away from an object you perceive to be a snake, you try to run away in the figurative sense from the thought that terrifies you. Ironically, your response – for example, trying harder to succeed or making promises you can’t possibly keep- almost certainly guarantees that the outcome will in fact happen. In a cruel trick of nature, we unerringly choose behavior that only serves to confirm our worst fear about ourselves.

Third, as you realize you haven’t avoided what you fear, the consequence is that you experience the gut-wrenching, negative feelings of not being good enough – whatever your particular version of that is. And that is what you are truly afraid of. The thought you are trying to avoid is a cover for the feelings that you can’t bear to face. That feeling is always underneath your thoughts and responses, both of which keep you distracted, helping you to avoid the very thing you must confront; your version of not being good enough. Self-loathing is next, You globalize from this one instance, and you fear that you can’t do anything right.

Fourth, you find some way to numb the emotional pain, almost invariably through self-destructive behavior such as drinking, gambling, eating unhealthy food, or shutting yourself off from the very people who could support you. And you use these behaviors as evidence that you’re not good enough. The wheel keeps spinning.”

As we know all too well, because we have all been there, these mechanisms are indeed the same for all of us. While our own hamster wheel, carousel or, like Rhonda Britten calls it, The Wheel of Fear, is different of for each of us, the book helps us to identify what keeps us on that wheel and gives us tools and skills to identify the negative feelings we attach to us “not being good enough.” The common fear responses and self-destructive behaviors listed in the book are really an eye opener, as are the “symptoms” that help us to see when we are operating from a place of fear. These symptoms cause us to feel: impatient, exhausted, self-righteous, misunderstood, paralyzed, shamed, defeated, out of control, confused, over-whelmed and victimized.

I am big into self-inquiry and inner-ivestigation practices, so I think it is key for us to look each of these symptoms and see how they all play / have played a part in our life. How have they shown up? When? Under what circumstances? If we take the time to do so, we can better understand the roles they’ve assumed throughout the different stages of our life. These are the issues that are in the tissues. Unless we deal with them and show them who the Master is, we will continue to suffer inside a prison we have created for ourselves.  It takes some courage, but it’s worth it. It’s liberating!

And speaking of liberation, the book also provides self-affirming behaviors for us to choose from that will kick us off our wheel of fear and place us on our Wheel of Freedom. Yes, there is such a thing! Along with what are called “Fear Buster Exercises,” the chapters on Fear Junkies, Expectations, Excuses and Complaining will definitely catapult us to another level and put us on the path to living fearlessly.

The irony is, not only will we be able to identify the “fear junkies” in our lives that help to keep us stuck, but we will also see how we, too, have unknowingly played the role of fear junkie in the lives of others. It’s the whole duality thing at its best.

As of this writing, I still have much reading and work to complete in the book. However, I am fascinated by the unexpected “aha” moments that I am experiencing each time I peel away a layer, and another layer revels itself. And if anyone out there has the audacity to think “I have no issues,” just you wait and see…..wink, wink! That’s just a story you are telling your Self….the question is why?

Much like our journey through life, each decade brings with it opportunities for digging deeper and applying the meaningful lessons we’ve learned along the way – just in a more significant and grander scale. Each year of life on earth will invariably always bring us traumas, life experiences, losses, and ingrained belief systems to question – maybe even dismantle. The key is to ask yourself, “Do I want to live on the path of Fear or the path of Fearlessness?” As always, you have the free will to choose.

Choose wisely darlings!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

Our Nation’s Birthday

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul” – Moshe Dayan

Greetings!

If you subscribe to Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and read it this past week, you may want to skip this blog and catch up on some other one. You see, I humbly decided it was appropriately fitting to share her blog with you. Why?

Well, as I was mulling over what I wanted to write in honor of the 4th of July, I decided to hit “pause” and catch up on some unread emails. For some reason, I had not gotten around to reading this past week’s Sunday Paper. And……drumroll…..there it was!  Anything I could have imagined, that we could have imagined, said, felt and more was right there in black and white. Maria’s Sunday Paper resonated so much for me, that I decided right then and there I needed to share it with you. Not doing so would have been a disservice to her beautifully written and thought-provoking essay.

Regardless of our party politics, which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you are blue, red or purple, I am certain you will find comfort, solace and hope in her words: Enjoy the read my darlings!

“The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.

One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.

Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.

We really do live in “you never know” times. Parents send their kids off to school and hold their breath. Journalists go to work and hold their breath as they pursue the truth. Many people hold their breath now as they watch the turnover in the Supreme Court. Students who are graduating from high school and college hold their breath as they head out into an uncertain job market. Boomers hold their breath hoping that they won’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other horrendous disease.

When I think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. That’s when I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep, long breath. I remind myself that these negative images are only a small part of what’s going on.

I remind myself of what I do know and believe to be true. I believe that we still live in a great nation — one that we are all so lucky to call home. I believe that we live in what I like to call “A Purple Nation” — one where it’s not red vs. blue, but where red and blue mix together to give us the majestic and brilliant color purple. Purple may be my favorite color, but it’s also a color of independence, unity and freedom.

I believe we have more in common than we realize. I think the two political parties drive us apart and make us live in a state of distrust and judgment, but I believe that if we all sat still every morning for just 10 minutes, then we would calm our minds and our central nervous systems and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe that if we all took a moment to take off our blinders and widen our gazes, then we would be able to look into people’s hearts, listen to their life stories, and realize that we have so much in common. I believe that we would discover that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our office mates are all seeking the same sense of belonging that we are. We would realize that we’re all seeking the same sense of freedom and safety. We would realize that we all have the same desire to do well for ourselves, for our families, and for our country.

Don’t call me naive or tell me I’m in denial. Call me observant and tell me, “Yes, Maria, I see this, too.” 

The vast majority of us are good, kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens who love our country and would stop to help our neighbor. I can see this when my mind and my heart aren’t racing. I can see this when I take a step back and don’t listen to the voices telling me that the sky is falling down.

When I widen my gaze, I see hardworking individuals everywhere who put others before themselves. They work in our hospitals, in our fire stations, in our schools, and in our community centers. They volunteer for our military and for non-profits all across the country. They build houses and playgrounds. They serve in churches, on hotlines, in shelters and in nursing homes.

I see young entrepreneurs trying to solve our most pressing social ills with innovative and socially conscious businesses. Their hopes, their desires, and their determination give me hope. I meet with them all the time and I never ask them what political party they belong to. I ask them what their dreams are, what they want to change, and where they get their hope. Their answers always inspire me.

I also see so many hard-working people who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and who don’t give up. I see people coming together from all walks of life – crossing religious divides, gender divides, and racial divides – to use their skills and their smarts to make life better for others.

Everywhere around us, people are working together. They are listening to one another, trying to understand one another, and trying to make a difference. When I think about all of this, I feel a sense of hope and calm wash over me. “Maria,” I say to myself, “all is well.”

There is so much hope! There are so many good people! People who are working to achieve the American dream, which is still very much alive and attainable. If you don’t believe me, think about what’s been created in recent years alone. We are a nation of people that conceived of Amazon, Uber and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” just to name a few great things. We are creative, conscious, collaborative and caring people. We are big dreamers and on-the-ground doers. 

So, as we look ahead to our nation’s birthday on Wednesday, know this. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have a free press. We are free to practice any religion. We are free to gather, to organize, and to marry anyone we want. We are free to wander off the beaten path, or to jump into the fray. We are free to shout and use our voices, or to just calmly go about our days. And, if you feel like any of your freedoms are under attack, then remember that you have the freedom to vote, to fight for what you believe in, to push for change, and to make a difference.

Let’s remember that when we stay in our goodness, we can see the goodness in others. When we help our neighbors, we can know that we are actually doing the Lord’s work. And, when we use our voices in a calm, confident, certain and clear way, we can know that we are doing what our forefathers and our foremothers fought for us to do.

As Americans, we are what everyone wants to be. Free. So, take a deep breath, look around and within, and celebrate that freedom. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it this week. And celebrate it each and every day. 

Wave the flag this week. Wear your red, white and blue. But also consider wearing a little purple, too. It just might remind you – and others – that you believe in unity. I hope you can see that it’s possible. It’s right there in front of you. Just open your eyes.”

Darlings, I don’t know about you, but I am committed to widening my gaze. Will you join me? Great, I thought so. Now let’s take some long, deep breaths and free our souls!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC