Spring Cleaning and Moments of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up next… the closet blog… stay tuned!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Overflowing With Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Living a Succulent Life

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” -Khalil Gibran

One of the beauties of disconnecting from social media and taking a digital detox is that we can appreciate the fullness of life and the spaciousness of all the hours in a day’s time. It’s like having this huge vessel called “time” at our disposal for us to do whatever we want…to fill it however we want without getting caught up and sucked into endless and mundane hours of social media feeds, emails, texts and phone calls.

Whenever I get away, which is usually for a 3-4 week period, I intentionally unplug. I want to take in Mother Nature’s elements, eyes wide open, feel her gifts and allow the sense of spaciousness, awe and wonder carry me to parts unknown. Oftentimes, those parts unknown are the deep dark places in my soul that are calling for some attention and want to come out and play. I find myself so totally present and immersed in my surroundings, that I lose track of the time of day. As a matter of fact, time isn’t even an issue, unless I have to be showered, dressed and  ready to go out somewhere.

What I found this past August was that my days seemed extra long. There was a sense of expansiveness and vastness, as if extra hours had miraculously been added to my days – more so than other times I’ve unplugged and disconnected. In addition to being off social media, I barely had my phone on me. When I got to it, I got to it. The other thing I find during these periods is how my creativity gets sparked, how ideas for future blogs seem to pop up, and how many books I get to read. More importantly though, I love the sense of lightness, clarity, mindful presence, and the peace and calm that washes over me and carries me through my days. I like how being 100% present for whomever I am with feels deep down in my soul. Time is sacred my darlings, and we should not take it for granted by filling it with meaningless pollution that robs it of its sacredness.

These periods also offer a window into the lives of people who are living in a total state of distraction. People who can barely complete a sentence without looking down at their phones and getting caught up in a text, alert of some kind, or sucked into the dark hole of social media feed “oblivion.” Forget about even having a meaningful conversation when they can’t even complete a distraction-free sentence.

I may have asked you before, but do you cringe when you  hear people go on and on about how “busy, very busy, very very busy they are?”  Or is it just me? I often wonder if being able to say how “busy” we are is some sort of badge of honor. A badge of honor that leads to exhaustion, lack of sleep, meaningless conversation, lack of wonder, creativity, and appreciation for the enormous amount of untapped beauty, nature and magic that surrounds us. A badge of honor that is keeping us from living a wild and succulent life. Mother Nature’s gifts are all there for us to see, feel, hear, smell and taste. What are we waiting for? Why are we waiting? The time is NOW to live fully and to take big juicy bites out of life. If not now, then when? Darlings, let this blog be an invitation for living a succulent life!

As if on cue, when I got home and was unpacking and putting away my journal, magazines, etc., I happened to notice that one of my favorite books seemed to pop out of nowhere. The delightful book, Succulent Wild Woman – Dancing with Your Wonder-Full Self! by SARK is a fave of mine because it is jammed packed with inspiration and topics like being and becoming a succulent wild woman, fears, outrageous adventures, blocks to succulence, healing, sexuality, love and romance, creative expression, money and power, building a succulent community, and more. At the end of each chapter there are even books, resources and music to further guide and awaken our wonder-full Self.

Also on cue, when I picked up the book it opened to a very colorful page and the title, which spanned both pages, read “Being a Succulent Wild Woman.”  The book is also adorably colorful, entertaining and done in her handwriting by the way. Well, I just have to share all these little golden nuggets with you. Some of these nuggets may seem a little “out there” for some of us, and for others of us it will be nothing short of an ordinary happenstance. So, if you feel like you want to delight Mother Nature or feel that you could use a little succulence in your life, here’s a good starting point:

Being a Succulent Wild Woman 

  • Bathe naked by moonlight
  • Marry your self first –  promise to never leave you
  • Buy yourself gorgeous flowers
  • Practice extravagant living
  • Invent your life over if it doesn’t feel juicy
  • Cradle your wonder places like precious babies
  • Be delicious
  • Eat mangoes naked – lick the juice off your arms
  • Discover your own goodness
  • Smile when you feel like it
  • Shout: I’m here! I’m succulent and I’m loud!
  • Be rare eccentric and original
  • Describe yourself as marvelous
  • Paint your soul
  • Investigate your dark places with a flashlight
  • Make more mistakes!
  • Weave your life into a net of love
  • Your are enough you are enough you are enough
  • Celebrate your gorgeous friendships with women
  • Tell the truth faster
  • End blaming
  • Dress to please your self
  • Let your creative spirit rush. Flow. Tumble. Leak. Spring. Bubble. Stream, Dribble out of you
  • Be inwardly outrageous
  • Seek out other succulent wild woman – encourage the sharing of mutual treasures 

I think it’s time I re-read this book, considering I am entering a new decade in life! As a matter of fact, I may just start as soon as I finish writing this blog, especially since it’s a rainy, gloomy Sunday, and that sets the stage for a perfect and quiet day of reading.

Wishing you much succulence today and always!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

100 Blogs…A Prayer of Gratitude

“When the personality comes to serve the energy of the soul, that is authentic power.”

-Gary Zukov, The Seat of the Soul

Greetings, darlings, and welcome to blog number 100! I can’t believe it was one year ago today that I published my first blog after lots of encouragement and the support of some friends. I guess it was the right time, and I was in the right place. Happy Anniversary, InspireLoveServe!

While I was away this past month, I toyed around with ideas for an anniversary blog, scribbled some things down, yet ultimately knew that what I wanted to convey was just a profound sense of gratitude for being able to inspire, love and serve from the very depths of my soul.

Gratitude for the love and support of friends, family and acquaintances. Gratitude for their support and encouragement. Gratitude for my yoga and meditation teachers. Gratitude for being able to share my lessons, blessings, struggles, mistakes, successes, eccentricities, energy, passion, guidance, reflections, tools, resources, thoughts, ideas, insights, and, oftentimes, my wit and sense of humor, and my overall animated self. Gratitude for being able to speak from the heart. Gratitude for a lifetime of journaling. Gratitude for my inner fortitude and resilience. Gratitude for those of you who participated in one of my personal homework assignments and shared the three words / sentences that best described me. Gratitude for the over achievers who couldn’t stop at three. Gratitude for not being overly preoccupied with the number of followers or comments I receive (or lack thereof). Gratitude for the bloggers out there who have found me and are following me. Gratitude for the people who take the time to read, reach out to me and share how a particular blog resonated for them. Gratitude for those of you who have shared or passed on my blogs  to others. Gratitude for the strangers who have  found their way onto my blog and have shared it too. Gratitude for a year that has been filled with much creativity, reflection, courage, transparency, openness, healing, growth, fun, laughter, transformation, confidence, authenticity and, above all, joy.

And speaking of joy, I have joyfully and unapologetically stepped into my authentic power at this stage of my life, and upon deciding to start a blog. Yippie!  It’s been a long road. The blog has evolved and will continue to evolve, as I have evolved and will continue to evolve as well. No stagnation for me! I truly feel a deep sense of accomplishment and purpose in being able to use my personality to serve what my soul came here to do: inspire, love and serve. 

And speaking of inspiration, I recently completed the latest Deepak and Oprah 21 Day Meditation Experience, The Energy of Attraction, and I loved it so much that I purchased the series (as I oftentimes do). As I started listening a second time around, I came upon a comment that Oprah shared which really hit home for me: “You’ll know when you’ve hit your sweet spot when your desires are more about being than getting.” Perhaps that’s why I am not overly concerned at this point in time with numbers and statistics related to my blog??? Instead, I am allowing my soul and my purpose to be my guide every time I sit down to write. Handing my writing over to God and the Divine always works best! After all, they are the overseers and keepers of my soul here on earth.

While I ultimately would like to gain more followers and have more interaction with my readers, I know it will occur when the time is right. As a matter of fact, I have quite a bit of homework to do in that department! For now though, my hope is that each blog lands in the hands of whomever is meant to read it. As they say, “Take what you need and leave the rest.” That’s the approach I have taken up until now, and it feels genuinely good in my soul. It truly is about being and not gettingso I guess I’ve hit that sweet spot.

And on that note, I will leave you with a lovely prayer that I hope fills your heart with joy and inspiration. It was written by Joyce Rupp. I’m not sure where I picked it up, but it is most appropriate as my heart is currently overflowing with gratitude as I write this anniversary blog.

Prayer of Gratitude

To be grateful for what is, instead of underscoring what is not.

To find good amid the unwanted aspects of life, without denying the presence of the unwanted.

To focus on beauty in the things of life, as well as being deliberate about the great beauties of art, literature, music and nature. 

To be present to one’s own small space of life, while stretching to the wide world beyond it.

To find something to laugh about in every day, even when there seems nothing to laugh about.

To search for and to see the good in others, rather than remembering their faults and weaknesses.

To be thankful for each loving deed done by another, no matter how insignificant it might appear.

To taste life to the fullest, and not take any part for granted.

To seek to forgive others for their wrongdoings, even immense ones, and put the past behind.

To find ways to reach out and help the disenfranchised, while also preserving their dignity and self-worth.

To be as loving and caring as possible, in a culture that consistently challenges these virtues.

To remember to say or send “thank you” for whatever comes as a gift from another.

To be at peace with whatever cannot be changed.

Heartfelt thanks for allowing me to come into your world, your home and your heart! Infinite love and gratitude, Jo-Ann T. Carricarte

Don’t Be Amazing…Be Available

“Through prayer, trial and error, surrounding myself with people who are better than me in so many areas, I am an example of what God can do with somebody who is not amazing, but available.” -Carl Lentz

Are you open to being used by the Divine? Interested in being challenged? Resigned to living a life that is continually out of your comfort zone? Are you a dreamer or a doer? Do you operate from a default setting in your life? Or do you believe you always have options? Do you believe you can overcome challenges? Will you use your story, or will your story use you? These are some of the things I’d like to explore along with you, as I write, and as you read. But first, a little background info on Carl Lentz.

I learned about Carl Lentz when I saw him interviewed by Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. She called him a “rock star pastor.” If you can picture a guy with tattoos and sporting a motorcycle jacket, and who happens to be very easy on the eyes….yep, definitely NOT the picture of a pastor of any kind. Despite wanting to get to see him preach at Hillsong Church in NYC, where he is the lead pastor, I have yet to get there. Someday! So…the next best thing was having my physical therapist, Ed, happen to mention him during a conversation, and he lent me his book, OWN THE MOMENT.

Needless to say, I am glued to the book! Carl’s rawness, wit, wisdom, faith, grace, love, compassion and no-nonsense radical honesty fill page after page. Quite frankly, I think I am crushin’ on the pastor….wink, wink!!! I recall seeing him on Super Soul Sunday and remarking to myself that I needed to find me a man like him! What can I say?

I can say that I was glued to this book even before I opened it. Not only did the title resonate for me, but when I read the quote on the back, I knew I was hooked:

“This is our challenge as humans: to make the most of what we do have. I do not want to be so fixed on the future that I miss the power of the present. I do not want to be so motivated on what is next that I miss the joy right here, right now. And I know that it’s possible to maximize the days, the hidden moments. The parts of the journey that seem mundane can be turned in to memories that last forever.” 

Pastor Carl Lentz, you are speaking my language!

So back to the questions I posed at the beginning. I find that when I “prime” myself for my day ahead, take the time to get centered, pray and meditate, I ask the Divine to use me…to work through me…to send me whomever needs motivation, inspiration, consolation or an ear to listen. And guess what? There’s a special “delivery” each and every day. Sometimes there are a couple. But this is the beauty when we align ourselves to the Divine and the God of your own understanding. Our purpose is not is the role or title we have on the job, our purpose is to  demonstrate how we live from the heart. And to take it a step further, it’s how our actions and words are aligned with the power of Love.

I am willing to bet that, each and every day, each one of you reading this sentence right now is presented with a person, situation or circumstance that is challenging. It’s there for a reason, and you can bet it requires you to delve a little deeper into your heart and soul. In doing so, then and only then, can we can fully comprehend why our buttons are being pushed. And what is the result of being challenged? Simply stated, we grow. We awaken. We evolve. We expand. We transform. We ascend. We come home to our Self. We come back to a place of Love.

However, we won’t transform if we operate from the confines of our comfort zone. Comfort zones are stagnating. It’s a no-brainer. Growth cannot occur when we are confined to a prison we have crafted for ourselves. If someone or something is pushing you to step out of your comfort zone, I say leap! Leap as high and wide as you can. No worries, the net will appear.

In the safety of that net, you will find that it’s OK to dream. I’m a big proponent of dreaming BIG. But I also believe in chasing those dreams with a vengeance and making them happen. So don’t hang out on that net for too long! We can either be a dreamer and leave it at that….sulking when nothing happens, or we can be a doer……We can make certain our dreams take flight. What can I say? Fly, darling, fly! It’s our first class ticket to freedom and a life filled with unimaginable possibilities. As long as we are willing to be used for a higher purpose, we will always be met with opportunities that will exceed our wildest dreams.

Unfortunately, not everyone believes in the power of their imagination. Why not? Because it takes work, attitude, vision, intention, passion, grit, resilience and perseverance. To some, it’s just easier to act from a default setting. What does that mean? Well, someone who always has an excuse, finds a reason for not trying or doing something, prefers the status quo, or is not interested in shaking things up, and then complains when nothing changes / improves in their life, operates from that place. That is their default setting. For this type of person, it’s easier to list the reasons why they can’t succeed, forge ahead, take a risk or make a change. This is a person who is comfortable in their “stuckness.” In actuality, this person is NOT making themselves available for their greatness to unfold.

These are the people who feel they don’t have options. And if there is something we ALWAYS have, it’s options. We can always exercise our option to do better, be better, act better and live better. It’s a choice that only we can make. It cannot be made for us. And it’s not up to us to make that choice for someone else, regardless of how much we love and care for that person. We can plant seeds, light the way, and gently guide. But when met with resistance, it’s time to back off. It’s not our job to “fix” anyone.

However challenging it may seem, trust me, this is not a challenge you want to take on. There are challenges, and then there are challenges! We have enough challenges on our journey through life that continuously break us down…without needlessly putting ourselves in a situation that will not serve us. And trying to “fix” someone, anyone, is not a challenge that serves any of us. We can only fix and change ourselves. THAT is something you can bank on! The key to overcoming our challenges is to not allow ourselves to be consumed by them. By this I mean get “lost” in the story to the point where the story that we have created around our difficulty has totally taken on a life of its own and has consumed us to the point of no return. Yikes!

If we are lucky, we catch ourselves when we start to do this and quickly take a different route rather than depleting our energy…change the narrative….change the story. We have all been there at some point or another. The “shift” occurs when we catch ourselves, OR when we get so tired of telling the same, old story that it is getting us sick, and we realize it’s finally time to tell a different story… to use the story for our betterment and the betterment of others rather than let the story use us.

It’s also helpful to have a cadre of supporters and surround ourselves with people who are better than us, people who serve as role models and sources of inspirational. People to have lived, loved and lost and have the courage to forge ahead and excel in life where others may have just given up. In one of my earlier blogs I spoke about the importance of having our very own spiritual board of directors. These people are our moral compass. They are the ones who allow us to hold ourselves accountable. These are the people who we look up to as the wise sages they so rightfully are.

Everything I just wrote about came to me as I was reading the first few chapters of Carl Lentz’s book.  I am looking forward to finishing it soon because it’s such an enjoyable read. It’s real. It’s relevant. It’s funny. It’s inspiring. It’s life. And the message I keep getting, page after page, is that it is more important to be available than it is amazing.

That is a tall order and a difficult thing to do in a society, and time in our world where,  all too often, our self-worth is measured by the number of likes on social media and, as Carl Lentz says, “in a society that worships money, sex and fame.”  However, if we embrace each new day with intention, steadfastness, and integrity, and as an opportunity to inspire, love, serve, and willingly ask the Divine or the God of our understanding to guide and direct us, we make ourselves available. Available to be used for far greater things that we ever could have dreamed or imagined. Available to do amazing things!

Living in and for these moments sets my heart on fire. It’s what keeps me grounded, present and mindful of the impact I am able to make. It’s what brings me joy. It’s what fearlessly allows me to embrace the hidden, teachable moments that bring transformation and inspiration. It’s what gives me the fierce courage to go out into the world with a heart wide open. It’s what keeps be flying high. Living from a place of availability is what keeps me connected to the beautiful tapestry of life. Now THAT is amazing!

My darling, given the day-to-day challenges you are faced with, how do you prefer to live your reality? Do you prefer to be amazing or available? Just asking…..

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Guest Blogger

“How I Met My Yaya and Faced My Fears”

 by Shannon “Blondie” Green

Recently, while on a Yoga Retreat with my dearest people in this world, Yaya (as I call her but as you may know as the one and only Jo-Ann Carricarte, the driving force behind this blog) mentioned  that I should guest blog for her, as part of my Yaya mentorship (more to come on that at another time).  As we were discussing the “assignment,” I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t know what to write about. She suggested that I should start at the beginning of my journey.  So that is where this story begins…

Time: March 2013

Place: Lumeria, Maui, HI

Now I will admit that prior to this experience I was the quintessential worrywart and control freak. Reflecting back, I now see that I lived in constant fear. My life consisted of many “what-if” scenarios, and I believed it was normal to worry about things like money, health, cars breaking down, etc.  I set my watch ahead about 10 minutes so I wouldn’t be late, and I always had to wear it. I believed everything had to be planned, and planned, and planned some more. I did not have faith to just let things unfold organically. When things did not go as I planned, I did not handle it gracefully and with ease. I responded very emotionally and often had a difficult time resolving the problem. At this point in my life I was 36, and I knew that these behaviors were not serving me…and I certainly wasn’t happy in my life, but what I didn’t know was what I could do to change things.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing, life long best friend, Christy, who decided she was going to organize a weeklong yoga retreat to Maui. And luckily for me, my best friend from college, Claire, convinced me that we NEEDED to go!

As we began our first class, Christy spoke about being present and living in “Maui Time,” where it didn’t matter what time it was, where life moved a little more slowly, and the idea of being purposeful in what we said, thought and did while we were there. At this point, I did something that I will never regret; I decided to remove my watch for the duration of the retreat.

The second thing that happened was that Christy gave us each a small journal to use while we were there. Each day, she would give us journaling exercises and if we chose to do them or not was left up to us.  I soon became engrossed in writing in my little pink journal. My thoughts and reflections helped me realize that one of the reasons I was sad and struggling in my life was because I was filled with so much fear.

The third thing that happened was I met Yaya.  I honestly don’t remember how the conversation began, but there was some mention of her name “Jo-Ann” but how everyone called her “Mama Yaya”. Somewhere along the way I dropped the “Mama” part, and she just became “Yaya” to me.  Any of you who know Jo-Ann know just how “Yaya” she is. She is this vibrant being filled with love and energy. She is funny and energetic, but serious and very much about living her authentic self.  As the week went on, you would often find her “holding court” at the dining room table after we had finished a meal, sitting at the head of the table while me, Claire, and a few of the other ladies were bombarding her with questions about what books to read, what websites we should check out-  all the while writing down everything little thing she said…the list in my journal includes among them the following books, websites, and authors: Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, A Return to Love, The Law of Divine Compensation, Wishes Fulfilled, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, The Power of Now, A New Earth, Daily Om, Daily Love by Mastin Kipp, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Hay House Publishing, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and even more.

Who was this Yaya person?? How did she know all of this stuff and how could I get some of it??? I knew she held answers, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to find the peace and energy and love she spoke of.  My journal is full of entries that talk about how I wanted to have an open heart and clear mind.  How I wanted to listen to the wisdom of my body, my desire to let go of fear and the things that frighten me. I wanted to make room for miracles and be open to abundance coming into my life.  I journaled about my fears of not becoming a mother, of not finding purpose, of growing old and unfulfilled and my desire to release these fears. I knew I needed to let go of my fears and somewhere during that week I began to learn how.

March 15, 2013:  Journal Entry

“Today I let go of what weighs me down.  I accept that my life is unfolding as it should be. I surrender. I am not afraid of what is not happening. I detach from trying to control that which I cannot control.  I surrender to the will of God and the Universe.  I open my heart to whatever may come into it. I welcome what may come in.  I am not afraid of things that don’t turn out the way I thought.  I will enjoy every moment as it unfolds.”

As I reread these words from my journal the other day, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I wrote them or copied them from someone.  They sound so wise and profound that I believe I likely stole them from someone else- except I didn’t note who said them, which I normally do if I write down a quote I like. Regardless, this was the point at which I surrendered and let go. As I continued to read my old journal, I can see how this day was a turning point where I decided to let fear stop running my life. One thing I know is that the girl who arrived in Maui on March 12, 2013 was not the same girl who left Maui a week later.

The journey hasn’t been easy, and it is still continuing. I won’t lie, it  has been a journey that has taken many years and a lot of work, but it has been wonderful and fulfilling. and I hope to share some of that with you as a guest blogger for Yaya.

So I leave you with the following few questions:

  • Looking back, do you see a turning point in your life where you surrendered and let go of the fears that were holding you back from being your authentic self? 
  • Was there an event that happened that made you realize you wanted to see things differently and live life differently? 
  • Was there a person you met that inspired you to make the change that you had been afraid to make?
  • What tools (journaling, authors, podcasts, etc) have helped you on your journey? 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about that watch, I took of in Maui. It has never been put back on my wrist. ☺

 

Bravo! Thank you, my beautiful Blondie (aka “La Bomba”) for such a beautiful reflection! You took the first step, rose up to the challenge and produced the first of many future blogs to come. I am so proud of how much you have grown, evolved and embraced your magnificence since Maui brought us all together! I am proud of how fabulously you are playing your own version of “Yaya” in your everyday life, both personally and professionally. Thank you for the reflection questions you posed. Thank you for making a difference and making the world a more beautiful place. Thank you for the light you bring to others. Thank you for your love. Lastly, thank you for choosing to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start! I look forward to reading more!!! Love, Yaya xo

Beach Bum Bliss

“Like seashells, we are beautiful and unique each with a story to tell.”

Sea shells, turquoise and sea-foam green waters, bronzed and glowing skin, sun bleached hair, freckles and the scent of Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee SPF, layered on top Coconut oil and Australian Gold SPF with instant bronzer… Ahhhh! A serene ocean setting and layering tricks for that perfect tan…. hey, layering products is the key to achieving that bronzed goddess look! Just make sure you slather all that on BEFORE heading out in the sun and BEFORE putting on a bathing suit. Throw in a good trashy beach novel and voila….total bliss!

Why is it that everything, EVERY thing, EVERY accessory, and EVERY piece of clothing looks better when we have that sun-kissed look? If you are a beach bum, like yours truly, then you know exactly what I am talking about. However, even a Beach Bum should know when to curtail the sun bathing, right? Operative word here, “should.”

Can you believe I actually had an appointment with the dermatologist on the heels of having been away for over three weeks? What was I thinking?!?!?!? As I sat in the waiting room, I realized it was NOT the ideal time to be seen by a dermatologist. Ooops! We had a good laugh though because she shared how, on occasion, her mom tells her how pale she looks, and asks her if she’s feeling OK. Case in point!

I truly admire how healthy, pale, ivory skin looks on some women. On me? I just can’t seem to do it for very long. Now having said that, like many of my fellow sun worshipers out there, I am paying the price for a lifetime of sun worshiping…wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and sun spots. Ughhh! As a matter of fact, whenever I see young girls with beautiful milky skin today, I urge them to stay out of the sun!!!! Now THAT is something I would have NEVER thought that I would EVER succumb to saying. Ah, the wisdom of the ages!

Years ago, I even tried staying out of the sun for a bit. This Beach Baby even sported long sleeves and long pants at the beach! My cousins thought I had lost my mind. For a while, I embraced that “pale” look.  I “learned” to embrace it, used exceptional facial creams and maintained a wonderful skin care regimen and was actually “OK” with it. Until…….I bought my Florida Sanctuary. Oh dear! I call it my “falling off the reformed, sun worshiper wagon”…..done and done!

These days, I no longer put in 10 hour days in the sun like I used to back in the day; however, I do allow myself to enjoy whatever time I have in the sun! Even if it’s for two hours, I bask in it while reading a fascinating novel and sporting a cute bathing suit, sun hat, sandals, beach cover up and perhaps even sipping a little bubbly on occasion (or a poolside cocktail). AND… lots and lots of water. Water is my all time favorite! You can also find me writing poetry and journaling while I am at the beach. That’s when I feel the most creative and inspired.

There’s some sort of magic that occurs when I’m at the beach, swimming at the pool or just working on my tan. Walking alongside the beach, or even riding a bike there, is blissful. It’s like a meditation in action. Just as I can read or write, swim or walk, I can just as well be silent and in tune to the sights, sounds and stillness around me. And lets not forget the people watching and occasional parade of lifeguards doing their morning routines…..hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little eye candy now and then!

If I could, I would swim every day! It soothing to feel that connection of oneness with the water. It’s mesmerizing! Right stroke, left stroke, right stroke-head tilt and breathe…left stroke, right stroke, left stroke-head tilt and breathe….when I fall into that rhythm, I just glide. I feel like a fish, a manatee, even a mermaid! Hmmmm!

Speaking of mermaids, I saw  a lovely quote by Anais Nin that made me stop, chuckle and ponder: “I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depth & a great fear of shallow living.”

Can you relate? Time spent in contemplation and delving deep within is never wasted. Neither is honest, soulful and meaningful conversation. What matters is finding that place and time for doing so. Whether it is at the beach, in your yard, in the shower or in the comfort of your own designated sacred space, the important thing to remember is that we are all unique and have our own stories to tell. Sometimes they are funny and light, other times they are deep and dark. Regardless, we can all embrace our uniqueness and the stories that arise when we are transported to our magical, blissful, happy place.

Do you have any stories you would like to tell? If so, get them out there! You never know who may be influenced, impacted and inspired by what you have to share.

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Beach Baby

“Dear Ocean, thank you for making us feel tiny, humble, inspired and salty…all at once”

What is it about the cool waves, warm sunshine, hot sand, lovely seagulls, swaying palm trees, the feel of a soft breeze or, even sitting poolside early morning, that captivates me, enchants me, grounds me and allows me to inhale and exhale ever so deeply? Personally, there’s nothing like being at the beach, in the ocean and soaking up some sun to re-calibrate me, my senses, thoughts, feelings, energy, humility and spirit.

Well. I guess my childhood and upbringing was a huge influence. You see, I come from a family of “beach bums” as I like to say. My northeast family were the beach lovers. We were the ones that schlepped to Florida every year, rented houses on the Jersey Shore and eventually some of us owned second homes in the sunny state.

On the other hand, my southeast family avoided the sun like the plague! And this was long before sun block, UVA/UVB rays, long sleeve shirts, beach hats, and protective beach attire of all kinds….before all the warnings of sun damage and skin cancer… before the warnings to stay out of the sun between the hours of 12-2. Seriously? They wouldn’t be caught dead outside soaking up some rays! Needless to say, my aunts and cousins living in Florida rarely went to the beach and some never even used their pools. I guess they thought it made for a pretty decoration! Hence, the ivory, non-wrinkled, smooth and beautiful skin they sported well into their 80+ years young.

Oh well! I didn’t fall into that category! The only thing as while as Ivory Snow on my body are the areas beneath what the smallest of bathing suits covered over the years. For some reason, I’ve always detested tan lines. Perhaps it was all those baby pictures of me!?!?!?!

Throughout my childhood, my parents would schlep to Bear Mountain State Park, various lakes, down the shore and even to Miami Beach on a regular basis. I recall pictures of me up at Bear Mountain, in a wooden play pen and every other necessary item for an outing. There are pictures of me in ruffled panties, a bandana and sans a bathing suit top. I’d be playing in the sand, on a seesaw, or just parading around….without a top! Hmmmm…funny how some habits from when you’re 3-5 years old leave a lasting impression! Suffice to say, my parents succeeded in raising and training a full-fledged Beach Baby.

All kidding aside though, I really feel the magnitude of the universe when I am  by the beach. I feel like a tiny speck of sand on the planet. It is this feeling that humbles me and makes me see that we are all little grains of sand, side by side, and how we are all more alike than different. It gets me thinking about the intelligent force of creative energy out there in the cosmos. I can also be in the ocean for hours!  Being in the healing, salt water purifies me, and I feel connected to an entire underwater world and the beauty that resides there. I have a FB friend who does a lot of diving, including night diving, and she  posts the most majestic, colorful and enthralling underwater pictures. It makes me want to live in the underwater world!

Obviously, this Beach Baby feels at home when at the beach. And nothing depicts this captivating, enchanting, purifying and grounding feeling more than one of Doreen VIrtues’ Angel Cards:

The Ocean

‘The deep blue sea speaks to your soul, healing and soothing you. Even the act of imagining yourself dipping into its healing womb brings about desirable effects. better yet, spend time physically near the ocean. Allow its power and beauty to wash away away cares and concerns.”

Is there a special place that speaks to your soul, heals and soothes you?

Next up, a little Beach Bum Bliss and more confessions from the Beach Baby…wink, wink.

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC