Birthday Reflections

“ Scorpio is the one sign that can give you sensitivity, moodiness, dominance, stubbornness, advice, laughter, harshness, love… and a headache all in a matter of minutes.”

Yep, that sounds like me and a lot like my fellow Scorpions out there! I saw this posted on my neighbor’s social media, and it got me thinking!

As I look back on my life, the younger me, the older me, and all the different versions of me in between, I see how all of these traits associated with a Scorpio has both helped and hindered me along my path. Would I change any of it? Absolutely and unequivocally not!

The sensitivity has allowed me to feel emotions; moodiness has gifted me with retreating and going within; dominance has allowed me to take charge when no one else does; stubbornness has allowed me to stand up for what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart of hearts; advice is something I give freely to those who come to me for some wisdom; laughter is my go-to medicine for the soul; harshness has allowed me to be critical- especially of myself and holding myself accountable-and has gotten me out of my own way-and, lastly, love has always guided my way- even in the most uncertain of times. Oh, and headaches serve as a reminder I shouldn’t drink red wine. Not all that bad, if you ask me!

As I reflect on my all too quick 62 rotations around the sun, the privilege that I’ve had is something I do not take for granted. The more I learn about White Privilege and this system of White Supremacy we live in, White Feminism, Caste, and how it’s all woven into every single aspect of our life, culture and society, the angrier I get at not having been taught these things in school. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate reality in more ways than I can describe. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I’ve taken learning to another level. The person I was going into this quarantine and the one who is emerging is different and is determining the direction of the next leg of my journey.

I’m very grateful for my parents seeing the communist handwriting on the wall before Castro came into power in Cuba. As a result, they, along with the majority of their siblings, came to the US for a better life, to have more children in some cases, and to give their children more opportunities than they were ever afforded.

My ancestors found their way to Cuba via Portugal and Spain. I only wish I could have met some of them and had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their lives, their traumas, their lived experiences, their wisdom… all things that live in my body and course through my blood.

I’m certain none of them could have imagined this upside down world we are living in. But I do know they, like all of our elders and ancestors, had dreams, aspirations, and things left to do and say when they left this world.

I realize I am the product of their unfulfilled wishes, the dreams they didn’t get to live out, the voice they were unable or not allowed to use, the product of privilege they didn’t have given the times they lived in and the embodiment of a heart overflowing with gratitude each step of the way, each and every day. My attitude of gratitude is what has brought me overwhelming joy, love, and abundance throughout my life…. especially during those dark nights of the soul.

I took a moment this morning to reflect on 62 years of life. I feel very loved, seen and appreciated. For some reason, birthdays get more and more meaningful as the number climbs. The cards I received, the sentiments expressed, and the heartfelt words inscribed have really touched my heart year after year.

This is my 12th birthday without my Mama, and to say that I miss her more each day is an understatement. I realize how lucky I was to have her for almost 50 years of my life. I was an unexpected surprise, and I am grateful that she chose life.

So…..on this day where I find myself reflecting on privileges of all kinds, I am going to share with you yet another handout from the White Conversations class that I took. It’s an activity called Privilege for Sale. It’s an activity that is also a big eye-opener for people who do not understand some of the things that White Privilege affords you, or how you walk through life, if you are white or passing as white.

If you are doing this with a very small group, you may want to each do this activity individually. Obviously, the more people involved, the better able you are to break up into smaller groups and have better conversations and different perspectives.

Before starting the activity, you must put yourself in a mindset of someone having zero privileges whatsoever. Each privilege costs $10 to purchase. As a group, or individual, you will purchase as many privileges as the money you’ve been given allows. It’s up to the facilitator to assign varying budgets- starting with $10- to each group (or individual).

Please note that the phrase “an aspect of your identity “refers to identities including race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity/expression. Identities and privileges represented on this list or by no means exhaustive.

Ready? Here we go…..

  1. Not being subjected to additional scrutiny at school or in your job based on an aspect of your identity.  
  2. Adopting your children. 
  3. Being able to discuss and have access to multiple family planning options. 
  4. Raising children without worrying about state intervention. 
  5. Being accepted by your neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and/or new friends.. 
  6. Going shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed. 
  7. Walking around campus, turning on the television, or opening to the front page of the paper and seeing people like you widely represented. 
  8. Being sure that you or your children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their experience. 
  9. Going into a supermarket and finding the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions.
  10. Not having to educate your children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
  11. Using public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest
  12. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
  13. Having the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of some aspect of your identity.
  14. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical establishments.
  15. Freely being able to discuss your relationship with others. 
  16. If you are assaulted or murdered, an aspect of your identity will not be used as a justification for the crime nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
  17. Having your gender as an option on a form.
  18. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to an aspect of your identity.
  19. Not facing the everyday fear of deportation.  
  20. Expecting to have any/easy access to public transportation, building, parks, and restaurants.  
  21. Being able to plan your day without having to consider health or pain concerns.  
  22. Receiving validation from your religious community. 
  23. If you should need to move, being pretty sure that you will be able to rent or purchase a home in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. 
  24. Being able to go to a doctor visit and have him or her understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  25. Whether using checks, credit cards or cash, you can count on your skin color not working against the appearance of financial reliability. 

Adapted from The Safe Zone Project, http://thesafezoneproject.com/

To say this is a powerful activity is an understatement and would be a disservice to the individual(s) who created it. While there are only 25 privileges listed here, the list can be expanded even more so given the reality of what being born in a body that was not born into a dominant Caste or Race goes through day in and day out of their entire existence.

One thing I know for sure that I will continue learning, especially from BIPOC leaders and teachers, until the moment I take my last breath. My entire life thus far has been around learning, growing, expanding, transforming, loving, inspiring, serving and reflecting…why should it be any different at this age? Our lust for knowledge is something that should only die when we die.

So there you have it…. my birthday reflections. I hope you feel inspired to keep learning, unlearning, becoming and unbecoming. My birthday wish is that you give the White Privilege activity a try and feel compelled to share it with others. It will definitely make for good conversation and inspired action!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Ask Away!!!

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”

This quote by Lou Holtz, who is a former football player, coach and analyst, speaks to some of the points that were part of my previous blog, Humble Inquiry. If you missed that blog, you may want to read it prior to delving into this one.

As was mentioned in Humble Inquiry, the author of the book- bearing the same name as the title of my previous blog- mentioned how we in the U.S. live in a culture that overvalues telling as opposed to asking questions. The downfall to this is that we never truly get into deep, juicy and meaningful conversations if we don’t learn to ask the right questions. And it’s only through asking questions that we truly walk away having learned something.

Darlings, and if you are of a “particular age” or perhaps raised in a culture where “children should be seen and not heard,” asking questions was not something that was encouraged or valued. No wonder so many of us have never learned the fine art of asking interesting questions. Back in the day, schools taught us basic questions- like who, what, when, where and why- which, when you think about it, do not require much thinking at all. Only in the last 20-25 years or so , when standardized tests became so popular in schools, were we faced with teaching our children open-ended questions and higher order thinking skills.

A couple of months ago I took a White Conversations Class that was offered at my friend’s yoga studio. It was taught by a college professor who facilitated all types of conversations for us dealing with critical examination of self; valuing differences; understanding social conditioning and whiteness; White Privilege; deconstructing yourself; internalized biases; anti-racism work; the differences between dialogue, discussion and debate; how to talk to family and friends about white privilege; AND…drumroll please… questions conducive to seeing and expanding our perspectives. I can’t even begin to tell you all the materials, handouts, and research articles the professor shared with us!

In addition to her genuine and personable disposition, one of the things I liked most about her was that she subscribes to my mindset when it comes to sharing materials. (You all know how I feel that sharing is caring). One of the things she said early on was that we were free to share materials. As a matter of fact, she welcomed and encouraged it.

One of the handouts she shared, and the content I want to pass on to you, is the one dealing with useful questions for facilitating conversations. The information comes from The Program on Intergroup Relation, The University of Michigan .

We are living through very contentious, stressful, and uncertain times these days and, more than ever, we can all use some pointers on having more skillfully conscious conversations on the job, at home, with family and friends. The following are different types of questions, their purpose and examples for each of the different types of questions.

So…let’s get started!

Exploratory Questions: Probe basic knowledge

What to you think about_______? How does _______ make you feel? What bothers / concerns / confuses you the most about _______? What are some of the ways we might respond to_______?

Causal Questions: Open-ended questions that don’t require a detailed or specific kind of response

What is your understanding of _______? What do you want to know about _______? What is the first thing you think about in relations to _______? What are some questions you have about_______? What is one image, scene, event, or moment from your experience that relates to_______?

Challenge Questions: Examine assumptions, conclusions and interpretations

What can we infer / conclude from_______? Does _______ remind you of anything? What principle do you see operating here? What does this help you explain _______? How does this relate to other experiences or things you already know?

Relational Questions: Ask for comparison of themes, ideas or issues

Do you see a pattern here? How do you account for _______? What was significant about _______? What connections do you see? What does _______ suggest to you? Is there a connection between what you’ve just said and what _______ was saying earlier?

Cause and Effect Questions: Ask for casual relationships between ideas, actions or events

How do you think _______ relates or causes _______? What are some consequences of_______? Where does _______ lead? What are some pros and cons of _______? What is likely to be the effect of _______?

Extension Questions: Expand the discussion

What do the rest of you think? How do others feel? What dod you find noteworthy about this comment? How can we move forward? Can you give some specific examples of_______? How would you put that another way?

Hypothetical Questions: Pose a change in the facts or issues

What if _______ were from a different _______, how would that change things? Would it make a difference if we were in a _______ society/culture? How might this dialogue be different if _______? What might happen if we were to _______? How might your life be different it _______?

Diagnostic Questions: Probe motives or causes

What brings you to say that? What do you mean? What led you to that conclusion?

Priority Questions: Seek to identify the most important issue

From all that we’ve talked about, what is the most important concept you see? Considering the different ideas in the room, what to you see as the most critical issue? What do you find yourself resonating with the most? If you had to pick just one topic to continue talking about, what would it be?

Process Questions: Elicit satisfactions / buy-in / interest levels

Is this where we should be going? How are people feeling about the direction of this dialogue? What perspectives are missing from this dialogue? Everyone has been _______ for a while, why? How would you summarize this dialogue so far? How might splitting into groups or pairs affect out discussion?

Analytical Questions: Seek to apply concepts or principles to a new or different situation

What are the main arguments for _______? What are the assumptions underlying _______? What questions arise for you as you think about _______? What implications does _______ have? (for _______?) Does this idea challenge or support what we’ve been talking about? How does this idea / contribution add to what has already been said?

Summary Questions: Elicit synthesis, what themes or lessons have emerged

Where are we? If you had to pick two themes from this dialogue, what would they be? What did you learn? What benefits did we gain today? What remains unresolved? How can we better process this? Based on our dialogue, what will you be thinking about after you leave? Let me see if I understand what we’ve talked about so far…What have I missed? Or, is this what I’ve heard so far…Does anyone have anything to correct or add?

Action Questions: Call for a conclusion or action

How can we use that information? What does this information say about our own action or lives? How can you adapt this information to make it applicable to you? How will you do things differently as a result of this meeting? What are out next steps? What kind of support do we need as we move forward? How does this dialogue fit into our bigger plans?

Evaluative Questions: Gauge emotions, anxiety levels, what is going well or not

Is there anything else you would like to talk about? How are you felling about this now? What was a high point for you? A low point? Where were you engaged? Disengaged? What excited you? Disappointed you?

Darlings, as with all things in life, learning to ask meaningful and thoughtful questions takes practice, consistency and continuity. It may come easy for some and difficult for others. The art of questioning is something we can also teach our young children, grand-children, nieces and nephews starting at an early age. The dinner table is a great place to talk to kids. The more skillful children become at asking questions, the more prepared they will be and the more engaging and well-rounded they will become as adults.

Here’s a fun activity (and you know how I love activities)…decide on a topic, pick some questions from each category, write/ print them on pieces of paper, and throw them into a bowl at dinner or other gatherings. So many families are working and learning from home and in front of screens these days, that actually shutting off phones or putting them away for a bit and engaging in conversations is greatly needed. And if you can do it outdoors, even better. Our eyes and brains need time away from our electronics!

More and more people these days are collecting phones and putting them in a basket or elsewhere during family / holiday dinners so that everyone can be more present with each other. This is a fantastic idea! The biggest gift we can give someone is our presence and undivided attention. Time is a currency that should be used wisely, don’t you think?

My wish is that we all engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations that offer us opportunities to look at things from different perspectives in an effort to see that, as a HUMAN race, we are more alike that we are different. All it takes is a little vulnerability, courage, strength and an open mind. Here’s to less talking and more asking!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

There is No Neutral

“What’s your dharma center, teacher, church, synagogue, pastor, Rabbi, reverend, yoga center, ashram, spiritual-not-religious instagram meditation leader saying about Black lives.” Angel Kyodo Williams

Hello, darlings!

It’s been almost a month since my last blog, Inspired Action, on May 24th. The following day, our world saw the police brutality that took George Floyd’s life. The fact that this brutal murder was captured on video, we got to see the killer’s face and body language, and bear witness to what’s been going on for lifetimes for Black and Brown people has awakened and propelled the masses to yet another level of truth, re-examination, demonstration, and activism. We are living through the  most historic and monumental civil rights movements the U.S. has ever seen. And the global impact it is making speaks volumes!

During this time, there has been a call to action to FINALLY listen to the voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color). For those of us who are white (or pass as white), we have been called to educate ourselves on White Supremacy, White Privilege, White Fragility and how knowingly, or unknowingly, we have been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression. These words alone make many people uncomfortable…as they should. Change and growth do not come from being “comfortable.”

Resources of all kinds- from  books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, articles, videos, TV shows to information that has always been available in various formats- have been circulating for us all to truly understand the systems that were specifically created to uphold white dominance. The time to start  dismantling White Supremacy is upon us.  However, the change must start within. Truly taking a deeply uncomfortable dive within ourselves to examine our own biases, stereotypes,  prejudices and discriminations  is shockingly revealing regardless of how evolved, open-minded, anti-racist,  socially conscious or “woke “we think we are. The work we white people (or people who hold white privilege) are being called to do is raw. It’s humiliating, and it’s humbling to say the least…and it’s our responsibility to continue this work day in and day out.

For almost 3 weeks now, I’ve silenced my voice on social media. It started as the “amplify melanated voices challenge” on June 1st, but I’ve kept it going.  This has allowed me to continue to do my  work, keep educating myself, intentionally use my social media platform to share what  I learn and what deeply resonates for me, and share the voices of BIPOC leaders and teachers of all kinds and from all walks of life from whom I’m learning. I’ve also had hard and meaningful conversations with friends and family. Being in community with people who are talking the talk AND walking the walk has provided me with lots of learning opportunities. Re-examining how I spend my time, energy and money has also led me to look at the businesses, organizations and individuals I want to support. I’ve already made a few changes in those areas. I feel like it’s just the beginning, but every little bit matters. Being neutral is not an option in my book. There is no neutral!

While the work is unnerving, heavy, raw, emotional and can be disturbing, it’s only a fraction of what my BIPOC brothers and sisters have been living with for generations. Generations of being dehumanized, oppressed and destroyed! I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is NOT my place to speak about these experiences because they are not my lived/shared experiences. We white people tend to jump in and throw our voices into the ring- “Whitesplaining” as it has been coined- as if we could even remotely begin to speak to injustices we have never lived…talk about white privilege!?!?!?!

The most profound lesson I’ve learned thus far has been to be quiet and deeply listen….oftentimes, the silence from white people, friends, businesses and organizations,  is actually deafening and clearly speaks to white privilege, white fragility and white apathy. The other thing I learned deals with conversations that go nowhere. These dead-end conversations speak to a person’s unwillingness to recognize and accept that knowingly, unknowingly, and oftentimes unconsciously, as a white person (or a person who passes as white) has internal biases, stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations  built in as a result of being born (or living) in a country where systems and institutions were intentionally created to uphold white dominance.

If a person is not remotely interested or willing to to examine their relationship to the systems they engage in and navigate every day, then I have no desire to waste my energy or resources on them. There’s too much work to do! I want to engage with  people who are truly and authentically making a difference with their voices and their activism. So this is the road I find myself navigating these days.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, White Supremacy is a system we were born into. There are layers and layers to unpack! For the last 400 years, these carefully crafted systems have been dehumanizing, destroying and inflicting racial wounds on People of Color resulting in historical and generational  trauma. When will it stop? How? By whom?

It simply speaks to the fact that dismantling systems of institutionalized racism and systemic oppression FIRST begins with each and every white person (or person holding white privilege). We need to genuinely make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on things what we were not educated on in schools. Are we so arrogant of a species that we feel it is beneath us to do so? The answer is simple: yes, because that’s something that comes with holding white privilege.

One of my biggest history lessons came from the Netflix documentary 13th. If you’ve never seen it, that’s a great place to start! And if you are serious about taking a deep dive and creating change from within, pick up Layla F. Saad’s book, me and white supremacy-Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. The work is difficult but so transformative! These two bodies of work will impact you in powerful and profound ways.

The way I see it is that regardless of our political affiliation, religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all have work to do. It’s a privilege and an honor to be alive at this precise moment in time. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to waste it or just sit around waiting for others to do the work and then weigh in or criticize the decisions and actions being taken by those who are in the trenches doing the work.

The time for personal truth-telling and reckoning has arrived for all of us. We can truly change the course of the new nation that is waiting to be birthed and the new world that is waiting to emerge. We can all have a hand in the reimagining and the remaking of this  white institution of power that orders our lives and continues to dehumanize, criminalize, incarcerate and kill BIPOC.

I believe the time has come for us to get really clear. This is not a time for neutrality. There is no neutral. This is not the time to sit back. This is a time to take action. This is not a time for spiritual bypassing. That in itself is privilege. This is not a time to say we are all one. We cannot all be one until ALL people have the same access to civil, political, economic and social rights…until we can truly say “liberty and justice for all.” This is not a time to say all lives matter or blue lives matter. All lives cannot matter until ALL Black lives matter….it doesn’t get any clearer than that!!!

And on that note, may we all remember to check in with our black and brown friends. The trauma, stress, frustration, anger, fear, emotional and physical pain, and feelings of overwhelm white people are feeling are no where near what our black and brown friends have been feeling for generations.  They don’t need to see or hear our white narratives, comments or  explanations. They need our support. They need us to listen. May we hold that space for them, and hold them close!

I will leave you with the words of Sonya Renee Taylor:

“If your spirituality  or self-care practice invisiblizes oppression and harm, then it’s just another form of oppression and harm.”

 May we continue to move forward with intention, unity and hearts wide open, JTC

 

 

 

Daily Renewal

“What do you do every day to make yourself come home to your Self?”

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope y’all are lovin’ on your Self and finding ways to shower yourselves with daily self-care practices…

Why? Because running around and burning the candles at both ends, like we are all known for doing at some point, requires a good plan for recovery. Just like an athlete, Olympian or rock star, post-performance practices are key to recovery.

Also, this is around the time of year that New Year’s resolutions start to fall by the wayside. We tend to lose focus, be derailed by the weather, or simply get lazy.

Having the presence of mind to check in with ourselves, periodically, throughout the day allows us stay grounded and focused on our intentions, goals and dreams. In order to do so, we need mental clarity. And mental clarity is one of those things that oftentimes gets sacrificed. As a result, we fall back into old patterns, feel scattered or feel ourselves spiraling.

Daily renewal allows us to hit the pause button and reflect. And it can be as simple as breathing and connecting. Focusing on the breath and connecting to the energy we want to feel (or are feeling) allow us to plug into ourselves. Scanning our bodies for sensations allows us to feel where we may be holding onto tension. Tuning into the sounds around us and becoming aware of our thoughts (without getting caught up in them or creating a story) sharpen our ability to just observe.

All of these things can be done just about anywhere or anytime. This practice of being present to our own body, mind and spirit is at the root of our well- being and greatly impacts our performance and ability to show up for ourselves… and then others.

It’s a mindfulness practice that simply translates to being present and engaged in whatever is going on, whatever it is we are doing or whomever it is we are with at that precise moment. The more we practice, the clearer we get with ourselves and the more likely we are to recognize a behavior or pattern that isn’t serving us, an area where we’re holding on when we should be letting go, or an opportunity to change the way we look at something in order to change the way we go about living our life…and living it fully and meaningfully!

I invite you to take a moment to assess your personal daily renewal practices. What are they? What is your mental state after you do them?

The key is knowing the practices that work for us personally: the various tools we have in our toolboxes that help us to ground ourselves. They can be mediation, yoga, music, chanting, tapping, nature, affirmations, hot soaks in the tub or a warm shower, dancing, journaling, breathwork, color therapy, painting, reading, or a host of other hobbies or activities that engage us in the present moment and let our creative side come out to play.

The beauty of these practices is that we are able to stay in tune with our bodies. They contribute to our physical and mental health, energize us when needed, boost our mood and add to our overall emotional fulfillment.

Any type of awareness meditation can be very revealing, especially if we take the time to journal afterwards. I recently took a workshop titled Reflections on Your Inner World, where we were instructed to sit in stillness for 10 minutes and just observe our thoughts (you can say them silently to yourself as you’re doing so). After the 10 minutes were up, we journaled about it all for 10 minutes.

The presenter encouraged us to write, draw and/or use crayons if we wanted. I immediately created 5 headings in different colors: breath; scents; sounds; sensations; and thoughts. Then I preceded to list words, phrases or sentences under each category. And let me tell you something…. this awareness meditation was indeed revealing!

As the presenter stated, “Below the surface of everyday life is a vast reservoir of wisdom and knowledge, and accumulation of life experiences. Meditation and journaling can help you listen deeply, giving a voice to that inner landscape, integrating what was witnessed in the subconscious and connecting you to your higher Self “

Daily renewal mindfulness practices of all kinds will leave us enjoying our lives more. They will help us sleep better, encourage us to play and be more creative. These practices will transform the way we look at things, at other people, and help us to understand ourselves and our place in the world better. We grow to appreciate everything more, while reducing stress hormones along the way. And lastly, daily renewal keeps us in a constant state of love and gratitude … for all things large and small!

My darlings, if we want spiritual peak performance, we must make the time for daily renewal. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our performance, and tweak/vary our practices along the way. Renew away!

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

Lovin’ on YOU

“The most desired human emotion, love, is the energy of the heart and soul that brings balance, harmony, and healing.” David Elliot

Greetings darlings, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I’m such a love and gratitude junkie that this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s not that I need a particular holiday to celebrate love and be loving. That’s an everyday activity in my book!

Living with a heart wide open and loving wildly, fiercely and passionately is, in my book, a non-negotiable. As David Elliot writes in his book, Healing, love expands and uplifts you when felt and expressed. When you feel love you feel connected to all things through your heart. Isn’t that the truth?

Yet, there are many out there who do not approach life and love from this vantage point. People are disconnected from their hearts, minds are fearful and closed off, and emotions are locked away somewhere deep down inside. I was recently listening to a meditation that stated the biggest journey we will ever take is the journey within. Now that is the absolute truth!

It is only when we journey within that we start to peel away the layers of feelings and emotions that have kept us stuck, sick and block us from truly living with a heart wide open. This journey to the self is one of self love. It’s sweet and painful. Revolutionary and transforming. Poignant and profound.

Darlings, the most important relationship we will ever have is that with our Self. It may sound cliche-ish to some, but it’s radically true. Just think about it for a moment- if we do not love ourselves, how can we love another??? And I mean truly love- the kind that is unconditional and one where we’re connected by our values, integrity, differences, and similarities just the same. And not just in a romantic sense either.

If there’s one thing I’m a big proponent of, and advocate for, is radical self love (and self-care).

What does radical self love look like to you?

How do you love yourself?

In what ways are you unloving to yourself ?

These questions can start you on “lovin’ on YOU” in more ways than you can imagine. Once we crack that door and let the light seep in, we’ve taken the first step towards spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being. After all, we are the guardians of our soul and our one precious life in this lifetime. Loving yourself is our responsibility. It doesn’t fall onto anyone else. It’s solely ours!

Part of my Valentine’s gift to myself was coming to Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA for their R&R program. You can do as much or as little as you want and select from numerous daily classes, workshops, and activities. There’s also various healing arts and services that are available should you want to pamper yourself even more so.

In their own words, “Kripalu envisions an awakened, connected, and compassionate world in which all people and communities are empowered to realize their full potential for the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga. Presence, Inquiry, Practice, Compassion, Integrity, and Service are behaviors that positively impact how we manage ourselves, how we treat each other, and how we interact and connect.” What a way to live and love!

As I read and reread the above, it’s ever so clear that all of that starts with our own journey within. Once we show up for ourselves, we can show up for others- in a healthy, meaningful and more sustainable way.

So…on this beautiful, sunny day in the Berkshires, I’m going to share with you my little takeaway from yesterday’s arrival at Kripalu. It’s their Guidelines for Self and Community Care which I think are beautiful ways to live and love…. ourselves and others!

Be present to your own body, mind, and heart. The felt sense of your own inner experience is at the root of your well-being and ability to serve the community.

Inquire into your habits. Notice impulses and behavior that are not fully aligned with your highest intentions. Your words and behavior impact your own experience, the experience of others, and the environment we create together.

 Explore new ways of caring for and expressing yourself. Allow this time to include the potential discomfort of learning something new.

Be kind to yourself and others. Each one of us is learning, growing and doing the best we can in any given moment. Embrace the opportunity for supported growth.

Demonstrate integrity by speaking and acting your truth respectfully and compassionately. Our community flourishes as each of us brings forth what is within. Our shared stories and experiences foster community and connection.

Darlings, my wish for you is that you ALWAYS take the time to be present with yourself, dive deeply into your heart, listen to the wisdom of the heart, and shower yourself with compassion and loving awareness. And…remember…it is always a practice!

Here’s to Lovin’ on YOU!

Lead with Love…always and in all ways, JTC

Blind Clarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

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

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

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

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

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

New Decade – New Voice

“We all know it is there, no one is surprised, but we still usually underestimate the volume and tenacity of our internal critic.” Monica Dicristina

Happy New Decade, my darlings! I hope 2020 has greeted you with new dreams, new visions and an awareness of the unlimited possibilities and opportunities this new decade will bring us all.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that 2020 will be BIG!!! I also think it’s FINALLY time to stop thinking small, stop putting ourselves, and others, in boxes and rid ourselves- once and for all- of that old, critical and outdated voice that tricks us into thinking we can control things in our lives.

It’s time we bust our hearts and minds wide open, think LARGE and GRAND, be BOLD and BRAVE and operate from a space of knowing that we are ALWAYS and INEXTRICABLY connected to that higher power that is so much greater than our small ways of thinking and controlling.

The immediate impact of letting go of our old ways and old judgmental voices will be that our mind, body and spirit will finally be at ease (once you get into the habit of letting go, that is). Our hearts will want to do a happy dance. There’s nothing wrong with a little (or a whole lot of) dancing for that matter!

Let’s chat a bit about the issue of control. Wanting to control things is just an illusion- much like perfection. The more we drop the need to control, the easier that life flows. We’re more in sync with our higher self and intuition and the universal guidance that is always conspiring for our highest good.

As Blondie, my beloved Maui sister would say, “Why live in difficult world when you can live in easy world?” As a matter of fact, if you’re reading this Blondie, you are just the person to write a blog on living in easy world!

What I think that many people do not realize is how operating from a place of control keeps us stuck and living in difficult world (I know because I used to live there at one point in my life, but I had myself evicted). Nothing flows, everything is a struggle, grievance or problem, and the dis-ease and discomfort in our bodies show up as depression and/or anxiety, health issues and unhealthy habits. It’s time to kick these control issues to the curb… once and for all!!! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Instead of those nasty, negative and destructive old voices in our heads, we must replace them with new voices that speak to our greatness and grandness that is ours by divine right.

Let’s start with a very basic limited belief that we were taught early in life: the need to please everyone. This is one of the most destructive beliefs we can take on. News flash darlings, we can’t please everyone. We waste so much valuable energy chasing this myth that it leaves us depleted and feeling dejected. That is a far cry from the magnificence which we need to embody!

It’s also time we let go of overworking ourselves to death in an effort to feel accomplished. All we’re accomplishing is getting to a state of perpetual exhaustion and feeling wiped-out, especially when that toxic voice in our head is sabotaging our accomplishments. Gag it. Adios! Ciao! Bye!

I’ve found that acknowledging our accomplishments is a much healthier, positive, motivating and less taxing way to approach things instead of focusing on what we didn’t get done. We can happily choose to celebrate the things we’ve completed.

And speaking of exhaustion, it’s time we let go of the notion that we are able to “catch up” on our sleep. We can’t. Shut that voice down immediately! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Research has shown, time and time again, that we need seven to nine hours of sleep. Furthermore, we now know that constant lack of sleep can harm us genetically, negatively impact DNA repair and immunity. Sleep disruptions that affect the body’s circadian rhythm include the use of cell phones, computers and watching TV in bed or right up to bedtime. Again, research shows that shutting down all electronics about two hours prior to bedtime is the way to go. Personally, I guard my sleep like the sacred ritual it is (although, on some occasions, I am guilty of binge watching Netflix into the wee hours). I’m only human… wink, wink.

You know that irritating voice that makes you feel defeated, frustrated, and inferior when mindlessly scrolling through social media? Time to send that one packing! Adios! Ciao! Bye!

Why should we waste time comparing ourselves to others? Why allow that voice to be so destructive? Thanks to IT wizards, we can keep track our screen time, do a social media cleanse of our choice (we must always have choices) or even download apps that help us to stay focused. Today, I learned of the Forest app. It allows the user to a accrue points while building a forest, and then use these points to actually plant a tree in the Amazon (thanks, Denise, for this intel).

By any chance, are you someone who ALWAYS has to be in control at your job or place of employment? How’s that working for you? Yeah, I know, not that great… headaches, migraines, indigestion, anxiety, right? Bid that old you farewell. Adios! Ciao! Bye!

If always having to be in control is your modus operandi, it’s time to let go of that ASAP. I know how hard it can be when we want to do the best we can, provide the best service we can, and want things done in a way that we know only we can do it. But that’s not how many work places function today. There’s more of a collaborative environment these days. While control freaks tend to frown upon this, working collaboratively and in teams are necessary skills in today’s world. We all bring a myriad of skills with us, and our individual uniqueness adds to the flavor of our working relationships- especially when working remotely or with someone on the other side of the world.

A simple exercise to get in the habit of doing- well, it’s more like behavior modification- is to learn to control what we can control. What is ours to control. To be discerning. To pick and choose. To pause. To breathe. To assess. To accept.

Oftentimes, we end up disappointing ourselves when we try too hard at controlling things. Let’s face it, many situations and circumstances are truly out of our hands, so why should we even attempt to control them? Why should we work ourselves into a frenzy or get stuck in a downward spiral of negativity? Why should we get physically sick over it? In those kinds of situations, all we can really control is our attitude and release what is not in our hands to control. Acceptance is a beautiful thing!

Darlings, once we acknowledge, accept and have an unshakable faith in knowing that everything is in divine order and happening just the way it has to happen, we can breathe easier, be more peaceful, have more equanimity and know that the universe is handling all our affairs.

Universal force is something we can’t go up against. It is mighty, strong, intelligent, magical and comical. And if you can’t see it for what it is, then perhaps it’s time to shift your perspective or change your glasses… just sayin’!

It’s a new year. It’s a new decade. What are your wildest dreams for this grand new decade? How are you designing your life this year? What do you need to get clear and honest about? What controlling behaviors are holding you back? What voices inside your head need evicting?

Perhaps you’d like to spend a little time reflecting on this. Enlist your friends. Pick their brains, ask them for help, have some deep conversations around the topic of control… just make sure you have snacks. Snacks are always a must!

Here’s to a new you, a new decade AND a new voice!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Dreamin’ in Waves

“Being alone without distractions gives us the opportunity to feel a sense of calm that comes from releasing the need to be switched on. Quality alone time can bring the body back to a calm state, switch off the stress response, and help people connect to their intuition and creativity.” Ariadne Kapsali

End of year thoughts as I sip on a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a generous twist of lemon and read Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton in my beloved Hollywood Riviera: I’m a consummate dreamer, avid seeker, hopeless romantic, and a love and gratitude junkie who is always searching. And who gets much pleasure and joy from being of service.

I also cherish the sanctity of my alone time. For years I searched outside myself. In the last couple of decades though, I’ve taken to searching within. The need for solitude is always at the top of my list. It’s been the most rewarding journey ever!

Don’t get me wrong though, the rewards come with a price. Some people aren’t willing to pay that price. However, it’s a price I’ve always been willing to pay- even if it means not playing by the rules of convention, society, culture, etc.

I often remark that we really can’t place a price tag on peace, serenity, and tranquility. I don’t care how much money is involved. I’ve noted that some of the wealthiest people I know are the ones who lack peace and true joy in their lives. And the reason is clear… peace comes from within… we create our own joy…even if it means making the conscious decision of being alone and entering a relationship with oneself.

There is a remarkable difference between being alone and being lonely. People who cherish their solitude will always tell you they may be alone but far from lonely.

When we enter into a relationship with our “Self,” loneliness is not an issue. Learning to know oneself, stripped of all our titles, roles and the expectation of others, is one of the most rewarding gifts we can “gift” ourselves. We know the varied roles we play and how we dance in and out of the many relationships, titles and positions we assume. But there comes a point (at least for me it did) where we want to push back and truly figure out who we are, what we want out of life, how we want to define ourselves and how we want to live and love.

We learn to break with convention and what is expected of us. We become more blazingly daring, more courageous, more vulnerable and, as a result, more liberated!

Free to ponder everything or nothing at all. With me, it’s usually everything (at once too)… purpose, meaning, intention, relationships, all the whys, life and even death. Especially death. The subject fascinates me.

So it’s on this day, the day after a brilliant light and teacher, Ram Dass, transitioned, that I find myself thinking back on my journey and the path that yoga has taken me on.

Ram Dass translates to Servant of God. And that is something that spoke to me many, many years ago when I started reading his books and learning about the work and contribution he’s made to mankind and society. One of his quotes that has always stuck with me is, “We are all walking each other home.” It’s something Ram Dass spoke at length about in his book, Fierce Grace. It’s a book about aging and coming to terms with death and dying.

I think that when we live with the conscious awareness that we are all terminal and make friends with this notion, life becomes more meaningful, richer and significant.

These are but a few waves of thoughts that have been flowing in and out of my awareness. This is what alone time does for me. It allows me to go on an exploration of sorts: reflect on what inspires me, where I’ve been, who I’m becoming only to unbecome and become again, and dream and wonder of possibilities that still await to unfold. That’s why I titled this blog dreamin’ in waves.

As I was finishing up this blog, I came across an article which spoke about the importance of setting boundaries, especially this time of year when we are flooded with invitations to parties, lunches, dinners and all sorts of social gatherings. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that it’s OK to cancel plans and/or decline invitations. That falls under the self-care umbrella for me. Ironically, this time of year calls for much-needed alone time in my book…wink, wink

I’ve also found that responding honestly is best. So, rather than making up a story or telling a lie, decline invitations with honesty, gratitude and warmth. It’s the right thing to do AND the respectful thing to do for ourselves and others.

Darlings, I encourage us all to carve out some alone time- especially before the end of this year. If you feel inspired to get lost in your thoughts and do a little journaling, then do so. If you’d like a few prompts for doing so, be sure to check out my last blog, End of Year Inspiration, for a few questions you may find useful.

In the meantime, I will personally be working on them myself as I prepare to usher in 2020a new decade to fill with much love, endless joy, real compassion, loving- kindness, radical honesty and accountability, fierce grace and gratitude….and hope. There’s always room for hope!

May the long time sun shine upon us all!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

Fully Engaged and Passionately Committed

“Live life with an open heart.” Panache Desai

Greetings, my beloved darlings!

I hope this blog finds you in good summer spirits and that you are finding joy in the many aspects of your life. This is usually a fairly easy thing to do, despite what calamity or chaos is swirling around, if we operate with an open heart… the operative word being usually..wink, wink!

Leading from the heart and finding joy, even in the mundane things or in painful times, allows us to live fully engaged and passionately committed.

When I reflected on these past couple of months of not blogging on a regular basis, I realized that I’ve been engaged in lots of fun, leisurely and meaningful activities. At one point I even wondered if I had writer’s block, but it’s not as if I wasn’t writing; after all, I was keeping up with my journaling. And it wasn’t as if I was not inspired. There were many occasions in which I was inspired and motivated. I just did not make the time to sit down and blog. One thing I was sure to do though, was NOT to judge, criticize or be hard on myself.

So today at lunch, with my dearest soul sister Kat, we talked about my dilemma, and everything became crystal clear. I have been fully engaged and passionately committed to living joyfully- FINALLY- post retirement, post a life altering injury and epic orthopedic surgery, post living in chronic pain for 3 years, post another very complex orthopedic surgery that gave me my life back and post 5 years of physical therapy. Whew!

For the first time since September 2012, I feel like I’ve FINALLY started decompressing from my stressful career and everything that altered my life as a result of those 2 surgeries- which, needless to say, created yet another level of stress. Like Kat pointed out, the weight of the world was has been lifted off me. For the first time, I feel like I can FINALLY breathe, relax, sleep long hours, stay up late, sleep in, ease into my day, have fun, socialize and do all the things that bring me joy… without being in pain. For during those difficult years, the joy was being zapped from my life more and more as a result of chronic pain.

That’s why writing has been so cathartic for me- especially my earlier blogs (2017-2018). It was a good way to share my life story, my struggles, my journey, and the different things that helped me along the way. Writing allowed me to take stock, process and heal. And, hopefully, to inspire and/or help others along their own journey.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is not to be hard on myself. I tend to go with the flow more these days and allow for magic and spontaneity to show up. I’ve learned to let go of anything and any one that is dragging me down or causing me to have unproductive thoughts. I’ve learned the art of detachment.

While we all need to schedule certain appointments and commitments, I’ve also learned that it’s OK to bow out gracefully when and if I feel like I’ve overextended myself. If not, there would be no joy to be had.

I’m trying to live more mindfully than ever before and to be present and fully engaged in whatever I am doing or whomever I am with at any given time. This can be very challenging for some people given the constant state of distraction they live in. Some people are more fully engaged and passionately committed to their electronic device(s) than they are to face-to-face, present-time interactions. So…it came as no surprise to me when I started to focus on how grace shows up in my life.

So much so, that my word for 2019 was GRACE. As a matter of fact it is written, in colorful chalk, at the top of my yoga mat. One of the things I’ve always strived to do since finding my yoga practice in 2005 is to live my yoga off the mat. This year, I’ve refined that to living my life off the mat with intention and grace. It’s amazing to see everything that shows up when we move through life with intention and take notice of the many ways grace shows up!

In doing so, I feel like I am becoming more expansive. I feel like I’m taking up more space. I feel like I am more focused on living purposefully. I feel like it always brings me back to my purpose and intention. It takes me to the things that bring me joy… and that is to Inspire, Love, Serve.

Darlings, I encourage you to think about sharing YOUR story with others. Our stories can inspire, guide, motivate and encourage others as they move through life’s challenging times.

In order to grow through the challenging times or whatever it is we are going through, we are tasked with doing a certain amount of work in life. The work we do ultimately allows us to take action and evolve. In doing so, we transform and grow into the best version of ourselves, and live a full, meaningful, and purposeful life in the process.

I invite you to peruse the following questions. May they serve you in whatever way you need and may they inspire you to take action wherever you need so that you can joyfully live fully engaged and passionately committed and inspire others to do so as well!

What are 5 words that describe you?

How are you moving through life?

What values shape you?

What people (dead or alive) inspire you and why?

Are you changing and growing over time?

What sort of activities or events do you focus on?

What brings you joy?

What are your challenges at this point in your life?

What areas of your life are in need of changing?

What are you good at?

How can you influence and/or inspire others?

How can you be of service to others?

If you would like more questions to use for meaningful conversations or to use for journaling, please search for my blog titled Grow Through it All. It was published July 8, 2018.

We can further use these questions and answers to explore, investigate and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life. A life filled with peace, tranquility, serenity, truth, transparency and authenticity.

Darlings…. stay cool, remember to hydrate and live with a heart wide open!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Reflections and Intentions

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Happy June, my darlings!

I spent this past Memorial Day weekend on a lovely, peaceful lake pet sitting a dear friend’s little fur baby. I intentionally approached the weekend as if I was going away on a retreat to an oasis somewhere. After all, I was in a gorgeous, spacious, well appointed home which sits right on one of the most beautiful and pristine lakes nearby, and it was only four miles from home. No traffic, no noise, no crowds. In my book, that constitutes as bliss!

Retreating from our daily activities and routines for an extended period of time affords us the opportunity to go within to connect and examine our lives. It’s an opportunity to catch up on reading, reflecting, asking ourselves some questions, seeing and feeling what arises, deep diving into those feelings, unpacking it all and perhaps even doing some stream of consciousness writing (which is just what I did and will be sharing with you). I love having these uninterrupted chunks of quietude at my disposal because it also allows me to catch up on webinars, TED talks and podcasts.

One of my to go to podcasts is Maria Shriver’s Meaningful Conversations which airs on Mondays. The one I listened to this past weekend was her interview with Sharon Salzberg, who is an internationally known meditation teacher and author. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing her speak while away on past retreats, so I wondered what she had been up to of late. This particular podcast dealt with love, connection, significance, longing, meditation and other tools we can use to transform suffering into connection.

Here’s where my stream of consciousness writing comes in….so please bear with me…. wink, wink!

This podcast got me thinking about my own life and how I’ve always felt that one can be the loneliest in a relationship, especially when that relationship isn’t serving us and is causing us to suffer. I thought about the importance of love and connection and how they are necessary to life and to feeling joyful and happy. Being part of a community and having healthy relationships, with people from all walks of life, are known factors in the happiness and longevity equation.

I thought about the concept of “love” and how we often have this idealized version of it in the context of a romantic setting. Afterall, haven’t young girls been taught to equate love with the fantasy of having a Prince Charming come and sweep them off their feet? It’s time we do away with that notion, don’t you think? Who needs a prince when you’re a Goddess????

Love comes from the smallest of places; a smile, an act of kindness, someone’s generosity or generous spirit, a courtesy, a thoughtful note or card or varying expressions of love or service. The key to our joy, happiness and fulfillment is not only receiving these things we call blessings, but to also express our deepest thoughts and heartfelt emotions to others.

We need to connect to our HEARTS- this is how we experience love, connection, empathy, compassion, gratitude, appreciation and significance. This is how we connect to all our feelings and emotions. I truly believe that there is no room for loneliness and suffering when our hearts overflow with love and connection of all kinds and from varied sources. Beautiful, enriching and heart expanding relationships come in all shapes and sizes and NOT just in the romance department!

I am so BEYOND blessed to have a rich network of friends, girlfriends and soul sisters. And by the way, they are of all ages. Thank you, Evelyn Abrams, for the wise words you shared with my thirtysomething-year-old self many years ago!!! I will always remember that spectacular trip to Italy and you telling me to have a multitude of friends- both much younger and much older than myself. Duly noted!

These loving relationships bring me joy, they fill my life with purpose and meaning, and pose opportunities for continued exploring and learning. I view their presence in my life as a form of grace that’s been bestowed upon me from the Divine. My heart overflows with gratitude- daily- for the varied groups of people with whom I get to share my life and walk alongside. And where there is gratitude, you can bet there is joy…a whole lot of joy!

Gratitude, and being of service, are the foundation of the love and joy In my life. Nothing brings me more joy, appreciation and humbleness than writing about my blessings, what I am thankful for, and what arises each day. It is witnessing those little moments of grace that are so easy to overlook when we are stuck in our stories or the narratives we are spinning. It’s being aware of the moments that present themselves as opportunities for us to be of service, lend a hand or just show up. I cannot tell you how much these moments can fill our heart space with joy!

When I am in this flow, I feel like I’m carrying out one of the most important legacies (there were many) that my parents left behind. You see, they left big shoes to fill! They had BIG personalities, generous hearts and touched many lives. My parents were people of service and were very generous with their time and energy.

In my humble opinion, if we all took the time to be still, breathe, meditate, show up for ourselves and others, and write down what we are thankful for, I truly believe there would be more happy people walking around and serving as love and gratitude ambassadors.

The numbers of clicks or likes we get on social media would be insignificant. No one can determine our worth other than ourselves. WE are the ones who need to be examining our own lives! Why give that power away?

I examined my life this past weekend by recalling all the layers of me that have been shed over the decades. I recalled the people, romantic partners, and colleagues who were both in my life- and shed from my life- with love, appreciation, and gratitude for the roles they played. I examined the different layers of me that have since evolved, and keep evolving…and will continue to evolve through the many stages of my life.

Our experiences shape us. Our losses shape us. Our struggle shapes us. Our pain shapes us. Most importantly though, our love and gratitude shape us AND allow us to operate from a deep well of sustenance, support and spaciousness.

It’s in that spaciousness that we can find opportunities to love, connect, as well as a plethora of mindfulness tools to use and move about our days and our lives. These tools are the steppingstones to living a purposeful life. A life that is incredibly filled with an over-abundance of presence, intention, connection, grace, gratitude, love, and joy.

And so this is where my stream of consciousness stopped.

Perhaps you’ll be inspired to set aside some time for reflections and for setting intentions. I love to say that we can be both a masterpiece and a work of art in progress.

Remember, each day presents us with a myriad of opportunities to express our appreciation to the Universe for all the lessons and the blessings in our lives.

Here’s to the beauty of examining our lives and living fully, joyously and intentionally!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC