Special Edition… ‘Tis the Season

‘Joy is Prayer. Joy is Strength. Joy is love.” -Mother Teresa

Season’s Greetings darlings! I read a most beautiful article written by Elizabeth Lesser  yesterday, featured in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I love, love, love Elizabeth Lesser and her style of writing! Her messages are always so deep, profound and life-altering! So, here it is:

10 Ways To Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday

by 

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as “The Holidays,” when into the dark little months of late November and December, we squeeze Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years Eve, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, dysfunctional family feasts complete with political disagreements, airplane flights and long drives, darker days, colder weather, budget-busting shopping, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress for most, and for some, real depression and loneliness.

Some greet the season with excitement and joyful expectation. Others dread the whole thing. Personally, I harbor both excitement AND dread. So I’ve come up with some ways for all of us to stay healthy and sane, to celebrate and enjoy, and to dig into the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, another option is just to ignore the madness completely (good luck with that) or to knock yourself out trying to live up to all of your holiday expectations (good luck with that, too).

Here are my ten ways to approach the season with reasonable expectations and good cheer.

1) Be Kind: Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us, so remember to take a few breaks during a busy day or at a family gathering or whenever you feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot—even if you have to go into the bathroom and lock the door—and just sit still for a minute or two. Put your hand on your chest and pat your heart gently. Then take a nice deep breath into that spot and flood yourself with warm feelings of kindness toward yourself first. Breathe in acceptance and forgiveness and appreciation. If you only have time to do that, it’s enough. You can add this to the practice, too: As you exhale, let the breath of kindness move back out and feel it all around you—as if you were wrapped in a cloak of light. Now inhale again, and breathe kindness into your belly, your organs, your bloodstream. Exhale, and feel that cloak of light expanding. Inhale again, all the way down to your fingers and toes and deep into the center of your bones, flushing every cell with warmth and vibrancy. On each inhale, bring kindness into your body. On each exhale, extend the cloak of healing light further and further—embracing the people in your life, those in the world with whom you disagree, and finally our whole big, amazing, hurting, evolving world. This is a wonderful practice to do when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or whenever you like during the day. 

2) Simplify: We live in an excessive culture. There’s just too much going on. But there’s one thing we seem to have too little of: time. We fill each day with too much activity, too much stuff, too much media, and too many responsibilities pulling on us in too many directions, and time races away. We go to bed at night and wonder where the heck the day went. We wake up and do it again. And now at the holidays, we’re supposed to add more excess to the excess. More food, more socializing, more presents that require more money. I think it’s a revolutionary act to resist the more-more-more culture and, instead, to simplify. Purchase fewer gifts and put more thought and meaning into the ones you do give. Say ‘no’ to engagements that will only add more stress to your week. Say ‘yes’ to gatherings that fill your soul and make you and others happy. Unplug from the 24/7 news and social media. Spend time in nature. Look at the stars. Find a little kid and hitch your wagon to their wonder.

3) Roll With the Changes: As families change and grow, traditions change as well.  For example, if you are a working woman who had a stay-at-home mother, instead of knocking yourself out trying to reproduce the exact old-fashioned holiday of your childhood, relax your standards. Do what fits YOUR life and infuse it with meaning, humor, and love. Or if you are a divorced dad or mom, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure up. It will be the best gift you give to your kids this year. If you are far away from your family (or choose not to be with them), invite others into your home and give the words “extended family” new meaning. 

4) Help Others: not because you SHOULD but because it feeds everyone—the giver and the receiver. Find someone who is struggling financially or emotionally or physically, and lend them a helping hand, soothe their loneliness or hunger or confusion or pain. Check out the stories of every holiday tradition—from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas. If you celebrate any of these holidays, you might as well get down to what they are really about: generosity, connection, the promise of light-in-the-darkness. Be that light for someone else.

5) Drop In: to a church or mosque or synagogue or temple or . . . you get the idea. Even if you have no religious affiliation or belief—even if you have deep-seated problems with religion in general—these kinds of spaces have a mysterious quality that can bring peace to a visitor. They carry within their walls the prayers and songs of our human family. Most places of worship welcome all people, even those just looking for a touch of grace. Instead of hurrying by that church you have passed a hundred times on the way to work, take a moment to enter its doors and sit quietly, imbibing the beauty.

6) Take Care: Eat well, drink water, exercise, and then be merry. Instead of making one more feeble New Year’s resolution to join a gym or cut back on the drink or sugar or Twitter, do it right now. You will be amazed at how just the littlest bit of movement and healthful habits will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. And sleep for goodness sakes, do whatever it takes to get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is at the root of so many of our mental and physical problems.

7) Love Everything: Even the hard times; even the cranky and crooked people of the world; even yourself, with all of your embarrassing shortcomings. If loving everything seems impossible, start with forgiveness. Forgive all sorts of people—those from your past, your work, your family, even those abhorrent jerks and so-called enemies in the news. Bitterness towards others is like drinking poison. Put down the bitter cup and take up… 

8) Tenderness: See what happens if you keep your heart open and soft. When you feel fear, or anger, or judgment clutching at your chest, put your hand on your heart and pat lightly. Instead of shutting down, stay open. Stay tender. Just try this and see what happens. Your mind will tell you it’s not safe to be open, that you don’t want to soften, that you’ll tenderize only if the other person changes first. But those strategies haven’t really worked, have they? Try something new.

9) Connect: When you practice love, forgiveness, and tenderness sincerely and consistently, you begin to feel so connected to other people and to life itself that your sense of “me” frays at the edges, loosens, merges. I heard a man at a retreat with the teacher, Eckhart Tolle, say that he’d been practicing compassion meditation and a weird thing was happening to him. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” the concerned man said. And Eckhart replied, “Congratulations.” When you let go of that firm sense of who you are, and what you must protect, and why you are better or worse than anyone else, you are free. There’s less fear, less striving, less of the need to prove your case. There’s more room to let others in, more comfort with the world just as it is, and at the same time, more courage to speak up for truth and beauty.     

10) Joy to the World: How strange that we have everything we need to cheer up right this minute, but so often, joy alludes us. You may recoil at this idea. You may think, “She has NO idea what I am going through; cheering up is not possible.” But I have met some of the most joyful people in the most unlikely, difficult places, including jails and hospitals. And some of the gloomiest, most aggrieved people in luxurious homes and privileged situations. Albert Einstein said that the most important thing to pursue is “sacred awe.” If you think about it, how awe-some—preposterous really—that we are here at all. That YOU showed up here on this little blue marble floating in space. Each one of us has a joyful core that is truer than the worry, the sadness, the blame, the fear. Find your joyful core. Trust it. Be it. Share it.

ELIZABETH LESSER is the author of several bestselling books, including Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most. She is the co-founder of Omega Institute, recognized internationally for its workshops and conferences in wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She has given two popular TED talks, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of a hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.

 

Together we can all inspire, love, serve. And if you choose to Lead from the heart…right from the start, you will see a big shift in your life and the lives of the people around you. Now go out and Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday!

See you all back here on Wednesday for my own little holiday to-do list.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Hold the Vision…Trust the Process

Security…it’s simply the recognition that changes will take place and the knowledge that you’re willing to deal with whatever happens.” Harry Browne

The month of December can really mess with people’s emotions for a number of reasons. Between preparing for the holidays, hosting parties, going to parties, shopping for the “perfect” gift, decorating, and dealing with work and family chores and obligations, we are sometimes left feeling depleted and perhaps even sad. For many, the memories of loved ones long gone, perhaps the recent crossing over of a family member, or the ending of an irreparable relationship makes getting through the month of December a little more challenging to say the least. These circumstances and events leave us needing some major grounding, clarity and stability.

Guided mediations are a wonderful tool for cultivating a feeling of grounding and stability. They are also helpful in making us feel safe and secure. I sometimes envision myself as a tree with deep roots in the ground. It gives me a sense of unshakable energy, strength, inner fortitude and protection from destabilizing forces. This visual also allows me to maintain that “calm in the chaos” and readily go with the flow with whatever is happening.

There have been many times in my life, especially at work, when someone has looked to me as the calming, sensible voice in a confusing and chaotic situation. During my time as a school administrator, I wanted to “lead from the heart” and be an exemplary role model of what it is like to maintain “calm in the chaos.” It is a gift of balanced strength. And it is something we can all achieve with the help of the many tools that are so readily available to us today – guided meditation being one of them.

If we hold the vision of that state of  grounding, clarity, stability and trust the process, our sense of security will feel effortless and unshakable. Guided meditations that connect us to the earth element do just that. With time and practice, you will feel like a huge, unshakable oak tree….just hold the vision…and trust the process!

The following guided meditation will enhance your sense of support and stability. You can have someone read it to you, voice record it so you can listen to your own voice, or just glance at it, close your eyes and be with the vision and the feelings for however long. Sit comfortably on the floor and, if you would like to add a hand gesture, you can make peace signs and touch your index and middle finger to the ground alongside your body (Bhu mudra). If sitting on the floor is not an option, sit in a chair (or in bed) with your palms face down on your lap.

  1. As you hold Bhu mudra, take several natural breaths to attune to all the feelings and sensations evoked by this gesture.
  2. Visualize your body as a mountain with your legs as the base, your arms as the slopes stretching out to the sides, and the crown of your head as the mountain peak rising into the sky.
  3. With each inhalation, your spine lengthens naturally, and with each exhalation, the base of your body connects to the earth more firmly.
  4. Sense breath flowing up and down your spine, creating space between each vertebra, cultivating a sense of alignment and stability throughout the entire structure of your body.
  5. Resting in your mountain’s stability, take some time to notice how the pause at the end of your exhalation is lengthened gradually, allowing you to experience the earth’s deep serenity.
  6. Attuned to the earth’s stability and serenity, you naturally receive all of its healing qualities.
  7. Begin by taking several breaths to receive the earth’s minerals in the exact quantities you need to support the structure of your body, cultivating optimal bone strength and density.
  8. With a greater sense of support, you naturally inhabit your body more completely, experiencing all areas of your being integrated as a seamless unity.
  9. As you inhabit your body more completely, the serenity of your mountain naturally permeates your thoughts and feelings, allowing you to experience absolute security at all times and places along your journey.
  10. With a deeper sense of security, a feeling of oneness with the natural world infuses your being, allowing you to feel completely at home within your surroundings.
  11. One with the earth, and infused with its healing qualities, you rest within your mountain of stability, allowing its absolute stillness to permeate your entire being.
  12. Deeply attuned to the earth, repeat the following three times, aloud or silently: “Embodying all of the earth’s essential qualities, I experience complete stability.”
  13. Slowly release the gesture, taking several breaths to integrate all of the earth’s healing qualities.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes, returning slowly and gently, continuing your journey with a greater sense of support and stability.

If you are interested in adding another tool to your “toolbox” and want to explore mudras, guided meditations, energy centers (chakras), doshas (constitution), balance, and health conditions more in depth, Mudras For Healing and Transformation, by Joseph and Leslie Le Page, is a spectacular resource. It’s a wonderful compliment for anyone wanting to expand their spiritual practice(s) as well. This book is perfect for Yoga students, teachers, and/or anyone in all types of healing professions……and makes for a great, meaningful holiday gift.

Attuned to the earth’s stability, may you move confidently throughout the next few days, weeks and months!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Reminder

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means being in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” Unknown

With the state of the world, the full moon energy and the preparation, anticipation and craziness this time of year brings into our lives, a simple reminder is called for throughout the day. Whether that reminder calls us to stop, breathe, get out in nature, repeat a mantra, pray, move our body, listen to an uplifting song, or just sit in stillness to connect to Mother Earth, we can cultivate a sense of peaceful grounding that we can turn to again and again throughout our day.

Is it possible to maintain that “calm in the chaos” outlook? It sure is! Once again, it is our choice to make. With practice, patience and mindful intention, the choices we make become more evolutionary. We arrive at that place where we are aware of the impact our energy has on those around us and the ripple effect it has on the collective consciousness. We are so finely tuned into what our reminders are telling us, that we can operate from auto-pilot mode. Our trajectory shifts, and we find ourself operating from a place of peace, calm and ease – especially if we have been protecting our energy field (my last three blogs contain some good pointers, a prayer and affirmations that may be of help if you don’t know where/how to start).

We can become so rooted and grounded in our practice(s) that our awareness is heightened, and we see ourself as the witness. I refer to it as sitting with a bowl of popcorn and watching the movie unfold without getting caught up in the plot, characters and story line. I can bear witness to the unfolding chaos. When I am in this state, I feel like I am flowing smoothly. There is this sense of knowing and feeling the connection to earth, spirit, the Source, and joy. It feels like I have a skip in my step, and my heart is smiling! Speaking of smiling, do people need to smile more, or what?

How are you feeling this first week in December? Are you feeling grounded or scattered?I invite you to sit with the following questions and perhaps even use them as journal prompts or just food for thought:

  • Are there parts of your life that are flowing smoothly?
  • Are there some that aren’t?
  • Can you name the feelings that arise when your life is flowing smoothly?
  • What thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise when parts of your life aren’t flowing so smoothly?
  • Are you a peaceful person, or are you filled with regrets, grievances and resentments?
  • Who are the peaceful people in your life?
  • How do they make you feel when you are around them?
  • Who or what disrupts your peace?
  • What are you willing to do about it?
  • What are some activities that bring a sense of peace, calm and ease into your life?
  • Where do you turn for inspiration?

On this first Wednesday in December, my wish for you is that you may know Peace. I will leave you with a lovely prayer/affirmation from meditation cards that I have (http://www.mayyouknowjoy.com). By the way, these cards make a lovely holiday or hostess gift. And if someone you know is in need of a simple reminder, then this deck of cards, and accompanying book, make the perfect gift!

May You Know Peace

May you know peace in the core of your being. May you breathe in and out and know that everything is exactly as it should be and you’re exactly where you are supposed to be. May the lightness of peace guide you. May it be friends with strength and hope. And, if peace seems far off, identify what needs to be removed or changed to make space for it.

Peace out darlings!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Good Morning Sunshine…Hello Joy

“The Joy of Being, which is the only true happiness, cannot come to you through any form, possession, achievement, person or event – through anything that happens. That Joy cannot come to you – ever. It emanates from the formless dimension within you, from consciousness itself and this is one with who you are.” Eckhart Tolle

There’s nothing like seeing someone first thing in the morning and feeling a ray of sunshine beaming down on you. I can best describe it as a feeling of inner Joy. When I was working, a couple of my colleagues- Susanne and Ivette- and I would always exchange the greeting, Good Morning Sunshine, and the other would say, Hello Joy! And since tomorrow is Susanne’s birthday, I was inspired to write this blog by the memory of this exchange – and one that we continue to have when we see each other at our monthly birthday luncheons.

Simply stated, we are either Joy or not. Joy is something that comes from within our very being, our essence, our true self. We can’t make it up, seek it outside ourselves, buy it, or expect it to come to us. This type of “expectation” is one that just causes more pain, suffering, disappointment, negativity and unhappiness. In the book, A New Earth,  Eckhart Tolle goes on to say that Unhappiness or negativity is a disease of our planet.” He wrote these words ten years ago, and they are ever so true to this very day. He further states that “Pollution is on the outer level, negativity is on the inner. It is everywhere! It’s not just in places where people don’t have enough, but even more so where they have more than enough.” When I saw him interviewed on Super Soul Sunday, he remarked how the tremendous amount of earth’s energy field is produced by people. No kidding! That is definitely clear as daylight. How can we shift the energy field?

Imagine if every single person took responsibility for the energy they bring into a room? Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, speaker and author, talks about this in her Ted Talk, My Stroke of Insight (one of those talks that went viral). If you haven’t heard of her, she was a brain researcher who studied her own stroke as it was happening. Talk about things happening for a reason and living one’s purpose! Being left in a state of pure consciousness (and unable to speak, read, write or walk at the time), she was ever so conscious of the positive and negative energy that different people brought into the room. Imagine if more people chose to clear themselves of negative energy, be still and connect to their inner being-ness and knowing-ness, and operated from that place of Love and Joy? Imagine what that would do to our beautiful planet’s energy field?

It’s not a difficult thing to do. All it entails is to be aware of that moment of negativity creeping up, and choose differently. Some may argue that it is easier said than done; however, with practice, diligence, and healthy boundaries, we do come to that place where choosing differently becomes our default setting. Sometimes, a good visual helps us be with what is in that moment (my visual happens to he a big red stop sign in my third eye – with flashing lights around it). If we stay rooted and grounded in the present moment, we are better equipped to be more mindful and aware of the decisions we make, exchanges we have, what we are willing to let into our own personal space or energy field, and the energy we bring into a room.

And speaking of energy fields, this is a time of year people tend to unravel, spiral, lose control, and push themselves into a state of sheer exhaustion…all self-imposed by the way! Rather than enjoy each moment, each day, each exchange or interaction, the “Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers” come out to play, tensions build, tempers flare, guilt sets in and the ugly in people comes out. Obviously, we have the ability to rise above all that if we take the time to listen, make our well-being a priority, heed our intuition, honor our boundaries, and bring consciousness and awareness into our daily modus operandi. With practice, commitment, patience, steadfastness and grace, we can all honor our inner needs during trying times by taking care of ourselves and protecting our precious energy field – regardless of the people and/or circumstances with which we are dealing (and if there are people who add way too much stress to your life, well it’s then time to “clean house”).

Here are a few simple and power-filled tips that pop up now and then on Facebook and Instagram, and they are right on the money.

To Protect Your Energy:

  • It’s okay to cancel a commitment
  • It’s okay to change your mind
  • It’s okay to want to be alone
  • It’s okay to take a day off
  • It’s okay to do nothing
  • It’s okay to speak up
  • It’s okay to let go 

If someone gets upset at you, that is their problem not yours! Remember, YOUR well-being, sanity, peace of mind, health and wellness should be the priority…..just sayin’!

Now that the holidays have started, we can savor them in a stress-free and enjoyable way. Time is precious, and we have the ability to enjoy wonder-filled and beautiful moments with our friends and loved ones and when we are alone too.  If we tap into our true essence and acknowledge our limitless, love-filled, miraculous and joyous self, cut ourselves some slack, loosen up, relinquish the need to control, ask for help and make our well-being a priority, we will be walking around radiating lots of Sunshine and Joy! The choice is ours to make….doom, gloom and negativity or sunshine, joy and positivity? If you ask me, it’s a no-brainer….wink, wink.

To keep my energy levels in check, I’m going to add one more to the list. I will only be blogging on Wednesdays throughout the month of December. This way, I can relax more, spend time reading and perhaps even write more!

Protect your energy, embrace the joy and shine away darlings….You’ve got the power!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

R&R

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” -Maya Angelou

I remember when I first started teaching and was always on the go, my mother would always remind me of the importance of resting, slowing down, taking naps or, at best, just closing my eyes for a few minutes. It was her belief that one got old before their time if they didn’t take/make time to rest and relax. However, I had a difficult time processing this because of the conflicting message that her actions sent my way.

You see, what my mom practiced versus what she preached were two different things. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around the irony. I didn’t think my mother knew what she was taking about since she was always doing, on the go and tired. How could she possibly know what she was talking about back then?  With the passing of time, I did in fact learn the importance of self-care (not the easy way), and that is why I am such an advocate for radical self-love, self-care and R&R. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes is, “How beautiful it is to do nothing and rest afterwards.”

Are you sending out mixed messages? Are you saying one thing and yet modeling a different behavior for your children and/or loved ones? Today, more than ever, with all the sensory overload and stimulation, round the clock connectivity, and idol hours being spent in front of electronic devices, we cannot overlook the importance of “making the time to take the time” to unplug and take care of ourselves. No excuses! On top of this throw in the state of our world, planet, the on-the-job demands, raising children, caregiving for our partners, and aging parents. And if that’s not enough, add to that mix the problems and solutions that are required to keep our heads above water. Whew! I don’t know about you, but I am tired just writing about it! We can either let all these things wear us down, beat us up and disempower us, OR we can make the choice to go down a healthier path. The choice is truly ours to make. No one can do it for us. As Maya Angelou used to say, “When we know better, we do better.” 

The activity in my last blog, Who’s in Charge Here, gave you “permission” to do identify the things that your mind, body and soul need in order to function optimally. If your mind, body and soul are out of alignment, you can bet your pretty backside that you are feeling its ill-effects. Remember, dis-ease in the mind, body and soul will manifest into disease. And that is the absolute truth! For starters, look around at the havoc that hovering over our electronic devices is doing to our physical bodies. Take a look at how hunched over and collapsed people are looking these days. Young children and young adults already have signs of severe muscular-skeletal issues caused by their poor posture. Witness the anxiety, anger, frustration, grievances and ill behaviors in and around us. All these things can, and should be nipped in the bud because we do, in fact, know better. As I mentioned in Who’s in Charge Here, we need to take charge and act on it! After all, if you’re not in charge, then who is? No excuses darlings!

While the notion of R&R may conjure up visions of retreat centers, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, spa vacations and all the sensory delights that come along with them, we don’t have to go away to experience the healing effects of good old-fashion rest and relaxation. All we need to do is be still, connect to our body, and listen to what it is trying to tell us. We can have a conversation with our Self, and listen to what our heart is longing for… we must do in the name of self-preservation. What is your mind, body and soul calling out for? Is it calling for more quiet time, less time on social media, a digital detox, early bedtime, a bedtime ritual, a soak in the tub, candles, soft music, time to read, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, healing and nutritious foods, an hour of silence (perhaps more), a massage, energy work, reflexology, a facial, mani/pedi, long walks in nature, time with your tribe….you get the picture, don’t you?

Well, then it is my heartfelt wish that you have started to carve out the time to take care of your beautiful, precious, magical, and divine Self and that you have identified your talents, gifts and uniqueness (if not, check out the blog Exercise the I AM in You). We only get one mind, body and soul in this lifetime. Our physical shell holds the miraculous systems and organs that make us who we are.  Shouldn’t we want to honor that precious temple the best way possible? After all, we are good at helping and serving others; yet, oftentimes we do for others and not for ourselves. Let’s change the narrative and the stories we are telling ourselves and modeling for others. Rest and relaxation MUST be on everyone’s list of “non-negotiables.” And, speaking of non-negotiables, have you identified yours?

I will leave you with a beautiful prayer/meditation from the May You Know Joy deck of meditation cards I purchased while I was at Kripalu.

May You Know Nourishment

May you nourish your mind, your body and your soul daily. They are your divine trinity. Nourish your fibers, your ideas, and your values. Strengthening these will carry you further than you might dream possible. May you treat yourself with kindness and compassion and share your nourishment with whose in need of it. They will come to you and you will both be nourished in the process.

 

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Broken Down or Broken Open

“Being Alive and present with those I love is how I want to live my new life. This is what I want to motivate me: quality of life, quality moments and quality love”        JT Carricarte

How ironic that I finished Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open – How Difficult Times Help Us Grow just days before my “epic” orthopedic surgery in 2012. Whew! Was that book preparing me for something of great magnitude without me having the slightest inkling! Little did I know that I would be in for yet another self discovery journey over the three years following that surgery (only to have surgery again in 2016). Broken Open not only prepared me for the change I was about to undergo, but it equipped me with the strength and inner fortitude I needed to battle the most difficult, challenging and life altering event I was about to experience. Oh, this most fascinating and funny universe of ours surely knows how to deliver!

I took the book out as I sat to write this blog, and I had written the following on the inside cover: “This book, by far, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As if divinely ordained, I finished reading it just days before I went into the hospital (and I had ordered it quite some time before that). I must have purchased 10 copies and gave them to  my Girls for Christmas. It’s an absolutely  beautifully written book that makes you embrace The Phoenix Rising.” In case you’re interested in reading this book, Elizabeth Lesser shares stories about people who’ve “risen from the ashes” after suffering all types of loss such as death, divorce, illness, loss of a job, and how they did so with love and wisdom.

If you’ve ever heard Elizabeth Lesser speak, seen her interviewed or have read any of her books, you know how, real, heart-warming, compassionate and honest she is.  She’s such a gifted writer and storyteller. Talk about total transparency! In her book, Elizabeth asks, “Will we be broken down and defeated, or broken open and transformed?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve always opted for the later. I’m not sure who instilled that in me. Was it my father? Was it my mother? Did I, in an effort to be independent from a controlling Cuban mother? Somehow, in their own way, my parents instilled in me the knowing that I could get through anything I was faced with head on. Thanks, Mama and Honey-Honey – I don’t know how you did it, but it worked! Is there such a thing as being too independent? Let me not even go there….that’s for another blog!!!

We all have choices in this life, and we can either choose to break down and succumb to the poor me/why me/victim mentality, or we can be broken open and forge ahead with strength, grace, faith and gratitude knowing that whatever experience we are going through is for our highest good, and we will come out of it transformed. We can call them lessons and blessings alike for there is, indeed, a silver lining in every single challenge and life event with which we are faced. Furthermore, these life events are also “priming” us for something much greater than we can imagine. Sometimes we are so caught up in what is happening, that we fail to see the big picture or, at the very least, acknowledge there even is a big picture even though we may be unable to see it at the moment. One thing I have learned though, is that these moments are somehow tied to our life purpose,  rich in learning experiences, and the wisdom that comes with it.

When I read Broken Open, I was planning on ending my career in the near future, but this magical universe of ours had a different plan of sorts. If you read my first blog, I mentioned how unfulfilled, underutilized, suffocated, and compromised I felt on the job. I knew I needed to get out of there. My soul desperately needed expansion and air. I am a free spirit and my wings felt like they had been clipped. I desperately needed to fly free! Despite my spiritual practices, yoga, meditation, working out, being out in nature, etc., I was constantly fatigued, exhausted, and sick. My quality of life was taking a hit, as was my personal and social life. All I did was work, work, work and saw less and less of my friends. I couldn’t wait to get home to go to bed. Sometimes, I’d be sleeping by 7PM. More importably though, while I was in tune with my body, I wasn’t listening to it. You know very well what happens when we don’t listen to our bodies, right? It will find a way to get our attention. In the end, if we fail to listen to these signs and messages, we will certainly broken down. That is precisely what happened to me. I went to work one day, suffered an injury that evening and was unable to return to work. I’m sure you can relate and can share your own experiences of being brought down to your knees. The game changer is what we choose to do once this occurs. Do we accept defeat, or are we willing to be transformed? In either case, our mindset will be the determining factor. Will we blossom into something extraordinary or wither away? The key my darlings, is the willingness to change and do things differently.

Even if we love change and accept it freely and willingly, it’s all together a different thing when the quality of our life is affected. It poses a new set of challenges. In my particular case, I found myself being able to do less and less, suffered from chronic pain 24/7 and was forced to establish “new normals” with each passing day. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other in hopes of getting through that particular day. When I looked in the mirror, I was unrecognizable. Stressful situations take a toll on our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, especially when the joy is seemingly zapped from our life. This is when our limits are tested, and we have ask ourselves, “Will I be defeated or transformed?” No one can do this for us. This is when we dig deeper than we ever have before, down to the very core of our existence. This is when we re-evaluate everything we think we know and have learned only to have to re-adjust our thinking and re-learn all over again. But it’s all good! You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” No kidding! In the end though, the outcome is sweeter, more meaningful and rich in lessons and blessings alike. This is when we are able to look back, connect the dots, and have a sense of deep gratitude for the opportunity to start anew.

Personally, my experience and brush with death in 2012 not only made me thankful to be ALIVE, but it gave me a major attitude adjustment. It made me re-group, re-think my quality of life and re-assess my boundaries. It motivated me to re-commit  to living a life of inspiration, love, and service while being totally mindful and present each and every step of the way…..quality life, quality moments and quality love! And part of that quality of life, quality moments and quality love is having the opportunity to share my lessons and blessings with you via my blogging in hopes that you too will find ways to inspire, love, serve even when facing the challenging times in your life. Use these times, your talents, gifts, uniqueness and whatever platform you have each and every day to share your stories and  lead from the heart…right from the start!

When faced with a difficult or challenging life event or loss of some kind, will you  choose to be broken down and defeated, or will you choose the beauty of being broken open and transformed?

Inhale love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC