Mirror, Mirror

“Imagine a country whose citizens-maybe even its leaders- are brave, calm, and open towards each other; A country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense.” BR. David Steindl- Rast

Today is Election Day here in the U.S., and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this moment in history that I (and everyone who I reading this) am blessed with being alive to experience. We are all part of history in the making.

I’m not attached to any election outcome. Non-attachment is a Buddhist mindset I’ve learned to cultivate over the years because of the simple fact the attachments lead to suffering. Nonattachment is a practice, and I’m a firm believer that whatever happens is happening for a reason and that life happens FOR us not to us.

I believe the past four years- and especially the past eight months since the pandemic- have held up a mirror to all of us. A mirror to look at the divide and brokenness within ourselves, our own internal biases, prejudices, anger, trauma and see where we can be more compassionate, loving, and accepting. This, of course, is a practice as well.

During these times of uncertainty, the one certainty is that what is occurring in our nation is a direct reflection of the heart and soul of each and every one of us.

As one of my teachers and mentors often reminds us, the times we’ve been living have been challenging us to step fully into all of it: our fear, anxiety, division, and transform that to empathy, compassion, and a deep love of self and of others.

The mirror that is being held up to us is there to truly and deeply examine our own lives, challenges, attachments, privileges, thoughts, actions, entitlements, speech, choices, relationships, beliefs, biases, and the role we are each playing in the healing of humanity and of our planet. I believe the mirror is there for us to deeply examine our own personal integrity and values.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, what will be revealed is the true nature and soul of our country… of its people.

Weeks ago, I came across a post that my neighbor borrowed from a friend- who probably borrowed from a friend, etc., etc. It’s a piece that was written by a President Trump supporter and one that really spoke to me. It speaks to the times we’re living and experiencing- individually and collectively- it speaks to the failure to communicate, to our humanity, integrity, dignity, values, disappointment, reverence for life and the fracture of relationships, friendships and society. I’ve shared it with many friends since having read it, and I’ve come back to it again and again. It’s both haunting and sobering.

So on this Election Day, I will leave you with that post. I don’t know who wrote it or where it originated. All I know is that whomever has shared it has “borrowed it from a friend.”

“I know you think I’m preoccupied with this President; that he is the reason I’m so angry and bitter and frustrated these days—but you’re wrong. This isn’t about Donald Trump.

It’s never been about him.

It wasn’t about him during the campaign or on Election Day.

It wasn’t about him when recordings of him boasting about sexual assaults surfaced.

It wasn’t about him when he said protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up.

It wasn’t about him when he left refugee families stranded at the airport.

It wasn’t about him when he attacked the press.

It wasn’t about him when he sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t about him when he blamed racial violence on “both sides.”

And it isn’t about him today: it’s about us.

This is about me and it’s about you.

It’s about my grief at the ugliness you feel emboldened to post on social media now, the nastiness you seem newly capable of, the disgusting words you now so easily toss out around the dinner table.

It’s about my disbelief at your sudden tolerance for his infidelity, his cruelty, his intellectual ignorance, his immorality, his disrespect for the rule of law, his alliances with dictators — things you once claimed you could never abide in a leader.

It’s about my incredulity at your surprising resentment for marginalized people; for your inability to muster any compassion for those who are hurting or frightened or threatened.

It’s about my disappointment at your easily manipulated nationalistic fervor; how the God and Guns, America First, Love it or Leave it rhetoric, so easily took root in your heart — how hostile to outsiders and foreigners you’ve become.

It’s about my amazement at your capacity to make your faith so pliable, that you could amen a compulsive liar, a serial adulterer, a fear-mongering bully; a man in nearly every way antithetical to the Jesus you’ve always said was so dear to you.

It’s about my sickness seeing you excuse away his coddling of racists, his public attacks on the FBI, his impulsive firings of Cabinet members, his Tweet rants against individual citizens and American companies.

It’s about my grief seeing you respond to his near-hourly display of recklessness and overreach, with a shrug of your shoulders or a turning away from it all.

It’s about me watching you ignore in him and even celebrate in him, the very things you claimed made Hillary Clinton the ‘greater of two evils’ when you voted: blatant corruption, financial impropriety, pathological lies, lack of morality.

It’s about my sadness at seeing you make a million tiny concessions—and how easy it now is for you to consent to actions, that only three years ago you’d have told me fully disgusted you.

Most of all, it’s about me realizing that when all this is over—we are still going to have to deal with all of this. Our fractures are going to outlive this Presidency.

You see, I really don’t give a damn about Donald Trump.

He doesn’t matter to me. He never has.

He’s a three-time married, C-level reality TV celebrity, with a long and well-documented resume of sexual misconduct, financial disasters, and moral filth.

He’s a professional predator who’s spent his life exploiting people for personal gain. That’s who he was before and who he will be when he leaves office.

Donald Trump, the President will be gone one day, and his disastrous Presidency will be well preserved.

History will have documented his every lie, every misdeed, every abuse of power, every treasonous betrayal — and he will be fully revealed as the monster that many of us are fully aware that he is.

That’s not why I am so disgusted and so filled with sadness these days.

I don’t care about Donald Trump because I don’t know or live alongside or love or respect Donald Trump.

I know and live alongside and love and respect you — or at least I once did, and I’m going to have to try and do that again.

Our relationship and our family and our church and our neighborhood and our nation are going to be trying to clean up the messes long after this President is gone.

When this is all over, the divides and the fractures and the wounds between us are going to remain.

This is why I’m angry and bitter and frustrated; not because of Donald Trump — but because of me — and because of you.”

Borrowed from a friend.

Darlings, regardless of the outcome of today’s election, our lives will go on and we all will be faced with letting go, moving on and stepping into our place in our human family, community, and the world with love, peace, intention and purpose. Showing up any other way would be a disservice to humanity. We’ve had many an opportunity for healing ourselves and healing humanity and, if we don’t get this right, this magical universe will continue giving us opportunities to do just that. Let’s work on ourselves, my darlings. Let’s leave the world a better place for future generations. Let’s honor our ancestors and continue the work they started!

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the work to heal the individual and collective fractured divide will continue…. what role will you be playing?

Be well, stay safe and God bless us all!

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

Calling All Sister Goddesses

“Open your heart, fling your hopes high and set your dreams aloft. I am here to hold your hand.” Maya Angelou

You know those female friendships that seem all too familiar, comforting, feel good and uplifting, allow you to let your guard down and leave you feeling lighter, brighter and happier when you’re around them?

You know which ones I’m talking about… the ones where you feel a deep soul connection to and is one of unconditional love, un-ending support and acceptance without judgement? The ones that hold a space for us to be messy, real and bat-shit crazy and tearful when need be? Well, darlings, that perfectly describes a sister goddess!

I truly believe that Sister Goddesses are like our life line. They are the air we breathe and provide a safe and nurturing place for us to fully arrive and land in our greatness, magnificence and radiance. Unfortunately, this is not what many young girls are taught and, as a result, are unable to embrace “the sisterhood” as they grow up and get on with their adult lives.

Sadly, there are many women walking around in disconnected and very guarded states. They are not comfortable sharing or having touchy-feely conversations. They even have difficulty sharing celebratory news. To understand why this happens, we must first understand what many young girls/women have been taught about women-to-women relations.

Regena Thomashauer, founder of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, speaks to this notion very clearly and precisely when she says, “We women have been taught that we are not to be trusted, not to be counted on, and not to be brought in close. We’ve been taught to believe that women are backbiting, and envious, catty, emotionally unstable, hysterical, premenstrual, and unreasonable. We have been taught that, given the chance, women will take each other down.”

So… it’s not surprising that this belief system leaves women unable to connect to other women. It leaves women feeling alone, unsupported, unloved, secretive, suspicious and guarded. It leaves women bereft of their most radiant and magical gift of all: to connect, nurture and truly step into their greatness.

When we embrace the goddess sisterhood, we are able to break free of the chains that have kept us bound to archaic, preconceived notions and limitations that have kept us from truly and wholeheartedly loving fully, joyously and with a sense of purpose and inspiration.

Luckily, I didn’t fall prey to the archaic (and destructive) thinking that even my own mother and aunties subscribed to. I recall getting those “lectures” on not trusting other girls/women and all the reasons why I shouldn’t as I was growing up. Thank God I took all that lecturing with a grain of salt and proceeded to create my own little village of strong, supportive, inspirational, funny, loving, encouraging, powerful, connected and extraordinary Sister Goddesses throughout every stage of my life. I guess it’s safe to say I was a little rebel and sister goddess- activist-in-training growing up. As a matter of fact, I still am, and I’m quite proud of it!!!

I don’t know what I would do without the beautiful array of Goddesses in my life!

Do you have a community of sister Goddesses?

Who are the women with whom you have a strong connection or bond?

What messages do your actions, viewpoints and belief systems impart on the little girls/young women in your life?

What are your actions, viewpoints and belief systems teaching the little boys/young men in your life?

Are there any archaic and out-dated belief systems you’ve worked hard at dismantling in your life?

How did this leave you feeling?

How do you celebrate the women in your life?

My darling sister Goddess-yes you- it is our job to open our hearts, to lead from our hearts, to disband the worn-out stories of women that are not true, to embrace each other and each other’s gifts and talents and take them out into the world in whatever way and for whatever cause sets our hearts on fire. We must embrace the feminine divine that resides within each one of us and see that image reflected back at us when we look into the eyes of another woman.

WE are the ones we have been waiting for! WE are the leaders and the problem solvers. WE are given opportunities each and every day to shift the paradigm and re-balance the masculine and feminine energies that are all around us- on the home front, in the workplace, in society and in our world culture.

WE are here not only to hold each other’s hands and dream, but to take each other higher, empower each other and catapult each other to new levels of consciousness, awakening, and enlightenment! And it is when WE empower each other, feel empowered, and operate from more evolutionary mindsets that WE can really affect change and transformation. In my humble opinion, WE CAN DO ANYTHING WE SET OUR MINDS AND HEARTS TO DO!!! Don’t you agree?

The time has come for all Sister goddesses to unite! Come out, come out, wherever you are!

And when you do come out, please take the time to celebrate the amazing women in your life. Make a list of who they are, and find ways you can let them know what their presence in your life means to you. Also come up with ways to lift them up for, in doing so, we also lift ourselves up. Be sure they know you will always hold their hand and have their back. Lastly, find the many ways you can inspire, love, serve!

The world needs YOU! The world needs US!

Carry on… and Shine on!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Empaths and Emotional Hangover

Empaths have an extremely reactive neurological system. We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us. We are so sensitive that it’s like holding something in a hand that has 50 fingers instead of five. We are truly super responders.” Judith Orloff, MD

Greetings, my darlings!

I know, I know, I have been slacking off on my writing. But it’s not to say I’ve been slacking off on my reading (among other things). There’s nothing like being captivated by good books, Netflix feel-good programs, such as The Kindness Diaries, podcasts and meaningful conversations with friends around all of it.

Speaking of conversations, I’ve been having several of them lately around the topic of empathy, empaths and highly sensitive people. These are also topics that often pop up in yoga class. So it’s no wonder that Judith Orloff’s book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, has been the central focus in many of the convos over the past few weeks (and even months). And, just to show you what a genie the universe is, I walked into acupuncture the other day and came across a copy of the book (which I borrowed, of course).

And wouldn’t you know that I opened the book to the section on protection strategies for curing an emotional hangover!?!? The universe is quite the genie!

My, oh my! While these strategies are some of the practices I have been employing for a long time, they didn’t surprise me. However, I was surprised to learn exactly where I fell in the world of an empath (and there are several assessments/checklists included in the book to guide us).

All it took was reading the first paragraph of the first chapter, and I was hooked:

“Though there is a spectrum of sensitivity that exists in human beings, empaths are emotional sponges who absorb both the stress and joy of the world. We feel everything, often to an extreme, and have little guard up between others and ourselves. As a result we are often overwhelmed by excessive stimulation and prone to exhaustion and sensory overload.”

Does this sound like you, your child, a family member or someone you know? Are you prone to fatigue or illness? Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Do you feel overwhelmed with large crowds, loud environments, or toxic people? Do you numb yourself with food, alcohol, sex, shopping or other addictive behaviors? Do you tend to have low blood sugar? Do you dislike arguing? Do you feel overworked? Do you have chemical sensitivities? Does too much socializing and overstimulating situations such as parties and cruises make you feel trapped? Do you feel suffocated in relationships? Well, if the answer to any of these questions is YES, you will want to get a copy of this book for yourself ASAP. I wish I had it in my twenties!!! It would have made my life, and the lives of others around me, so much easier! By the way, these are just a few of the indicators that deeply resonates for me.

Needless to say, this book is a wonderful resource for understanding empaths, empathy and for developing coping skills. And coping skills is something that is much needed in today’s chaotic and overly- stimulated world… a world that is filled with what can be a disturbing array of sights, smells, sensations and sounds, don’t ya think?

As noted on the inside cover of the book, it was created to “support empaths through their unique challenges and help loved ones better understand the empath’s needs and gifts.”

Not surprising is that empaths are usually intuitive, compassionate, creative and spiritually connected. As one of my beloved yoga teachers often says, “Empaths have superpowers.” These gifts and superpowers also bring with them an array of challenges though. And one of these challenges is dealing with people and situations that drain us of our energy.

Why? Because as much as empaths are able to sense other people’s vitality, joy, enthusiasm, happiness and love within ourselves, we also absorb negative energies around us. These energies go right into our muscles, tissues, and organs.

I remember reading the term “energy vampire” in a magazine article I was reading years and years ago- before it becoming so mainstream. That’s when I started connecting the dots and having a greater awareness around the topic of energy. I also started taking note of people and situations that left me feeling depleted and exhausted. In other words, I started identifying the energy vampires in my personal and professional life.

Dr. Orloff identifies seven types of energy vampires in her book. They are:

  1. The Narcissist
  2. The Rageaholic
  3. The Victim
  4. The Drama Queen or King
  5. Control Freaks and Critics
  6. The Nonstop Talker
  7. Passive-Aggressive People

And what happens when we spend too much time in the company of energy vampires, without setting healthy boundaries, having strategies or tools for protecting our energy? We end up overwhelmed, fatigued, drained and with an emotional hangover! Sound familiar?

It sure does! So what are some tools and strategies to protect us against these emotional hangovers?

  • Shower meditations
  • Gemstones
  • Smudging/ Clearing ourselves and our space
  • Negative ion generators or salt lamps
  • Lighting white candles
  • Spraying rose water or other types of aromatherapy
  • Being in nature
  • Sacred space for meditation/ prayer
  • Seeking emotional support with a friend or therapist

The following are additional tools we can use to protect and conserve our overall energy and keep us from getting to the point of overload and/or burnout:

  • Shielding visualizations
  • Grounding and earthing visualizations
  • Cutting energetic chords visualizations
  • Breathwork
  • Yoga
  • Prayer
  • Open to a higher power
  • Loving-Kindness meditations
  • Music and Mantras
  • Detoxing baths
  • Essential Oils
  • Alone time
  • Journaling
  • Getting good sleep and napping
  • Setting clear limits and boundaries
  • Stepping away from what’s disturbing
  • Disconnecting from electronics and social media
  • Eating healthy and nutritious “alive foods”
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Avoiding or limiting caffeine
  • Being fully present in your body
  • Practicing self-compassion
  • Conscious and meaningful conversations

As we may all know by now, cultivating positive self-talk boosts the flow of endorphins- otherwise known as our “feel good hormones,” much like exercise does.

So on this note, I will share with you with some beautiful affirmations from Dr. Orloff’s book. Remember, I’m all about the sharing… wink, wink!

You may choose to write them in a journal (I know I am), post them somewhere, share them or perhaps even use them as a springboard for journaling, meditating or praying. We can also turn to these affirmations if we find ourselves in a toxic, challenging situation or with a person who is challenging to be with.

Empath Affirmations:

  • I vow to honor my sensitivities and treat myself lovingly as I explore what it means to be an empath and embrace my gifts. I will appreciate myself every day.
  • I am strong. I am loving. I am positive. I have the power to clear all negativity and stress from my body. I embrace my physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
  • I will listen to the wisdom of my body. I will eat a healthy diet. I will practice self-care to heal my addictions and stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually balanced.
  • In a quiet state of self-acceptance, tell yourself: I deserve to be in a loving relationship where I feel comfortable. I deserve to express my true needs. I deserve to have my sensitivities respected. I deserve to be heard.
    I will protect my energy around draining people. I will learn how to set healthy boundaries. I will learn to say “no” at the right times. I will listen to my intuition about the relationships that are nurturing for me.
    For children and parents to use: I will embrace my sensitivities and take time to rest and recharge. I will express my needs with supportive people. I will not hide my gifts. I will be authentic. I will stand in my power. I am proud to be a sensitive and loving person.
    I set my intention to attract rewarding work that energizes me. I will practice self-care in my profession to protect my sensitivities. I vow to play and to rest when I’m off work to recharge myself.
    I will honor my intuition. I will listen to my dreams. I will not second-guess my inner voice. I will seek to find balance with my intuition and other aspects of my life so that I can express my full spectrum of sensitivities and be whole.
    I will treasure myself and vow to have people in my life who treasure me as well. I will use my sensitivities to better my own life and the world. I will celebrate the adventure of being an empath.

My darlings, I have shared but only a snippet of the content in this most valuable book by Dr. Orloff. I am certain that you will find yourself, your child, a friend(s), spouse/partner, family member, coworker, or some other loved one on its pages, especially after taking some of the assessments.

If we want to live a life that is rich in love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and meaning, we all need to embrace our gifts and the gifts of the other people in our lives-even those of energy vampires- for they, too, are our teachers. If anything, they propel us to love and heal ourselves. In order to do so, we must first learn to love, support, understand and accept ourselves so that we can then love, support, understand and accept others. This is the gift of healing!

Here’s to embracing our gifts, our superpowers and leading from the heart… right from the start!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

College Admissions Scam

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” Khalil Gibran

Greetings darlings!

As I was checking my emails this morning, I came across Mallika Chopra’s blog on the college admissions cheating scam. Being all too familiar with the expectations, absurdities, insane practices and stresses related to getting a child into college, I put aside the blog I was working on for today and instead decided to share the outstanding blog Ms Chopra wrote.

Not only is it on-point, but it also puts parenting styles into perspective and places what is truly most important in clear view: a child’s overall well being. In addition, it offers us all opportunities to have meaningful conversations with our children, colleagues, peers, friends and family.

Enjoy the read and share if you care!

Dear Friends

As my phone exploded with texts from friends about the college admissions cheating scam, my reaction was sadness and non-surprise. It also forced me to reflect on my own achievement orientation and parenting style.

In the last month, my frustrated conversations with friends and family has involved testing accommodations, affirmative action against Asian student, sports recruiting, legacy admissions, inherent advantage for the affluent, donations, and most importantly, the tragic reality of suicide in colleges. I have also had really honest, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations with friends about how an elite college education can transform the social and economic path for some families and communities whereas for others (like mine) it is assumed it is part of our children’s path.

The college bribery and cheating scandal is about fraud, and how rich parents have made moral sacrifices and criminally participated in a scheme to get their kids into college. But the problem lies deeper and we need to start addressing the root causes of a system that is not only rigged, but creating anxiety for our kids.

Our kids are anxious, stressed out, tired, over diagnosed, and over medicated. The system as a whole is to blame – schools, colleges, testing organizations, counselors, therapists, and the list goes on and on. And while the system is broken, we as parents need to take responsibility. 

When we send kids messages that success is dependent on getting into a certain college, we are stripping their soul of living a meaningful life. When we overschedule our kids so they can pad their resumes with varsity sports, club teams, volunteering, and justify that they love it, even if they don’t get enough sleep, we as parents need to take responsibility. When we let our kids take an overload of AP’s and honors classes, and say that their counselor said they can do it and it’s necessary for college admissions, and then we see our kids on edge, we as parents, need to take responsibility. When we stress about our kid’s ACT or SAT scores, and burden them with extra tutoring, we are playing into the system. When we justify getting our kid’s extra time on testing or letting them have unneeded medication to stay alert, while perhaps deep down inside knowing they don’t need it or we didn’t do everything to avoid it, we are sending our kids a message about what matters most to us. 

As parents we need to send our kids a different message. 

• Sleep, right now, is the most important aspect of your health and happiness.

• Who you are as a person matters more than what you achieve.

• I believe in you and your abilities, and am proud of what you choose to do.

• Teenage years should be a time of discovery. 

• If you aren’t passionate about something, even if you have been doing it for a while, its ok to try something else.

• It is ok to fail. By failing, you learn.

• Be bored. That’s when creativity often bursts forth.

• Just because “everyone” is doing it, doesn’t mean you need to.

• When you are kind, I am so proud of you.

• How can we give back to the world?

• I love you.

Kahlil Gibran reminds us that:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

As parents, it is our responsibility to transition from an achievement-oriented discussion in our homes to one of nurturing our kids to know that they are special. Our role is to help guide our children to discover their unique talents to find connection and to serve their communities and their world. Let us remember that our children are sacred gifts. We can best serve them, and ourselves, with unfiltered love and genuine acceptance.

It is my hope that Mallika Chopra’s blog will get everyone thinking about our children’s overall well-being and perhaps even how we perpetuate a system that is destroying our children’s physical, mental and emotional health. May this blog spark reflections, questions and opportunities for deep-diving conversations.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Ease and Effortlessness

“If you align in any moment with the flow of life as it presents itself, it will unfold in the right way at the right time with spontaneity and ease.” -Tosha Silver

There was a time in my life when I had to make sure that I was in control of every little thing, what would happen, when it would happen, how and with whom. The OCD in me maintained such a tight schedule, that the possibility of any sort of magic, spontaneity or synchronicity to occur were less than likely.

No wonder I was stressed! If I was going to entertain a large crowd, I would obsess over it for the weeks leading up to it. If I was hosting a dinner party, I would be setting the dining room table days in advance and making sure every little detail was “perfect.” I would let all the details consume my every waking moment. By the time the day or evening came, I’d already be exhausted.

At times, I’d be so hell-bent on something happening a certain way, that I would struggle when it appeared that it would not work out. And when it didn’t, I’d have a meltdown. I was like a fish swimming upstream. A part of me never paused long enough to notice that perhaps I was being “divinely guided” in another direction.

Whew! When I look back, it’s almost as if I do not recognize that person. Thank goodness those years are long gone!

By no means am I saying to throw planning and scheduling out the window. A certain degree of planning is always necessary. If we don’t plan, we are actually planning to fail. Any solid educator or highly successful person will attest to that. What I am saying is to be aware of that ever-so fine line between planning and obsessing.

Once we cross over the border to obsession, we’re doomed. We often have physical symptoms or get sick. But the sooner we come to that point in our lives where we realize that we cannot control everything, we are on our road to OCD recovery.

That’s when we start learning to sit back, chill out, relax, and have faith in knowing that everything will work out…as we see it happening with our own eyes. Before we know it, we have mastered the art of letting go and just letting life happen. Struggles be gone… how sweet it is!!! There’s absolutely no turning back once we’ve learned to have faith in the process.

For me, there is no better reminder of ease and going with the flow than when I’m on my yoga mat or when I sit on the beach and look out at the ocean. I love watching the waves roll in. Even when the waves crash, they do so ever so effortlessly. It’s as if they just melt into one another. There’s no struggle, no pushback…the pattern just repeats itself over and over again.

Letting go with ease and effortlessness is what we can do when faced with a decision, situation or problem we are unsure as to how to address. We can either get stuck ruminating in our heads or align ourselves with that power that is greater than us. Aligning ourselves with Source, is where faith comes in.

The faith in knowing we do not have to take on that decision, situation or problem and do battle with it in that very instant. We know, deep in our souls, that it’s already being handled. The lovely and delightful book by Tosha Silver, Outrageous Openness- Letting the Divine Take the Lead, is a perfect read in that it opens our eyes to the myriad of ways the Divine is always handling the details and conspiring in our favor. Through the often funny, poignant and practical vignettes contained in the book, we are delightfully and creatively shown how we can release the exhausting pursuit that has us seeking everything from perfection and control to safety and security.

The book club I belong to decided to pick this book last month. While I had previously read it when it was first published, I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it again. It allowed me to reflect and rejoice!

Tosha Silver’s Book a gem. As one of the reviews states: “By allowing the Divine to lead the way, we can finally put down the heavy load of hopes, fears, and opinions about how things should be. We learn how to be guided to take the right actions at the right time, and to enjoy the spectacular show that is our life.”

Darling, if you feel your life is lacking a fair amount of ease and effortlessness, and you feel exhausted and keep hitting dead ends, then it’s time to do something about it. If you feel like your life is a constant struggle and you’re tightly wound up and ready to snap, it’s time to snap out of it!

Know there IS a better way. You don’t have to go at this thing called “Life” alone. Actually, we aren’t wired to “go at it alone.” We are all wired to a path of enlightenment, and this is NOT a solitary path. The Divine is always there to guide us and show us how to live with ease and effortlessness.

All we need to do is be open…. outrageously open!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Inner Clarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC