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

Full of Truth

Darling, you feel heavy because you are too full of truth. Open your mouth more, let the truth exist somewhere other than inside your body.” -Della Hicks-Wilson

Greetings, my darlings!

I was listening to a meditation recently that got me thinking on the subject of joy, creativity, and truth. These are a few ways in which we can manifest and cultivate happiness at all times.

We all know the famous saying, “Happiness comes from within.” Unless we take the time to sit in stillness and cultivate each of these areas, we will always be searching for happiness “out there.” Exactly where is out there? That’s an easy one to answer. Out there are the places and the vices that we turn to when we are not plugged in and connected with our Self, our essence, our creativity, our voice and, most importantly, our truth.

I invite us all to ask ourselves how we feel, and what are the things we do and say, when we are not plugged in and connected? How do we feel knowing we have truths, gifts, creativity, joys as well as sadness that are in need of expressing but are sitting dormant in our souls? What do we find ourselves thinking? How does this translate to our daily existence, habits and patterns?

Personally speaking, I know I do not make the most evolutionary choices when I am not connected and in my flow. However, I’m also aware that, at any given moment, I am able to self correct and make a better choice that is for my highest good and the highest good of all parties involved. That’s when magic happens!

Who doesn’t want a little bit more magic and happiness in their world? I’ll share a little secret with you… the magic of happiness occurs when our truth and creativity are aligned. It’s a win-win situation!

I invite you to take a moment and ponder the following questions. You may even want to return to them later on and jot down the thoughts that have shown up:

  • How do you use your voice?
  • How do you express yourself throughout the day?
  • How do you express yourself on social media?
  • Do the words you use unite and bring together, or divide and separate? Do they express love and creativity or fear and hatred?
  • What gifts do you have that can be of service to others?
  • How do you honor of yourself and your creativity?
  • What are your creative outlets?
  • What words do you use with your Self?
  • Does your throat feel constricted when you are not speaking your truth or coming from a place of authenticity?
  • What sensations do you feel in your body when your truth is being compromised and your creativity stifled?

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it takes a great amount of energy to restrict the natural flow of our creativity, thoughts, and feelings. We’ve all been there, and it’s fatiguing! This, my darlings, is what zaps the magic and happiness out of our lives.

This is the heavy weight we feel dragging us to to deeper and deeper levels of despair. And when we are in the depths of despair, we say and do ugly things. But…. despair no longer! For this is a wonderful time of the year to review and assess any and all areas of our life that could use a little more truth and joy. All we need to do is to get real with ourselves. Perhaps even tap into a friend to help us stay accountable. Any step in the right direction is the right direction!

Having said that, the first step truly involves going within. And if you are new to this, it could be a tad scary. This is the time when we get to identify any areas in our lives that may be out of balance or in conflict.

It’s a time we ask ourselves if we are living to our highest potential and feel that whatever it is we are doing is of value and purpose. It’s a time we take a good hard look at our relationships with the people in our lives. It’s a time when we examine our jobs or careers and how they are impacting our state of mind, health and well-being. It’s a time we assess, get clear, and move towards articulating exactly what it is we need and want to do. It is the time we let the truth exist somewhere other than inside our body.

I’m not going to lie… it’s hard work, darlings. but only we can do it for ourselves. If you feel compelled to dig and delve a bit deeper into your heart and soul, you may want to check out my blog Now I know my ABC’s. The questions contained in that blog really require us to get to the core of who we are…both our light and shadow side. And my previous blog, New Beginnings, contains a vision board check list if we want to get creative with our intentions, goals, dreams, aspirations and to the truths of who we are. Personally, I find images and pictures help me to articulate my intentions in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Here to us, our journeys and our truths!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Tis the Season to Sparkle

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. All things can be mended. Not with time as they say, but with intention. So go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for light that is you.” -L.R. Knost

I saw the above quote on my neighbor’s Instagram, and it spoke volumes to me. It got me thinking, and thinking some more, and then realized I had to use it as inspiration for a blog.

It’s safe to say that the world has always been a broken place, or we would not have the advancements, developments, and changes that have taken place since the dawn of time. We humans have been broken and flawed as well and, with each generation, we hope we do better and leave things a little better than our parents and their parents before them.

If it weren’t for things gone wrong in history and over the progression time and space, things wouldn’t be fixed, and there would be no reason for just causes. Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” wouldn’t be on the tips of everyone’s tongues, on clothing, accessories, furnishings and a myriad of social media platforms.

What’s important is that we, as a human race, are awakening and evolving more rapidly than what seems like any other generation before us. That’s what technology has done for us. Every thing we need to know, what to do and how to do it is at the tips of our fingers…merely keystrokes and seconds away. However, it’s what we do with the knowledge we obtain that is the key.

How we integrate this knowledge into our being and everyday life is what propels us to those higher levels of awakening and ascension. It’s what allows us to tap into our inner light and shine it brightly. It’s how we integrate this knowledge and apply it to everything in life… our encounters, struggles, challenges, interactions and personal and professional relationships.

We cannot master a skill without experiential knowledge though. We can have all the book smarts in the world, but unless we immerse ourselves in practicing, engaging, sharing, comforting, giving, serving and allowing ourselves to be an active and vulnerable participant in the shared human experience, we may as well dig a hole and jump into it. We cannot light the way for others if we do not see our own light… our own influence, which is remarkably exponential by the way!

What else is exponential? Love. At the core of all our actions, is love. It is the love of self that permits us to “love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.” It’s our love of self that fuels us to be and do better…to grow, expand, awaken and evolve. It’s this love that ignites our passions and makes us want to share them with the world. It’s what makes us ask, “How can I serve?”

Well, we can start by acknowledging all those broken places in us, in our families, communities and in the world and asking ourselves how we can be the light that seeps in. What work do we have to do that will ultimately lead us to sharing our stories, insights, knowledge, passions, strengths and gifts with everyone around us? What work have we done that we can share with others? What mountains have we had to climb that has prepared us to do just that?

I have been having conversations with friends recently about our individual mountains. Whatever it is we’ve gone through/are going through, can NEVER be in vain. It’s all so connected to our life’s purpose and our ability to be the light that mends our broken world with love, peace and harmony. While it may take some time, and many lessons, we start to look back and connect the dots, we start to see the big picture… that which is our distinct essence- our higher calling and higher purpose/destiny. We may even have more than one purpose!

Darlings, our stories, experiences and challenges need to be shared, books written, support groups established, speaking engagements solidified, articles authored, websites designed, blogs started, programs, businesses, trainings and webinars created, non-profits founded, gardens planted, cakes baked, venues decorated, art (in all forms) created, songs and poetry written, movies and plays directed, produced and filmed and performances of all kinds scheduled. The list goes on and on…this is how we shine our own unique and essential light. This is how we climb our individual mountains, integrate all our experiences and celebrate our doing so. This is how we light the way, forge a path for others and leave our broken world a little better than when/how we found it. This is how we mend it, contribute and pay forward. This is how we inspire, love, serve.

What are your experiences calling you to do?

Whatever it is our experiences are calling us to do, me must tap into our inner artist, dreamer and creator to lead the way, and our desires are guaranteed to be driven by love and passion. And speaking of passion, I will leave you with some exceptional and inspirational quotes that are sure to get all of us thinking, dreaming and creating!

“You have to be burning with an idea, or problem, or wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Steve Jobs

“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” Jon Bon Jovi

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey

“There is no passion to be found playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” Unknown

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Amelia Earhart

Tis the season to sparkle, my darlings! So how about we all go about doing just that? Let’s all shine brightly…and remember to love extravagantly, intentionally and unconditionally!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Dedicated to my niece, Megan, on being chosen as Teacher of the Year by her peers. She’s had her own mountains to climb this past year, but she did not let that affect her performance, love of teaching or her studies. At the age of 30, she is most definitely on the path to greatness!

Who Inspires You?

“If you want to inspire the world, first inspire yourself.” -Scooter Braun

The times we are living in are catastrophic to say the least. But as we all know, we have to go through dark times to then emerge into the light again….refreshed, renewed, recommitted and with a sense of intention, empowerment, purpose, ambition and drive.  These are the times that bring about change. These are the times we seek inspiration, vision, guidance and all sorts of motivation and practices that will keep us grounded, focused, centered and calm. These are the times that are calling out for us. These are the times we must get clear on our priorites. These are the times we can look to the people who inspire us.

In today’s technological world, we have instant gratification at our fingertips. We have a world of inspiration to tap into if we take the time. We don’t have to look very far to surround ourselves with inspiring beings who can guide and motivate us to make whatever changes we seek to make in our lives, in our communities, and in the world.

As I was looking for inspiration for this blog, I came across this quote by Karen Marie Moning: “Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”  

There is a Spanish saying that probably all Cuban mothers used to tell their kids (especially daughters): “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.” This usually came on the heels of your mother not liking whomever’s company you were keeping. It pretty much translates to something like tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are. The modern-day version, “Your vibe attract your tribe” succinctly sums it up.

Like I said, we don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days. Between all the social media platforms, You-Tube, TED talks, webinars, on-line courses, seminars, forums, blogs, classes at local libraries, high schools and community centers, we can scoop up valuable content and insight in just minutes. And let’s not forget the art of reading good books, book clubs and other types of groups/clubs as well. If there is something we like, we can most certainly form a group and talk about everything and anything. Just remember the snacks…wink, wink!

It’s much easier to get through dark and troubled times when we have people who can help us navigate the rocky road we are on. Connecting and spending time with “like-minded” individuals who are positive, enlightened, forward thinkers, and exemplary role models afford us opportunities to learn how they’ve gotten through tough times, how they’ve become successful and perhaps whom they have sought our for inspiration. Turning to our faith, religious and spiritual thought leaders, mystics, astrologers, coaches, therapists and visionaries alike also provide us with “wisdom of the sages and for the ages.”

In one of my early blogs, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I referred to these people in my personal life as “my spiritual board of directors.” The members on my spiritual board of directors are the people whose works I turn to and who I seek to be like. These are the people who inspire me each and every day. Who inspires you?

  • Who can you turn to during your darkest and most challenging times?
  • Who helps you up when you have been brought down to your knees?
  • Who gives you the strength to forge ahead when the road is rocky or uncertain? 
  • Is there an enlightened being you would like to emulate?
  • If so, make a list of their qualities you would like to emulate.
  • List the ways you could practice those enlightened qualities on a daily basis.

These questions are a good place to start.  I will also leave you with further key questions that were included in my aforementioned blog. The questions were from a  global seminar that was facilitated by Craig Hamilton, the founder of Integral Enlightenment. These questions  help us to further identify the people who will accelerate and support our awakening and evolution. Remember, if we want to inspire the world, we must first inspire ourselves.

  • Of everyone I know, with whom can I really be myself?
  • Among all my friends, family and colleagues, who truly shares my deepest values and highest spiritual aspiration?
  • Do I have any social structures in my life where I feel free to stretch myself – and my relationships- beyond my comfort zone?
  • Is there someone in my life who presents me with healthy challenges and encourages healthy risks, rather than being afraid to “rock the boat” with me? Someone I trust to stand up to me with pure intentions and care for my own betterment and that of our shared higher ideals?
  • If a number of people come to mind, count yourself among the fortunate. Then, arrange with your newly identified “evolutionary partners” to begin creating a conscious container for ongoing growth and shared inquiry.

Did Ihear you say conscious container? These are the groups, forums and circles we form that help us to deal as well as heal. The groups / people we turn to when we feel like we are drowning and need a lifeline. The friends with whom we can laugh, cry and celebrate. The enlightened beings with whom we can have transformational interactions. The conscious container that will hold the enlightened being we are evolving into.

When we are living from a place of awakening, evolution, enlightenment, and willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone, we are better able to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. We are better able to have clarity of mind. We are better able to have transformational conversations. We are better able to come up with solutions. In a nutshell, we are better able to engage from a place of higher awareness.

Soooooooo….given the profound and tumultuous times we are living in, the stress and trauma we are all witnessing on SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS, and across all party lines, I cannot emphasize  the importance of having a community, a group, or a tribe who will hold a sacred space for us to reveal ourselves, our emotions, our hurts, our traumas, our darkness, our struggles and our desires without judgement. Pure unconditional acceptance and support….period.

Here’s to living an inspired life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scandalous Grace

“Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valerie Kaur

I have been reflecting a lot on life’s events from 10 years ago. It was one of the happiest times in my life yet one of the saddest. Light and dark. High and low. As I recalled my memories of the last few months of my mother’s life, I couldn’t help but also think of the person who was in my life at the time.

A person who was instrumental in bringing Mama and me so much joy.  A person who was by my side when we laid my mother to rest two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. A person who took me sky diving for my 50th. A person whom I have been reluctant to write about but did mention briefly in a couple of blogs last year. A person who I said I would “leave for a future blog” on multiple occasions. Well, I think this is finally the occasion and the blog. Allow me to introduce you to “Scandalous.”

Scandalous had many nick names….some given by me and others that friends coined. This particular one was given to him by a school secretary. Frankie came to school, where I was a vice-principal, to take me on a lunch date. Now mind you- this is a man who dresses to the nines, can sport conservative clothes as well as the most outlandish, is an engineer by trade,  has been truly gifted with the most logical, orderly, and organized left brain as well as the most creative, imaginative and artistic right brain. It’s no wonder we got along so well. There was never a dull moment between us….each moment was powerful and wonder-filled! But what did he choose to wear the day he came to pick me up?

Would you guess if I told you that he picked me up on his motorcycle!?!?!?! If you guessed leather chaps, you guessed right (and a leather vest, bandana on his head…the whole enchilada). I still recall Sara, the school secretary, calling me with a sense of urgency in her voice. When he showed up and “strutted” into my office, I understood why the urgent tone in Sara’s voice. OMG! Although I tried not to show it, I cringed when I saw him and immediately fast forwarded to how I was going to introduce him to my principal AND how I was going to get him out of the building without many people seeing him. Well, I did, and we did, and the rest is history. We often joked and laughed at the memories of that day.

So now you understand how the nick name “Scandalous” originated. On that fall Friday afternoon, we rode off on his LOUD, colorful motorcycle and, unbeknownst to me, the principal gathered  the office staff, and they crowded by the window to check out the entire scene as “Ms. Carricarte” got on a motorcycle (probably in high heels) and with a “scandalous” looking guy.

Scandalous and I had known each other for about 6 years or so at that time. We would frequently see each other at the gym on the weekends. During the summer of 2008, as my mother was in hospice and coming to the end of her life, I decided I would spend most of the weekends with her. However, I had to make sure I took care of Me first if I was going to hole myself up with her in the nursing home every weekend. And it was then that Scandalous and I saw each other after a while of me being absent from the gym. As with all things in life, timing and circumstances brought us together like never before.

Scandalous had always been a flirt, but I rarely paid any mind to it. Actually, I always found him entertaining. However, this time around was different. I found myself being the flirt…or overly enthused and happy to see him. Take your pick. Perhaps  I needed to laugh, as I was already starting to grieve my mother’s pending loss. And believe me when I say that laughter was a mainstay with me and Scandalous. No one has ever brought out my inner child the way he did. We were like two little kids whenever we were together. Talk about mindfulness and being present…..it’s as if time stood still whenever we were together. We were so engrossed in whatever we were doing, or whatever antics he would be up to, or we would be up to, that I could not help but be 100% engaged in any given moment.

Scandalous’ life was “complicated,”  which is one of the reasons I never got involved with him prior to that point in time. However, it got even more complicated once our souls connected and our grand love affair took flight.  We spent as much time together as we could. It was easy, it was fun, romantic, he’d stay over, we’d go out all the time, and we’d go away quite a bit…until the time came when I realized this “complicated affair” was not serving my highest good… nor his. Our 15 months together were the equivalent of having been together for 10 years.

Throughout those first few months we were together, Scandalous got to meet my Mama and made sure she knew that he would take care of me when she was gone. Scandalous always had a very charitable and generous spirit and always knew how to handle things, so that just made him even more endearing. And during those last few months of Mama’s life, Scandalous brought a lot of love, joy, fun and laughter into her world. His sense of humor,  jokes, zaniness and thoughtfulness made her laugh, cry and also brought her a sense of peace and serenity. Mama even called him “mi segundo hijo,” which translates to “my second son.” In her mind, she was handing me off to him, and all would be well in my world.

Needless to say, he was there for both of us and was instrumental in helping me to  honor my mother in fun and creative ways. However, full-blown grief came out to play once I ended the relationship. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a period of grief that, compounded with other losses (which I’ve written about in past blogs), would amount to about six of the darkest years of my life.

The years that followed our breakup were times of much growth for me. Labels, ego, expectations and letting go of attachments was something I was working on at the time we came together. Scandalous taught me what unconditional love in a relationship looked like, along with compassion and patience.  When all was said and done, I learned acceptance – seeing, loving, respecting and honoring others regardless of where they are along their own path / journey. I also learned how to speak my truth clearly, calmly and compassionately without raising my voice, getting angry or heated. Most importantly though, I learned to value my worth and my own values.  However, it didn’t make the breakup, nor the six years that followed, any easier. Those post-Scandalous years were very difficult, painful, and dark to say the least.

At the time  our relationship expired, which was a year to the day after burying  Mama, we woke up together on what would be our last day of doing so. You see, I realized I was done. For the first time since we had gotten together, my soul felt compromised. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had learned whatever lessons I was meant to have learned at that particular juncture in my life, and so had he. But it wasn’t about him…it was about Me.

I vowed to myself to honor what my soul was guiding me to do. No more complications, no more hurts, and no more lies.  Even though the lies were on his part, I was still part of them and an active participant as long as we stayed together. I no longer wanted to be a part of the double life he was living. At this point, I was entrenched in my yoga practice, studying yoga philosophy and knew I was compromising my soul, values, morals, ethics and beliefs. I just couldn’t do it any longer. Authenticity was a MAJOR life lesson for me in my 50’s. I worked hard (and still do) at living my yoga, both on and off the mat, with intention, integrity and grace.

Ahhhh “grace”…those mindful and meaningful moments of grace were a constant after our breakup, as well as continued faith, joy, gratitude, inner fortitude, resilience, peace, calm……and grief. These were such dark and sad times for me. I tried to find the grace and joy in each of those moments no matter how I was feeling. Actually, I felt like a part of my soul was missing, I felt like I had lost my best friend. More than anything I missed, and still miss, our friendship more so than the romantic relationship.

For years after our breakup, I couldn’t listen to dance music, and I felt like a light had been extinguished in my soul. That’s when I started to experience the “grief is the price of love” thingI was grieving my mother, the breakup, and an injury that brought with it yet more losses, including the end of my career (not on my terms), and much physical, emotional and psychological pain. Through it all, my light-filled Treehouse oasis (which I moved to a few months after the breakup) became more and more of a sacred healing place filled with much love, light and joy.

The Treehouse became a place for me to  retreat to and pamper my mind, body and spirit. It was, and still is, where I leave the world behind and go within. I cook, read, write and reflect a whole lot at home. I enjoy the peace, quiet, serenity, tranquility  and ambiance within the walls and the nature that surrounds me.  Little did I know that Scandalous, as well as these last ten post-Scandalous years, would lead me to the place and the woman I am today.

One month shy of my 60th, I think its safe to say I have grown into someone who is brave and fearless yet vulnerable; wild and free yet responsible;  fierce and steadfast yet flexible;  compassionate and kind yet discerning; open and accepting, yet conscious of healthy boundaries; honest, truthful, transparent and unapologetically real….AND the bonus was I learned the beauty of leaving one’s ego at the door. It’s amazing how the universe is always presenting me with opportunities to use these skillful gifts. Yep, the lessons keep coming, deeper, with more layers and more complexities each time. Like the saying goes, “We can be a masterpiece and a work in progress.”

What can I say?  Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Scandalous!  While I feel these are pretty healthy, balancing, abundant and harmonious gifts, I also know they constantly need tending to, chiseling and polishing. Our work is never done! One thing is for sure though: taking the time to “do me” these past ten years have blessed me with these endless gifts of grace….Scandalous Grace. 

I guess I should mention that, on a few occasions over the years, Scandalous has even shown up at my door…unexpectedly. We’ve spoken about the “void” and have even tried doing “the friend thing.” Although the energy and soul recognition / connection will always exist between us, the “friend thing” just does NOT work for us. Especially when it’s apparent to you that you are not on the same playing field, nor on the same page, and you realize the woman you have grown into will not compromise her Soul ever again. There’s no turning back. Now that is scandalous grace!

So, my darlings, there you have it. Scandalous 101- done and done!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- For more on relationships, you may want to check out two of my previous blogs, Relationships Expire and You’re Not Alone. As always, thanks for caring and sharing!

 

 

 

Living a Succulent Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being a Succulent Wild Woman 

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

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

Wishing you much succulence today and always!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

100 Blogs…A Prayer of Gratitude

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

-Gary Zukov, The Seat of the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer of Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be at peace with whatever cannot be changed.

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

The Issues Are in the Tissues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose wisely darlings!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC