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

A New Year’s Practice

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

It’s the last day of 2018, and I am looking forward to some of my end of year rituals. I already cleaned my apartment, from top to bottom, did all the laundry, emptied the garbage and am currently washing my bedding as I write . With the exception of some throws and pillows, all that’s left to clean is my bathroom… and get rid of any added garbage.

My intentions are to skip the yoga studio this morning and do my last, home practice of 2018. In addition to yoga and meditation, I will spend some time journaling and perhaps even empty my blessings jar and read all of the things I wrote throughout 2018. Afterwards, I will take myself to lunch and pick up some fresh flowers along the way.

I am not the one for New Year’s Eve parties and staying out till some ungodly hour of the morning. As the saying goes, “Been there, done that.” Instead, I like to spend my evening reflecting, journaling, and perhaps doing a guided meditation. This will be my second year going to a friend’s yoga studio for a New Year’s Eve practice from 7 to 9 PM. That most definitely works for me because I am home with plenty of time to light some candles, burn some incense, soak in the tub, and do my evening practices. Oh, and my 12 grapes are already washed and ready for midnight!

Doing some sort of reflection at the end of the year, setting an intention or goals for the following year, or perhaps even working on a vision board are lovely ways to ring in the new year. Why? Because as the quote at the beginning of this blog stated: You yourself, as much is anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Pausing, and taking time for ourselves, are the ultimate expressions of self-love and self-care. What practices do you tap into when you find your Self in need of some TLC? Are there any end of year practices you especially enjoy doing to usher in a new year? Is there a particular ritual or activity you do on the 1st of the year?

My written practice this evening, which I will share with you, comes from Elena Brower’s Practice You Journal. This particular Practice will help us to explore and embody our Self. It will allow us to look at some of our beliefs, labels or assumptions we place on ourselves and perhaps allow us to dismantle or shake them up wherever needed.

There’s nothing like contemplation to shift our perspective. Guided journaling gives a voice to our most unfinished, raw, and passing emotions according to Elena Bower. She further states that journaling allows us to refine our listening, elevate our inner dialogue, meet our deepest self with compassion and love, and amplify the inherent intelligence of our own heart. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE those words! I feel them stirring deep in my soul.

Below is the beautiful Practice I will be doing later in this evening. I have my space all ready with a few new candles, some sage and palo santo, and a yummy throw in case I get cold. The title of this exercise is Embody.

Begin by taking a moment to sit and get grounded. Place your hands on your thighs, palms down, and begin breathing, deeply and slowly. Breathe audibly at first, then make your breathing increasingly more silent. Sense the weight of your seat, and let your spine rise tall. Feel your self embodied, present and steady.

Let the questions serve as continuing contemplations. Your thoughts will evolve over time, so respect where you are right now, stay steady, and be soft with yourself as you write. Keep these questions close as you might find yourself returning to them time and time again. As you come to know yourself, you may be surprised to see what’s unearthed. Let it out!

  • How do you define yourself?
  • Who are you today? Can you note some of the “labels” you’ve placed on yourself, your place in your family, your work, your world?
  • What are the words you would use to describe your current attitude about your life right now?
  • What’s the most visceral, urgent need you have right now in order to feel alive, happy, and at home in yourself?

I sense that these four questions will have us traveling inward time and time again, so we best make sure we keep our journals or paper handy. And if journaling isn’t your thing, then by all means color, draw or use graphics to express yourself. The point is to be You!

Also, if you feel like your juices are flowing and want some more journaling prompts, you can reference “End of Year Review & Rituals, which is the blog I wrote December 27, 2017. It contains close to 30 questions from which you can pick and choose. I will most likely be perusing them as well…. wink, wink!

Darlings… May your 2019 be bountiful, blissful and beautiful. May you know peace in your heart, peace in your home and peace in the world. Namaste!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Perfect Stillness

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

How very true! Life is indeed simple, and it amazes me how complicated we make it- how we consciously choose to make it. We can come up with a dozen excuses for doing so, but they are just that… excuses.

So then what happens? Over the years, and as we grow in wisdom and insight, we start to pare down, we eliminate clutter, clear out the things that weigh us down as well as the people who drain our energy, we schedule priorities and guard our energies, and we find ourselves keeping things simple.

This holds true for our practices too. We don’t need 3 hours at the gym nor a schedule so packed with social activities that we are running around like a chicken without a head and without true quality time spent with those we love. We find ourselves pausing to breathe… really breathe. And I don’t mean shallow breathing, I mean revitalizing and grounding breaths. Above all, we crave perfect stillness, quiet, tranquility and the peace we feel inside when we allow ourselves to be still.

As I mentioned in a blog this time last year, December can really mess with people’s emotions and energies for a myriad of reasons. I’m sure you can make up your own list that will attest to it. Oftentimes, the end result this time of year is that we are left swirling, spiraling, depleted and perhaps even sad, frustrated or angry.

Last year’s blog, Hold the Vision… Trust the Process included a guided meditation that enhanced our sense of support and stability. I thought I would share yet another lovely guided meditation called Statue of Stillness. It truly is very grounding because it directs breath and awareness to the base of the body, helping to release tension from this area. It enhances a sense of of inner stability and slows down the breath and lengthens the exhalation.

Before getting started, you may want to light a candle, maybe clear your space, put your phone on airplane mode and maybe even burn some incense. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair with your feet touching the floor.

If you would like, you can also add a hand gesture which is called a Mudra. For this particular meditation/Mudra, tuck your thumbs into the palms of your hands and curl your fingers loosely around the thumbs, forming soft fists with both hands. You can then rest the hands on to your thighs or your knees, with the palms facing down. Be sure to relax your shoulders… bring them up to your ears then back and down. You will feel your spine naturally aligned and sitting straight.

The other thing you can do is to have someone read this meditation to you, or you can voice record it so you can listen to your own voice. I just glance down at it, and sit with the vision and the feelings for however long I feel like it. After a few times and with practice, it comes rather naturally, or I practice my own version of it.

The benefit of this meditation, as with most forms of meditations, is that it activates our parasympathetic nervous system thereby initializing the relaxation response. Darlings, there’s nothing like a relaxed nervous system!!!

If you’re new to meditation, you WILL feel it’s benefits almost immediately. And remember, don’t stress yourself… just go with the flow. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. Don’t put added stress on yourself wondering if you’re “doing it right.” Be still and trust the process. Ready? Here goes:

  1. As you hold this Mudra, take several natural breaths to attune to all the feelings and sensations evoked by this gesture.
  2. Notice how your breath is gently directed downward, toward the base of your body, instilling a sense of stability and grounding.
  3. Take some time to sense the natural pause at the end of each exhaling breath, cultivating a space of silence in which your body and mind can deeply rest.
  4. For your next few breaths, attune to these pauses even more deeply, experiencing a sense of serenity that allows you to become completely still, like a statue softly breathing.
  5. As stillness and compasses each area of your body, you experience the absolute peace and harmony that is a reflection of your true being.
  6. Begin by taking several breaths to allow stillness to permeate your pelvis, legs and feet, creating a firm foundation for your statue of serenity.
  7. Now, allow your abdomen solar plexus, low and mid back to enter into stillness and completely relax.
  8. With your lower body still and serene, takes several breaths to sense your heart, lungs, chest and upper back merging with your statue of stillness.
  9. Serenity now fills your shoulders, arms and hands, all the way to your fingertips, integrating these areas into your statue of stillness.
  10. Finally, stillness permeates your neck and head, inviting all of your senses to naturally turn inward and gently rest.
  11. Now, take some time to sense your entire being as a statue of stillness.
  12. Affirm your essential stillness, repeating the following three times, aloud or silently: “In absolute stillness of being, I experience complete peace and serenity.”
  13. Now, slowly release the gesture, taking several breaths to rest an absolute stillness.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes, returning slowly and gently, while remaining aligned with the stillness of your true being.
  • This meditation comes from the book Mudras for Healing and Transformation, by Joseph and Leslie Le Page. This treasure trove of a book is a wonderful one to add to your self-care “toolbox. ” You will learn more about mudras, guided meditations, energy centers (chakras), doshas (constitution), balance and health conditions in the warm comfort of your own home sanctuary.
  • Like a statue softly breathing, may you rest in the perfect stillness of your being throughout the next few days, weeks, and months!
  • Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC
  • Secrets of Inner Peace

    “There is a criterion by which you can judge whether the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing are right for you. The criterion is: Have they brought you inner peace?”  Peace Pilgrim

    Ever since I was a little girl (elementary school age) growing up in Jersey City, NJ, I was drawn to The Novelty Shop which used to be near Journal Square and on my way home from school. I was drawn to all things peace and love related, incense, oils, beads, etc. They also sold pipes, bongs and rolling paper, which is probably the reason my strict, Cuban mother did NOT like me frequenting that store. Who knows what fear-based “story” she was telling herself and getting wrapped into.

    So, it’s no wonder that I’ve always been a love, peace and gratitude junkie- and even more so as I’ve become a “woman of a particular age.” As we all come to learn at one point or another in our lives, it all boils down to “choices” and “lifestyle.”  For me, there is no other way. Anything and anyone that disrupts my peace has to go. Now that may sound cruel to some, selfish to others; however, it is called self-preservation and part of the self-love, compassion and respect we establish for ourselves. It’s also part of healthy boundary setting. I don’t know about you, but I guard my inner peace like it’s nobody’s business.

    Why? Because like many of us, I have the battle scars to show for the times I wasn’t knowledgeable, conscientious and skilled at the importance of guarding my inner peace like a precious gem or sacred temple. Guarding our inner peace is an art we must  learn to master. Like Maya Angelou is known for saying, “When you know better, you do better.”

    Since December is a mere 3 days away (where did this year go?), and people are already feeling and expressing the anxiety and stress that sadly comes with the holidays (shouldn’t we all be ENJOYING the holidays?), I want to share with you some principles that we can look at, contemplate and practice each day in December (and throughout the new year for that matter). I happened to come across a little book the other day, and it was the inspiration for this blog. I purchased it in 1999 when I was up at Yale, in New Haven CT, for some training. This little 4×4 gem was written by J. Donald Walters and is titled Secrets of Inner Peace. 

    For several years after purchasing this book, I kept it on my bathroom counter and looked at it every single morning and in the evenings. I made a concerted effort to practice these thoughts/concepts…many which were new to me given my age and where I was along my spiritual journey at the time. As with affirmations and mantras, the key is to go back to them throughout the course of our days, look at them, say them out loud, repeat them silently and, as the author suggests, “While falling asleep, carry the words into your subconscious, absorbing their positive influence into your whole being. Let it become thereby an integral part of your normal consciousness.”

    My darlings, below are 31 precious thoughts that we can all contemplate and utilize each and every day starting December 1st. Over time, you will see and feel a shift in your be-ingness, thoughts, perception, disposition and even your actions. These statements/thoughts are tools we can refer to continuously. Over time, and with active practice, they become integrated and are part of our operating system. Furthermore, they are seeds that we can choose to water each day and watch them blossom into the most beautiful expressions of love and inner peace.

    The Secret of Inner Peace

    1. …is self-control: not scattering your energies, but holding them in check and directing them usefully.
    2. …is giving full, interested attention to everything you do.
    3. …is to live fully in the moment, releasing past and future into the cycles of eternity.
    4. …is inner relaxation- physically, emotionally, mentally then spiritually.
    5. …is non-attachment; being ever conscious that nothing and no one truly belongs to you.
    6. …is contentment: consciously holding happy thoughts.
    7. …is desirelessness: realizing that happiness is within you, not in outward things or circumstances.
    8. …accepting things as they are, and then, if necessary, acting calmly to improve them.
    9. …is realizing that you cannot change the world, but you can change yourself.
    10. …is cultivating harmonious friendships, and shunning the company of peaceless persons.
    11. …is projecting peace outward into your environment.
    12. …is a simple life; reducing your definition of “necessities.”
    13. …is a healthy life: exercising regularly, eating properly, and breathing deeply.
    14. …is a clear conscience; remaining true to your highest ideals.
    15. …is acting in freedom, from your inner center, and not in bondage to the world’s demands. 
    16. …is accepting truth, in all circumstances, as your guide.
    17. …is not coveting what others have, but knowing what is yours by right will find its way to you.
    18. …is never complaining, but acknowledging that what life gives you depends on what you give, first, of yourself.
    19. … is accepting responsibility for your failures, and realizing that only you can turn them into successes.
    20. …is found in self-conquest, not in the mere cessation of hostilities. 
    21. …is practicing willingness, even though your mental habits urge you to cry, “No!”
    22. …is smiling in your heart, even when others scowl.
    23. …is giving joy, rather than demanding joy of others.
    24. …is including others’ well-being in your own.
    25. …is harmlessness: never deliberately hurting anyone.
    26. …is working with others, never against them.
    27. …is meditation, and tapping into the  wellsprings of soul-peace.
    28. …is raising your consciousness: directing energy to the brain, then centering it at the seat of higher awareness between the eyebrows.
    29. …is self-acceptance: not blinding yourself to your faults, nor hating yourself for them, but claiming your higher reality in Infinite Light.
    30. …is loving God, and striving to be worthy of His love for you.
    31. …is loving others impartially, without selfish motive.

    As I was typing, I surprised myself by how I was able to finish, or come close, to finishing each thought. I even recalled certain circumstances, events and people whom were challenging me throughout different times and how I was practicing  these principles.  It’s a testament to the power of affirmations as well as the power of conscious choice-making. The more we practice affirmations and act on them, the more we re-wire our brains and the more these affirmations become our default setting. These Secrets of Inner Peace will change your life. Wouldn’t you agree that we Can all use a little more peace in our every day lives? Remember, the power is within you!

    In the days, weeks and months ahead, may we all find ourselves tapping into the plethora of tools and practices that we have cultivated over the years, and may we “choose” our thoughts, words and actions wisely. I hope these Secrets of Inner Peace will be your trusted companions and guide you along your journey.

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    Choosing Love at All Times

    “Love has the ability to multiply itself. It has a mysterious component in that it always multiplies itself, and it never divides.” 

    I just came across this sentence in yet another book I am reading (yep, number 3). Since I was going away, I didn’t want to carry any hardcover, cumbersome books. Instead, I grabbed a small, soft-covered book that I have had for years yet had not read. The book, Returning to Oneness – The Seven Keys of Ascension, by Leslie Temple-Thurston with Brad Laughlin, was the perfect travel companion.

    This has been a love-filled week… the Royal Wedding, time spent with loving friends and family, being the recipient of many acts of lovingkindness and generosity of spirit, as well as opportunities that required me to dig deep and choose love (see previous blog, Love is Wisdom inAction). I’ve also had the opportunity to send out love in many ways to others, some whom were aware and others who may not have even had an inkling I was doing so.

    Which leads me to a little exercise the author noted in a section of the book which goes on to talk about the fact that beyond loss and gain we can always find love:

    If you are feeling love, even for five minutes in the middle of some working day, stop and watch how all-encompassing it is. It connects and contains, Send it out in the form of gratitude, appreciation and wishes for others to receive the gift of grace that you are enjoying in the moment. Just let your heart center create the intentions and the love will do its work of multiplication.

    If we are in a state of choosing love at all times, then we can, in fact, see beyond the loss and gain. Why? Because the energy exchange of love does not involve loss or gain. It just is.  It is a state of heart. It is a state where we have shifted into. It means shifting into a love-based state from a power or fear-based state.

    Getting past a fear-based state requires a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears. Fear, in all its glory, is actually tied to loss. And, as we know by now, loss comes disguised in many fashions. When we think of loss, we tend to think of someone dying, a job we lost or a relationship that has ended. A part of the book which caused me to pause and journal, was the example of the many different kinds of loss we experience in our lifetime.

    As noted, “Some examples of loss would be: disapproval, criticism, blame, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, self-doubt, lack of self-esteem, withholdings, and grievances. Loss can me so many things on so many levels: loss of face, of dignity, of energy, of happiness, of connection, of resources, of inspirations, of your divine state and so forth.”

    Wow! Reading this made me pause for a long time. It made me examine how these losses have played out in my own life. It was a choice I made because I don’t want my Ego’s limited mind messing with my Soul’s natural state of wholeness and boundlessness. Playing “the witness” allowed me to look at the shadow issues that may still be lurking in the crevices of my conscious and subconscious mind. It’s very interesting to witness what “shows up” when we tackle the  patterns surrounding the different states of loss. As I like to say, “our work is never done.” If we want to live in a state of higher vibration, we must take the time to do the work, And remember, it’s a practice, not a perfect. Hence, the lessons that constantly tend to show up for us – especially when we least expect them!

    Each and every day, we are faced with situations and circumstances that will require us to make a choice, Will we choose a low vibrational habit such as grievance, regret, resentment, fear and anger, or will we  let go of all that and choose love? As noted in the book, “Letting go is a very important part of the path of love and, be assured, it gets easier with practice.”

    Ah, there’s that word again: Practice. And you know what I’m about to say next, don’t you? Everything, every THING, is a practice – not a perfect. So you see, the more we practice, the easier it does get. It becomes our default setting (I spoke about default settings in a previous blog, Don’t Be Amazing…Be Available).

    When we tap on the doorway of the heart, fling the door wide open, and welcome that light filled, divine presence within us, we witness our natural state, which is love. It’s inside each and every one of us! We just have to “clean house.” In doing so, we are making ourselves available for that beautiful and abundant exchange of energy that is in a constant state of multiplication. In choosing love at all times, we are opening ourselves up to the grace of knowing the our Ego is not our true self. Rather we connect with our true essence – the essence of our soul, the experience of pure “beingness.” And in the process, we’ve learned to kick the Ego to the curb.

    And if we aren’t there yet, we can rest assured that life will constantly give us opportunities to master this lesson. So even if our Ego hasn’t quite made it to the curb yet, we can at least show it the way to our front door! That is, of course, if we have evicted it from the room / space it is housing in our brain. Just keep choosing love at all times!

    I will leave you with a meditation, from the first chapter of the book, which I just finished. May this blog and the meditation serve you in one way or another. Rest in the knowingness that you will gain from it whatever it is you need. That’s the beauty of guided meditations. We can do the same one consecutively, but what shows up may differ each time!

    A MEDITATION

    Sit comfortably. Take five or seven deep breaths until your breathing becomes calm and deep. Now visualize your core as it is situated along the central axis of the body. It looks rather like a luminous fluorescent tube running down the center of your subtle body. In the physical body, it corresponds more or less to the spine but sits slightly in front of it. By visualizing it, you begin to feel its presence.

    Imagine that you, as your essential Self, are the core. Think of how we write the letter “I,” a straight vertical column. It means us – who we are. The letter “I,” describing who we are, comes from the shape of the core. It is the most powerful energy meridian in all the bodies, and it is actually the “I.” It is where the presence of the “I am-ness” is situated in us. At the same time, it is also situated at the very center of the cosmos. It is not to be confused with the “I am something in particular,” such as “I am a loser,” “I am an artist,” or “I am tall with  brown eyes.”

    Sit with your attention on the core, holding center and feel your ‘I am-ness” for a while.

    Oh, and if you missed Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding, go to youtube and check it out, check it out, check it out…wink, wink. He’s now one of my favorites, right up there along with Pastor Carl Lentz. And one last thing, keep putting yourself in the way of love!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

     

     

    Love is Wisdom in Action

    “Love is the impulse to embrace the innocence of life that brings spiritual harmony to the forefront of your experiences, Whenever love is poured into your heart or sent out as blessings to others, the light within all things awakens.”  – Matt Kahn

    It’s not unusual for us to be reading a few books simultaneously, don’t you agree? Well, along with Carl Lentz’s book, OWN THE MOMENT, which I talked about in my previous blog, I am also reading a couple of others. Can you relate? Well, one of the other books I’m currently engaged in is Matt Kahn’s Whatever Arises Love That.

    As noted on the back cover, the book is described as containing “groundbreaking teachings on ENGAGING LOVE as the MOST POTENT CATALYST for transformation and healing.” Another review noted that “the act of opening your heart is recognized as the timeless remover of obstacles.” When I read the words remover of obstacles, I paused. I paused for  quite some time. You see, that’s what Matt Kahn’s book does, and that is why it’s taking me an extremely long time to read. It seems like every page is a revelation and invitation to do just that – pause, take stock, go within and do some inner investigation. There’s nothing like good self-inquiry to dust off the cobwebs and move forward from a place of love and healing – rather than from a place of fear and separation.

    This morning, I happened to be listening to Marianne Williamson’s talk on the Hay House World Summit and, naturally, she was talking about love and miracles. It got me thinking of all the ways that choosing love over fear has enhanced my life. How operating from a place of love is real, it’s indestructible and it is who we are. So how can we not operate from a place of love?

    And miracles? Well, as she noted, miracles occur when a shift in perception occurs. How true is that?!?!?! The moment we shift from a place of fear and separation to a place of love, everything changes and everyone benefits. We change, our chemistry changes, our bodies change, our outlook changes and the people around us can feel and see the change. It is truly palpable!

    Returning to a place of love is something we choose to do over and over again. It’s a choice we are faced with making every time something or someone shows up and ruffles our feathers. Just recently, I was faced with a situation that hurt my feelings. My call to action was to pause and tap into my toolbox. I relied on love’s wisdom to get me trough. Coming from a place of love, as opposed to from a place of judgement, allowed me to take my time and shift my perception. It allowed me to act and not react. When the going gets tough, I take action! I tap into the teachings, music, mantra, meditations, movement, visualizations, stillness, writing and a whole lot of inner investigation. You see, allowing feelings to arise and loving them without judgement is a healing process in itself. It’s something Matt Kahn talks about throughout his book. With each layer we peel away, we are able to clearly see love is wisdom in action.

    It amazes me how much lighter we feel when we operate from this heart centered, inner knowingness…how connected, guided and directed we feel, and how our hearts just keep expanding more and more. One of the most powerful practices I have found is to send out my love as blessings to another during a challenging period / circumstance. The more love and light we stand in, and the more love and light we send out to others, the more we heal and the more collective healing that takes place. It’s a win-win situation!

    There’s nothing like operating from a heart wide open. A closed heart, encased in a protective shield of armor, doesn’t work for me. It would make me feel like a fraud. It would announce to the world, or anyone who is listening, that I don’t trust anyone or anything. In my humble opinion, this just causes a whole lot of suffering. I can definitely see how abusive or violent circumstances would cause someone to guard their hearts from further pain. But doing nothing to address the situation can only cause more pain and suffering. Love is a healing balm. Showing ourselves unconditional love, tender mercy, sweet compassion, constant forgiveness, on-going understanding, and endless patience all result in unquantifiable inner peace. These are all practices that help us heal and reclaim our true innocent nature. How do we know this? Again, love is wisdom in action!

    One of my favorite quotes, derived from A Course in Miracles, is “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I relinquish all regrets, grievances and resentments, and choose a miracle.” I cannot begin to explain how empowering this is. It’s love’s wisdom in action. I’ve employed that mindset for many years now, and it always brings about a sense of clarity and harmony. It helps me tease out any remaining grievances that may still be lingering beneath the surface. It also allows me to see if my Ego has come calling. And, as you are probably very well aware by now, nothing positive, constructive or beneficial happens when we operate from the Ego. Instead, allow Love to come knocking at the door!

    Love certainly came calling, and I opened the door nice and wide this week as I grappled with how to handle the situation that hurt my feelings. I greeted Love as an old familiar guest. Luckily, forever conscious.com generally has some good exercises, visualizations and meditations for clearing and cleansing, so I got to work. Below you will find a most powerful part of the activity I did that truly allowed me to accept, release and let go of any and all unwelcome feelings that were anything but Love. The activity also allowed me to peel away even more layers that led to some pretty powerful, empowering and insightful revelations. It showed me a couple of areas I still need to work on. However, I was able to fully embrace the beauty around the challenging situation with a humble and grateful heart while still honoring my feelings and emotions. More importantly, I was able to have a deeper conversation with my Self that allowed me to nurture my wounded inner child.

    As with all sacred rituals, please take a moment to clear your space and ground yourself. You may also want to have pen and paper handy. For the entire activity, you can check out the Taurus New Moon Ritual May 2018 on foreverconscious.com,  and you will be guided through a very lovely and significant experience.

    Close your eyes and place your hands over your heart center. Think about a recent change or something confronting that is coming up for you. Perhaps you are dealing with a bad boss, or perhaps you recently ended a relationship. Just think about whatever is troubling you, or whatever changes are making you uneasy. Try to just focus on one.

     Think about the situation you have chosen, feel into it. Go through it all in your mind while keeping your hands on your heart. Now find 10 things you can be grateful for around this situation. Really challenge yourself to think about the good that has come from it.

    Once you have come up with 10 things that you feel grateful for around this situation, notice what thoughts and feelings have arisen for you now. Notice if any solutions or new ways of looking at things have emerged. Notice and feel that all things in our life have a beauty as long as we open ourselves to it.

    When in doubt my darlings, turn no farther than your heart, for it holds all the wisdom you will ever need! Feel the love xoxo

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

     

    The Simplest Meditation

    “For today: Slow down and breathe. Feel your heart beating. Make it simpler. Even simpler than that. Inhabit the space  you are in. If it feels too constrictive let go of things. Clear it out. Give away and offer up the things that clutter your space. You are too precious and life is too short. ” -Christy Naida Linson

    I had the good fortune to go to Costa Rica on a wonderful yoga retreat recently. It was actually a present to myself for my upcoming 60th birthday, which is in a few months. The person who led the retreat was my friend and teacher, and the person whose words you just read in the quote above. What a treat it was! As was being in the company of 20 other beautiful souls. Even the staff at Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat were unforgettable. They were like one big happy family and ever so gracious!

    Each day either before or after class, we were given a word, a thought or a question to meditate on and journal about. Upon our arrival, and after a long travel day for most, it was the word “allow” then “arrive.” These are two mighty powerful words that can alter our presence, perspective and our practice. As does the phrase, “I have arrived,” which Thich Nhat Hanh is known for speaking about. As a matter of fact, he has a verse that he suggests is wonderful to practice during walking meditation. It’s the first thing that came to mind when Christy lovingly encouraged us to allow ourselves to arrive:

    • I have arrived. I am home.
    • In the here, in the now.
    • I am solid. I am free.
    • In the ultimate I dwell.

    We were encouraged to “allow” our thoughts to arise without judging them as right or wrong (which most of us have been programmed to do at some point in our lives). As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, Happiness, “When we focus on arriving, we arrive at the destination of life. The present moment is a destination….I have arrived means I have stopped running. I have arrived in the present moment because only the present moment contains life.”

    The act of arriving is the simplest meditation we can do. It is one that will immediately place us in the present moment….the here and now.  You may be thinking otherwise but, with time and practice, we can train ourselves to be the observer and simply witness the thoughts in our heads without engaging or giving life to them. There’s a simple beauty in being able to do so. It also pays to be a keen observer of the obstacles that keep us from being present (which was one of the questions we are asked to reflect on as well).

    For me, “arriving” is landing in my body and feeling a deep sense of rooting, connection and grounding. Being so totally in the here and now that I soak in the surroundings, sights, sounds and smells- with each breath, and wherever I am…..at home, the beach, the yoga studio, cleaning or even washing dishes or some other mundane task. It’s giving my attention to how my body is feeling from the subtle sensations to whatever thoughts arise. I try not to get caught up in the thoughts, especially if they do not serve my highest good. Rather, I let them float away as if they were in beautiful white clouds. Staying true to my practice, and my nonnegotiables, is all part of my radical self-care maintenance plan, and it is what allows me to feel like I have arrived.

    An obstacle that can sometimes keep me from being present, or feeling like I’ve arrived, is when I have a packed day. Honestly speaking though, part of my self-care regimen is making sure that doesn’t happen. Hence, the discernment I employ (or should I say radial discernment) as to how, when, where, why and with whom I expend my energy on. However, there are those days that are beyond our control. The days that “duty calls.”

    On those kind of days, I find myself making sure I do a special morning meditation and set my intention(s) for the day. Also, I make sure to stay hydrated and either pack or purchase wholesome foods and snacks that will fuel me. Music is everything to me, so I make sure to listen to music that will keep me calm, peaceful and serene. No hard rock, hip hop, salsa or merengue…..wink, wink! It’s all about setting the tone and priming my Self for the type of day that awaits me. Preparing oneself for a trying and/or long day can be a meditation in itself. Try it and see!

    How else can we practice the simplest of meditations? Well, I personally love watching  the waves roll in. Just like our thoughts, waves come crashing in and then seamlessly flow back out. Watching the sunrise or sunset is also magical and so serene. These are wonderful times of the day to express gratitude for another day of having the privilege of being alive. A slow walk in the park or somewhere outdoors provides us with a lovely opportunity to use the “I have arrived phrase.”

    One place I make sure I’ve arrived is in the car. Personally though, I do NOT like listening to any sort of meditation-like talk in the car because it really distracts the brain from the primary task of driving. Zoning out is NOT an option behind the wheel! Being present while driving is a task in itself.

    Over the course of the last several months, I have found that one of my favorite things to do is to lay on the floor in a supportive, heart-opening pose and just feel my heart beat. Post- Costa Rica, I find myself doing this a whole lot more as I listen to Steve Gold’s song, So Much Magnificence. For some reason, this song has become my anthem for “allowing and arriving,” as well as letting go of any remains of the day that may be weighing me down.  I think it’s because I would listen to it in the afternoons before class, and it was one of the last songs we listened to while in a delicious restorative pose on our last night of practice. Perhaps it’s a subtle way of keeping those memories and feelings alive!?!?

    Just about anything we do can be a simple meditation. The idea is to be engaged fully in whatever it is we are doing, and do just that one thing. The practice simply calls for us to tune into our breath. When we make this a daily practice, we catch ourselves during those times in which we are holding our breath – our life force. Believe me, it happens more than we think, and that’s so not good! Regardless of where we are, whom we are with or what is going on in our lives, we can safely land and arrive in our bodies….one breath at a time.

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

     

     

    Heartfelt Thanks

    “What amazes me is that before we can count we are taught to be grateful for what others do. As we are broken open by our experience, we begin to be grateful for what is, and if we live long enough and deep enough and authentically enough, gratitude becomes a way of life.” -Mark Nepo

    Throughout our lives, we pretty much can tell when someone is telling the truth or not and if their words and intentions are genuine or not. Well, the same goes for the expression of heartfelt gratitude. Our gratitude either comes from the heart or pays lip service. It’s either genuine or impure. We are either authentic or a fraud, transparent or all smoke and mirrors. The choice is always ours to make.

    The blessings that are bestowed upon us are vast and endless. The more we are grateful for, the more abundance that seems to show up in our lives. And I don’t just mean the abundance that we know as money. Abundance comes in all ways and from a bottomless well called The Universe.

    For me personally, gratitude is most certainly a way of life. It is my manifesto for living. That is why I am a self-proclaimed “gratitude junkie.” Much of what we go through in life teaches us to be thankful for all of it….the good, the bad and the ugly. I like to call it the “lessons and blessings.” Here’s a thought though: Why should we have to wait to be broken open time and time again or live long enough before we finally learn to be grateful for all that is?

    Furthermore, why should this week be any different that any other week of the year? Just because there is a day that is earmarked on the calendar as “Thanksgiving” and a ton of related paraphernalia flooding our senses doesn’t mean we can’t live each and every single day from a place of deep gratitude and express heartfelt thanks. Think of the shift that would occur if we stopped to give thanks throughout the day and not just at the traditional meal time. By now we know the positive effects that a gratitude practice has on our nervous system and how it promotes health and well-being. Imagine if we all expressed genuine thanks throughout the day? Imagine the impact and shift that would occur in our lives and the lives of others? Imagine.

    So on this day before Thanksgiving, I want to share with you with a few questions to ponder. Some of the questions come from a lovely Attitudes of Gratitude Guided Journal by M.J. Ryan that I found years ago. I am not sure if it is still in print but, if it is, it’s something worth checking into. It lays the foundation for a beautiful practice and also makes a thoughtful and meaningful gift. You can choose to journal your answers or perhaps make them part of a family activity this week or even on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a good opportunity to put away the electronics and have yourself some meaningful conversation!

    Also, if you and/or your family recently lost a loved one, and this holiday season is the first without at that person, you may want to consider answering these questions as a way of honoring their memory. You can even write them each on a piece of paper, fold each one, place in a bowl and pass it around, have each person pick one and share their answer. I am sure you can come up with your own questions to add to the list. Create away! So here goes:

    • How has gratitude brought more grace into your life?
    • Has gratitude made you feel more fulfilled? How?
    • How can you teach gratitude to others?
    • What are some of the ways gratitude comes naturally into your life?
    • Do you approach life with a positive or negative attitude?
    • Are you a pessimist or an optimist?
    • How do you cultivate a true and deep appreciation for what you have?
    • What unique gifts have you been blessed with?
    • What are you grateful for about you?
    • Count the number of ‘Thank you’s” you say during one day. Could you say more?
    • How can you teach gratitude to your younger ones?
    • Honoring your connection to your ancestors gives you a sense of belonging and wholeness. How do you honor your family? Hoe do you honor their legacy?
    • Who have you most learned from in your life?
    • Life is a journey on which you become more and more fully who you are meant to be. Who is that person?

    When we choose to cultivate attitudes like love, joy and gratitude, we begin to “remake” the world. -M.J. Ryan

     

    Meditation:

    May You Know Gratitude 

    May you know gratitude. May you be grateful for the abundance in your life. May you also be grateful for the people, feelings and experiences that cause you pain and discomfort – they are here to teach you. Express your gratitude everyday and you will find even greater abundance in your heart and in your life with each passing day.

     

    Heartfelt thanks and blessings darlings…today, always, and in all ways!

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

     

     

    Be Still…Connect & Listen

    “The degree to which you do not believe you have time to spend ten minutes sitting quietly, is the degree to which you desperately need to spend ten minutes sitting quietly. If we did nothing else in our spiritual practice but reduce our accelerated pace, the world would be transformed overnight” Donna Farhi

    I walked into my acupuncture appointment last week at Stillpoint Acupuncture & Yoga in Denville, NJ, and the lovely Terri had this quote posted in her waiting room. I knew the quote was one I wanted to use for the post you are about to read. Donna Farhi,  brilliant author, international yoga teacher and retreat leader, could not have expressed this sentiment more eloquently. By the way, her book, Bringing Yoga to Life… The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living is truly a manifesto for living whether or not you are a yoga practitioner.  If you want to bring your “life to life,” then this is a book for you! It is so chock full of wisdom and depth….This book was given to me as a gift and, in turn, I too have given several as gifts. It’s just one of those books you return to again and again for just about every paragraph is a revelation (thanks, Peem, for this observation, or I could have highlighted the entire book).

    So, back to the topic of being still, connecting and listening….call it meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection – or whatever suits your fancy. The point is that allowing ourself to sit in stillness, preferably in the quiet of the early morning,  can and will eventually set the tone for our outlook, attitudes and interactions with people throughout our day. It allows us to connect with our breath (our life force, prana, chi) ease into our morning, and bring clarity to our thoughts and emotions. Let’s be perfectly clear here, our minds will never be empty of thoughts, but we can step into “witness mode” and just acknowledge those thoughts without becoming them and getting all wound up in the stories our reptilian brain is spinning for us. Instead, we can lovingly bring our attention and focus back to our breath.

    The practice of being still allows us to connect and align ourselves to our “higher power” the Divine force in the Universe. The more we do this, the more we are able to have a 360 view, like older dragonflies are said to have. The art of being still, listening, connecting and aligning are, like other mindfulness practices, a conscious choice we make. This quiet time we create, allows us to pray, ask for guidance, talk  to God (or whomever your higher power is) and listen to the voice and messages that show up. There is truth in the saying that “stillness speaks“…let the feelings and that wave of peace and calm wash over you! Listen to what your heart is telling you or guiding you to do. In doing so, it allows you to feel deeply rooted and grounded and gives you the confidence, ease and grace to approach the start of a new day like the precious gift it is.

    I like to start my day, even before getting out of bed in the morning, by listening to Snatam Kaur’s song, On This Day. It’s actually a birthday song, and it’s significance, the words, and her soothing angelic voice remind me of the fact that I have been given life on this day yet again. I open each day as the gift that it is, and I want to live it to the fullest, use my time wisely, and serve accordingly. For me, this is truly a meaningful, significant, remarkable, powerful and inspirational way to embrace the new day ahead. One of my  beloved yoga teachers, Angela, played this for me at the end of class on my birthday last year. It’s coming up to just about a year of listening to this song every day. And, if you know me, you know I like to share…in turn, I’ve sent it on to some friends on their birthdays. Talk about exponential influence! I’m a firm believer in sharing the love. After listening to the song, I say out loud, “Thank you” as my feet are beginning to touch the ground. I enjoy my early morning quiet time. Oh and a word of advice, shut off your phone! Don’t put it on silence or vibrate…..just shut it off!!! It makes a world of difference, and I like to say that my entire body exhales the moment I turn off my phone. It allows for a deeper level of relaxation, concentration and connection. I have other morning rituals that, as you can very well surmise, are for yet another post!

    It saddens me when I hear people say they don’t have time to meditate, or be still….seriously???? Darlings, all we have is time, and what we chose to do with it is another story altogether. These are the individuals that, as Donna Farhi’s quote hammers home, are in need of stillness and quiet the most! These are the individuals who are stuck, tend to be reactive, tightly wound or restless, oftentimes anxious and/or depressed, perhaps have unhealthy addictions, always running away from their issues, spend hours and hours trolling social media and, as a result, are most likely to be their own worst enemy. Can you relate? Do you have people in your life that fit this description? Are you the poster child for this description? if so, then it’s high time you let go of behaviors, situations, and circumstances that aren’t serving you and find a better, more balanced way of living. Your health and peace of mind deserve it!

    Another valuable lesson I’ve learned along the way, is that we CANNOT change people. Don’t waste your energy, or you will be the one who winds up sick! Instead, follow the rules the airlines give us, “In the event of a change in cabin pressure, put the oxygen mask on yourself first”…..this is the time for you  to work on yourself, make your Self a priority, dedicate time to your Self. Shower your Self with loads of self-love and self-care. Trust me, people around you will begin to see the change in you – a different, calm, peaceful, centered, glowing and vibrant you. They will most certainly want to know your secret!

    Remember, as with any practice…..that’s just what being still is….a practice, and not a perfect. Over time, I can assure you that your mind, body and soul will also want some quiet, down time before you go to bed…..especially when you find yourself sleeping like a baby!  I think we can all agree that we’ve mastered the art of “doing”…..let’s challenge ourselves to practicing the art of “be-ing”…you’ll be surprised at the magic that shows up! I leave you with a beautiful quote and affirmation by Tanaaz Chubb from her precious book, Messages for the Soul:

    “Your heart is trying to speak, are you listening? Your heart holds its own type of wisdom that is different from the wisdom of the mind and body. Tune into the smooth hum of your heart, and see what it is asking from you today.”

    “I am open to the Divine messages of my heart, and I am ready to hear its message. I trust my intuition and know that my heart will guide me”

    Be Still….Connect and Listen!

    Inhale Love….Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Why Blog?

    “Our task is to choose to live our own life as an example of grace and humanity, and to surrender to both the light and the dark, and to create a space within for beauty and devastation and for all that life will reveal”  Seane Corn

    Unbeknownst to me, the idea of starting a blog came to me around June 2012. At that time, the seeds were already being dropped into my head and, subconsciously, I began watering them with my beliefs, actions, intentions and, yes, compromises I had made years past and over the next several years. I recall being so sick with an upper respiratory thing and a looming migraine that was threatening to take me down. At the time, I was an assistant principal in an elementary school, and there was a Saturday workshop being conducted for administrators. Additionally, we had to bring in our laptops for something (swapping out? re-imaging? You get the picture). I was so sick that I considered staying home and have the laptop issue resolved at school. However, something was pulling me to go. Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of The First 30 Days of Change, was the featured speaker at our workshop.

    Now, if you know me, I LOVE CHANGE…It’s what keeps us alive, thriving, growing and ever-transforming into better versions of our old selves. Something (my internal GPS) was telling me to go despite how violently ill I felt. Through “divine intervention,” the Universe used a dear friend and co-worker of mine as a messenger. My friend sent me a text along the lines of this speaker being someone that would be of interest to me. I immediately googled the author…there it was! I picked myself up, armed myself with some herbal remedies, tissues, water, etc., and I headed to the workshop / seminar.

    Our stories and journeys are not only our lessons but they teach others as well. What we do and how we do it has the power to light the path for others in need and can serve as a great source of inspiration, motivation and consolation. We are all on the same path, returning home to find ourselves, our true self, the connection with that force that is greater than ourselves and that resides inside each and every one of us…..and to light and pave the way for others. How we live out our purpose is as unique as we are. It is our responsibility as a human being to want to contribute…to inspire, love, serve and leave behind a legacy of love and service. Let’s be clear, what I just mentioned is our purpose; However, it is up to us, our passion, and our willingness to be vulnerable, broken open, courageous, brave, fearless, fierce, intentional and deliberate that will allow us to grow, transform, flex our resilience muscle, make an impact and affect change. In the end, it’s all about healing ourselves, helping others to do the same and, in turn, helping humanity to heal. I know, without a shadow of a doubt,  we are here on this earth to love, serve and uplift each other.

    Oh, and did I mention ask for help? Yes, you heard it…..Ask for help. If you are that rock everyone comes to, the fixer, the handler (come on now, we all have a little Olivia Pope in us), you know how difficult it is to ask for help. Well, my darlings, if we do not learn to ask for help and allow others the joy of helping us, you can be sure the Universe is going to deliver some hard lessons and get us to utter the word help;  I need help; Can you please help me…. Get the picture? Trust me, this will teach us to leave the EGO at the door!

    Towards the last several years of my career, I was fed up with what I saw and experienced first hand: fed up with the big egos, the abuse of power, politics, lies, bullying, harassment, intimidation, a system not doing “right” by its clientele and personnel, the back stabbing and everything else that comes with working in a toxic work environment. I felt that my talents and my gifts weren’t even being tapped into. My creativity and light were being zapped! Nevertheless, I was committed to impacting and influencing others by continuing to “work the work” of self transformation, talk the talk and, more importantly,  walk the walk. I committed to living my yoga off the mat. The more my yoga and meditation practice deepened and flourished and the more I studied yoga philosophy, the more that I felt morally compromised and suffocated. The more I spoke my truth, operated from an authentic and transparent place, the more I saw that I no longer fit in that organization and that my soul needed, and was craving, expansion……Be careful what you wish for……that will be for another post!

    The only thing that got me through those last few years leading up to 2012 and the last few months on the job, were to Lead from the heart….Right from the start, always and in all ways. And, boy, can I give you ways to do that!!!!!

    Hence…….the Inspire Love Serve Blog.

    Please stay tuned!

    Inhale love….Exhale gratitude, JTC