Blind Clarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What word or phrase embodies my wishes for today?

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

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

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

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

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

The Paradox of Our Age

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about ” Henry David Thoreau

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with bountiful blessings and the warmth of family and friendship.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks in a time of “business” unlike any other time of the year. The thing is, all this business has a way of putting us on auto pilot rushing, rushing, rushing and, before we know it, we’re on the other end of the holidays, fatigued, and wondering where the time went and why we didn’t enjoy ourselves.

The key to enjoyment is to be… be present in each and every moment and interaction so that we can savor the beauty of the moment with all our senses. When on auto-pilot, we lose the ability to do so. We become more robotic and less human. More rigid and less flexible. More closed off and less open-hearted. Even our breath becomes more shallow.

As I was randomly looking through a gem of a book, Soul to Soul- Poems, Prayers and Stories to End a Yoga Class, I came across a lovely piece which speaks to the paradox of our age. The piece, along with conversations I had with different people this past week, actually inspired this blog.

Sooooo….on this first day of December, I invite us to take a moment to pause, read the poem below by the Dalai Lama, and see where it lands. Perhaps it will spark some conversation, reflection, or inspire us all to start doing humanity a little differently as we enter a new decade.

We have bigger houses but smaller families; More conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; More knowledge, but less judgement. More experts, but more problems; More medicines, but less healthiness; we’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. these are times of fast food but slow digestion; Tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is so much in the window but nothing in the room.

So….. what are we busy about? And, more importantly, why?

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

My Guest Blogger Returns

Protect Your Peace

by Lucy Del Gaudio

A few days, I asked a friend if I could do anything for them, what could I do and they said, “Help Me Find Peace.”  I was surprised by the response but also understood what they were saying.

Peace is something we completely take for granted.  Today’s world, filled with social media and negativity, the thoughts of the “light at the end of the tunnel” seem to often be unreal. The last few years, I learned to be more at peace with myself and not be at war with my thoughts.  Trust me, at times, my peace is disturbed and it’s hard to shake; but, I’ve learned different ways of protecting myself from people and situations that aren’t good for my peace.

What do I do to Protect My Peace?

Meditate – I meditate everyday… at least 3 times a day.  I try to give myself at least 5-15 minutes of peaceful practice to gather my thoughts.

I leave the negative of yesterday in the past and start my day as a fresh new page.  This one was super tough.  Negative Nelly, as one friend calls me.  I had to tell myself that there’s nothing I can do or change with the negative in my path.  Let it go, and give yourself peace to start a new page.

I run.  Lucy, a few years ago, would have told you that she does not run.  Lucy, today, tells you I love running.  It offers me so much.  It gives me time to think of my day and time to myself which is so important.  When I run with “the tribe” it gives me a chance to talk about things going on, and talking to others is so important.  When running by myself, I created a playlist of songs that make me feel good- but songs of my soundtrack of life. On my off days, I give myself time to practice yoga.  It soothes the soul and makes me feel peaceful.

I nurture my creative side by reading, writing and appreciating different styles of art.  For someone with dyslexia, reading can at times be challenging- but I love to read.  I actually read multiple books at the same time.  I have several books that I read every year, and I love getting recommendations about what to read. 

I write in multiple journals about everything.  It allows me to tell the universe how I’m feeling without judgement.  As other arts – going to see concerts and eat great meals with “the spouse” always makes me peaceful.  Going to the MOMA and sitting in front of Monet’s Waterlilies is one of the most peaceful places for me.  I find myself doing that often without people knowing. 

Protecting your peace can look completely different than mine, but you get the gist of it.  Being at peace with YOU, and making sure YOU are your first peaceful priority, will make you radiate peace to others.

Be kind to yourself.. give yourself those moments you need.

May the peace in me, be the peace within you.

Namaste ❤️

Thank you, Lucy, for this wonderful, peace-filled inspiration. I absolutely love when synchronicities occur and we follow up on our hunches, we pay attention to our intuition, our thoughts, or simply acknowledge our connection and interdependence. Darlings, this piece was inspired by one of Lucy’s post, which simply said: Protect Your Peace. Just as I was getting ready to scroll down, the thought that it would make a good blog crossed my mind. Instead of allowing it to be fleeting thought, I wrote it in the comments. Conversely, instead of just glossing over it, Lucy responded saying that she thought so too. So…I told her to “get on it.” And, she did! And now, her lovely blog is out there for whomever needs it. Isn’t it just magical?

I love the exchange of energies and how we either raise the peaceful vibration of the collective consciousness, or we succumb to destructive, negative and low vibrational thoughts, words and actions. Which will you choose? Oh, and by the way, how do YOU protect your peace?

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Lost Art of Lounging

“Busyness is the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from ourselves, mistaking the doing for the being.” -Maria Popova

Greetings, my darlings! I hope this blog finds you in good spirits and enjoying the last few days of August.

Many of us may have just sent kids off to college, are preparing little ones to start school for the first time or maybe just getting kids organized and ready to start a new school year. For many educators, today, tomorrow or next Tuesday signals the dreaded “back to work” mentality. For those who work year round, maybe savoring the last few days of summer is your ardent mission.

Generally speaking, this is a time of year that people are cramming a lot in to their already packed days. Lounging may not necessarily be at the top of your “to do” list, but I’m here to tell you that it needs to be! Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. It’s self-preservation!

The way I see it, is that so many people are addicted to “the art of busyness” that they have forgotten the beautiful, nurturing, nourishing, refreshing, revitalizing, inspiring and necessary “art of lounging.”

We all have responsibilities. Unfortunately though, it seems like people today tend to create much of the unnecessary busyness for themselves. Between feeling the need to be connected and reachable anytime of day or night, the incessant lure of social media feeds, and emails and news alerts repeatedly pinging at all hours, the self-imposed need to respond immediately, more and more people are spending more and more time of their day on their devices and in a perpetual state of distraction.

As a result, HUGE chunks of the average person’s day is consumed with mindless activities and stressors. All this constituting “busyness” is reaching epic and overwhelming proportions and is affecting our quality of life- how we enjoy life, how we engage in life and how we participate in social and familial settings.

All these stressors have the tendency to leave us fatigued and our nervous system in “flight or light” overdrive. More than ever we need to pause, stop, restore, replenish and return our nervous system back to “rest and digest” mode.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I am a self-imposed love and gratitude junkie and a HUGE proponent of self care. So it’s no secret that I consider myself to be The Queen of The Art Lounging. Yep, you heard me! And those who know me can attest to it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can busy myself as much as the next person if I allow it. And I use the word “allow” because it is a choice. I also choose to guard my energy and make my rest and relaxation a top priority. And I do so by establishing little rituals I honor that refuel me, take my nervous system out of “red alert” mode, and allow me to enjoy my own company.

Whenever I’ve had a long day or a couple of back-to-back long days), one of my favorite things to do is to be in bed SUPER early. How early? Well…hold on now….ready??? Sometimes it can be as early as 6:30 pm. (I think I may have heard a gasp or a jaw or two drop).

I make sure I’ve lit some scented candles, have soothing music playing, take a hot shower or scented oil bath, slather on the lotions and the potions and the essential oils, do about 3-4 restorative poses (sometimes just legs up the wall will do), and then slip into my comfy bed. I surround myself with my journals, magazines or a good book and just allow myself to lounge…. sans phone!

Here’s the funny thing- I recall being in my 30’s and 40’s and my mother telling me how early she was in bed, or not to worry if I called her and she didn’t answer because it meant she was already sleeping, and I would shake my head and roll my eyes. I just didn’t get it. Needless to say, now I do…wink, wink.

When fully rested, we show up for ourselves. In turn, we can show up more consciously and be present for the people in our lives. We feel more grounded and less scattered. We enjoy our life more. We are more aware of the joy and love that surrounds us. We laugh more. We take in the beauty and the nature that is around us. We enjoy our pets. We are better able to connect with others. We engage with others more easily and happily.  We feel more inspired, creative and productive. We find ourselves allocating more time to doing the things we want to do or have been putting off doing. We have the ability to discern between doing real work and busy work. We become more skillful and learn to act instead of react. We become more grateful and graceful. In a nut shell, we become fully engaged participants in the ups and downs of life while still managing to enjoy and appreciate it all!

Darlings, I encourage each and every one of you reading this to take a moment to ask yourself the following question:

What can you do to be less busy and enjoy your life more?

Here’s to you and finding what the art of lounging looks like in your own world!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- Stay tuned to the next blog as I will be featuring a new Guest Blogger!

Strengthen Your Attention Muscle

“In the rush of modern-day life, it’s easy to push aside small concerns and fail to notice you’re no longer your old, happy self.”

Hello my darlings!

I hope this blog finds you happy and in good spirits!

If you’re not in good spirits, perhaps you and/or your life is tipping out of balance. Perhaps you’ve failed to notice the gradual changes that undeniably occur when we are disconnected from our mind, body and spirit. When this occurs, it’s safe to say that our minds ruminate and our lives feel like we are on a perpetual hamster wheel… spinning, spinning, spinning!

A common practice in yoga class is to be still and connect to our breath. After a few lengthy and deep inhalations and exhalations, we are encouraged to check in with our mind, our body, and our spirit. In doing so, we are able to tap into our thoughts, the sensations in our bodies and the emotions that rise up to the surface.

Our attention is a muscle that, once exercised, can reap wonderful rewards. The more we practice being still and checking in with our feelings, our thoughts, and our surroundings, the more we are able to be present in our bodies as well as in our relationships. And…. the more we are able to connect with Source- “the infinite all” and our higher self.

Today’s society, the happenings in our world and government, and the constant overflow of information that is in our in boxes and on our devices, contribute to the constant simulation of our senses. As a result, we feel a mental overload of huge proportions. Without tools that allow us to sort through the noise, mental clutter and stimulus, we are doomed to feel like our life is spinning out of control. We seem to be doing, doing, doing instead of being, being, being!

Our nervous system is so flooded with cortisol, that we operate from “fight or flight” mode” as opposed to “rest and digest” mode.

If we have any hopes of living a more gracious, connected, joyous, balanced, and peaceful life, we must remove ourselves from this state of overwhelming busyness. We MUST allow ourselves the time and the space to disconnect.

In doing so, we are affording ourselves the opportunity to be, see, hear and feel.

A simple thing we can do at the end of a difficult, challenging, or trying day, is to notice how our body feels. This is one way we can strengthen our attention muscle. Over time, and with practice, it becomes second nature…. trust me!

So where do we start?

-We start by setting aside uninterrupted time to check in. This means powering off our devices or placing them on airplane mode.

-Find a place to sit quietly and comfortably.

– After a few deep cleansing breaths, notice where your body feels constricted.

– Where is it that you hold on to stress or discomfort in your body?

-What do you feel?

-Allow yourself to feel and, If you are compelled to write, journal what ever arose during this time you took to scan your body.

-The more you do this throughout your day, the more you are in your body and the more equipped you become at addressing these areas in your body.

We can look at this practice as a gift we give ourselves. Being able to be in our bodies- distraction free- is a gift. It’s a necessity. It’s life altering. It allows us to be aware of thoughts that may not serve us and encourage us to reprogram our brain with thoughts that enhance our wellbeing.

It has been proven that the quality of our life is connected with our ability to tune in and pay attention. Multitasking, 24/7 connection, fatigued adrenals, and exhaustion do not make for a badge of honor. On the contrary, radical self-care allows us to live a more deeply satisfying life.

So what are some activities that allow us to be in our bodies and add to our well-being? Activities that allow us to care for our inner child?

The following suggestions come directly from someone I follow on IG because I love how she is using her social media platform to help us to heal and consciously create a new version of ourselves (check out the.holistic.psychologist on the gram).

  • Go for a walk or a hike
  • Do yoga
  • Meditate
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Listen to an educational podcast
  • Go to “Youtube University”
  • See a therapist/energy worker/healer
  • Connect with someone you love
  • Spend 15 minutes in total silence
  • Do a tough work out
  • Plan a “staycation”

And what are some of my favorite things to do when I am feeling exhausted or spread too thin, or have had a long day? In addition to the suggestions above, I enjoy soaking in an Epson salt, essential oils infused tub. Sometimes I even throw in fresh flowers. I make sure to light a candle and drink plenty of water when I am soaking (wine on some occasions). Doing a few restorative yoga poses before bed is a must for me, especially after a soak in the tub. I also like to spend a few hours in silence. At times, I purposely shut off the phone. Taking a walk in nature is something I enjoy as well. Getting to bed earlier than usual is a delightful and indulgent treat. And, as you can surmise, journaling is at the top of my list…wink, wink! Writing in my gratitude journal is something I try and do in the evenings as soon as I get in bed.

What are your coping mechanisms when dealing with difficult situations or emotions? What activities allow you to feel renewed or recharged? What practices do you have that allow you to connect to Source?

My darlings, tough times call for tough measures. In order to be our best selves and show up fully engaged and passionately committed to ourselves and for the greater good of all beings, we need to make our self-care a priority. In doing so, we will strengthen our attention muscle in a way that will allow us to live a life of balance, purpose and meaning!

The following is a piece that one of my yoga teachers read to us while we were in savasana. It comes from Danna Fauld’s book, What’s True Here, New Poems and Other Writings. May you be renewed by it as much as I was upon hearing the words!

Renewed by Source

Just as the the steady rain quenches the earths thirst, so too am I renewed by source energy through stillness and through prayer. Without a daily connection to silence, I can’t hear the guidance or feel the love that always moves inside me. The balance of being and doing seems and entirely beyond reach until I grow quiet and allow a wisdom far greater than my own to lead me home.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Fully Engaged and Passionately Committed

“Live life with an open heart.” Panache Desai

Greetings, my beloved darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are 5 words that describe you?

How are you moving through life?

What values shape you?

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

Are you changing and growing over time?

What sort of activities or events do you focus on?

What brings you joy?

What are your challenges at this point in your life?

What areas of your life are in need of changing?

What are you good at?

How can you influence and/or inspire others?

How can you be of service to others?

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Reflections and Intentions

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Happy June, my darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so this is where my stream of consciousness stopped.

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Spring Cleaning and Moments of Grace

“Going with the flow is responding to cues from the universe. When you go with the flow, you’re surfing Life force. It’s about wakeful trust and total collaboration with what’s showing up for you.” Danielle LaPorte

Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy cleaning out, clearing out, organizing and staging. The change of seasons is an especially exciting time for me.

As I wrote in my Spring Cleaning blog last year (2018), March is all about clearing out, cleaning up from the winter and getting ready for spring, especially in the northeast. As with any type of creative and inspirational project, I believe the key is to have fun doing so. By the way, if you want some specific tips and guidelines to help you organize, clean, donate, purge or pack up to move, be sure you check out my spring cleaning blog from last year.

This past Monday, my plan to write a spring cleaning-related blog was hijacked by an unexpected event. You know the saying “Be careful what you wish for?” Well, let me tell you a little story.

I have been itching to take on a spring clearing or cleaning project but wasn’t sure of what project to tackle. I was also thinking about what kind of blog to write this week. Perhaps a blog dealing with clearing out and organizing closets would be fun. Just like that, a turn of events took place that determined the type of spring cleaning that I would be doing. And this type of spring cleaning would force me to go with the flow.

To make a long story short, the storage area in my condo complex had a leak. This storage area is on the ground floor in another building and, I must confess, it’s not the nicest, cleanest, or pleasant smelling space (if you know what I mean). So what did this mean? It meant that we all had to remove our contents by the end of the day!!!

I took a moment to pause, breathe, and think about my options. One option would be to see if there was another space where I would be able to move my things into. However, upon seeing the space, I realized it was a long schlep which required a maze of twists and turns. Not very practical if you know what I mean. Plus, it would wreck havoc on my body.

The other option, was to rent a storage space, a truck from Home Depot, and move my plastic bins and other belongings in there for the time being and until the repairs in the storage area of the complex would be fixed.

Let me interject something here. The “Me” of 20 years ago would have flipped out, been stressed out, and would be freaking out and spiraling out of control. Today’s “Me” proceeded accordingly with a mind and eyes wide open to infinite possibilities. In other words, I went with the flow. BIG time.

In doing so, I was able to notice the moments of grace that popped up to make this task at hand more bearable and even pleasant.

In order to do so, I re-wound to the beginning of my day to appreciate how the universe “set me up.”

I got to the yoga studio thinking that the class I was going to take, to ease into my Monday morning, was at 9 o’clock. Upon arrival, I was informed the class was at 9:30; so, I decided to make a cup of tea, go into the studio where the class was going to be held, the candles were already lit and so was the incense, and I plugged in my phone to listen to some music, sit in the stillness alone and breathe.

The next thing that happened was that the instructor, Barbara, not only delivered a soothing, therapeutic class, but shared a beautiful reading at the end of class that had to do with water and the flow of life. I will share this piece with you at the end.

I recall laying in savasana and remarking to myself that life is indeed so much easier when, instead of fighting the current or whatever it is that is showing up for us, we just look at the guiding cues from the universe instead. Remember what I said about walking around with the mind and eyes wide open?

That is just what I did when I went to Home Depot to inquire about renting a truck, and learned that it was first come first serve. The fact that I saw one van in the parking lot struck me.

It’s also what I did when I went next-door to the Extra Storage Space, and encountered a friendly and helpful service provider, Joe, who showed me to a space that was pretty close to the elevators. This space would not require me to schlep a long distance with my belongings.

It’s also what I did as I was driving back to Home Depot, to rent the van that I knew would be there for me, and took a moment to wonder who I could get to help me. Immediately, I saw a text from my beloved friend, and pseudo-daughter, Linda Lou. Hmmmm…. could this be yet another cue from the universe? I immediately called her and asked if she had an hour or two to spare. As it turns out, she was my angel for the afternoon.

It’s also what I did when I realized two things: I said I wanted a spring cleaning project, and I have been wanting to organize purge and consolidate the contents of all my storage containers. Coincidence? I don’t think so…wink, wink.

Well, my Darlings, the universe delivered once again! It may not have been what I expected, but I went with the flow, drove a van for the first time, fell out of the back of the van on one occasion, and still managed to have fun and laugh along side Linda Lou. I was even able to provide her an ear to listen. The universe is so magically humbling as it is comical, don’t you think?

As I soaked in an epsom salt and essential oils bath that evening, I reflected back on the day. I was able to appreciate the numerous moments of grace that showed up and carried me as I flowed with the ups and the downs of what could have been a stressful, fatiguing and annoying day. Instead, I found myself filled with a deep sense of grace for all these little moments that were, in fact, big moments. I was held…much like I felt held while immersed in that scented bath.

Over the next month, and at my leisure, I will be able to take the time to go through all my storage bins in a clean, pleasant smelling, spacious and well lit area. And you can bet I will have a helper… and music…and snacks. After all, it’s important to have fun and celebrate life fully engaged in whatever it is we are doing!

The following is the lovely reading that was shared in class: Enjoy!

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility. When the river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on. As we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard, but we always keep going. Water can inspire us not to become rigid with fear a hold fast to what is familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to his past but flows onward without looking back. At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not flee from it, fearful of the dark; instead, it humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of life rather than running away from them.

Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gradually and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance. Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.

Coming up next… the closet blog… stay tuned!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Mind over Matter

“The real meditation is how you live your life.” Job Kabat-Zin

Jon Kabat-Zin is known as the Godfather of modern Western mindfulness meditation. He’s been preaching and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for decades. This is a program that teaches us mindfulness skills to use in our daily lives.

I had the pleasure of seeing him at an Omega Institute Being Yoga Conference many years ago where he was one of the keynote speakers. It was so impactful to see and witness how “present” and powerful he was. Even when silent, and scanning the audience as he made eye contact, he exuded power and presence.

I recall remarking to myself that I wanted to have this effect whenever I had to speak before a large crowd. I wanted to drink the “mindfulness cool-aid.” And that I did because, ever since then, one of my daily goals and aspirations in life has been to show up and be present wherever and with whomever I am.

Being able to stay afloat in today’s world, and having tools to self-regulate, was part of several conversations I had with a couple of friends this past weekend. Everything today is fast and furious, and the sands of time seem to be slipping by rapidly. Having tools, and utilizing them, can help us to slow down, regroup, regain some clarity, enjoy time with friends and loved ones and even strengthen relationships.

The point of being mindful is to live in the moment and appreciate whatever it is that shows up without having a meltdown or feeling like we’re just spiraling into a dark abyss. In order to do this, we must be mindful or “in the moment.” We must allow ourselves opportunities to “land and arrive” in our bodies and then be fully aware of whatever it is we are doing in that moment. Even sipping tea, washing dishes, or cutting vegetables are all opportunities for us to be present and focus on what we are doing.

So…..after a weekend of much conversation, home-made scrumptious food and jokingly “trying to solve the problems of the world,” I chuckled as I came across the latest issue of Breathe magazine. It is appropriately titled The Mindfulness Special.

If you’ve never held this beautiful magazine in your hands, I suggest you treat yourself to one. The magazine contains articles on wellness, kindness, mindfulness and inspiration…. right up my alley! It’s filled with practical, short pieces that allow us to inhale and exhale deeply. I guess that is why the magazine is called Breathe.

I decided to peruse it when I got on the train for my ride home from visiting my friends this past weekend. As I flipped through the articles and the pages, I came to the back of the magazine. I took the time to read Mind over Matter because it was all quotes, from a variety of people, designed to inspire us to live in the moment. Who doesn’t love a good quote?

I, for one, am a sucker for good quotes; so, in the spirit of stewardship, love, caring and sharing, I will leave you all with these precious gems that will allow you to pause, land, arrive, inhale and exhale deeply.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. Mother Teresa

Training your mind to be in the present moment is the number one key to making healthier choices. Susan Albers

In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want to much, and forget about the joy of just being. Eckhart Tolle

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou

Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts. Buddha

Look for the answer inside your question. Rumi

Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life. Mark Williams

The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear. Prasad Mahes

Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it’s outside when it is inside. Ramana Maharshi

Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance. Amit Ray

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little. Jon Kabat-Zin

Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world. Amit Ray

Mindfulness is like that-it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life. Thich Nhat Hanh

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax. Bryant McGill

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without figuring it will always be the way (which it won’t). James Baraz

It is my hope that the above quotes touch something in all of us, and that we all continue to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart… right from the start!

Breathe…

Inhale Love and Light… Exhale Grace and 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