Five, Four, Three, Two, One

“Orienting refers to knowing where we are in space and time. When we are oriented, we are in present time.” Hala Khouri

Hello darlings!

I hope these uncertain, chaotic, overwhelming and disturbing times that we’re facing haven’t taken too much of a toll on your mental and physical health and that you’re utilizing your tools and resources to keep your Self regulated.

Speaking of self-regulation, sometimes, a quick body scan and something as simple as looking around and noticing our surroundings will take us out of the chaos, overwhelm, anxiety, fear and panic mode and put us in the present moment. That’s where the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique comes in.

Some time back in February or early March, I was scrolling through IG and came across Elizabeth Gilbert’s post where she talked about this technique and guided the viewer through it. It was so powerful that I filed it away in my mind until, recently, when it resurfaced as I was taking a course on trauma informed yoga with the wonderful Hala Khouri. She is one of the co-founders of Off the Mat and Into the World along with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling. If you’re not familiar with their work, I lovingly encourage you to check them out.

Back to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Utilizing all our senses to notice and take in our immediate surroundings can regulate our nervous systems. During this historical time we are living through, and especially if you are a news junkie, our nervous systems are being assaulted to the point where we may feel ourselves paralyzed my fear , unable to catch our breath and/or unable to settle our minds …or the minds of those with whom we are quarantining.

Whenever our minds are hijacked, and we find ourselves lost in thoughts of the past or uncertainties about the future, you can bet our nervous systems are getting a hefty dose of adrenaline and cortisol- thereby getting us all jacked up…. maybe even en-route to having a full-blown panic attack.  When this happens, our thoughts spiral and become all consuming, our breathing and heart rate are affected, as is our digestion, and we may even feel all sorts of uncomfortable sensations in our bodies. Not fun or pleasurable to go through or witness!

So how does  5, 4, 3, 2, 1 work? This resource helps us to look around our environment, regardless of where we are, and induce a physiological response whereby we start to feel calm, relaxed and in the present moment. You can literally be ANYWHERE to do this. You can even give it a try right now!

As you slowly look around your surroundings, direct your attention to the following:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can feel
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

The point here is to get you back to a place where you are in present time and mindful of your surroundings. If you like, you can even place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. By doing this, you are tracking your inhales and exhales. The beauty of breathing is that it’s a tool that we can easily tap into and one that brings our attention back into our bodies.

Another similar technique I would like to share with you, because sharing is caring, is one that Hala Khouri used in the course I just took with her. It’s even simpler than the one above. All you basically do is:

  • Look around the room you are in and simply notice the different colors and textures. This is another way that can help us slow down and bring us back to the present  moment.

If you use this technique with someone else, you can even take it a step further by asking them to name a certain number of objects of a particular color.

While Orienting tends to do the trick, it may not work for everyone, Like every other tool, resource, practice or technique out there, we don’t  really know if it resonates for us until we try it.

And we can’t forget the little ones out there. Sadly, more and more young children are becoming depressed, overwhelmed and/or fear and anxiety ridden these days.  It is understandable and certainly unavoidable given the particular circumstances under which they may find themselves living. The best gift we can give them are tools for self-regulation. However, it’s important for them to see us utilizing them as well.

As we’ve all been experiencing, tough times call us to get even tougher. This is the time we pull out ALL our tools and resources and put them to use. Yes, it’s easy to numb ourselves but, in the end, it’s not helpful nor sustainable for our well-being. What is sustainable? Our self-care. It’s imperative given our current living conditions. Remember, oxygen mask on first!

Sharing self-care tools, resources, practices and life experiences that help us to rise and be resilient, is one of the reasons I started blogging. I still can’t believe this blog you are reading is number 161…you can literally scroll back to any random blog post, and I am sure you’ll find some kind of inspiration or support to help you along your own personal journey. And speaking of support, let’s not forget our personal support systems and the people who show up for us and for whom we show up. There’s nothing like deep, meaningful conversations to help us process things, share stories as well as share our own personal practices and gifts.

Whether it be yoga, meditation, visualization, breathwork, affirmations, coloring, drawing, painting, reading, dancing, reiki, therapy, acupuncture, journaling, singing, chanting, playing music, being in nature, gardening, cooking, practicing gratitude, or other mindfulness practices, find what works for you and get to it. You’ve got this! We’ve got this! And we’ve got each other!

Darlings, I hope the two techniques I shared will serve you or someone you know. Share if you care…or not…wink, wink.

Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC

 

 

 

Planting New Seeds: Inspiration for Tumultuous Times

“We alive at this time are the luckiest people who have ever lived –and the ones facing the wildest, most terrifying challenges. This is not just a deep paradox, it is an existential invitation to keep waking up, right now.“ Terry Patten for Grateful Word of the Day

Greetings, my darlings!

The title of this blog is actually the title of a piece one of my beloved yoga teachers, Laura Wootton, posted and one you will read a little later on.

I haven’t blogged all that much lately and, with all that is swirling around us these days, I’ve done what I usually do when faced with challenging times: I tend to unplug, go within, journal, be still, practice some silence, color, listen to music and guided meditations and read a whole lot. Taking the time to be introspective fills me up.

This time has also allowed me to be very mindful and selective of what I choose to post and/or share. I don’t want to add to the hysteria and anxiety that is out there. On the contrary- I want to be the calm in the chaos. This is a mindset I’ve subscribed to for many years now.

Our words hold the capability to either ignite fear or inspire love. I choose the latter. Our words, thoughts and our self-care practices help us to self regulate and calm our nervous system. Fear puts us in fight or flight mode, spiking cortisol levels and causing more dis-ease in the body… not an ideal situation for those with an already compromised immune system. I do not want to add to that, so I’ve been uber-cautious.

When I read Laura’s post, I realized her words were what we all need to hear right now. These are the times, as Laura writes , for planting new seeds. So…. I will leave you with her inspiring words for tumultuous times:

The world is shifting in big ways. Our systems and belief systems are being tested and reassessed. Although this time is tumultuous, it is creating space for needed changes.

The feeling of what is happening comes to me as this image… imagine an area of firmly packed dirt. It has been in its place for years, untouched. It is so packed that new seeds can’t penetrate its surface. The process we are undergoing right now is like taking a shovel to this packed dirt… breaking up all that is stuck in it, excavating it, discovering things that have been lodged in the dirt for years. As we break up the packed dirt, we create space for new life. Now seeds can be planted and nurtured in this space again.

Our structural systems and belief systems are being excavated like the packed dirt. It feels tumultuous, but this process is creating space for new experience and more authentically-aligned life paths.

This is a time to:

  • Look at your life and the way you’ve been living it… are there any ways that you have not been living authentically? How can you create space for more joy and creativity in your life?
  • Enjoy quality time with loved ones while you’re all at home… call loved ones who are far away. We are being offered an opportunity to connect deeply with each other.
  • Ponder the dreams that you have kept “on the shelf” for years because there’s “no time” to pursue them.
  • Contemplate the “seeds” you’d like to plant in your life… visualize what you’d like your life to look life if you’re given a fresh start.

Some affirmations that could be helpful in this time:

I am grounded and stable.
I am worthy of love and joy.
I trust the unfolding of my life.
I create space for joy in my life.
I value myself and my relationships.
I am always Divinely Aligned.
I am guided to my most authentic Self-expression.
I love unconditionally, and I am loved unconditionally.
I receive what I need, and I release what I do not need.
Love and hugs to everyone ❤️🤗❤️

Thank you, “Lovely Laura,” for sharing your wise words and for being such a beacon of light during these times. Your inspiration is deeply appreciated. And thank you for being someone who is helping to move humanity forward!

Here’s to each and every one of us planting new seeds AND choosing/finding inspiring words for tumultuous times!

Lead from the heart… always and in all ways, JTC

Daily Renewal

“What do you do every day to make yourself come home to your Self?”

Greetings, my darlings!

I hope y’all are lovin’ on your Self and finding ways to shower yourselves with daily self-care practices…

Why? Because running around and burning the candles at both ends, like we are all known for doing at some point, requires a good plan for recovery. Just like an athlete, Olympian or rock star, post-performance practices are key to recovery.

Also, this is around the time of year that New Year’s resolutions start to fall by the wayside. We tend to lose focus, be derailed by the weather, or simply get lazy.

Having the presence of mind to check in with ourselves, periodically, throughout the day allows us stay grounded and focused on our intentions, goals and dreams. In order to do so, we need mental clarity. And mental clarity is one of those things that oftentimes gets sacrificed. As a result, we fall back into old patterns, feel scattered or feel ourselves spiraling.

Daily renewal allows us to hit the pause button and reflect. And it can be as simple as breathing and connecting. Focusing on the breath and connecting to the energy we want to feel (or are feeling) allow us to plug into ourselves. Scanning our bodies for sensations allows us to feel where we may be holding onto tension. Tuning into the sounds around us and becoming aware of our thoughts (without getting caught up in them or creating a story) sharpen our ability to just observe.

All of these things can be done just about anywhere or anytime. This practice of being present to our own body, mind and spirit is at the root of our well- being and greatly impacts our performance and ability to show up for ourselves… and then others.

It’s a mindfulness practice that simply translates to being present and engaged in whatever is going on, whatever it is we are doing or whomever it is we are with at that precise moment. The more we practice, the clearer we get with ourselves and the more likely we are to recognize a behavior or pattern that isn’t serving us, an area where we’re holding on when we should be letting go, or an opportunity to change the way we look at something in order to change the way we go about living our life…and living it fully and meaningfully!

I invite you to take a moment to assess your personal daily renewal practices. What are they? What is your mental state after you do them?

The key is knowing the practices that work for us personally: the various tools we have in our toolboxes that help us to ground ourselves. They can be mediation, yoga, music, chanting, tapping, nature, affirmations, hot soaks in the tub or a warm shower, dancing, journaling, breathwork, color therapy, painting, reading, or a host of other hobbies or activities that engage us in the present moment and let our creative side come out to play.

The beauty of these practices is that we are able to stay in tune with our bodies. They contribute to our physical and mental health, energize us when needed, boost our mood and add to our overall emotional fulfillment.

Any type of awareness meditation can be very revealing, especially if we take the time to journal afterwards. I recently took a workshop titled Reflections on Your Inner World, where we were instructed to sit in stillness for 10 minutes and just observe our thoughts (you can say them silently to yourself as you’re doing so). After the 10 minutes were up, we journaled about it all for 10 minutes.

The presenter encouraged us to write, draw and/or use crayons if we wanted. I immediately created 5 headings in different colors: breath; scents; sounds; sensations; and thoughts. Then I preceded to list words, phrases or sentences under each category. And let me tell you something…. this awareness meditation was indeed revealing!

As the presenter stated, “Below the surface of everyday life is a vast reservoir of wisdom and knowledge, and accumulation of life experiences. Meditation and journaling can help you listen deeply, giving a voice to that inner landscape, integrating what was witnessed in the subconscious and connecting you to your higher Self “

Daily renewal mindfulness practices of all kinds will leave us enjoying our lives more. They will help us sleep better, encourage us to play and be more creative. These practices will transform the way we look at things, at other people, and help us to understand ourselves and our place in the world better. We grow to appreciate everything more, while reducing stress hormones along the way. And lastly, daily renewal keeps us in a constant state of love and gratitude … for all things large and small!

My darlings, if we want spiritual peak performance, we must make the time for daily renewal. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our performance, and tweak/vary our practices along the way. Renew away!

Lead with Love… always and in all ways, JTC

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