End of Year Review & Rituals

“In the end, these things matter most…how well did you love, how fully did you live, how deeply did you let go” -Buddha

We should we have to wait until we are at the end of our life to ask ourselves these questions? As a matter of fact, if we change the lens by which we view life, we come to realize and accept the fact that we are all terminal.  I saw a very appropriate quote by Tony Robbins a couple of weeks ago where he says, “There’s something coming for all of us. It’s called death. Rather than fearing it, it can become one of our greatest counselors.” Wow…our greatest counselor!

When people are faced with death, in most cases, that is when they begin to live. Now that is sad! Why should we wait until the end of our life to live? Really live….live with courage, fierceness, passion, creativity, optimism, integrity, wisdom, balance, honor, grace, acceptance, kindness, gratitude, compassion, joy, peace, purpose and love. The list can go on and on. I invite you to pause for a moment. Perhaps inhale deeply and exhale very lengthy a few times. Now, read the following questions, linger between each one, and see what shows up: What would you add to this list? How can you stay connected to these values (or your own) and keep them in check? Do you have any rituals that allow you to move through your life as an expression of those values?

So moving onto the topic of rituals, like many of you, I have a few of my own. As much of an extrovert and social butterfly that I am, I’m also a loner and introvert. I relish my alone time and the silence that surrounds me. As I’ve gotten older, I have become even more sensitive to noise, bright lights, crowds and activities that are devoid of meaning and purpose. And guess what? I would not have it any other way. Been there, done that! I need the quiet time to rebalance, review, regroup, renew, reconnect, recharge. This is a ritual that is one of my non-negotiables. I love the space it holds for me to be able to connect with my creativity, set intentions and create a vision for how I want to proceed with the time I have left here on this earth. I want to be able to move through my life as a full expression of that vision and the values I hold near and dear.

One of the rituals I look forward to the most are the end of year ones….especially New Year’s Eve. The LAST thing I want to be doing is being out anywhere near midnight! However, twenty years ago I did the midnight run in Central Park….operative words….twenty years ago!  There have also been times, here and there, that I’ve gone out to an early dinner. And yes, I made sure to be home early as well.

I love the end of year ritual(s) I’ve set up for myself. They bring me joy and peace. When I’m in Florida, I like to be on the beach for sunrise. There’s something magical about the stillness and quietness that time of morning. The beach is a lovely place to meditate and do a little yoga practice as the sun is rising. Oh, the feeling of doing sun salutations when the sun is peaking through the horizon! It’s breathtaking. THAT is when I truly feel the connection to all that is. To feel like a tiny grain of sand in the universe puts a whole lot into perspective.

If I am home in NJ, I still like to arise early and do my daily rituals. The sun rises outside my bedroom window (love this exposure), so I hunker down, go within, connect and listen, and move my body. With either scenario, I make sure I take the time to journal. Lots of questions seem to pop up all over the place this time of year, and I usually pick and choose from here and there and create a list for myself to ponder and write about.

By noon time, I clean. Yes, I clean and do any laundry that may need to be done (and make sure all the garbage is thrown out). Oh, and by the way, I pop the cork on a bottle of champagne to usher in the cleaning and cleansing of my beloved sacred space and the new year that awaits. Add a little music to  set the tone, and voila! Devotional music puts me in the head space to perform my cleaning activities like a mediation….an offering up to the Divine. After the cleaning, I then move onto another ritual…the bathing ritual. Oils, candles, music, maybe some herbs and flowers, exfoliation, a few bubbles (and bubbly on the side).

Another activity I like to do, is create a vision board. When I haven’t made one, I’ve written my intentions and visions for the forthcoming year in my journal. Last year, I tweaked my existing vison board – it’s more like a “life visioning board.” It represents the intentions for how I want to be living, serving and being of contribution. It amazes me when I look at it and see how so many things are in alignment with that vision and are coming to fruition! Taking the time to write or create a vision is a very powerful tool. Just the other day, I came across something I had written back in 2008, and I just sat there in amazement, reading and shaking my head at all the things I wrote that I ended up manifesting. Oh, this magical and comical universe of ours surely knows how and when to deliver!

To celebrate my accomplishments, I make myself a nice meal and enjoy it. A new ritual I started a couple of years ago was a Blessings Jar (you can use a big mason jar, bowl, or buy a decorative one in HomeGoods or a place like that). Blessings appear always and in all ways, but I tend to write about random occurrences and synchronicities….ones that may not even appear as a blessing but truly are a blessing for me. Perhaps during my morning practice this year may be a good time to empty my blessings jar, unfold all the little pieces of paper, and read what I have written in the past year. It’s truly humbling to say the least!

There have been many years that I’ve been in bed before the stroke of midnight – cozy, snug like a bug in a rug. Other times, I may do a some more journaling, a little yoga practice and/or a guided mediation. One year, I was just finishing the end of my practice at midnight. That was a beautiful experience in and of itself. It’s a powerful feeling to connect energetically with the millions of people in the world who are ushering in the new year in prayer and meditation, It’s like a spiritual global community coming together with a sense of unity of purpose.

This New Year’s Eve, I am actually going to a yoga class in the early evening with my “Lovelies.” Now, this group is uber-special to me….thats why I call them the Lovelies. Some of them are yoga teachers (either full or part time) and others are educators who also have their YTT certification as well (something I know I will be doing at some point along my journey). These gals are magical light beings, and I am infinitely grateful for their love, energy, inspiration, and generosity of spirit. Who knows? Maybe this will become a new yearly ritual too!

Do you have any end of year rituals? If so, what are some of yours? I’d love to hear about them. Plus, you may give me a few new ideas to add to my list. I’m all about the sharing!

Below are some questions I may be pondering leading up to New Year’s Eve. Feel free to contemplate them, come up with your own, or maybe even share yours with other people as well. Coming up with age appropriate questions for children is also a lovely and meaningful activity. Some of the following questions are my own, some I got from the Chopra Center, and some are a combo of both. I hope they are helpful to you!

  • What did you learn this year? (skills, knowledge, awareness, etc.)
  • What did you accomplish? 
  • Is there anything that still feels incomplete to you?
  • Is there something you would I have done differently? Why?
  • What did you release? 
  • What else needs to be released?
  • Are there people in your life you need to release? (who are they and why)
  • What were the most significant events in your life this past year? 
  • What right choices did you make?
  • What do you feel especially good about?
  • What really matters most to you?
  • What was your greatest contribution this year?
  • What were the fun things you did?
  • What were the not-so-fun? (and why)
  • What were your biggest challenges/roadblocks/difficulties this past year?
  • How did you grow from them?
  • How are you different this year than last?
  • What were some of your significant and/or game changing blessings in 2017?
  • What are you particularly grateful for?
  • How did you express and show your love?
  • How fully did you live this past year?
  • How deeply did you let go?
  • Are you currently living a life of meaning and purpose?
  • Who or what is keeping you from living the fullest expression of who you are?
  • What personal strengths and uniqueness can you share that will add value to others?
  • How can you share your gifts with the world?
  • How do you want to live your life in 2018? 
  • What do you see yourself doing next year?

In closing, I will also leave you with a short prayer from the book, Change Me Prayers – The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender, by Tosha Silver.

Releasing

Let me release all that is outgrown and align with the Divine for the highest unfolding. The perfect routes are already selected and will unfold naturally and easily. Let me know my true nature as Love. Divine Beloved, change me into One who easily releases all that wishes to go. Let me move with courage and ease. As I stand on the threshold of the new, let me trust that all that needs to happen will happen in the most uplifting and joyous ways. What is needed is already known. I will be guided, shown, and provided for in every way. All is well.

Darlings, may you release 2017 with a sense of grace and gratitude for all that was, and may you fill your 2018 with what matters most-  Love and Faith. Happy New Year!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

A Meaningful To-Do List

Be Merry. Be Happy. Be Bright.

About 20 years ago, one of my girlfriends (and soul sister), Patti, sent me a beautiful card for Christmas that I have treasured ever since. As a matter of fact, I keep it in a picture frame and display it every year as part of my decorations. Over the years, I have also typed it up on colorful stationary and passed it on to staff members, friends and family.

With three major holidays this month – Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa and, in addition, Winter Solstice and New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d share the contents of the card with you. Needless to say, we don’t have to wait for the holidays to do any of these things. In my humble opinion, what you are about to read should be part of our to-do list on a regular basis…..just sayin’

This Christmas

  • Mend a quarrel
  • Seek out a forgotten friend
  • Write a love letter
  • Share some treasure
  • Give a soft answer
  • Encourage youth
  • Keep a promise
  • Find the time
  • Forgive an enemy
  • Apologize if you were wrong
  • Think first of someone else
  • Be kind and gentle
  • Laugh a little
  • Laugh a little more
  • Express your gratitude
  • Gladden the heart of a child
  • Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth
  • Speak your love
  • Speak it again
  • Speak it still once again

If you are in need of a little token gift, strapped for cash, or just want to be mindful of where and how you are spending your money, you can get creative with this beautiful to-do list, add to it, create your own, print copies or have it printed on cardstock at Staples, and perhaps slip into small frames as gifts. You can also roll them up and tie with a lovely ribbon. We don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of money on a gift. Simple, no fuss gifts from the heart carry our energy, love and intention with them. They are the gifts that keep on giving.

Create away darlings….and remember… be merry, happy and bright!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Special Edition… ‘Tis the Season

‘Joy is Prayer. Joy is Strength. Joy is love.” -Mother Teresa

Season’s Greetings darlings! I read a most beautiful article written by Elizabeth Lesser  yesterday, featured in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I love, love, love Elizabeth Lesser and her style of writing! Her messages are always so deep, profound and life-altering! So, here it is:

10 Ways To Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday

by 

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as “The Holidays,” when into the dark little months of late November and December, we squeeze Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years Eve, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, dysfunctional family feasts complete with political disagreements, airplane flights and long drives, darker days, colder weather, budget-busting shopping, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress for most, and for some, real depression and loneliness.

Some greet the season with excitement and joyful expectation. Others dread the whole thing. Personally, I harbor both excitement AND dread. So I’ve come up with some ways for all of us to stay healthy and sane, to celebrate and enjoy, and to dig into the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, another option is just to ignore the madness completely (good luck with that) or to knock yourself out trying to live up to all of your holiday expectations (good luck with that, too).

Here are my ten ways to approach the season with reasonable expectations and good cheer.

1) Be Kind: Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us, so remember to take a few breaks during a busy day or at a family gathering or whenever you feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot—even if you have to go into the bathroom and lock the door—and just sit still for a minute or two. Put your hand on your chest and pat your heart gently. Then take a nice deep breath into that spot and flood yourself with warm feelings of kindness toward yourself first. Breathe in acceptance and forgiveness and appreciation. If you only have time to do that, it’s enough. You can add this to the practice, too: As you exhale, let the breath of kindness move back out and feel it all around you—as if you were wrapped in a cloak of light. Now inhale again, and breathe kindness into your belly, your organs, your bloodstream. Exhale, and feel that cloak of light expanding. Inhale again, all the way down to your fingers and toes and deep into the center of your bones, flushing every cell with warmth and vibrancy. On each inhale, bring kindness into your body. On each exhale, extend the cloak of healing light further and further—embracing the people in your life, those in the world with whom you disagree, and finally our whole big, amazing, hurting, evolving world. This is a wonderful practice to do when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or whenever you like during the day. 

2) Simplify: We live in an excessive culture. There’s just too much going on. But there’s one thing we seem to have too little of: time. We fill each day with too much activity, too much stuff, too much media, and too many responsibilities pulling on us in too many directions, and time races away. We go to bed at night and wonder where the heck the day went. We wake up and do it again. And now at the holidays, we’re supposed to add more excess to the excess. More food, more socializing, more presents that require more money. I think it’s a revolutionary act to resist the more-more-more culture and, instead, to simplify. Purchase fewer gifts and put more thought and meaning into the ones you do give. Say ‘no’ to engagements that will only add more stress to your week. Say ‘yes’ to gatherings that fill your soul and make you and others happy. Unplug from the 24/7 news and social media. Spend time in nature. Look at the stars. Find a little kid and hitch your wagon to their wonder.

3) Roll With the Changes: As families change and grow, traditions change as well.  For example, if you are a working woman who had a stay-at-home mother, instead of knocking yourself out trying to reproduce the exact old-fashioned holiday of your childhood, relax your standards. Do what fits YOUR life and infuse it with meaning, humor, and love. Or if you are a divorced dad or mom, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure up. It will be the best gift you give to your kids this year. If you are far away from your family (or choose not to be with them), invite others into your home and give the words “extended family” new meaning. 

4) Help Others: not because you SHOULD but because it feeds everyone—the giver and the receiver. Find someone who is struggling financially or emotionally or physically, and lend them a helping hand, soothe their loneliness or hunger or confusion or pain. Check out the stories of every holiday tradition—from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas. If you celebrate any of these holidays, you might as well get down to what they are really about: generosity, connection, the promise of light-in-the-darkness. Be that light for someone else.

5) Drop In: to a church or mosque or synagogue or temple or . . . you get the idea. Even if you have no religious affiliation or belief—even if you have deep-seated problems with religion in general—these kinds of spaces have a mysterious quality that can bring peace to a visitor. They carry within their walls the prayers and songs of our human family. Most places of worship welcome all people, even those just looking for a touch of grace. Instead of hurrying by that church you have passed a hundred times on the way to work, take a moment to enter its doors and sit quietly, imbibing the beauty.

6) Take Care: Eat well, drink water, exercise, and then be merry. Instead of making one more feeble New Year’s resolution to join a gym or cut back on the drink or sugar or Twitter, do it right now. You will be amazed at how just the littlest bit of movement and healthful habits will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. And sleep for goodness sakes, do whatever it takes to get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is at the root of so many of our mental and physical problems.

7) Love Everything: Even the hard times; even the cranky and crooked people of the world; even yourself, with all of your embarrassing shortcomings. If loving everything seems impossible, start with forgiveness. Forgive all sorts of people—those from your past, your work, your family, even those abhorrent jerks and so-called enemies in the news. Bitterness towards others is like drinking poison. Put down the bitter cup and take up… 

8) Tenderness: See what happens if you keep your heart open and soft. When you feel fear, or anger, or judgment clutching at your chest, put your hand on your heart and pat lightly. Instead of shutting down, stay open. Stay tender. Just try this and see what happens. Your mind will tell you it’s not safe to be open, that you don’t want to soften, that you’ll tenderize only if the other person changes first. But those strategies haven’t really worked, have they? Try something new.

9) Connect: When you practice love, forgiveness, and tenderness sincerely and consistently, you begin to feel so connected to other people and to life itself that your sense of “me” frays at the edges, loosens, merges. I heard a man at a retreat with the teacher, Eckhart Tolle, say that he’d been practicing compassion meditation and a weird thing was happening to him. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” the concerned man said. And Eckhart replied, “Congratulations.” When you let go of that firm sense of who you are, and what you must protect, and why you are better or worse than anyone else, you are free. There’s less fear, less striving, less of the need to prove your case. There’s more room to let others in, more comfort with the world just as it is, and at the same time, more courage to speak up for truth and beauty.     

10) Joy to the World: How strange that we have everything we need to cheer up right this minute, but so often, joy alludes us. You may recoil at this idea. You may think, “She has NO idea what I am going through; cheering up is not possible.” But I have met some of the most joyful people in the most unlikely, difficult places, including jails and hospitals. And some of the gloomiest, most aggrieved people in luxurious homes and privileged situations. Albert Einstein said that the most important thing to pursue is “sacred awe.” If you think about it, how awe-some—preposterous really—that we are here at all. That YOU showed up here on this little blue marble floating in space. Each one of us has a joyful core that is truer than the worry, the sadness, the blame, the fear. Find your joyful core. Trust it. Be it. Share it.

ELIZABETH LESSER is the author of several bestselling books, including Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most. She is the co-founder of Omega Institute, recognized internationally for its workshops and conferences in wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She has given two popular TED talks, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of a hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.

 

Together we can all inspire, love, serve. And if you choose to Lead from the heart…right from the start, you will see a big shift in your life and the lives of the people around you. Now go out and Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday!

See you all back here on Wednesday for my own little holiday to-do list.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Who’s in Charge Here?

“I need to take an emotional breath, step back, and remind myself of who’s actually in charge of my own life.” Judith M. Knowlton

 

Greetings darlings! Well, if all goes well, today I will be returning from a much needed and long anticipated visit to Kripalu in Lenox, MA. Staying there always leaves me  feeling so relaxed, renewed, recharged, refreshed and connected to nature ( much needed after all the celebrations that took place in the month of October).

There’s nothing like giving ourselves permission to go out and do the thing(s) that our mind, body and soul are calling us to do. Once again, the key is to acknowledge it, make a plan, and consciously choose to schedule it as a priority. I personally see it as a duty and responsibility we have to our higher self, and we do not need anyone’s approval (other than our own) to do so. It’s self-respect at it’s best! If we aren’t in charge, then who is?

So, I am going to keep today’s post light and fun, especially since some of you may still be catching up / finishing up with the I AM exercise that was part of my blog, Exercising the I AM in You. And, since I believe in total transparency, I also needed to schedule some posts for publication in advance for while I was away.  My intention (as I type this) is to disconnect and do a digital detox while at Kripalu. Digital detoxes are also a much needed thing we can all benefit from every now and again….disconnect to reconnect!

Remember how as kids we always needed to get a permission slip signed for a filed trip or class trip of some kind? Perhaps you are the one signing them now if you have children. Well……here goes……

I invite you to make  your own permission slip for the field trip, activity or pampering you have been needing, the dream you’ve been holding onto, the thoughts you haven’t allowed yourself to voice, or any other activity your heart is telling you it needs. Like one of the pages in the I Am Her book says, “Give yourself permission to live.”

  • Take out a sheet of paper and at the top of it write: I Give Myself Permission To
  • At the very bottom of it, write: Starting This Very Moment
  • You are now ready to list the things you will be giving yourself permission to do

Perhaps this is an activity you would also like to share with your Tribe. It’s always fun to share these types of activities with those girlfriends who support and encourage one another. It’s also a good way to hold yourself, and each other, accountable. Make a night of it, host a pot-luck dinner or a happy hour and gather around the table. Have nice art supplies of all kinds if you really want to make it special. That’s  the event planner in me speaking – a simple idea evolves into an “event” of some sort. One thing I know from experience though is that a fun time will be had by all!

Now go take charge, and enjoy yourself!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

She’s Flexing Her Hustle

“The purpose of  life is to live a life full of purpose” Michael Franti

Another person who I am very proud of is my niece, Alexis (not blood related but  nevertheless my niece). She is 31 years old and an attorney who learned early on, by the time that she was approaching 30, that she was unfulfilled, stressed out, exhausted from working unit late hours, on the weekends and not a happy camper. Her job was not bringing her Joy. I commend her for taking the chance to make a change before her health would force her to do so. Not only did she change jobs but, in addition, she is using her social media presence to be a source of positivity and coach / inspire people in the areas of health, mind and body wellness. Alexis focuses on the self-care and self-love components of weight loss and her goal is to inspire, motivate and educate her followers along their wellness journey while being accountable to them and to herself. Check out Alexis’ Instagram page @flexingmyhustle.

It all comes down to living a life full of purpose and using whatever platform  / role we have on the job, in school, at home, socially and in our overall community to inspire, motivate, serve, make a difference and affect change. We are all creative geniuses and have our own unique and individual gifts, talents, strengths and drives to make a difference. Social media can be used as a positive media outlet to counter all the negativity and toxicity out there. We can all contribute by using our own creative genius to do so. The key is to do it from a place of love and passion!  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, empowering and celebrating women is one of my all-time passions. It’s always been. And it’s one of those things that I was doing, and didn’t realize I was doing it, way back in the day when it was some something that was not even talked about, embraced nor encouraged.

Miss Alexis, and her friend Katie, are doing their fair share of supporting and encouraging others. They started a Facebook page – Knockout Negativity. Katie and Alexis created this community “for anyone who is looking to create balance and build healthy habits that will relieve stress and improve the way you are living.” According to them, “It is a space for like-minded people who are interested in generating positive vibes only in their lives. It is a place you can come to feel inspired, empowered, motivated and challenged to be the best version of yourself.” I just love this…YES! More youngin’s taking and making the time to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start.  Kudos to Alexis and Katie for seeing a need and acting on it! By the looks of the videos they post, and activities they encourage their followers to do, they are having fun. They are passionate about what they are doing and enjoying the process. Whatever we do in life, however we do it, and wherever we do it, should bring us Joy!

A while back I did an online webinar with Claire Zammit, Ph.D. that supplied us with 7 practices and power statements for stepping into and living our power. In my humble opinion, these practices and affirmations help us to live purposefully, mindfully intentionally and fully present in our lives. The also make us accountable to ourselves. Hopefully, you will find them empowering as well!

 

  1. Be the Heroine not The Victim of Your Life. In any situation you are in, focus on where you have power rather than where you don’t.  POWER STATEMENT: I’m a powerful creator. I have everything I need to organize the greatest possibility of my life.
  2. Live the Truth of Who You Are. Shift who you’re being and how you’re showing up to reflect the truth of who you are, and you will forever be liberated from the patterns of the past. POWER STATEMENT: I’m a powerful, capable woman and I turn on all of my wisdom, compassion, wisdom and resources towards the parts of me that need to grow up so that I can show up as my most empowered self.
  3. Stop Strategizing & Start Listening. Listen to your deepest desires, they are the whispers of life’s wishes for you. Take action on your inner guidance. Trust that life is organizing around your success. POWER STATEMENT: I live each day as if everything is rigged in my favor.
  4. You Can’t Become Yourself By Yourself. When you’re experiencing a challenge, rather than feeling inadequate, say to yourself “Who can I call to ask for help?” POWER STATEMENT: The more support I receive, the more powerful I become.
  5. Be the Light & Reflect the Light. The next time you meet a powerful woman, rather than being intimidated by her or feeling competitive, befriend her. POWER STATEMENT: I celebrate the radiance and power within myself and other women. I expand to create the space to welcome my own and others’ greatness.
  6. Be Who You Would Be If Your World Changed. Create your future by showing up in your present as the woman you would be in the fulfillment of your desires. POWER STATEMENT: My consciousness, not my circumstances, creates the future of my life.
  7. Like it Or Not, You’re the Leader. Rather than be victimized by the disempowered behavior of others, or breakdowns in the world, see yourself as the leader in every situation with the power to empower and influence the outcome of events. POWER STATEMENT: This is my world and I have the power to shape the future.

 

“You are light, love and poetry in motion darlings. Now go out and shine your light, spread the love and be the change” JT Carricarte

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

Broken Down or Broken Open

“Being Alive and present with those I love is how I want to live my new life. This is what I want to motivate me: quality of life, quality moments and quality love”        JT Carricarte

How ironic that I finished Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open – How Difficult Times Help Us Grow just days before my “epic” orthopedic surgery in 2012. Whew! Was that book preparing me for something of great magnitude without me having the slightest inkling! Little did I know that I would be in for yet another self discovery journey over the three years following that surgery (only to have surgery again in 2016). Broken Open not only prepared me for the change I was about to undergo, but it equipped me with the strength and inner fortitude I needed to battle the most difficult, challenging and life altering event I was about to experience. Oh, this most fascinating and funny universe of ours surely knows how to deliver!

I took the book out as I sat to write this blog, and I had written the following on the inside cover: “This book, by far, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As if divinely ordained, I finished reading it just days before I went into the hospital (and I had ordered it quite some time before that). I must have purchased 10 copies and gave them to  my Girls for Christmas. It’s an absolutely  beautifully written book that makes you embrace The Phoenix Rising.” In case you’re interested in reading this book, Elizabeth Lesser shares stories about people who’ve “risen from the ashes” after suffering all types of loss such as death, divorce, illness, loss of a job, and how they did so with love and wisdom.

If you’ve ever heard Elizabeth Lesser speak, seen her interviewed or have read any of her books, you know how, real, heart-warming, compassionate and honest she is.  She’s such a gifted writer and storyteller. Talk about total transparency! In her book, Elizabeth asks, “Will we be broken down and defeated, or broken open and transformed?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve always opted for the later. I’m not sure who instilled that in me. Was it my father? Was it my mother? Did I, in an effort to be independent from a controlling Cuban mother? Somehow, in their own way, my parents instilled in me the knowing that I could get through anything I was faced with head on. Thanks, Mama and Honey-Honey – I don’t know how you did it, but it worked! Is there such a thing as being too independent? Let me not even go there….that’s for another blog!!!

We all have choices in this life, and we can either choose to break down and succumb to the poor me/why me/victim mentality, or we can be broken open and forge ahead with strength, grace, faith and gratitude knowing that whatever experience we are going through is for our highest good, and we will come out of it transformed. We can call them lessons and blessings alike for there is, indeed, a silver lining in every single challenge and life event with which we are faced. Furthermore, these life events are also “priming” us for something much greater than we can imagine. Sometimes we are so caught up in what is happening, that we fail to see the big picture or, at the very least, acknowledge there even is a big picture even though we may be unable to see it at the moment. One thing I have learned though, is that these moments are somehow tied to our life purpose,  rich in learning experiences, and the wisdom that comes with it.

When I read Broken Open, I was planning on ending my career in the near future, but this magical universe of ours had a different plan of sorts. If you read my first blog, I mentioned how unfulfilled, underutilized, suffocated, and compromised I felt on the job. I knew I needed to get out of there. My soul desperately needed expansion and air. I am a free spirit and my wings felt like they had been clipped. I desperately needed to fly free! Despite my spiritual practices, yoga, meditation, working out, being out in nature, etc., I was constantly fatigued, exhausted, and sick. My quality of life was taking a hit, as was my personal and social life. All I did was work, work, work and saw less and less of my friends. I couldn’t wait to get home to go to bed. Sometimes, I’d be sleeping by 7PM. More importably though, while I was in tune with my body, I wasn’t listening to it. You know very well what happens when we don’t listen to our bodies, right? It will find a way to get our attention. In the end, if we fail to listen to these signs and messages, we will certainly broken down. That is precisely what happened to me. I went to work one day, suffered an injury that evening and was unable to return to work. I’m sure you can relate and can share your own experiences of being brought down to your knees. The game changer is what we choose to do once this occurs. Do we accept defeat, or are we willing to be transformed? In either case, our mindset will be the determining factor. Will we blossom into something extraordinary or wither away? The key my darlings, is the willingness to change and do things differently.

Even if we love change and accept it freely and willingly, it’s all together a different thing when the quality of our life is affected. It poses a new set of challenges. In my particular case, I found myself being able to do less and less, suffered from chronic pain 24/7 and was forced to establish “new normals” with each passing day. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other in hopes of getting through that particular day. When I looked in the mirror, I was unrecognizable. Stressful situations take a toll on our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, especially when the joy is seemingly zapped from our life. This is when our limits are tested, and we have ask ourselves, “Will I be defeated or transformed?” No one can do this for us. This is when we dig deeper than we ever have before, down to the very core of our existence. This is when we re-evaluate everything we think we know and have learned only to have to re-adjust our thinking and re-learn all over again. But it’s all good! You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” No kidding! In the end though, the outcome is sweeter, more meaningful and rich in lessons and blessings alike. This is when we are able to look back, connect the dots, and have a sense of deep gratitude for the opportunity to start anew.

Personally, my experience and brush with death in 2012 not only made me thankful to be ALIVE, but it gave me a major attitude adjustment. It made me re-group, re-think my quality of life and re-assess my boundaries. It motivated me to re-commit  to living a life of inspiration, love, and service while being totally mindful and present each and every step of the way…..quality life, quality moments and quality love! And part of that quality of life, quality moments and quality love is having the opportunity to share my lessons and blessings with you via my blogging in hopes that you too will find ways to inspire, love, serve even when facing the challenging times in your life. Use these times, your talents, gifts, uniqueness and whatever platform you have each and every day to share your stories and  lead from the heart…right from the start!

When faced with a difficult or challenging life event or loss of some kind, will you  choose to be broken down and defeated, or will you choose the beauty of being broken open and transformed?

Inhale love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

Be Good to You

“To love yourself as you are is  a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself, for now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are.” Annie Lamott

I love how Annie Lamott  added “for now” in this quote because the art of finding ourself is an on-going process. Just when we think we’ve mastered the art, some other lesson or blessing comes around that makes us dig deep into our souls and and explore this journey of ours called “Life.” Hopefully, we are able to see the miracle of love that our life is and how unconditionally God loves us (if you’re not comfortable using the word God, please substitute it for your higher power/maker). What comes to mind is this: If we are loved so unconditionally, that the universe always has our back, then why do we have such a difficult time loving and accepting ourself? I truly believe we have all been there at some point in our lives, don’t you?

So how do we get to that place of love and acceptance? By “doing the work.” We can call it whatever we like….a process, a spiritual journey, working the work, self discovery, self inquiry, inner investigation, finding ourself or, my favorite, peeling away the layers of the onion. We owe it to our magnificent, miraculous, sacred self to grow and evolve into better versions of ourself. It requires a lot of patience, compassion and understanding of our true essence (which is Love) in order to deal with whatever self-defeating and limiting beliefs, attitudes and unhealthy habits of mind we have chosen to use as our self sabotage weapon of choice. Oh, and let me not forget lots of tears! It’s an on-going process that changes over and over again as we grow and mature during the different phases of our lives. Over time, with grace and much gratitude, we learn to shed layer upon layer and let go of what doesn’t serve us along with the “attachment” to an end state of being. There is no end  because everything changes! What truly matters is that we are committed to honoring, loving and accepting our precious and miraculous life right NOW, and for now.

If you tend to feel guilty, greedy, irresponsible or self-centered when it comes to discovering who you are, be sure to check out what Elizabeth Gilbert says in her September piece for Oprah Magazine. She essentially expands on the following: “You have the right to figure out who you are; A spiritual journey bears no resemblance to a spa vacation (love this one); Doing something for yourself isn’t by definition selfish; Going on a spiritual journey can be a public service.”

So how else can you Be Good to You? Here’s some 1st Aid for the Soul, and you can start right now:

  • Be yourself, truthfully.
  • Accept yourself, gratefully.
  • Value yourself, joyfully.
  • Forgive yourself, completely.
  • Treat yourself, generously.
  • Balance yourself, harmoniously.
  • Bless yourself, abundantly.
  • Trust yourself, confidently.
  • Love yourself, whole heartedly.
  • Empower yourself, immediately.
  • Give yourself, enthusiastically.
  • Express yourself, radiantly.

Please remind yourself that everything is a process and not a perfect! Let these principles marinade inside of you. You may want to use each one as a springboard for journaling or identifying what is keeping you from embracing them. Each one of these “remedies” can be explored as deeply as you are ready, willing and able to do so. Perhaps you work on one a week, one a month or, for you overachievers out there, all at once (you get the picture). Let me just say this….less is more! It’s about quality not quantify. It’s not a competition. It’s about how you choose to show up for yourself and honor the sacred gift of YOU.

I will leave you with a very real, raw and relevant quote and affirmation by Tannaz Chubb from her lovely little book, Messages for the Soul. (Shout out to my Yaya Maria for gifting us Yayas this treasure trove of a book)

“Do you feel the love that you have for yourself radiating through your being? Can you look in the mirror, deep into your eyes and say to yourself – I love you? Today is the perfect day to practice this”

Affirmation:

“I honor my body, mind and soul and treat it with love and respect. Everyday I am finding new ways to Love myself more. I love you.”

 

Love who you are darlings!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

Why Blog?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence…….the Inspire Love Serve Blog.

Please stay tuned!

Inhale love….Exhale gratitude, JTC