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

Closet Ghosts vs. Closet Beauties

“Closets should be a sanctuary that calm the chaos of everyday life.” Me

Closets come in all shapes and sizes . We do not need to have an enormous walk-in closet for it to be beautiful. A closet, regardless of its size, when well-organized and appointed, should take our breath away when we open its doors.

However, this is not always the case. For many, closets are places that hold many secrets. Closets can be very telling in this way. They reveal insecurities, fears, losses, shame, betrayals, confusion, doubts and a host of other suppressed feelings and emotions.

Feelings and emotions that, when not felt and dealt with, hold us back and forever keep us in a cycle of unrest and wanting more. Cycles that rob us of our peace and serenity. As a result, we tend to store things that no longer serve us and perhaps even cause us suffering because of the sheer volume of things inside of them and the often time disorganization, mess, and clutter that accumulates as a result.

What we fail to realize many times, is that what we hide controls us. It’s heavy. It weighs us down. It cripples/ paralyzes us. It blocks energy from flowing and keeps new things from entering our lives. And if there is anything I know for sure, is that avoidance compounds a problem! In order to eliminate the problem, we must first look at its root cause.

Before doing so though, allow me to rewind for a moment. I had a blog scheduled for last week called Closet Ghosts. The title, and blog, organically evolved from conversations I was having with my Scorpio soul sister Kat, and my dear pseudo-daughter and guest blogger of long ago, Blondie. However, the blog mysteriously disappeared. I know I did not trash it or accidentally discard it. After a live chat with IT people, the culprit and root cause was probably an Internet glitch that prevented my work from being saved at that moment in time.

I exhaled deeply at this point, and came to the conclusion that the cyberspace gods didn’t want that blog to be published…. wink, wink.

What was I to do? Freak out? Stress? Allow it to ruin my day? I don’t think so… absolutely NOT! I just closed my laptop and went about my day. I didn’t even want to expend any more of my energy coming up with a new blog for I could not even remember all the details of it because, many times, I’m just in the “zone” as I write. So…..here I am, a week later, and here is a new blog… inspired by the one that is somewhere in cyberspace.

Let’s fast forward to root causes. An assumption we often make along our journey, is to think that the same mindset that created the problem will be able to fix it. Absolutely not! The root cause of an issue, that is inevitably causing us to suffer, is always buried deep inside of us. We must be willing to do the messy and painful work of going within, dusting off the cobwebs and uncovering the many levels of limited beliefs that are holding us back from moving forward with our lives. And this is one thing the ego mind is most uncomfortable doing!

That is why we must go within and connect to our hearts. Taking a look around our immediate surroundings and our personal space, especially our closets, is a good barometer of the state of our hearts. The clutter, mess, and disorganization in our personal spaces is a clear reflection of the mess, clutter and disorganization that resides deep within us.

Being aware of this is the first step. Awareness doesn’t fight, criticize or judge. It’s simply there, it’s eye-opening, and it’s transformational. And in order for us to grow, we must always be in a constant state of transformation. Our messes and our problems are opportunities knocking at our door.

In Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, there’s a chapter called Removing Your Inner Thorn. In it he talks about the spiritual journey being one of constant transformation. He goes on to say the following:

“In order to grow, you must give up the struggle to remain the same, and learn to embrace change at all times. One of the most important areas requiring change is how we solve our personal problems. We normally attempt to solve our inner disturbances by protecting ourselves. Real transformation begins when you embrace your problems as agents.

Spring cleaning is a wonderful time of year to assess the areas in our lives that need clearing, cleansing, decluttering, organizing and discarding so that vital life force energy can enter the walls that house our physical and spiritual selves. It’s the perfect time to assess and identify what we are allowing to control us and make an intentional, informed and concerted effort to change. A good place to start is our closet(s).

Once we clear away our emotional clutter, the clutter that is blocking that flow of life force energy, we will also be clearing away a lot of the issues that are blocking us in life. Once we clear out our Closet Ghosts, there will only be Closet Beauties to greet us when we open those doors.

So regardless of its size or shape, there are many organizing tools we can utilize that will maximize the space that we have. I love organizing, so I like to open a closet and feel like it’s a store display. Now mind you, I do not have huge walk-in closets. However, I do have things that allow me to maximize the space I have like skinny hangers, clear shoeboxes, matching canvas bins, decorative hooks, baskets and shelving that allow me to store as well as display some of my possessions. Hanging articles of clothing by color is also very appealing to the eyes. What can I say? Having beautiful, well-organized closets brings me joy!

And speaking of JOY, another reason that our clutter can cause us suffering and, therefore, zap our joy, is because we are no longer the same person we were when we bought all those things in the first place, nor are we looking at those things with the same level of awareness and consciousness any longer. We are in a constant and ever changing pattern of ebbing and flowing.

Once we have swept away those issues that have been blocking us in life, we will know in our hearts that we are whole perfect and complete just the way we are and that we do NOT need one more thing to add to that circle of completeness and wholeness. We have transformed to the point where we look at those external circumstances, situations, and emotions that were our Closet Ghosts and have bid them farewell.

In bidding them farewell, we swing our doors wide open for all to see the Closet Beauties that reside within… both in our closets and in our hearts.

Carry on my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS: If you are in huge spring cleaning mode and/or are getting ready to move, check out my Spring Cleaning blog from March 2018. It contains some pointers and guidelines from one of my favorite books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. And in her words: “Clear your clutter and enjoy the magic of a tidy home-and the calm, motivated mind said it can inspire.”

Spring Cleaning and Moments of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up next… the closet blog… stay tuned!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

New Beginnings

“There’s a universal life force that supports and orchestrates everything. It all works together in perfect harmony. You are one of those moving parts.” -Wayne Dyer

Happy New Year darlings!

The new year is an auspicious time of the year to set goals, intentions, and resolutions of all kinds. A popular tool for doing so is a vision board. There are all sorts of classes, workshops, webinars and how-tos that help us design, create, and execute our very own vision board. All we need to do is google “vision board” and there are sites upon sites to explore and help us create one.

Why are vision boards so popular? Because there is most definitely a power in visualization and manifestation. After all, we are divine co-creators in this most powerful, comical and magical universe.

The art of vision boarding has become quite profitable to say the least, as we can see when we google them. We see supplies and resources of all kinds. In reality though, all we need are scissors, old magazines, glue, poster board and, if we prefer, a nice picture frame that we can use to display our creation.

Currently, I have two vision boards hanging. One is more of a life visioning board in that the images and words represent and guide the life I live, how I want to conduct my life, as well as the meaning, purpose and significance here in this lifetime. The other vision board is more of a dream board…which I made in the new year of 2018 and represented what I wanted to manifest in my personal life last year.

When we use pictures and words to depict our dreams, wishes and desires, we stimulate the emotional part of our brain. In doing so, we also activate the Law of Attraction. I don’t know about you, but anytime I have written anything down, put up images, power words, affirmations or motivational displays representing my wishes and desires, the universe conspired to deliver. I’m amazed when I come across some random journal entry from long ago and how what I wrote about has come to fruition. Darlings, whether you believe it or not, we all have the power to co-create anything we put our minds to. We are powerful beyond measure!

On this New Year’s Day, I took the time to really look at and examine the vision board I made last January. Once I looked at all the images, words and phrases that I had used, I took the time to write each of those words in my journal. It was almost as if by looking solely at the words, I was able to see yet another vision that was created. In a sense, it gave me a different perspective.

Perspective is something a beloved yoga teacher of mine spoke about in class this morning as she decided to start the class with all of us in legs up the wall. For the non- yogis out there, legs up the wall is an uber- restorative and highly beneficial pose. If there’s only one pose you could do each day, it would be legs up the wall. By being inverted, we are forced to look at things from a different angle. Since it was the start of the new year, my teacher chose to talk about looking at things from a different angle while we where in this pose.

And looking at my vision board from a different angle is just what I did. I created the vision board in hopes of attracting a romantic partner in 2018. The images and words I chose represented the lifestyle I would be living. As I looked at my 2018 vision board and the words that I had chosen, I realized that I was, in fact, living that life..sans the romantic partner. Hmmm… how interesting and fascinating!

After looking at my vision board from a different angle for quite some time, I realized I did not want to change or alter it for 2019. Instead, I want to work with it more actively and intentionally. How did I come to that conclusion? Well, I happen to come across a vision board checklist by Jack Canfield in Mantra Magazine, and I realized that I did not “truly” integrate all components of my board all as fully as I needed to.

I thought I’d share the checklist with you so that we can all benefit from some type of guideline on how to best benefit from the time, intention and love we have put forth in creating our very own vision, dream or life visioning boards. And, I will also share the words and phrases I used on my board because I’m all about the sharing. Besides, some words/ phrases may resonate for you and you can incorporate them into your beautiful creation. But first, the checklist:

  • My vision board depicts goals and dreams in all areas of my life, or in just one specific area that I’d like to focus on.
  • The images I chose represent or symbolize the experiences, feelings and possessions I want to attract into my life on my board.
  • There are positive affirmations, inspirational words, quotations and thoughts on my board.
  • Only words and images that best represent my purpose, my ideal future and words that inspire positive emotions and me were used on my vision board.
  • My vision board is neat, and I was selective about what I placed on my vision board.
  • I keep my vision board somewhere prominent, such as near my bed or on my desk.
  • I leave my vision board in a viewable position as often as I am comfortable with.
  • I spend time each morning and evening visualizing, affirming, believing and internalizing my goals.
  • I look at the images that represent my achievements, and feel gratitude as my dreams begin to manifest.
  • I wrote down the date I created my vision board.
  • I create a new vision board each year.
  • I regularly hold my vision board in my hands and really internalize the future it represents.
  • I read my affirmations and inspirational words aloud at least twice a day
  • I see myself living in the manner of my life is on my vision board.
  • I regularly feel myself in the future I have designed.
  • I believe the items on my board are already mine when I look at them.
  • I am grateful for the good that is already present in my life.
  • I acknowledge and celebrate any goals I have achieved.
  • I acknowledge and learn from the changes I have seen and felt.
  • I regularly acknowledge the law of attraction at work in my life.
  • I have fun and never give up.

And now, I will leave you with a laundry list of words, phrases and quotes for you to peruse, ponder and contemplate. Yes, there are so many! That’s because my vision board is quite large and some of the words are in all types of fonts and sizes (it wasn’t until I actually wrote the words in my journal that I was quite amazed at how many there were).

Love-own your glow-light carriers-transform your world-bliss-good times-getting better all the time-live your best life-real-the yoga of awakening-fearless living-widen your world-eternity now-surround yourself with people who lift you higher-give happily ever after-balanced is beautiful-natural spiritual progress-share your passion with the world-when your vacation becomes a lifestyle-yes you can-believe-truly gracious-truly joyful-truly dazzling-truly daring-come out come out whoever you are-the magic-it’s a match-gratitude-when dreams take flight-the beach-great outdoors-shining moments-a place to dream-love begins at home-live in paradise inside and out-a place in the sun-gorgeous-living out loud-beautiful-a little night music-recharge your body and spirit-get away from it all only to discover more-where are we going-see, hear, taste, smell, touch-explore your senses-widen your world-glimpse the possibility of a diverse, peaceful and creative future-bathing beauty-go glam-adventures in the kitchen-homey eternity-bring some glamour to the table-time for reflection-your time is your own-resilience-integrate-self-awareness-engagement-vibrance-getting the love you want...didn’t I tell you were so many!?!?

Finally, a quote that says it all: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, and find eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”

It’s time we all create and manifest the life we want and the changes we wish to be and see in this world. Now go create, dream and inspire… may the force be with you in 2019, my darlings!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Defy Age…Quality of Life

“There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defied age.” -Sophia Loren

If you happen to be doing Deepak Chopra’s current 21 Day Meditation Experience, Energize Your Life, you too came across this quote on the day the meditation dealt with anti-aging being a skill you can master. That meditation inspired this blog, as I thought it would be an appropriate follow up to my previous blog, Aging or Ageless…What are You?

I’m a big advocate for quality of life. This from someone who used to be a workaholic.  When we have experienced so many losses in life, some of them tragic and others long-lived, we tend to have an awakening of sorts and start to connect the dots. We come to realize that it’s not solely about the job, career, the big house, over consumption and consumerism, living life in the fast lane and money, money, money. What good are all of these things if we don’t have the quality of life and the energy to live life?

Who has the energy you may ask? Well, according to Deepak, it’s the people who are mastering the aging process that radiate life and energy. And how we do that? By the choices we make. He further went on to share that studies have shown that the most effective anti-aging results come from a holistic approach that minimizes toxic and unbalancing influences on our bodies, minds and emotions.

If we take a long, hard look at the people around us, those in our lives, and perhaps even complete strangers, we can pretty much tell by looking at them if they radiate life and energy. Further examine their eating habits, social habits, hobbies, outlook on life, social/familial interactions, listen to their tone and conversations, and we have a good indication if they are on the fast track to aging and whether or not they have any semblance of quality of life. Obviously, it’s just as important to take a good look at ourselves to see if there are any areas we can improve on.

Here are some questions that came to mind as I was writing:

  • What are your energy levels like?
  • Do you look at the glass half full, or half-empty?
  • Do you feel you are taking life for granted?
  • What are your talents?
  • How do you express your creativity?
  • How do you exercise your mind?
  • Do you live to work, or work to live?
  • What type of physical exercise do you get?
  • Do you eat genetically modified foods, processed foods, foods out of a box or whole, organic, clean and green foods that are not genetically modified?
  • How would you describe your relationships in general?
  • What is the quality of your friendships?
  • Do you partake in any self-destructive/self-sabotaging behaviors?
  • Do you drink, smoke or do drugs?
  • How do you minimize the stress in your life?
  • Can you identify the stressors in your life?
  • What mindfulness resources or tools do you employ to maintain the calm in the chaos?
  • Do you drink plenty of water and get at least 8 hours of sleep?
  • Can you identify the areas of your life which you feel aren’t being lived to the fullest?

Why so many questions? Well, because these types of questions help us identify areas that need further examining, cultivating and nurturing. It’s that simple! No hidden agendas or complicated formulas. And what is even simpler? The fact that people who age well have the following seven things in common:

  1. Meditation
  2. Wide social support system, friends, family and community groups
  3. Close emotional and familial ties
  4. Take multi-vitamins and mineral supplements daily
  5. Good sleep alternating with daily activity
  6. Life-long curiosity
  7. Willingness to undertake new challenges

As with all things, habits, attitudes, activities and practices in life, it primarily comes down to balance. And speaking of balance, I will leave you with something one of my nieces (and hopefully a future guest blogger) posted on Instagram a while back. It spoke to me so much that I had her print it on card stock, and I enclosed them in my birthday thank you cards. As you should know by now, I love anything motivational and inspirational!

Balance is key. In everything you do. Dance all night long and practice yoga the next day. Drink wine but don’t forget your green juice. Eat chocolate when your heart wants it and kale salad when your body needs it. Wear high heels on Saturday night and walk barefoot on Sunday morning. Live high and low. Move and stay still. Embrace all sides of who you are. Be brave, bold, spontaneous and loud and let that complement your abilities to find silence, patience, modesty and peace. Aim for balance. Make your own rules and follow your own path and don’t let anybody tell you how to live according to theirs.

Remember, my darlings: quality of life, quality of life, quality of life… and in the process, you will find yourself defying age!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

The Sky’s the Limit

“Do what makes you happy…on your birthday and every day” 

The Sky’s the Limit is the name of the establishment where “Scandalous” took me to and I jumped out of a plane ten years ago, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve written about that experience before, and I recently came across pictures that I didn’t realize I still had in my possession.

In looking back on that day, it was definitely symbolic of what this past decade was going to be like. Now, skydiving was nothing I had ever thought of doing. But then again, I did a lot of things I never thought I would have done with Scandalous.

I recall sitting inside the little plane as it made itself up and thinking how liberating it was probably going to feel as soon as we jumped.  Fear, nor anxiety, did not play into it at all.  And that’s the truth! It couldn’t because I was so damn present in every second of every moment as the plane ascended into the sky. As a matter of fact, I did not even read anything I was given to sign nor did I pay attention to the video you are instructed to watch. If I had, then I can only speculate that fear may have shown up.

I remember breathing…connecting with my breath…long deep inhales, long smooth exhales. It was like a meditation as I sat there getting in tune with my breath and remarking to myself how I was most likely going to feel one with all things as soon as I was “out there.” Well, it was beyond liberating and freeing and the most zen-like moment    I could have never imagined all in one. There was the rush of the free fall, the silence once the parachute opened and the “appearance” and illusion of stillness even though we weren’t still by any means. The stillness, silence, curvature of the horizon and expansiveness were breathtaking in an exponential way.

In looking back to the past ten years, my 50’s were all about freedom,  liberation and expansiveness….freeing myself of many things, people and circumstances that were not for my highest good. It was about giving up the need to control. It was about pain, loss and suffering. It was about eliminating illusion and attachments. It was about looking at things from a different perspective and having a bird’s-eye view of things. It was about silence and stillness. It was about spiritual expansion. It was about feeling and doing things from a deeper and more meaningful place in my soul.

So what will this next decade bring? I would venture to say perhaps more of the same but on more profound levels, grander scales and with greater heightened awareness. And let’s not forget daily opportunities to celebrate life and the beautiful souls I get to walk with on this path in the light.

And I have to look no further than at how my Mama lived her life. Sharing the love, celebrating in style and leaving her mark is something Mama did very well….on top of being beyond generous, Mama brought  joy to everyone with whom she came into contact. I have a good example for how to live out the rest of my days. Mama was always a good example of how life should be lived as well as celebrated. A friend and co-worker of mine once remarked that Mama was all about the celebration…from her outfits to her outlook. This same friend also shared the following words with me when Mama left this physical world: “Your mom exhibited a true sense of  freedom- free to think, to dress, to act, to speak what she believed in….the true Madame Butterfly.”  

Yep, that pretty much described my Mama! And pretty much describes the person I grew into over the last ten years. So on this day, when Mama gave birth to me 60 years ago, I am grateful for all the characteristics my little 5 ft., sassy, bold, brave, funny, fierce and fashionista Mama somehow managed to leave ingrained in me. She truly showed me, by example, that the sky’s the limit!

Darlings, regardless of your age (for I truly believe it’s just a number), I invite you to take a page from Mama’s playbook, live out loud, and leave your mark wherever you go!

Inhale Love & Light….Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Keeping It Real

“With a greater awareness of who you are, and a deeper  understanding of how you define a friend, you can clear a path to choosing people with whom to spend time.” -quote from Breathe Magazine

What is a friend? What kind of friend are you? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you embody these qualities? Who would you like to spend your time with? These questions can and do speak volumes when we take the time to listen. Listen to our own answers and perceptions of what friendship means. After all, as in all relationships, friendship is most definitely a two-way street.

How are your friendships going these days? Oh boy, that could be a potentially loaded question given the “political” and “polarizing” times we are living in. Nevertheless, these are the times we need our friends and a sense of community and connection the most, and when we may be called to be there for a friend who is having difficulty in life. Personally, I don’t know what I would do without my circle of like-minded, supportive and soulful friends. They add value to my life. And as I grow older, I’ve place a higher value on the power of friendship to shape and influence my life. I have grown to a place where I am very grateful for the friends who’ve come into my life, both those who’ve remained and others whose time it was to leave. And then there are others who are still there but no longer play a prominent part of my everyday existence for whatever reasons.

Friendship can mean different things to different people. And in the digital society we are living in, friendships take on different forms. Some are up close and personal and some are virtual. Either way, the more we are aware and can deeply define and embody what is is to be a friend, the healthier, stronger, more meaningful and more valuable our circle of friends become. So much so, that somewhere along the line our friends become the family with whom we choose to spend time with, spend holidays with and with whom we celebrate life. These are the people we invest time in, especially if we don’t have a family or if our real family leaves us feeling emotionally and physically drained. As in all life-related things, discernment is key!

We cannot underestimate the power of love in friendships and its significance in our lives. As I was reading an article on friendships, it was suggested that we look at all the people we know and identify the ones who are truly our friends. The ones who make time for us and the ones whose company enlivens and enriches us.

Here are the three traits the article encourages us to look for in a real friend:

Ability to Listen

“Sometimes, the greatest thing friends can do is simply to listen to each other. Friends who are able to put aside their own life experience and focus on the experience of others are the most likely to contribute to relationships in a happy and peaceful way.”

Trust

“Trusting a friend to speak openly from the heart, to do what they say they will, and to understand when something said in confidence should be kept to themselves- are all vital in a true friend.”

Perspective

“Friends who offer fresh perspectives, ideas, experiences, and advice can help you to learn more about yourself, see life from another angle, and grow as a more well-grounded person.”

Darlings, let’s keep it real here…if we want to have friends, we must learn to be a friend. These three traits pretty much surmise what it takes to be a friend. They also give us an opportunity to examine ourselves and identify whether or not we embody these specific traits. The other key piece is discernment.

I plan on looking at these traits to further identify when and how I need to navigate these traits when a friend comes calling. Sometimes, all a person wants is someone to listen. Other times it may be someone whom they can trust with a deep sentiment. And yet other times, a friend may just want some perspective. They key is knowing and being able to identify the need. Personally, I know I have to work at this better. Sometimes, I’m very quick to offer perspective or share an experience when in actuality the person may really just need to talk and be heard.

Ahhhhh the art of practicing deep listening! We are so often quick to jump and offer our assistance or share in a manner that resonates for “us.” However; during such times, it’s vital to hit “pause” and listen…listen and discern the need. In doing so, we tap into our compassionate communication skills. If we are going to be generous with our time, and expect our friends to reciprocate when needed, then we need a major dose of keeping it real.

And speaking of communication skills and keeping it real, be sure to stay tuned for my next blog where I hope to share some guidelines and valuable aspects of face-to-face conversations. I think we can all use a refresher on conversation etiquette, don’t you?

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Love Can Hold It All

“Love is fully accepting what is.” -The Daily Love

Greetings my darlings! I hope you all had a chance to check out my dearest Blondie’s recent blog, Sister Mother Friend. This was her third time guest blogging, and I think she is getting pretty good at this. You see, it’s all part of a master plan of mine. Sooner or later, Blondie dearest is going to be inspired to create her own blog. Hmmmm….I think I may have just stumbled on the name too: Blondie Dearest…wink, wink! Sounds like a fab name to me, don’t you think?

The inner work we do along our journey, and the supportive souls we surround ourselves with, make it possible for us to truly love and respect ourselves and respect where we are in life. By fully “accepting what is,” we are bestowing upon ourselves the highest form of self-love, self-respect and self-preservation without having our egos take center stage and hijack our thoughts to a place of lack, insecurity, inadequacy or, worse yet, fear. Fear of what “others” may think, hear, assume or say about us. Fear that sets off all our triggers and sabotages our progress. Once we replace fear with love, we find that love, indeed, can hold it all! Yep, every little bit of it.

It’s a beautiful thing to come to a place in our lives where other people’s opinions of us don’t sabotage our growth, evolution and acceptance. And speaking of growth and evolution, I hope you’ve had a chance to peruse the questions I listed in the blog Grow Through It All. If you love to journal, by all means write away. If you are new to journaling, and perhaps even new to choosing to do things differently, well then I invite you to write away as well! If you are willing to do the work of transforming your thoughts, habits, perceptions, intentions and your precious life, you too can come to a place of fully accepting what is.

By accepting “what is,” (and as Blondie found along her personal journey), patience, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and love become our guiding principles. Furthermore, they invite more peace and harmony into our lives despite whatever turmoil may be looming. Who doesn’t want more peace and harmony in their life? Well, as we know all too well, peace and harmony are most definitely and unequivocally an inside job.

It starts with our hearts. It can be viewed as merging our heart and our mind. There is a line in Matt Kahn’s book, Whatever Rises Love That, that speaks to this merging:

“As your mind and heart unite as one, the more you see others beyond their divided and unconscious states.”

This calls for a major shift in perspective. This shift allows us have more presence of mind and liberate ourselves from “victim” mentality, judgement, criticism and disappointment to one of understanding, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. We are better able to act rather than just react. We also free ourselves of the gossip and the “he said, she said” scenarios that are poisonous. Why would we willingly drink poison? Yet, this is what we do to ourselves when we operate from our own “divided and unconscious states.” Once we realize this, we can better relate to others and why they do the things they do. No judgement, just acceptance. And we can hold it all in a space of love.

However, we must be willing to shift our energy, raise our vibration, go within and allow our minds and hearts to come together. This merging of heart and mind is like a beautiful dance. We master our dance only after much practice though. Practice and an  intention and willingness to stick with it. To put our love of the dance above it all. We see with clearer eyes. As if we were viewing what is going on around us not with both our eyes, but through the clear and luminous lens of our universal eye. The eye of unity consciousness. The eye of shared humanity.

This oneness, this unity, this leading from the heart is what will enable us to love and accept others despite their limitations. Every single person we come into contact with is on their very own “growth track.” If we can grasp this and accept this notion, we can be in relationship with others despite where they are along their evolutionary growth track.    Acceptance, and its faithful companions, peace and harmony, is a relationship worth striving for. Like the saying goes, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” And from this calmness in our hearts, we will be able to accept and hold whatever “It” is.

I will leave you with a lovely affirmation/prayer to guide you along your journey. It’s from the May You Know Joy Meditations for Everyday Living card and book set. Enjoy!

May You Know Acceptance

May you know acceptance. May you accept all that unfolds in your life – the expected and the unexpected, the positive and the negative. May you accept yourself and the circumstances you find yourself in. In choosing acceptance, you choose peace and kindness and compassion. Acceptance comes from self-love and creates a space for opportunity and transformation.

 

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Grow Through It All

“When our souls are healthy, we change the environment; the environment doesn’t change us” -Pastor Carl Lentz

This past week I have been finishing up the numerous books I’ve been simultaneously reading. While I still have 2 more to go, I did finish Own the Moment by Carl Lentz. And not only did I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoy reading it, but I finally made it to service at Hillsong Church this morning. What an experience! One can’t help but getting that feeling of  coming alive and getting our souls infused with a healthy and relatable dose of “the all-knowing word.”

I will be taking a few weeks off from posting my blog, because I need to diligently and fervently work on all the blogs I want to write and schedule before going away and disconnecting from social media. I usually schedule one per week, usually on Wednesdays, while I am away. I will keep you all posted!

But not to worry…I am going to leave you with some meaningful food for thought, conversation, guidance and perhaps even some writing for the next couple of weeks while I devote some uninterrupted time to writing myself. Should you choose to deeply explore the questions, it is my hope that you will be left feeling an expansive sense of Self. There is always room for growth, darlings! The key is to be accountable and keep plugging away at this most powerful, pure-hearted, heart-centered and self-loving process.

So, I leave you with some questions from Own the Moment. The questions were scattered throughout the book. I may have tweaked some questions and added a few of my own. Nevertheless, I selected the ones that spoke to me in hopes they speak to you as well. Like I said, reflect on them, talk about them, journal or simply explore them in which ever way serves you best:

  • Do you know where you are going?
  • What drives you?
  • What shapes you?
  • What fuels you?
  • What guides you?
  • Are you changing?
  • Are you influencing?
  • What are you listening to today?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it life-giving?
  • Where do you put your focus?
  • What are your challenges?
  • Who challenges you?
  • Do you have broken relationships because you’re consumed with the wrongs somebody else committed and you have failed to own your part in the matter?
  • Can you be more constructive and look inward to bring change in your life?
  • Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
  • What do you demand for your own life?
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Do you know your convictions –  the “yes, I wills” and the “no, I won’ts?”
  • Are you changing your environment, or is your environment changing you?
  • Have you had to adjust your standards to fit in?
  • Have you lived with such conviction as people start rethinking their standards because of you?
  • How can you influence others?
  • Are you clear about your intentions?
  • Do the people in your life feel valued and appreciated?
  • If so, why? What do you do that makes them feel this way?
  • What would you do if you truly didn’t care about what other people thought about you?
  • How would you live, what would you pursue, and ultimately  how much fun would you have?
  • How many things in life would you have already tried if you didn’t fear failure?
  • How many people in your life might you be holding to an unrealistic standard of completeness when you have areas that are in the process of healing?
  • Do you find yourself living in the past?
  • Are you constantly in a hurry?
  • If you take a genuine hard look at what influences you today and the relationships that you hold most dear, are they helping or hurting you?
  • Could it be said that some things that should not be an option in your life have been given the opportunity to grow?
  • What makes you the most insecure in life? Why?
  • Where can you find time to stop and be grateful for all that you have in your life?
  • What is the one thing you can do today that can make a huge difference in the life of another?

We can look at our answers and realize our journey, and our task, is to do the work in order to grow through whatever it is we are going through and, ultimately, evolve into the best version of ourselves AND live a full, meaningful and purposeful life in the process! We have much to do in terns of growing. By the same token, we can also look to see if we are allowing the way we live to suck the passion out of our lives.

We can further investigate our answers and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life- and one that is filled with peace, tranquility and serenity. We can see, and feel,  if we are operating from a place of love or fear. We can look to see if we’re choosing to live in joy despite of the life circumstances that befall us all.

Ultimately, our answers will reveal if we are living from a place of truth, transparency and authenticity, or of we are living a life of dishonesty, fraud, lies, deceit, half-truths, and omissions that are compromising our soul’s integrity. Remember, the choice is always ours to make!

Darlings, stay calm, cool and continue to grow through it all

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Our Nation’s Birthday

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul” – Moshe Dayan

Greetings!

If you subscribe to Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and read it this past week, you may want to skip this blog and catch up on some other one. You see, I humbly decided it was appropriately fitting to share her blog with you. Why?

Well, as I was mulling over what I wanted to write in honor of the 4th of July, I decided to hit “pause” and catch up on some unread emails. For some reason, I had not gotten around to reading this past week’s Sunday Paper. And……drumroll…..there it was!  Anything I could have imagined, that we could have imagined, said, felt and more was right there in black and white. Maria’s Sunday Paper resonated so much for me, that I decided right then and there I needed to share it with you. Not doing so would have been a disservice to her beautifully written and thought-provoking essay.

Regardless of our party politics, which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you are blue, red or purple, I am certain you will find comfort, solace and hope in her words: Enjoy the read my darlings!

“The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.

One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.

Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.

We really do live in “you never know” times. Parents send their kids off to school and hold their breath. Journalists go to work and hold their breath as they pursue the truth. Many people hold their breath now as they watch the turnover in the Supreme Court. Students who are graduating from high school and college hold their breath as they head out into an uncertain job market. Boomers hold their breath hoping that they won’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other horrendous disease.

When I think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. That’s when I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep, long breath. I remind myself that these negative images are only a small part of what’s going on.

I remind myself of what I do know and believe to be true. I believe that we still live in a great nation — one that we are all so lucky to call home. I believe that we live in what I like to call “A Purple Nation” — one where it’s not red vs. blue, but where red and blue mix together to give us the majestic and brilliant color purple. Purple may be my favorite color, but it’s also a color of independence, unity and freedom.

I believe we have more in common than we realize. I think the two political parties drive us apart and make us live in a state of distrust and judgment, but I believe that if we all sat still every morning for just 10 minutes, then we would calm our minds and our central nervous systems and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe that if we all took a moment to take off our blinders and widen our gazes, then we would be able to look into people’s hearts, listen to their life stories, and realize that we have so much in common. I believe that we would discover that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our office mates are all seeking the same sense of belonging that we are. We would realize that we’re all seeking the same sense of freedom and safety. We would realize that we all have the same desire to do well for ourselves, for our families, and for our country.

Don’t call me naive or tell me I’m in denial. Call me observant and tell me, “Yes, Maria, I see this, too.” 

The vast majority of us are good, kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens who love our country and would stop to help our neighbor. I can see this when my mind and my heart aren’t racing. I can see this when I take a step back and don’t listen to the voices telling me that the sky is falling down.

When I widen my gaze, I see hardworking individuals everywhere who put others before themselves. They work in our hospitals, in our fire stations, in our schools, and in our community centers. They volunteer for our military and for non-profits all across the country. They build houses and playgrounds. They serve in churches, on hotlines, in shelters and in nursing homes.

I see young entrepreneurs trying to solve our most pressing social ills with innovative and socially conscious businesses. Their hopes, their desires, and their determination give me hope. I meet with them all the time and I never ask them what political party they belong to. I ask them what their dreams are, what they want to change, and where they get their hope. Their answers always inspire me.

I also see so many hard-working people who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and who don’t give up. I see people coming together from all walks of life – crossing religious divides, gender divides, and racial divides – to use their skills and their smarts to make life better for others.

Everywhere around us, people are working together. They are listening to one another, trying to understand one another, and trying to make a difference. When I think about all of this, I feel a sense of hope and calm wash over me. “Maria,” I say to myself, “all is well.”

There is so much hope! There are so many good people! People who are working to achieve the American dream, which is still very much alive and attainable. If you don’t believe me, think about what’s been created in recent years alone. We are a nation of people that conceived of Amazon, Uber and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” just to name a few great things. We are creative, conscious, collaborative and caring people. We are big dreamers and on-the-ground doers. 

So, as we look ahead to our nation’s birthday on Wednesday, know this. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have a free press. We are free to practice any religion. We are free to gather, to organize, and to marry anyone we want. We are free to wander off the beaten path, or to jump into the fray. We are free to shout and use our voices, or to just calmly go about our days. And, if you feel like any of your freedoms are under attack, then remember that you have the freedom to vote, to fight for what you believe in, to push for change, and to make a difference.

Let’s remember that when we stay in our goodness, we can see the goodness in others. When we help our neighbors, we can know that we are actually doing the Lord’s work. And, when we use our voices in a calm, confident, certain and clear way, we can know that we are doing what our forefathers and our foremothers fought for us to do.

As Americans, we are what everyone wants to be. Free. So, take a deep breath, look around and within, and celebrate that freedom. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it this week. And celebrate it each and every day. 

Wave the flag this week. Wear your red, white and blue. But also consider wearing a little purple, too. It just might remind you – and others – that you believe in unity. I hope you can see that it’s possible. It’s right there in front of you. Just open your eyes.”

Darlings, I don’t know about you, but I am committed to widening my gaze. Will you join me? Great, I thought so. Now let’s take some long, deep breaths and free our souls!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC