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

Taking Charge of Our Own Healing

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls you.” -Akshay Dubey

I came across this quote today which is so on point given the conversations some girlfriends and I have been engaging in recently. They have been revolving around the work we’ve been doing and bumps, craters, landmines and struggles we encounter when we are committed to spiritual work and personal growth.

There’s nothing like those deep, soulful and soul-bearing conversations that are almost healing sessions themselves. The endless, meaningful, and stirring talks my girlfriends and I have are extremely therapeutic to say the least! They are enlightening, encouraging and sometimes even revealing. At times they serve as a compass, a lighthouse or  guideposts as to where we are in need of getting to but are lost in the murky and, oftentimes, rough waters. They may also reveal for us the waters we have yet to chart as we continue our journey to healing and come to a place where damage done to our inner child no longer controls us. Yep, it takes work! It takes patience, perseverance, and  practice…..and our commitment and dedication to do the necessary and life-altering work.

As we all continue to embrace the work we have yet to do, it’s important we take the time to honor how far we have come – acknowledge we’ve done the best we can with the tools we have been given. And, as we acquire more and more tools, we gain more and more resources to continue forging ahead on our path to healing, awakening and enlightenment.

Where do we start? Well, we must connect with our true Self, our pure essence: Love. That pretty much lays the foundation and charts the onset of our course. If you missed my blog, Choosing Love at All Times, you may want to check it out. It wil serve as a lovely blueprint for doing the healing work that will allow you to operate from a space of love.

Next, comes the art of forgiveness. Oh, I know what you may be thinking, “That “F” word”…wink, wink. Sadly, it’s word that tends to get a bad rap. Yet the art of forgiving truly keeps us in a stuck state…unable to make a move. Being unable / unwilling to forgive is the biggest barrier and obstacle keeping us from being able to operate from a space of love at all times.

Rather than being able to expand our heart and dissolve all the contractions that keep us from operating from a place of love, being unwilling or unable to forgive just constricts us even further…it constricts our mind, body and spirit. It clogs up our energy centers and keeps us unable to experience higher emotions such as love, joy, acceptance, understanding, compassion, empathy, tolerance, and peace. The peace that resides deep within us that allows us to brave whatever storm we encounter.

And where do these obstacles that keep us from forgiving come from? Well, as you can probably guess, they come from our childhood and have been stored in our subconscious memory, our cells and in our body. They are the programming we have experienced throughout our lives as far back as our infancy stage. If we do not address, accept, process, and release the emotions, betrayals and hurt our bodies have been holding onto, we essentially are allowing the damage we have experienced to control us…to hijack our capacity to love and our ability to heal.

There’s a section I came across when reading the chapter on forgiveness and betrayal in the book I’m reading (which I mentioned in Choosing Love at All Times) that is so on point and relevant for the crisis humanity is experiencing: “Victim consciousness and its opposite, the tyrant, are holding the whole world from ascending into the new paradigm of heart-centered consciousness. As we unlock the betrayal knot associated with the victim consciousness, we take a giant step forward in moving beyond the polarities of victim-tyrant, of power-powerlessness, of win-lose, and into the paradigm of love and of win-win consciousness.” Holy Cow!

Yep, so simple yet so difficult for some to do. As long as we come from a mindset of self-importance, of wanting to be right, seek revenge, and let the Ego-mind do the talking, we will be unable to get to the root cause of the problem, to let go and move on. We will get so clouded in grievance, resentment, revenge, regrets, anger, hate and who knows how many other self-destructive and self-sabotaging feelings, that we will forever be “lost at sea.” And this my darlings, is the ultimate betrayal…a betrayal to ourselves!

I mentioned earlier that the word forgiveness gets a bad rap. It is still often misunderstood. Some hold on to a belief that forgiving means condoning the actions or grievance that was done. However, it’s quite the opposite. It’s choosing to let go of our self-importance, letting go of the victim consciousness, leaving our ego at the door and releasing ourselves from the notion that we are separate from the “other.”

In choosing to look at things through a different lens, we are often able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and better understand the unresolved hurt and pain they must be experiencing. It takes a certain amount of humility and generosity of spirit to let go of stories we have created for ourselves. When we do so, when we change the narrative, shift the energy, unclog those energy centers, actively participant in our own healing, and experience the freedom in letting feelings of hurt and betrayals go, we experience our true Self.

It is then that we re-establish our connection to our Self – that unbounded, vast energy and essence of Love. It is then that we experience a spiritual and divine awakening. Rather than allowing our hurts, illusions and fabricated stories to control us, we are taking charge of our own healing.

I find prayer very helpful in the healing process. Sometimes, I write my own and other times I reference some that I’ve come across. Sometimes I keep them, and other times I release and burn them. I especially love Marianne Williamson’s prayers from her book, Illuminata- Return to Prayer. The book I am currently reading, Returning to Oneness- The Seven Keys of Ascension, contains beautiful prayers to assist us along the journey. The following prayer is from the chapter on forgiveness and betrayals:

A PRAYER

Oh eternity, please take all of these states of mind which are unbalanced, and balance and clear them. Do this so that I may see more clearly and find my way home more easily. I offer up these feelings of betrayal, and I ask to be able to forgive and to live more in my heart. I give thanks, knowing it will be done.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

My Guest Blogger

“How I Met My Yaya and Faced My Fears”

 by Shannon “Blondie” Green

Recently, while on a Yoga Retreat with my dearest people in this world, Yaya (as I call her but as you may know as the one and only Jo-Ann Carricarte, the driving force behind this blog) mentioned  that I should guest blog for her, as part of my Yaya mentorship (more to come on that at another time).  As we were discussing the “assignment,” I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t know what to write about. She suggested that I should start at the beginning of my journey.  So that is where this story begins…

Time: March 2013

Place: Lumeria, Maui, HI

Now I will admit that prior to this experience I was the quintessential worrywart and control freak. Reflecting back, I now see that I lived in constant fear. My life consisted of many “what-if” scenarios, and I believed it was normal to worry about things like money, health, cars breaking down, etc.  I set my watch ahead about 10 minutes so I wouldn’t be late, and I always had to wear it. I believed everything had to be planned, and planned, and planned some more. I did not have faith to just let things unfold organically. When things did not go as I planned, I did not handle it gracefully and with ease. I responded very emotionally and often had a difficult time resolving the problem. At this point in my life I was 36, and I knew that these behaviors were not serving me…and I certainly wasn’t happy in my life, but what I didn’t know was what I could do to change things.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing, life long best friend, Christy, who decided she was going to organize a weeklong yoga retreat to Maui. And luckily for me, my best friend from college, Claire, convinced me that we NEEDED to go!

As we began our first class, Christy spoke about being present and living in “Maui Time,” where it didn’t matter what time it was, where life moved a little more slowly, and the idea of being purposeful in what we said, thought and did while we were there. At this point, I did something that I will never regret; I decided to remove my watch for the duration of the retreat.

The second thing that happened was that Christy gave us each a small journal to use while we were there. Each day, she would give us journaling exercises and if we chose to do them or not was left up to us.  I soon became engrossed in writing in my little pink journal. My thoughts and reflections helped me realize that one of the reasons I was sad and struggling in my life was because I was filled with so much fear.

The third thing that happened was I met Yaya.  I honestly don’t remember how the conversation began, but there was some mention of her name “Jo-Ann” but how everyone called her “Mama Yaya”. Somewhere along the way I dropped the “Mama” part, and she just became “Yaya” to me.  Any of you who know Jo-Ann know just how “Yaya” she is. She is this vibrant being filled with love and energy. She is funny and energetic, but serious and very much about living her authentic self.  As the week went on, you would often find her “holding court” at the dining room table after we had finished a meal, sitting at the head of the table while me, Claire, and a few of the other ladies were bombarding her with questions about what books to read, what websites we should check out-  all the while writing down everything little thing she said…the list in my journal includes among them the following books, websites, and authors: Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, A Return to Love, The Law of Divine Compensation, Wishes Fulfilled, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, The Power of Now, A New Earth, Daily Om, Daily Love by Mastin Kipp, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Hay House Publishing, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and even more.

Who was this Yaya person?? How did she know all of this stuff and how could I get some of it??? I knew she held answers, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to find the peace and energy and love she spoke of.  My journal is full of entries that talk about how I wanted to have an open heart and clear mind.  How I wanted to listen to the wisdom of my body, my desire to let go of fear and the things that frighten me. I wanted to make room for miracles and be open to abundance coming into my life.  I journaled about my fears of not becoming a mother, of not finding purpose, of growing old and unfulfilled and my desire to release these fears. I knew I needed to let go of my fears and somewhere during that week I began to learn how.

March 15, 2013:  Journal Entry

“Today I let go of what weighs me down.  I accept that my life is unfolding as it should be. I surrender. I am not afraid of what is not happening. I detach from trying to control that which I cannot control.  I surrender to the will of God and the Universe.  I open my heart to whatever may come into it. I welcome what may come in.  I am not afraid of things that don’t turn out the way I thought.  I will enjoy every moment as it unfolds.”

As I reread these words from my journal the other day, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I wrote them or copied them from someone.  They sound so wise and profound that I believe I likely stole them from someone else- except I didn’t note who said them, which I normally do if I write down a quote I like. Regardless, this was the point at which I surrendered and let go. As I continued to read my old journal, I can see how this day was a turning point where I decided to let fear stop running my life. One thing I know is that the girl who arrived in Maui on March 12, 2013 was not the same girl who left Maui a week later.

The journey hasn’t been easy, and it is still continuing. I won’t lie, it  has been a journey that has taken many years and a lot of work, but it has been wonderful and fulfilling. and I hope to share some of that with you as a guest blogger for Yaya.

So I leave you with the following few questions:

  • Looking back, do you see a turning point in your life where you surrendered and let go of the fears that were holding you back from being your authentic self? 
  • Was there an event that happened that made you realize you wanted to see things differently and live life differently? 
  • Was there a person you met that inspired you to make the change that you had been afraid to make?
  • What tools (journaling, authors, podcasts, etc) have helped you on your journey? 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about that watch, I took of in Maui. It has never been put back on my wrist. ☺

 

Bravo! Thank you, my beautiful Blondie (aka “La Bomba”) for such a beautiful reflection! You took the first step, rose up to the challenge and produced the first of many future blogs to come. I am so proud of how much you have grown, evolved and embraced your magnificence since Maui brought us all together! I am proud of how fabulously you are playing your own version of “Yaya” in your everyday life, both personally and professionally. Thank you for the reflection questions you posed. Thank you for making a difference and making the world a more beautiful place. Thank you for the light you bring to others. Thank you for your love. Lastly, thank you for choosing to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start! I look forward to reading more!!! Love, Yaya xo

The Simplest Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC