The Power of Resting Radiantly

“I honor and acknowledge my body as the sacred vessel that houses my inner light. I invite deep rest into every cell of my being. I trust that I deserve to be supported, nurtured, and held unconditionally. I know the earth can hold me. “ Tracee Stanley

Greetings, darlings!

It’s been quite a while since my last blog! Last time I wrote was a week before my knee replacement surgery, and here it is 12 weeks post-op today. Woohoo!!! If you missed my previous blog, She Ready, I invite you to go back and read it before you read this one.

Those of you who know me, know that I take prepping and planning for surgery seriously in terms of nutrition, exercise, supplements, tonics, spiritual practices, yoga, meditation and rest. I am the Queen of Rest! Sadly, rest is undervalued in our society; yet, it is what our bodies and brains need to function optimally. Instead, a culture of busyness, burning the candles at both ends, and sheer exhaustion are the badges people wear as signs of success, value and self-worth. Not for me! I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.

Since this was my 6th orthopedic surgery (the 4th in nine years), I know a thing or two about prepping my mind, body and spirit for the assault and trauma this type of surgery inflicts on the body. With each surgery I’ve had, my prepping and planning have been key. However, this time around I took it to another level. Little did I know what the practice of Yoga Nidra was about to do for me!

Back in March, I received Tracee Stanley’s book, Radiant Rest. From the moment I started it, I referred to that book as my forever companion. That is how powerful, transformative, soothing, and nurturing this book is! And the practices??? They just speak for themselves! Allow me to share an amazing experience I recently had.

I have been doing 2-3 yoga nidra practices daily since receiving Radiant Rest back in March. Mind you, I had not yet scheduled my surgery at this point. It wasn’t until the first week in April that I did so.

In addition to these practices, I’was doing daily yoga practices- which were primarily restorative and yin- just before bed. Meditation, journaling, prayer, hydration, nourishing food, music and mantra, rest, sleep, quiet and stillness have been my non-negotiables for years now. Hence, why I am the queen of rest…wink, wink. These practices soothe my nervous system and keep me grounded, rooted and resourced. Consistent yoga nidra practices have been the icing on the cake though!

On May 11th, the morning of the surgery, I was up in the wee hours (3AM), I did my meditation, called in my ancestors, elders, saints, Goddesses, etc… took a shower which was then followed by the Waves of Aum yoga nidra practice, as well as a short yoga and prayer practice, a dance party with Pitbull for one and off to the hospital I went.

I was as ready as ready can get when I walked through those doors and down into the pre-surgical holding area. I walked in, head high, back straight knowing my posse of benevolent beings were right behind me. I was relaxed, surrounded by light and held by all those divine beings, Oh, and I wore a crown headband my soul sister, Kat, had given me. It made a big hit  with the nurses to say the least. Like I shared with them- we must always celebrate life and find joy in even the difficult times.

So when the time came, I walked into the operating room, was introduced to everyone, thanked everyone and hopped onto the table. As I was being hooked up to everything, I was doing my own guided practice. I swear I was already into the void even before the spinal tap needle went into my body. I even had a smile on my face as I sat up and bent over.

Surgery went well, I felt great afterwards, ate up a storm, PT and OT had me up and walking and going up stairs within the hour of being brought to my room. Now…here is where it gets really fascinating and why I wanted to share my experience with you. 

Since my body is sensitive to pain medications, I was given Tramadol because it’s not a  heavy narcotic. By 7PM I was ready for sleep, yet all I could do was watch each hour on the clock pass by. Needless to say, I did NOT sleep a wink all night!!!! At around 3AM I googled the damn thing only to learn that Tramadol causes insomnia.

Darlings, I ask you this: If you know someone has a sensitive system, especially because they do not take medicine, why on earth would you give them something that may cause insomnia??? Did the nurse on that shift even know of its potential side effects??? I think not. By the time she changed my meds, the damage had been done…yikes!!!

Mind you, sleep is sacred to me. As I previously mentioned, sleep is one of my non-negotiables. However, I know the reason I wasn’t trashed, exhausted, depleted or wiped out the day after surgery was because I spent the entire night with Tracee Stanley’s soothing voice in my ear….I lost count as to how many yoga nidra practices I did along with other meditations and post-surgery meditations. While I only got about an hour sleep around 5 in the morning, my mind and body were TOTALLY RESTED! The beloved Yoga NIdra Goddess held, soothed, and sustained me. Every cell of my being was rested, supported, and nurtured. I hope you can appreciate how deeply powerful this practice can be!

In addition to my daily practices, I had also been using Tracee Stanley’s Empowered Life Oracle Cards. They are a deck of self-inquiry cards which I use daily after my morning yoga nidra practice. If you follow my blog, or have read some of my essays, you know how much I love me some self-inquiry and inner-investigation!

I pull a card every morning before I even get out of bed, so my journaling is usually rich in content and filled with early morning downloads. I knew I was prepping for my surgery the best way I know how, but these yoga nidra rituals took that preparation to another level! My clarity, connection to source and intuition have  been so on point! I’ve never felt so relaxed,  restored and radiantly rested! And, yes, I continue these practices because the body needs rest in order to heal!

The increase in physical activity, walking, physical therapy, and exercises multiple times a day is exhausting! And if there is anything I have learned over the years, it is to honor and meet my body where it is! Doing so is grace. It is respect. It is discernment. It is self-worth. It is self-love. It is self-care. It is care for the self. It is our birthright. It is peace.

I actually emailed Tracee with my experience- much of which is included in this blog- and I was blown away when she responded. I felt so honored and grateful for her response!

Darlings, I encourage you to share you experiences. with authors, spiritual teachers, mentors, etc. for it’s important for us to share our stories of how they’ve inspired us, motivated us, served us or how they have impacted our lives. And let me take a moment to thank those of you who leave a comment or reach out to me and share how a particular blog has impacted you. Merci! Gracias! Grazi! Obrigado! Thank you!

As Tracee shared in one of her posts, “Maybe you feel like you’ve lost that part of yourself under all of life’s overwhelming demand. But yogic wisdom tells us that the thriving, vibrant radiance is who we are, and it is eternal; it is a light that never goes out.”

Darlings, may you always know how vast your being-ness is and that your creativity, inspiration, and potential are boundless. May you find and tap into practices that remind you of your greatness and how much your gifts are needed in this world. May radiant rest be your north star!

May you always lead from the heart…right form the start, JTC

Reverence and Radical Self-Awareness

“Your crime lies in your ignorance.” Cicely Tyson

Greetings, darlings, and happy almost Valentine’s Day!

This time last year, which seems like a lifetime ago, I was up at Kripalu in MA for several days of self-care, yoga, meditation, music, dance, and continued learning. As a matter of fact, I intentionally planned that little retreat as a Valentine’s Day gift to my Self. I finally put gift certificates I had received for my birthday, the previous October, to good use!

Little did I know that, within weeks, everything was going to shut down due to the global pandemic and the art of quarantining becoming a “thing.” Little did I know that the days I spent at Kripalu were the launching pad for a 2020 filled with lessons and blessings of all kinds. That stay at Kripalu, and our subsequent “stay at home” mandate propelled me into a year of continued learning and personal growth. If you know me, follow my blog, or just happened to come across it, you know I’m all about the learning, inspiring, having a growth mindset and a commitment to self-inquiry and inner-investigation.

So… it should not have come to any surprise how my 2021 started. I knew “Reverence” would be my word for 2021 and, therefore, I had to take a deep dive into the reverence and sacredness of ALL things….my thoughts, actions, choices, decisions, practices, habits. It called for radical self-awareness. And what better way to delve into all it than to go back to Yoga’s roots, its history and philosophy!

Given the state of our world and all of us being called to unite to “help heal the soul of our nation,” it only seemed the logical thing to do. After all, the healing, revolution and evolution must first start within each and every individual! As with all things divinely ordained, a long time mentor and yoga teacher, whose online yoga community I’m part of, started our 2021 practice with weekly themes based on the ethical precepts of yoga philosophy otherwise known as the Yamas.

This is just what I needed! The 4 weekly classes and monthly processing call with Seane Corn offered us an invitation to deeply explore these principals. True to form, she also offered questions for us to explore and work on (often times when we were holding poses)- which I will share with you in a bit. Because you know how I feel about sharing. Sharing is caring…wink, wink.

You see, you don’t have to be a yogi to explore, employ and embrace these practices. They are simply ethical principles which guide us in how we relate to ourselves, others, our actions, thoughts, speech, the world, our planet and all sentient beings.

The purpose of this blog is to invite you to do some of your own radical self-awareness. Perhaps inspire you to look at ways you’re living and contributing, or not, to unity, peace, equity, justice, and healing our individual and collective souls.

My intention is not to go into the deep teachings of each of The Yamas, but to simply list them and some of their meaning and provide you with self-reflection questions. You can investigate them on your own with just a few clicks on your keyboard.

Ahimsa – Non-violence, non-injury, do no harm, loving-kindness, compassion for all beings:

What negative self-talk or unkind messages do you tell yourself each day?

Have you engaged in hurtful, harmful, judgemental, or negative talk, including gossip, to someone behind their back? Can you name a recent event where words or action caused harm?

Does your interaction with the physical world create harm or suffering? What about the food you consume, products you use, or the impact your diet has on our animal friends?

Do you watch movies, or read social media, or books that cause stress, fear, or frustration and perpetuate feelings of lack, comparison, or not enough-ness? How does this impact your well-being?

Satya- Truthfulness, right communication, honesty in behavior and thought:

Where are you with your integrity? With your truth?

In what areas of your life are you being dishonest and out of integrity?

How does truth inform your choices?

How do non-truths perpetuate harm? In what unconscious ways do you perpetuate harm?

What would it mean to live in truth and in love? What would need to shift within yourself for that to happen?

Asteya- Non-stealing, non-covetousness, not taking what isn’t freely given:

Where do feelings of “not-enoughness” show up in your life?

How are you robbing yourself of joy, contentment, or peace by playing small, negating or minimizing your talents or skills, or by overextending yourself?

How are you stealing from yourself or others by taking more than you need, including resources, time, money, food, attention, or even credit for ideas or visons that may belong to someone else?

In what ways do you steal from this world by not showing up fully as the authentic person you truly are?

Do you know what cultural appropriation is? And for yogis out there, how does Asteya apply to cultural appropriation and yoga?

How have we stolen from the oppressed to enhance the dominant culture? How have we benefited from it? Exploited it?

Brahmacharya- Moderation in our actions, turning inward, dedicating our energies to both our inner and outer work in the world, merging with the God consciousness and the Divine:

Since we went into lockdown this past year, what are some of the ways you have experienced excessive or indulgent behavior? It it in your sleep patterns, eating habits, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, TV, screen time, online shopping…?

What would happen if you chose one of these behaviors and committed to doing a “detox” for the next week?

Where do you experience a sense of lack or not enough-ness? Is it material? Physical? Since COVID, did a sense of lack show up in your need to stock up on toilet paper, can goods, hand wipes, etc.? How did you respond to that feeling of lack? What are other examples of lack in your life and your response to them?

Excess can include overthinking, overworking and over-consuming: things that our US culture often values above moderation and balance. Who would you be if you slowed down? How would that affect your identity? Where dod you learn that more was better?

Aparigraha- Non-grasping, non-greediness, non-possessiveness, non-attachment:

How do your wants differ from your needs?

Do you really need more things? If yes, what do you actually need? What are the things that bring you joy, and is this happiness fleeting or sustainable? Do you need more to sustain your joy?

Do you live minimally and sustainable, or do you covet and hoard? Is you stuff important to you?

In what areas of your life are you accumulating “things” just for the sake of having? What would it feel like to declutter you life and give things away or get rid of them?

Do you have a fear of losing what you appreciate and cherish? Do you cling to things too tightly?

How can you be more balanced and judicious in how much you take, use and keep?

Do you sometimes overeat, over-consume, overthink, overwork and how does this make you feel? How do any of these impact your identity or your attachment to how you are perceived by other people?

What limiting beliefs do you have and what is your attachment to these narratives? These include resentment towards other people. What would you experience if you could let go of these resentments? How has it served you to stay stuck in the story and unwilling to see a bigger picture as to why things unfolded as they did?

What does aparigraha mean to you and why is it a restraint? How does practicing non-grasping, non-possessiveness, non-attachment deepen our relationship to the Divine and move us towards liberation?

Darlings, there’s a whole lot of food for thought here! For me, this was the reset and focus I needed in my quest to bring more reverence and radical self-awareness to 2021.

There’s no excuse for ignorance or not doing better when we know better. Not in today’s world and not with all the available resources we have at our disposal….many of which are free!

I hope that in some way, shape, or form this blog has helped or inspired you. I hope it has got your wheels spinning or lit a fire under you. I hope you feel compelled to determine what radical self-awareness means to you and make a commitment to honor it. Lastly, I hope that you share this with anyone you feel could use it.

In closing, I will leave you with this beautiful and appropriate quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers gave birth to them, but…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

May we continue to rebirth ourselves and move forward with reverence and radical self-awareness so that we may heal our souls and the soul of our nation! JTC

Dear 2020

The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.” James E. Faust

Oh what a year you’ve been, 2020!!!

You’ve slammed us, ripped us open, turned us upside down and inside out and brought us to our knees. You’ve presented us with unimaginable challenges, unfathomable heartbreaks, traumatizing losses and left us no other option than to reframe, realign and find meaning in the mess of it all.

The stars, astrologers and sages alike told us you’d be bringing us a year filled with much needed change, shifts, awareness, truth, revelation, tumultuous emotions, enlightenment, new paradigms, realignment of values and beliefs, reframing of perspectives….the list can go on and on. I guess you did not disappoint on that front. Are congratulations in order, 2020?

In a nutshell, 2020, you have made us re-evaluate every single facet and aspect of our lives. You’ve made us look into the dark corners and crevices of our being. On the bright side- because there is always a bright side- deeper, more meaningful relationships, friendships, and creative ways of being, living, loving, working, parenting, playing, learning, celebrating and grieving have been at the core of you.

You’ve led many to life-altering revelations and the freedoms and liberations that only come from our own dark night of the soul and the excavation that comes with it. This work isn’t easy, 2020, and you know it. Perhaps that’s why you did what you did? Perhaps there were so many of us so asleep, disconnected, disassociated, numbed, clueless, ignorant and walking through life like a zombie that we needed to feel and experience your wrath?

Through it all, 2020, you’ve given us opportunity after opportunity to open our hearts to love and open our eyes to see….to truly see!

You’ve made us angry, sad, distraught, question, analyze, reason, doubt, observe, value, appreciate, and connect with ourselves AND our shared human experience like never before in the history of humanity. You’ve made us repeatedly pivot. You’ve tested our patience, beliefs, resilience and faith. You’ve taught us the importance that letting go, change and impermanence play in our lives and mental and emotional well-being. You’ve shown us our unconscious biases and internalized racism. You’ve exposed the faulty cracks in our foundation. You’ve made us unlearn only to continuously learn again and again.

The Great Reset; The Reckoning; those are but only two of the monikers you’ve been given, 2020. I personally don’t find them offensive, do you? After all, you’ve been showing us for years that we’ve needed a reckoning. You have sent us wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, demonstrations, protests, mass shootings, a global pandemic, quarantine, a presidential election unlike any other in the history of the United States (just to name a few) and exposed bullies, modern day lynchings, corruption, abuses of all kinds and white supremacists. You’ve made people speak truth to power, exposed the ills of greed, racism, oppression, human/sex trafficking, and have even made people take hoarding to another level. You’ve made us look at marginalized communities in a different light and shown us the difference between equity and equality, fairness and justice, and the oppressor and the oppressed.

How about all the trauma, 2020? All the PTSD that will change people’s lives in ways yet to be imagined? The healing that has yet to occur? The businesses and jobs lost? People’s livelihood? The people that have been suddenly taken from our lives in epic numbers? The people who died alone? The families that were unable to be by their loved one’s side? The millions of people affected by these deaths? Are you done with us yet?

However, one of your miracles, 2020, is how you have made people come together to help those in need. You’ve put faces to names by showing us essential and front line workers who’ve been taken for granted in the past. Everyday, ordinary people from all walks of life, artists, actors, writers, musicians, entertainers, chefs, lawyers, sports figures, health and wellness professionals, mentors, and even young children have been stepping up to help others. Now that’s a beautiful thing!

Through it all, 2020, you’ve shown us new ways to be hopeful, humble, thankful and grateful. You’ve shown us to have reverence for Mother Earth and her native people. You’ve implored us to value and appreciate people of all backgrounds, different heritages, cultures, races, color, and gender and to put judgement aside. Judge less and love more seems to be your mantra! The realization that we are more alike than we are different has even been demonstrated by geneticists and agencies such as Ancestry and 23 and Me.

You’ve given us opportunity after opportunity to be accountable for how we show up for ourselves, our communities and how we show up in the world…the importance of human dynamics and interpersonal relationships. And let us not forget the importance of creativity, innovation and Post-Traumatic Growth you’ve been nudging- no scratch that- forcefully pushing us towards by way of our own personal expansion and receptiveness. Time and time again, you’ve shown us what it means to be kind, compassionate and have empathy. Like Ellie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate and activist is known for saying, “Even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.”

You’ve worked me, 2020, and I’ve worked you. I’m not the same person I was back in March. I’m tapping into the post-traumatic growth mindset as much as I can! It’s something I’ve always done and will always do. I’m actually looking forward to where this post-2020 journey takes me and the infinite possibilities that await to inspire, love, and serve.

Being the perpetual, self-proclaimed gratitude junkie that I am, I’m thankful for your lessons and blessings, but I can’t say I’m going to miss you. I think it’s time for your final curtain call….take a bow and exit stage left. However, the realist in me tells me that you may have just been a dress rehearsal for what awaits in 2021. Hmmm….

See ya 2020….

Mirror, Mirror

“Imagine a country whose citizens-maybe even its leaders- are brave, calm, and open towards each other; A country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by common sense.” BR. David Steindl- Rast

Today is Election Day here in the U.S., and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this moment in history that I (and everyone who I reading this) am blessed with being alive to experience. We are all part of history in the making.

I’m not attached to any election outcome. Non-attachment is a Buddhist mindset I’ve learned to cultivate over the years because of the simple fact the attachments lead to suffering. Nonattachment is a practice, and I’m a firm believer that whatever happens is happening for a reason and that life happens FOR us not to us.

I believe the past four years- and especially the past eight months since the pandemic- have held up a mirror to all of us. A mirror to look at the divide and brokenness within ourselves, our own internal biases, prejudices, anger, trauma and see where we can be more compassionate, loving, and accepting. This, of course, is a practice as well.

During these times of uncertainty, the one certainty is that what is occurring in our nation is a direct reflection of the heart and soul of each and every one of us.

As one of my teachers and mentors often reminds us, the times we’ve been living have been challenging us to step fully into all of it: our fear, anxiety, division, and transform that to empathy, compassion, and a deep love of self and of others.

The mirror that is being held up to us is there to truly and deeply examine our own lives, challenges, attachments, privileges, thoughts, actions, entitlements, speech, choices, relationships, beliefs, biases, and the role we are each playing in the healing of humanity and of our planet. I believe the mirror is there for us to deeply examine our own personal integrity and values.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, what will be revealed is the true nature and soul of our country… of its people.

Weeks ago, I came across a post that my neighbor borrowed from a friend- who probably borrowed from a friend, etc., etc. It’s a piece that was written by a President Trump supporter and one that really spoke to me. It speaks to the times we’re living and experiencing- individually and collectively- it speaks to the failure to communicate, to our humanity, integrity, dignity, values, disappointment, reverence for life and the fracture of relationships, friendships and society. I’ve shared it with many friends since having read it, and I’ve come back to it again and again. It’s both haunting and sobering.

So on this Election Day, I will leave you with that post. I don’t know who wrote it or where it originated. All I know is that whomever has shared it has “borrowed it from a friend.”

“I know you think I’m preoccupied with this President; that he is the reason I’m so angry and bitter and frustrated these days—but you’re wrong. This isn’t about Donald Trump.

It’s never been about him.

It wasn’t about him during the campaign or on Election Day.

It wasn’t about him when recordings of him boasting about sexual assaults surfaced.

It wasn’t about him when he said protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up.

It wasn’t about him when he left refugee families stranded at the airport.

It wasn’t about him when he attacked the press.

It wasn’t about him when he sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t about him when he blamed racial violence on “both sides.”

And it isn’t about him today: it’s about us.

This is about me and it’s about you.

It’s about my grief at the ugliness you feel emboldened to post on social media now, the nastiness you seem newly capable of, the disgusting words you now so easily toss out around the dinner table.

It’s about my disbelief at your sudden tolerance for his infidelity, his cruelty, his intellectual ignorance, his immorality, his disrespect for the rule of law, his alliances with dictators — things you once claimed you could never abide in a leader.

It’s about my incredulity at your surprising resentment for marginalized people; for your inability to muster any compassion for those who are hurting or frightened or threatened.

It’s about my disappointment at your easily manipulated nationalistic fervor; how the God and Guns, America First, Love it or Leave it rhetoric, so easily took root in your heart — how hostile to outsiders and foreigners you’ve become.

It’s about my amazement at your capacity to make your faith so pliable, that you could amen a compulsive liar, a serial adulterer, a fear-mongering bully; a man in nearly every way antithetical to the Jesus you’ve always said was so dear to you.

It’s about my sickness seeing you excuse away his coddling of racists, his public attacks on the FBI, his impulsive firings of Cabinet members, his Tweet rants against individual citizens and American companies.

It’s about my grief seeing you respond to his near-hourly display of recklessness and overreach, with a shrug of your shoulders or a turning away from it all.

It’s about me watching you ignore in him and even celebrate in him, the very things you claimed made Hillary Clinton the ‘greater of two evils’ when you voted: blatant corruption, financial impropriety, pathological lies, lack of morality.

It’s about my sadness at seeing you make a million tiny concessions—and how easy it now is for you to consent to actions, that only three years ago you’d have told me fully disgusted you.

Most of all, it’s about me realizing that when all this is over—we are still going to have to deal with all of this. Our fractures are going to outlive this Presidency.

You see, I really don’t give a damn about Donald Trump.

He doesn’t matter to me. He never has.

He’s a three-time married, C-level reality TV celebrity, with a long and well-documented resume of sexual misconduct, financial disasters, and moral filth.

He’s a professional predator who’s spent his life exploiting people for personal gain. That’s who he was before and who he will be when he leaves office.

Donald Trump, the President will be gone one day, and his disastrous Presidency will be well preserved.

History will have documented his every lie, every misdeed, every abuse of power, every treasonous betrayal — and he will be fully revealed as the monster that many of us are fully aware that he is.

That’s not why I am so disgusted and so filled with sadness these days.

I don’t care about Donald Trump because I don’t know or live alongside or love or respect Donald Trump.

I know and live alongside and love and respect you — or at least I once did, and I’m going to have to try and do that again.

Our relationship and our family and our church and our neighborhood and our nation are going to be trying to clean up the messes long after this President is gone.

When this is all over, the divides and the fractures and the wounds between us are going to remain.

This is why I’m angry and bitter and frustrated; not because of Donald Trump — but because of me — and because of you.”

Borrowed from a friend.

Darlings, regardless of the outcome of today’s election, our lives will go on and we all will be faced with letting go, moving on and stepping into our place in our human family, community, and the world with love, peace, intention and purpose. Showing up any other way would be a disservice to humanity. We’ve had many an opportunity for healing ourselves and healing humanity and, if we don’t get this right, this magical universe will continue giving us opportunities to do just that. Let’s work on ourselves, my darlings. Let’s leave the world a better place for future generations. Let’s honor our ancestors and continue the work they started!

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the work to heal the individual and collective fractured divide will continue…. what role will you be playing?

Be well, stay safe and God bless us all!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Birthday Reflections

“ Scorpio is the one sign that can give you sensitivity, moodiness, dominance, stubbornness, advice, laughter, harshness, love… and a headache all in a matter of minutes.”

Yep, that sounds like me and a lot like my fellow Scorpions out there! I saw this posted on my neighbor’s social media, and it got me thinking!

As I look back on my life, the younger me, the older me, and all the different versions of me in between, I see how all of these traits associated with a Scorpio has both helped and hindered me along my path. Would I change any of it? Absolutely and unequivocally not!

The sensitivity has allowed me to feel emotions; moodiness has gifted me with retreating and going within; dominance has allowed me to take charge when no one else does; stubbornness has allowed me to stand up for what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart of hearts; advice is something I give freely to those who come to me for some wisdom; laughter is my go-to medicine for the soul; harshness has allowed me to be critical- especially of myself and holding myself accountable-and has gotten me out of my own way-and, lastly, love has always guided my way- even in the most uncertain of times. Oh, and headaches serve as a reminder I shouldn’t drink red wine. Not all that bad, if you ask me!

As I reflect on my all too quick 62 rotations around the sun, the privilege that I’ve had is something I do not take for granted. The more I learn about White Privilege and this system of White Supremacy we live in, White Feminism, Caste, and how it’s all woven into every single aspect of our life, culture and society, the angrier I get at not having been taught these things in school. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate reality in more ways than I can describe. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I’ve taken learning to another level. The person I was going into this quarantine and the one who is emerging is different and is determining the direction of the next leg of my journey.

I’m very grateful for my parents seeing the communist handwriting on the wall before Castro came into power in Cuba. As a result, they, along with the majority of their siblings, came to the US for a better life, to have more children in some cases, and to give their children more opportunities than they were ever afforded.

My ancestors found their way to Cuba via Portugal and Spain. I only wish I could have met some of them and had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their lives, their traumas, their lived experiences, their wisdom… all things that live in my body and course through my blood.

I’m certain none of them could have imagined this upside down world we are living in. But I do know they, like all of our elders and ancestors, had dreams, aspirations, and things left to do and say when they left this world.

I realize I am the product of their unfulfilled wishes, the dreams they didn’t get to live out, the voice they were unable or not allowed to use, the product of privilege they didn’t have given the times they lived in and the embodiment of a heart overflowing with gratitude each step of the way, each and every day. My attitude of gratitude is what has brought me overwhelming joy, love, and abundance throughout my life…. especially during those dark nights of the soul.

I took a moment this morning to reflect on 62 years of life. I feel very loved, seen and appreciated. For some reason, birthdays get more and more meaningful as the number climbs. The cards I received, the sentiments expressed, and the heartfelt words inscribed have really touched my heart year after year.

This is my 12th birthday without my Mama, and to say that I miss her more each day is an understatement. I realize how lucky I was to have her for almost 50 years of my life. I was an unexpected surprise, and I am grateful that she chose life.

So…..on this day where I find myself reflecting on privileges of all kinds, I am going to share with you yet another handout from the White Conversations class that I took. It’s an activity called Privilege for Sale. It’s an activity that is also a big eye-opener for people who do not understand some of the things that White Privilege affords you, or how you walk through life, if you are white or passing as white.

If you are doing this with a very small group, you may want to each do this activity individually. Obviously, the more people involved, the better able you are to break up into smaller groups and have better conversations and different perspectives.

Before starting the activity, you must put yourself in a mindset of someone having zero privileges whatsoever. Each privilege costs $10 to purchase. As a group, or individual, you will purchase as many privileges as the money you’ve been given allows. It’s up to the facilitator to assign varying budgets- starting with $10- to each group (or individual).

Please note that the phrase “an aspect of your identity “refers to identities including race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity/expression. Identities and privileges represented on this list or by no means exhaustive.

Ready? Here we go…..

  1. Not being subjected to additional scrutiny at school or in your job based on an aspect of your identity.  
  2. Adopting your children. 
  3. Being able to discuss and have access to multiple family planning options. 
  4. Raising children without worrying about state intervention. 
  5. Being accepted by your neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and/or new friends.. 
  6. Going shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that you will not be followed or harassed. 
  7. Walking around campus, turning on the television, or opening to the front page of the paper and seeing people like you widely represented. 
  8. Being sure that you or your children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their experience. 
  9. Going into a supermarket and finding the staple foods which fit with your cultural traditions.
  10. Not having to educate your children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 
  11. Using public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest
  12. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.
  13. Having the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of some aspect of your identity.
  14. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical establishments.
  15. Freely being able to discuss your relationship with others. 
  16. If you are assaulted or murdered, an aspect of your identity will not be used as a justification for the crime nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.
  17. Having your gender as an option on a form.
  18. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to an aspect of your identity.
  19. Not facing the everyday fear of deportation.  
  20. Expecting to have any/easy access to public transportation, building, parks, and restaurants.  
  21. Being able to plan your day without having to consider health or pain concerns.  
  22. Receiving validation from your religious community. 
  23. If you should need to move, being pretty sure that you will be able to rent or purchase a home in an area which you can afford and in which you would want to live. 
  24. Being able to go to a doctor visit and have him or her understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  25. Whether using checks, credit cards or cash, you can count on your skin color not working against the appearance of financial reliability. 

Adapted from The Safe Zone Project, http://thesafezoneproject.com/

To say this is a powerful activity is an understatement and would be a disservice to the individual(s) who created it. While there are only 25 privileges listed here, the list can be expanded even more so given the reality of what being born in a body that was not born into a dominant Caste or Race goes through day in and day out of their entire existence.

One thing I know for sure that I will continue learning, especially from BIPOC leaders and teachers, until the moment I take my last breath. My entire life thus far has been around learning, growing, expanding, transforming, loving, inspiring, serving and reflecting…why should it be any different at this age? Our lust for knowledge is something that should only die when we die.

So there you have it…. my birthday reflections. I hope you feel inspired to keep learning, unlearning, becoming and unbecoming. My birthday wish is that you give the White Privilege activity a try and feel compelled to share it with others. It will definitely make for good conversation and inspired action!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Ask Away!!!

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”

This quote by Lou Holtz, who is a former football player, coach and analyst, speaks to some of the points that were part of my previous blog, Humble Inquiry. If you missed that blog, you may want to read it prior to delving into this one.

As was mentioned in Humble Inquiry, the author of the book- bearing the same name as the title of my previous blog- mentioned how we in the U.S. live in a culture that overvalues telling as opposed to asking questions. The downfall to this is that we never truly get into deep, juicy and meaningful conversations if we don’t learn to ask the right questions. And it’s only through asking questions that we truly walk away having learned something.

Darlings, and if you are of a “particular age” or perhaps raised in a culture where “children should be seen and not heard,” asking questions was not something that was encouraged or valued. No wonder so many of us have never learned the fine art of asking interesting questions. Back in the day, schools taught us basic questions- like who, what, when, where and why- which, when you think about it, do not require much thinking at all. Only in the last 20-25 years or so , when standardized tests became so popular in schools, were we faced with teaching our children open-ended questions and higher order thinking skills.

A couple of months ago I took a White Conversations Class that was offered at my friend’s yoga studio. It was taught by a college professor who facilitated all types of conversations for us dealing with critical examination of self; valuing differences; understanding social conditioning and whiteness; White Privilege; deconstructing yourself; internalized biases; anti-racism work; the differences between dialogue, discussion and debate; how to talk to family and friends about white privilege; AND…drumroll please… questions conducive to seeing and expanding our perspectives. I can’t even begin to tell you all the materials, handouts, and research articles the professor shared with us!

In addition to her genuine and personable disposition, one of the things I liked most about her was that she subscribes to my mindset when it comes to sharing materials. (You all know how I feel that sharing is caring). One of the things she said early on was that we were free to share materials. As a matter of fact, she welcomed and encouraged it.

One of the handouts she shared, and the content I want to pass on to you, is the one dealing with useful questions for facilitating conversations. The information comes from The Program on Intergroup Relation, The University of Michigan .

We are living through very contentious, stressful, and uncertain times these days and, more than ever, we can all use some pointers on having more skillfully conscious conversations on the job, at home, with family and friends. The following are different types of questions, their purpose and examples for each of the different types of questions.

So…let’s get started!

Exploratory Questions: Probe basic knowledge

What to you think about_______? How does _______ make you feel? What bothers / concerns / confuses you the most about _______? What are some of the ways we might respond to_______?

Causal Questions: Open-ended questions that don’t require a detailed or specific kind of response

What is your understanding of _______? What do you want to know about _______? What is the first thing you think about in relations to _______? What are some questions you have about_______? What is one image, scene, event, or moment from your experience that relates to_______?

Challenge Questions: Examine assumptions, conclusions and interpretations

What can we infer / conclude from_______? Does _______ remind you of anything? What principle do you see operating here? What does this help you explain _______? How does this relate to other experiences or things you already know?

Relational Questions: Ask for comparison of themes, ideas or issues

Do you see a pattern here? How do you account for _______? What was significant about _______? What connections do you see? What does _______ suggest to you? Is there a connection between what you’ve just said and what _______ was saying earlier?

Cause and Effect Questions: Ask for casual relationships between ideas, actions or events

How do you think _______ relates or causes _______? What are some consequences of_______? Where does _______ lead? What are some pros and cons of _______? What is likely to be the effect of _______?

Extension Questions: Expand the discussion

What do the rest of you think? How do others feel? What dod you find noteworthy about this comment? How can we move forward? Can you give some specific examples of_______? How would you put that another way?

Hypothetical Questions: Pose a change in the facts or issues

What if _______ were from a different _______, how would that change things? Would it make a difference if we were in a _______ society/culture? How might this dialogue be different if _______? What might happen if we were to _______? How might your life be different it _______?

Diagnostic Questions: Probe motives or causes

What brings you to say that? What do you mean? What led you to that conclusion?

Priority Questions: Seek to identify the most important issue

From all that we’ve talked about, what is the most important concept you see? Considering the different ideas in the room, what to you see as the most critical issue? What do you find yourself resonating with the most? If you had to pick just one topic to continue talking about, what would it be?

Process Questions: Elicit satisfactions / buy-in / interest levels

Is this where we should be going? How are people feeling about the direction of this dialogue? What perspectives are missing from this dialogue? Everyone has been _______ for a while, why? How would you summarize this dialogue so far? How might splitting into groups or pairs affect out discussion?

Analytical Questions: Seek to apply concepts or principles to a new or different situation

What are the main arguments for _______? What are the assumptions underlying _______? What questions arise for you as you think about _______? What implications does _______ have? (for _______?) Does this idea challenge or support what we’ve been talking about? How does this idea / contribution add to what has already been said?

Summary Questions: Elicit synthesis, what themes or lessons have emerged

Where are we? If you had to pick two themes from this dialogue, what would they be? What did you learn? What benefits did we gain today? What remains unresolved? How can we better process this? Based on our dialogue, what will you be thinking about after you leave? Let me see if I understand what we’ve talked about so far…What have I missed? Or, is this what I’ve heard so far…Does anyone have anything to correct or add?

Action Questions: Call for a conclusion or action

How can we use that information? What does this information say about our own action or lives? How can you adapt this information to make it applicable to you? How will you do things differently as a result of this meeting? What are out next steps? What kind of support do we need as we move forward? How does this dialogue fit into our bigger plans?

Evaluative Questions: Gauge emotions, anxiety levels, what is going well or not

Is there anything else you would like to talk about? How are you felling about this now? What was a high point for you? A low point? Where were you engaged? Disengaged? What excited you? Disappointed you?

Darlings, as with all things in life, learning to ask meaningful and thoughtful questions takes practice, consistency and continuity. It may come easy for some and difficult for others. The art of questioning is something we can also teach our young children, grand-children, nieces and nephews starting at an early age. The dinner table is a great place to talk to kids. The more skillful children become at asking questions, the more prepared they will be and the more engaging and well-rounded they will become as adults.

Here’s a fun activity (and you know how I love activities)…decide on a topic, pick some questions from each category, write/ print them on pieces of paper, and throw them into a bowl at dinner or other gatherings. So many families are working and learning from home and in front of screens these days, that actually shutting off phones or putting them away for a bit and engaging in conversations is greatly needed. And if you can do it outdoors, even better. Our eyes and brains need time away from our electronics!

More and more people these days are collecting phones and putting them in a basket or elsewhere during family / holiday dinners so that everyone can be more present with each other. This is a fantastic idea! The biggest gift we can give someone is our presence and undivided attention. Time is a currency that should be used wisely, don’t you think?

My wish is that we all engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations that offer us opportunities to look at things from different perspectives in an effort to see that, as a HUMAN race, we are more alike that we are different. All it takes is a little vulnerability, courage, strength and an open mind. Here’s to less talking and more asking!

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

All Black Lives Matter…no ifs, ands or buts

“The response of “All Lives Matter’ is not understanding that a social justice movement would not have to exist if all lives were treated as if they mattered equally.“  Sit. With. That.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States, recently wrote an extensive piece that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In it she writes: 

It has been more than 150 years since the white planter class last called up the slave patrols and deputized every white citizen to stop, question and subdue any black person who came across their paths in order to control and surveil a population who refused to submit to their enslavement. It has been 150 years since white Americans could enforce slave laws that said white people acting in the interest of the planter class would not be punished for killing a black person, even for the most minor alleged offense. These laws morphed into the black codes, passed by white Southern politicians at the end of the Civil War to criminalize behaviors like not having a job. Those black codes were struck down, then altered over the course of decades eventually transmuted into stop-and-frisk, broken windows and, of course, qualified immunity. The names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or have breached the social order has remained. In a country erected on the explicitly codified conviction that black lives mattered less, graveyards across this land hold the bodies of black Americans, men, women and children, legally killed by the institutional descendants of those slave patrols for alleged transgressions like walking home from the store with Skittles, playing with a toy gun in the park, sleeping in their homes and selling untaxed cigarettes.

Here it is, July 2020, and we continue to see case upon case where a black life has not mattered. There are thousand of names we’ll never know of- we only know of the ones that we’ve been made aware of over recent years thanks, in part, to social media. And despite all this, I still cannot believe how the phrase Black Lives Matters hits a nerve in some of us white people who are quick to point out that All Lives Matter. It’s pretty disheartening to see how twisted and defensive people can get,  given the 400 years that carefully crafted systems of racism and oppression have been dehumanizing, destroying, killing, incarcerating,  and inflicting racial wounds on people of color.

If we stop, feel, listen, be willing to become accountable for our own learning and unlearning, we will see see how saying “All Lives Matter” is a form of racism in and of itself. It’s called White Centering.

White centering is invisibilized and normalized. We can’t dismantle what we can’t see, so unless we consciously take an active part in learning, unlearning and trying to “get” it right (not “be” right), we will fail to see how these norms further marginalize and attempt to erase Black and Indigenous People of Color. That in itself is a deadly aspect of White Supremacy. 

Another dangerous aspect which is at the core of White Centering, White Fragility, White Superiority, White Privilege, White Silence and all matters dealing with racism, is this feeling of being “attacked” some of us white people feel when we are not ready to hold ourselves accountable for how our actions, behaviors, biases, prejudices, stereotypes and the internalized racism we were born into actually harm BIPOC.

We’ve become so accustomed and comfortable with looking away, letting others do the work, or looking at the world with our own set of White lenses, that we fail to see there’s something morally and consciously wrong with how we are personally perceiving equality and justice related issues. We’re unaware of our blindspots. Ultimately, we fail to see how this feeds into the hierarchy that White Supremacy upholds and, therefore, are just as quick to join the All Lives Matter caravan. Or, as we’ve all witnessed on many occasions, a whole lot of silence or spiritual bypassing ensues because God forbid we should feel “uncomfortable.” Remember darlings, silence is violence…as is Whitesplaining!

How have we become so numb to the violence? Are we truly comfortable with the numbness? How is that serving us? How is that serving our health and well-being? How is that serving our society, the world at large and future generations? What stories are we telling ourselves? How are they serving and honoring our ancestors and the work they did in the name of change? 

Change and growth are not comfortable. Trauma is not comfortable. Social Justice is not comfortable. Activism is not comfortable. Not getting it right is not comfortable. Speaking up is not comfortable.  Feeling frustrated is not comfortable. Constantly seeing BIPOC killed again and again should not be comfortable, acceptable or excusable!

If we were to stop, breathe and tune into our bodies every time we feel “uncomfortable” we will sense different things going on in our body and that’s because our nervous systems are on high alert. The nervous system is sensing for danger, the protective brain takes over,  and it’s ready to fight, flee or freeze. It’s important to take a pause here when in this state and check ourselves. Allow ourselves to feel. Allow our pre-frontal cortex to take over. Allow ourselves to question why we are feeling this way. Allow ourselves to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Allow ourselves to open our minds and hearts and  be willing to look through another set of lenses… that aren’t White Centered. 

Darlings, if there is anything that has become apparent as I continue to learn, unlearn and learn again and again these days, is that proclaiming to be a “good white person” is not enough today. This work we are being called to do is life-long work we need to commit to doing. While I’ve always been saddened  to see how some people aren’t committed to self- growth or aren’t willing to keep learning and evolving, I can now clearly see the harm those behaviors inflict on BIPOC when we are unwilling to take personal responsibility for our own anti-racism education. It’s White Apathy at its best! 

Instead, we white people have the audacity to feel “attacked” when asked to  be accountable for our antiracism education and grow in our understanding of White Supremacy and what dismantling it looks like. We become defensive, silent, or even put an end to the conversation. Why? Because God forbid we should feel uncomfortable! 

During this historic moment of our lives, one that will define what kind of white people we were for future generations, we are being asked to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. We are being asked to do things differently. We’re being asked to question everything. We are being asked to stop making excuses. We are being asked to engage. speak up, and have hard conversations amongst ourselves, our families, friends and co-workers. We are being asked to hold ourselves accountable for learning and unlearning. We are being asked to accept responsibility for being complicit when we didn’t even realize we were doing so. We are being asked to show up. We are being asked to disrupt our thinking and our behaviors in the name of racial equity.

We are being called to accept that anti-racism works starts with us, that is uncomfortable as hell and more complex that we  could have ever imagined. Failure to do any of these things just feeds White Supremacy. 

Those of you who know me, know that I’ve always turned towards the discomfort. For me, discomfort signals that change is needed. That growth is awaiting. This is a space of possibility, of expansion, vision and alchemy. I tend to thrive in this space. Being committed to life-long learning sets me on fire. It brings me joy. It shakes me up. It’s one of my passions. More importantly though, it humbles me because there’s so much I’m learning and want to learn.

How much time do I have left on this earth? I don’t want to squander it! I know I’m here to make a difference, and I’ve always taken that responsibility to heart. “How can I serve?” is a question I’m always asking myself. 

Darlings, as I noted in my previous blog, There is No Neutral, we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression that were intentionally created  to uphold white dominance. Whether we want to accept it or not, it is truth….an uncomfortable one albeit. Just remember, comfort is not the key here. We have a responsibility to humankind to sit in our own discomfort and unpack layer upon layer of uncomfortableness in the hopes of creating a better world for future generations.  

If after reading this blog you still don’t understand the All Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and continue to rally that “All Lives Matter,” I will leave you with the following, which has made its way around social media, in hopes that you will see through a different set of lenses:

  • When the Boston Marathon was bombed and everybody’s profile picture changed to “Boston Strong,” nobody said “All Cities are Strong.”
  • When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles to “Stand with Vegas.” Nobody said “Stand with Everywhere.”
  • Have you ever seen someone counter a breast cancer post with  “Wait, what about colon cancer?”
  • But for some reason if someone says “Black Lives Matter” it turns into an all inclusive “All Lives Matter,”
  • This is not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis, we have always rallied around that particular group/city/cause. It does not diminish any other group/city/cause, it just brings awareness and support where it is needed.
  • No one is saying all lives don’t matter, but right now our Black friends, families, colleagues, neighbors and strangers need our support. 

Are you willing to do the work? 

Darlings, I started my blog almost 3 years ago as a way to inspire, love and serve: hence, the name. I’ve always shared resources, practices, and tools that have gotten me through the darkest and most challenging times of my life and that have allowed me to be resilient in the face of adversity and hardship.  I’ve shared my stories, life experiences and wisdom gained and have always encouraged the reader to “take what you need and leave the rest.”  I will continue to share the work I’m engaged in and things I continue to learn or that call to me. I hope you stay along for the ride, that seeds of change continue to be planted, and that we all collectively and consciously work to create a better and just world for future generations.

May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts and minds wide open, JTC

PS- Shout out to all my friends, family and teachers who are holding spaces for us to dig deep, do the work and engage in difficult conversations. You inspire me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired Action

“You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control what happens through you.”  Carl Lentz

Greetings, darlings!

How are y’all doing? I don’t know about you, but I feel like the days, weeks and months are flying by since quarantining started back in March. I simply can’t believe it is already Memorial Day Weekend, can you?

What have y’all been up to? Have you found your groove? Are you feeling settled? Unsettled? Are you reacting from a place of fear, or responding from a place of love? Are you letting the times control you, or are you taking control of the times?

If there’s one thing that having a consistent meditation and yoga practice has done for me throughout this time is that it has kept me calm, peaceful, harmonious and inspired. Not much has changed on that front. I am very well aware of what I can or can’t control, the actions I consciously choose to take or not take as well as the thoughts and conversations I am willing to entertain. Ahhh…the power of discernment!

Our spiritual / emotional muscle is one that, when exercised regularly, really strengthens our resolve. It keeps us mentally stable and emotionally regulated. This is a time when our self-care practices need to take front and center stage. For me personally, self-care practices are key to being resilient, especially during trying, difficult or challenging times.

Needless to say, I have not veered from my non-negotiables (aka self-care practices). During this time of collective grief and loss, I am choosing to do all I can to keep my vibrational frequency high and to fill my little corner of the universe with positivity, encouragement, hope and inspiration. I am enjoying being engaged in deep conversations with some of my peeps who are also using this time creatively and purposefully and working the work of inner inquiry, growth, expansion and  transformation. I love hearing what they’re dreaming up and all the ideas they have “percolating” (my new favorite word that my friend Kat has been using).

Percolating. There’s no greater feeling than being in a state where you feel like you’re in an inspirational vortex of energy.  As I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the Sheri and Nancy Show, Sheri referred to this inspirational vortex as “being in the quantum soup.” I just love that too and can so relate!

We all have the ability to tap into these higher dimensional frequencies. However, the one precursor for doing so is that we catch ourselves and stop with the complaining, negativity and all the doom and gloom jargon. The only purpose that serves is to attract more doom, gloom and negativity. It’s a mindfulness practice to catch ourselves when we’re veering off course and course-correct. Remember, energy flows where attention goes!

In my humble opinion, I feel these are times we must be impeccable with our thoughts,  actions and with what we bring forth to offer.  Imagine if we all took responsibility for the energy we are bringing to those around us and to the energy we are releasing into the collective. Hmmmm…What is your energetic offering?

Only we can control what happens through us. Only we can determine what inspired action to take. Only we can make the decision to shift from barely surviving to gloriously thriving. Only we can shift from reacting to responding. Only we can reframe what is happening “to us” to what is happening “for us.” Only we can hold ourselves accountable for the ways in which we choose to show up during these times of uncertainty. And if there’s anything we know, it’s that we all show up differently because we are each uniquely different and we are all on our own path to self-realization.

This isn’t a competition by any means. This is about our own individual lifestyles, behavior patterns and habits of mind, how they play out in our lives and how they influence the conscious (or unconscious) choices we make and the actions we take.

I’ve chosen to be pretty proactive during this time of quarantining. Since the sheltering at home started, I have made sure to show up for myself each and every day. I’ve even upped some of my practices. So please indulge me as I attempt to document what the past few months have entailed. And full transparency here…I am not boasting nor bragging. It’s just that if I ever feel the need to reference what I did during this period, a blog post is easier to find than looking through a stack of journals.

When the quarantine started, I had a few books that I had recently purchased- The Beautiful No; A Year of Yes; Untamed; A Gift of Forgiveness; and More Myself. I loved and devoured them all in no time. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good book. Especially non-fiction books filled with good story telling and a healthy dose of inspiration. I save juicy and trashy ones for beach reading. Podcasts have also accompanied me on many walks.

Once all the non-essential establishments closed and yoga studios started zooming classes, I joined the ranks of those taking livestream classes. I am sort of amazed that I just completed my 80th consecutive livestream class.  Not skipping a day, and even doubling up on classes now and then, has served me well. I’m working my yoga practice and, in turn, my yoga is definitely working me. Peace. Calm. Tranquil. Centered. Grounded. Inspired.

In addition to my regular meditation, prayer and gratitude practice, I found this lovely meditation by Nadav, on Insight Timer that I keep telling everyone about. It’s called Lokah- Mantra for Happiness, Health & Freedom. And it repeats 108 times. His voice is beautiful and peaceful as is the melody. More commonly known as Lokah Samastah Sukino Bavantu, this mantra basically translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy and free.” There’s something very peaceful and fulfilling in sending these vibrational wishes out into the universe. I have been doing this meditation in the early mornings and before going to sleep at night. It has been a real source of comfort for me.

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen and have gotten very creative with some of my dishes. What can I say? I’m a foodie, so I don’t mind cooking. Having said that, I do miss my occasional breakfast, lunch or dinner out with my girls. But after cooking everyday for the past 2+ months, I have finally started doing curbside pick up once or twice a week. And I am now entertaining partaking in responsible physical distancing in small gatherings with two or three other people.

As we’ve all witnessed, social media and the internet have been overflowing with course offerings of all kinds- some free and others reduced or on a sliding scale. The lifelong learner in me has been taking full advantage of things that call to me. The way I see it is that we can never go wrong with investing in ourselves!

The free Off the Mat Leadership Summit was just finishing up when the quarantine started. Since then, I completed  The Return of the Priestess Summit; Dr. Melody Moore’s Self Approval Summit; Seane Corn’s The Yoga of Awakening workshop; Hala Khouri’s Yoga for Self-Regulation and Trauma course; and Ashley Turner’s Resilience Summit.

A couple of my friends also participated in some of these, so it was nice to be able to expand and delve deeper into our conversations around what we were learning, the organizations the presenters founded and/or are involved in, the work they are doing and how they are living a life of purpose.  We also got lots of free resources from them as well (and a list of recommended books, available programs and other resources to consider). The next round of books waiting to be read are The Body Keeps Score- Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma; Waking the Tiger- Healing Trauma; Me and White Supremacy- Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor and The Success Principles Workbook.

These books will support the next leg of my journey. My next endeavor is the Level One training I signed up for with Little Flower Yoga that will enable me to teach yoga and other mindfulness practices to children and adolescents aged 3-18. Let’s just say I heard the calling in meditation one morning and, when you hear the voice, you don’t ignore it! It was clear as a bell, and then all sorts of synchronicities followed. 

Then I looked back to the physical traumas (accidents, falls, surgeries, disabilities) I’ve had in my life, my 33+ years as an educator in an at-risk school district where trauma, violence, abuse and crisis was an every day part of many of the students’ lives and how I was always involved in student and staff support services to the point where, when I became a school administrator, I was the educational leader in charge of support services.  Crisis intervention was a daily thing most days. In looking back, I see the call to volunteer in an orphanage or group foster home and perhaps with children who may have physical disabilities very clearly. Divine Alignment. Vortex of Energy. Quantum Soup. Inspired Action. 

Speaking of inspired action, I am in awe of the many people and boots on the ground organizations doing so much good and providing much needed services as well as opportunities to be of service. They are all a source of deep inspiration! This is a time we are all being called to serve in our own unique way….but we can only do so at our best if and when we put the oxygen mask on first. 

Being a HUGE self-care advocate, I’ve often referred to self-care practices as my non-negotiables. So, in addition to yoga, prayer, meditation, music / mantra, reading, self-study,  and nutritious food, I’ve been making sure I get my sleep, silent time, and time away from my phone. I drink plenty of water, juice regularly, take all my supplements, get out in nature, work out a little each day, slather on the lotions and potions, work with essential oils, treat myself to fresh flowers, and even allow myself some PJ mornings in bed. There have been many a day I’ve been called to rest, and that’s good too! Our bodies are always talking to us, so it’s wise to listen. Listen and feel. Then take right action. And sometimes, right action may look like doing nothing at all.

Phone calls, FaceTime and/or zoom calls and celebrations with friends have provided that sense of connection that we as humans need. Making sure to reach out to friends or people I haven’t spoken to in a while is important to me. And I’m so grateful for the people who’ve called to check in on me. We are wired to connect and, as a species, we are interdependent. If there is anything we are all learning through this time of physical distancing is that it’s not about the “I/Me” but the “We/Us.”

As I reflect on these times we’re all experiencing, and other times in my life when I’ve been resilient, I’m thankful that I have the practices and a toolbox crammed with resources to tap into. These practices and resources have always allowed me to take accountability for my life, establish healthy boundaries, call upon my inner fortitude, embrace change, live fearlessly, do hard things, deal with loss and grief, be bold and unapologetic about some of my choices and move through life happily, positively, optimistically and with an attitude of gratitude. And whether you realize it or not, You have a resilience muscle that you’ve engaged when tough times have come calling for you. Now is as good a time as ever to think about that.

So… as a way to thank you for entertaining this personal “documentation” of sorts, I would like to share a brief self-inquiry practice you can do if you feel like you could use a little inspired actionIt’s one that was offered to me at one of the Resilience Summit’s sessions.

Before doing so though, I invite you to maybe light a candle, burn a little incense or maybe even burn a little sage or palo santo to clear your space of any stagnant or unwelcome energy. Have a piece of paper or a journal nearby and something with which to write…a pen, pencil, colored pencils, gel pens, markers….whatever floats your boat. You may also decide you want some soothing music in the background. Get comfortable, close your eyes if it feels safe to do so, take 4-5 deep breaths, exhaling slowly, then return to your regular breathing,

Take a moment to look at the following questions then, when you are ready, close your eyes again and ask yourself the questions:

  • What does resilience mean to me?
  • How does it look like?
  • How does it feel?
  • What are the qualities I possess that I feel are resilient?
  • What are my strongest qualities?
  • What are the qualities that I actually want to build within myself?

After sitting with these questions for a bit, contemplate the following:

  • Remember a time (or the last time) you had to be resilient. Take yourself back to that time and place. And when you recall that place, remember what it felt like to be resilient, to tap into that inner strength, or that place of wisdom / inner knowing. 
  • What were your tools?
  • How did you move through whatever obstacle, challenge or difficulty you were facing?
  • How did you overcome the obstacle, challenge or difficulty? 

When you are ready, open your eyes and START WRITING. When you feel that you have written all that there is to write, ask yourself:

  • How can I move towards what strengthens me?
  • How can I move away from what weakens me? (These can be people, places, situations, thoughts, activities, habits, etc.) and write some more.

At some point, you may also want to consider documenting your own version of what this period of sheltering at home or working on the frontlines has looked like for you, especially if you have young children, grandchildren or maybe even for future generations. We are living through unprecedented times. But just like past generations of our resilient ancestors, we, too, will get through this and move towards a new world.

Darlings, when the going gets tough, we must rely on our tools. We must use them. Embody them. There will always be things we can’t control, but our tools will always help us in responding to them in a way that serves us…and in deciding how we chose to move through whatever happens. So let’s decide to move through these times with patience, much needed positivity, grace, fierce determination, inner fortitude, loving-kindness, and a heart wide open. 

Here’s to us and to our skillfulness, capabilities and resourcefulness…Stay calm and percolate on! JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planting New Seeds: Inspiration for Tumultuous Times

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

Greetings, my darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a time to:

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

Some affirmations that could be helpful in this time:

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

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

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

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

Lovin’ on YOU

“The most desired human emotion, love, is the energy of the heart and soul that brings balance, harmony, and healing.” David Elliot

Greetings darlings, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I’m such a love and gratitude junkie that this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s not that I need a particular holiday to celebrate love and be loving. That’s an everyday activity in my book!

Living with a heart wide open and loving wildly, fiercely and passionately is, in my book, a non-negotiable. As David Elliot writes in his book, Healing, love expands and uplifts you when felt and expressed. When you feel love you feel connected to all things through your heart. Isn’t that the truth?

Yet, there are many out there who do not approach life and love from this vantage point. People are disconnected from their hearts, minds are fearful and closed off, and emotions are locked away somewhere deep down inside. I was recently listening to a meditation that stated the biggest journey we will ever take is the journey within. Now that is the absolute truth!

It is only when we journey within that we start to peel away the layers of feelings and emotions that have kept us stuck, sick and block us from truly living with a heart wide open. This journey to the self is one of self love. It’s sweet and painful. Revolutionary and transforming. Poignant and profound.

Darlings, the most important relationship we will ever have is that with our Self. It may sound cliche-ish to some, but it’s radically true. Just think about it for a moment- if we do not love ourselves, how can we love another??? And I mean truly love- the kind that is unconditional and one where we’re connected by our values, integrity, differences, and similarities just the same. And not just in a romantic sense either.

If there’s one thing I’m a big proponent of, and advocate for, is radical self love (and self-care).

What does radical self love look like to you?

How do you love yourself?

In what ways are you unloving to yourself ?

These questions can start you on “lovin’ on YOU” in more ways than you can imagine. Once we crack that door and let the light seep in, we’ve taken the first step towards spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being. After all, we are the guardians of our soul and our one precious life in this lifetime. Loving yourself is our responsibility. It doesn’t fall onto anyone else. It’s solely ours!

Part of my Valentine’s gift to myself was coming to Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA for their R&R program. You can do as much or as little as you want and select from numerous daily classes, workshops, and activities. There’s also various healing arts and services that are available should you want to pamper yourself even more so.

In their own words, “Kripalu envisions an awakened, connected, and compassionate world in which all people and communities are empowered to realize their full potential for the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga. Presence, Inquiry, Practice, Compassion, Integrity, and Service are behaviors that positively impact how we manage ourselves, how we treat each other, and how we interact and connect.” What a way to live and love!

As I read and reread the above, it’s ever so clear that all of that starts with our own journey within. Once we show up for ourselves, we can show up for others- in a healthy, meaningful and more sustainable way.

So…on this beautiful, sunny day in the Berkshires, I’m going to share with you my little takeaway from yesterday’s arrival at Kripalu. It’s their Guidelines for Self and Community Care which I think are beautiful ways to live and love…. ourselves and others!

Be present to your own body, mind, and heart. The felt sense of your own inner experience is at the root of your well-being and ability to serve the community.

Inquire into your habits. Notice impulses and behavior that are not fully aligned with your highest intentions. Your words and behavior impact your own experience, the experience of others, and the environment we create together.

 Explore new ways of caring for and expressing yourself. Allow this time to include the potential discomfort of learning something new.

Be kind to yourself and others. Each one of us is learning, growing and doing the best we can in any given moment. Embrace the opportunity for supported growth.

Demonstrate integrity by speaking and acting your truth respectfully and compassionately. Our community flourishes as each of us brings forth what is within. Our shared stories and experiences foster community and connection.

Darlings, my wish for you is that you ALWAYS take the time to be present with yourself, dive deeply into your heart, listen to the wisdom of the heart, and shower yourself with compassion and loving awareness. And…remember…it is always a practice!

Here’s to Lovin’ on YOU!

Lead with Love…always and in all ways, JTC