Who Inspires You?

“If you want to inspire the world, first inspire yourself.” -Scooter Braun

The times we are living in are catastrophic to say the least. But as we all know, we have to go through dark times to then emerge into the light again….refreshed, renewed, recommitted and with a sense of intention, empowerment, purpose, ambition and drive.  These are the times that bring about change. These are the times we seek inspiration, vision, guidance and all sorts of motivation and practices that will keep us grounded, focused, centered and calm. These are the times that are calling out for us. These are the times we must get clear on our priorites. These are the times we can look to the people who inspire us.

In today’s technological world, we have instant gratification at our fingertips. We have a world of inspiration to tap into if we take the time. We don’t have to look very far to surround ourselves with inspiring beings who can guide and motivate us to make whatever changes we seek to make in our lives, in our communities, and in the world.

As I was looking for inspiration for this blog, I came across this quote by Karen Marie Moning: “Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”  

There is a Spanish saying that probably all Cuban mothers used to tell their kids (especially daughters): “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.” This usually came on the heels of your mother not liking whomever’s company you were keeping. It pretty much translates to something like tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are. The modern-day version, “Your vibe attract your tribe” succinctly sums it up.

Like I said, we don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days. Between all the social media platforms, You-Tube, TED talks, webinars, on-line courses, seminars, forums, blogs, classes at local libraries, high schools and community centers, we can scoop up valuable content and insight in just minutes. And let’s not forget the art of reading good books, book clubs and other types of groups/clubs as well. If there is something we like, we can most certainly form a group and talk about everything and anything. Just remember the snacks…wink, wink!

It’s much easier to get through dark and troubled times when we have people who can help us navigate the rocky road we are on. Connecting and spending time with “like-minded” individuals who are positive, enlightened, forward thinkers, and exemplary role models afford us opportunities to learn how they’ve gotten through tough times, how they’ve become successful and perhaps whom they have sought our for inspiration. Turning to our faith, religious and spiritual thought leaders, mystics, astrologers, coaches, therapists and visionaries alike also provide us with “wisdom of the sages and for the ages.”

In one of my early blogs, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I referred to these people in my personal life as “my spiritual board of directors.” The members on my spiritual board of directors are the people whose works I turn to and who I seek to be like. These are the people who inspire me each and every day. Who inspires you?

  • Who can you turn to during your darkest and most challenging times?
  • Who helps you up when you have been brought down to your knees?
  • Who gives you the strength to forge ahead when the road is rocky or uncertain? 
  • Is there an enlightened being you would like to emulate?
  • If so, make a list of their qualities you would like to emulate.
  • List the ways you could practice those enlightened qualities on a daily basis.

These questions are a good place to start.  I will also leave you with further key questions that were included in my aforementioned blog. The questions were from a  global seminar that was facilitated by Craig Hamilton, the founder of Integral Enlightenment. These questions  help us to further identify the people who will accelerate and support our awakening and evolution. Remember, if we want to inspire the world, we must first inspire ourselves.

  • Of everyone I know, with whom can I really be myself?
  • Among all my friends, family and colleagues, who truly shares my deepest values and highest spiritual aspiration?
  • Do I have any social structures in my life where I feel free to stretch myself – and my relationships- beyond my comfort zone?
  • Is there someone in my life who presents me with healthy challenges and encourages healthy risks, rather than being afraid to “rock the boat” with me? Someone I trust to stand up to me with pure intentions and care for my own betterment and that of our shared higher ideals?
  • If a number of people come to mind, count yourself among the fortunate. Then, arrange with your newly identified “evolutionary partners” to begin creating a conscious container for ongoing growth and shared inquiry.

Did Ihear you say conscious container? These are the groups, forums and circles we form that help us to deal as well as heal. The groups / people we turn to when we feel like we are drowning and need a lifeline. The friends with whom we can laugh, cry and celebrate. The enlightened beings with whom we can have transformational interactions. The conscious container that will hold the enlightened being we are evolving into.

When we are living from a place of awakening, evolution, enlightenment, and willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone, we are better able to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. We are better able to have clarity of mind. We are better able to have transformational conversations. We are better able to come up with solutions. In a nutshell, we are better able to engage from a place of higher awareness.

Soooooooo….given the profound and tumultuous times we are living in, the stress and trauma we are all witnessing on SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS, and across all party lines, I cannot emphasize  the importance of having a community, a group, or a tribe who will hold a sacred space for us to reveal ourselves, our emotions, our hurts, our traumas, our darkness, our struggles and our desires without judgement. Pure unconditional acceptance and support….period.

Here’s to living an inspired life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing the Jewel Inside

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” Pema Chodron

Why is it that self-care and self-love are so easy for some and difficult and challenging for others? Why is it that we can easily see and name it when we look at other people’s regimen and practices, regardless of how much they have on their plates, yet can’t muster up the courage and honesty to treat our Selves gently and lovingly?

Where do you fall in the scheme of things, my darling? Are you busy pondering the “how,” “when,” and “why” to the point of mental exhaustion, or are you proactive and loving to yourself and dedicated to your self-care / self-love practices?

Do you realize you are a jewel that needs the polishing and care that only YOU can bestow upon your Self? Are you giving your Self away? Are you fatigued? Frustrated? Angry? Lethargic? If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then allow me to ask you, “Why?” And spare me the excuses…wink, wink! Let’s just keep it real.

Speaking of excuses, as I enter this new decade, one of my new favorite quotes is by Daryl McDaniels (you may remember him for his hip-hop legacy and group Run-DMC). I read the quote in his memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, and it says, “Excuses don’t explain and explanations don’t excuse.”  How freakin’ GREAT is that???? I am applying it to so many areas of my life these days! First and foremost, I am done with giving excuses and, secondly, I don’t care to listen to other people’s BS excuses any longer. Why ? As the quote says, excuses don’t explain and explanations don’t excuse. It’s plain and simple! Essentially, where there is a will, there is a way. More importantly, love will find the way…..as in self-love!

So, back you…the precious jewel that you are. The one who gives, nurtures and takes care of everyone, and the one who makes sure everyone’s needs are met. The one who will go above and beyond…yes, to the point of exhaustion, fatigue and then some. You are precious! You are needed! You have special gifts to share with the world! You have a responsibility to honor, cherish, and protect the gift of life you have been given! You can put down the heavy lifting. Be done with the struggle. Let go of whatever is weighing you down. Release what / who is not serving your highest good. Forget about who thinks what of you. Be you. Do you!

We need to take all that energy, angst, stress, and discomfort and throw it all away. Let it go, release it, acknowledge we are not perfect AND yet perfectly flawed. We are all unique and precious and must courageously, honestly, gently and lovingly treat our Selves that way. We need to hold our Selves in our loving arms and live…..live joyously, peacefully, and happily without the unnecessary demands we put on our lives. It’s a movement we must all be part of and support each other on. Furthermore, we need to hold ourselves, and each other, accountable in doing so. It’s really quite simple when you think about it.

Currently, there is a Spirit Voyage Global Sadhana going on, and Jai Jagdeesh (love her music by the way) is the featured person who posts daily messages and leads the participants in chanting, movement, meditation and stillness. Her message the other day,  which one of my beloved teachers shared in class, speaks to the topic of self-love and self-care perfectly. Her words are so eloquent, that I must share them with you in hopes of inspiring you to look inside and reassess You, your motives, habits, practices, priorities, needs and desires. I can plant a seed of intention, but YOU must do the watering! First though, please take a moment to center yourself BEFORE reading the following:

They say, “With love all things are possible.” I would add the words “self” and “sweet” to make it: With Self-love, all Sweet things are possible.” When we cherish ourselves, taking the time to treasure all that we are and carve space for all that we are becoming, there is no limit to the sweetness we can create. When rested, our minds are limitless. When heeded, our hearts flood us with courage. When loved, TRULY loved by WE OURSELVES, our bodies can rise to any occasion. We can do the work we were born to do easily, joyfully, sweetly. Limitless luminosity, all available to bless the earth.

Beautiful, or what? Inspiring? Motivating? Affirming? Is your heart open? Is your soul speaking to you? Is it crying out to you? How’s your breathing? Are you breathing, or are you holding your breath? How is your posture? Are you relaxed, or are your shoulders scrunched up by your ears? Is your heart open, or is it closed?

You may want to take a few moments to just sit and be still, re-read the words, and connect with the emotions it brings up and the sensations you feel in your body. Breathe into all of it. Inhale and exhale deeply. Hold it all. No judgement….just be the witness to whatever arises without engaging in it. Know you are being held, supported, and loved. When you feel the need to move, do so. You may even want to take a few moments to journal about your experience.  The important thing is that you were courageous and took a moment to look inside. And remember, it’s all good!

My wish for us all is that we always make the time to listen to the whispers of our souls in order to better see the valuable and luminous jewel inside AND live our brilliance!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

Let Your Love Shine

“Do not chase love, choose love. Do not need love, share love. Do not fear love, embrace love. Do not seek love, become love.” -Creig Crippen

Darlings, this will be the last blog for the month of February, and it brings us to the conclusion of Ten Thoughts for Whole Living. I hope that, over the course of these past several weeks, you’ve found Ten Thoughts useful in some way, shape or form. I am a firm believer in that whatever we need shows up at precisely the time we need it most. Like the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” This is one of my favorite quotes that I’ve learned to love and embrace over the years!

Don’t be fooled though, the teacher isn’t always a person. Many times the teacher could be horrible working conditions, unimaginable horrors, tragedies, world events, social injustices, atrocities,….and the list goes on. And, unless we are behind closed doors with someone, we never know exactly what they are going through at that particular moment in time. As a matter of fact, I am still blown away when someone shares how a particular blog was exactly what they needed on a given day. It’s serves as a reminder that everyone is fighting their own battle. Most times, we would not know that from looking at someone, especially if they are faking it until they make it. Sometimes, all we can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one breath and one moment at a time…..and let our love shine!

That is why it is so important to nurture ourselves with love. Stressful times call for stressful measures. Measures that soothe our soul, excite our spirits and give us hope. Hope that we will come out the other end standing taller than before. When we love and nurture ourselves, we can handle the tough times a little easier. It’s a skill we’ve cultivated along the way. We’ve learned to laugh out loud, with others and at ourselves. It brings a little fun into our lives, and we can all use more fun and laughter!

So on this last day in February, I leave you with the last of Ten Thoughts on Whole Living. I hope they’ve enriched the quality of your life and your love of Self!

  • Stress can push your internal resources to the breaking point. Make time to unwind.
  • Your core supports the whole body. Explore ways to keep it strong.
  • Just because a task is important doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
  • Missteps are part of any process. Stay focused on where you’re headed.
  • Cultivate the art of knowing when to move on.
  • Don’t shrug off compliments; honor and remember them.
  • Resist the urge to overanalyze every experience. Live each moment instead.
  • Generous acts are more than simple gestures. They’re a way of life.
  • Let pleasure expand your perspective.
  • Make this the day you stop dreaming and start doing.

Darlings, remember to choose, share, and embrace love… and let your love shine!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

Hello Love

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart” – Confucius

Hello Loves! Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing Ten Thoughts on Whole Living with you. I believe that each one of those thoughts / affirmations / power statements are ways we can treat ourselves with a little more tender loving care. They are ways for us to open the door and say, “Hello Love” in ways that no one else can do for us. Why? Because we are the ones holding ourselves accountable.

When we become accountable to ourselves and for the love we give ourselves, a major shift occurs in our psyches, body language, actions and outlook on life. We become more grounded, confident, skillful, vibrant, jovial, aware, alive and have a zest for life….joie de vivre!  No one, or nothing, can disturb our peace regardless of whatever madness is hovering above and waiting to make landfall. There is a sense of steadfastness and undisturbed equanimity that come with loving ourselves and owning it. At least that’s how I can personally best describe it.

We’ve all looked for love in the wrong places. Why? Because society and consumerism have brainwashed us into thinking that love is something we can only find outside ourselves…like lasting happiness and peace. We now know better. We have the tools, practices, resources and life experiences to show us the way back to our true Self. THIS is where love resides…..Hello Love!

We are now better equipped and more knowledgable than our parents, grand-parents and past generations. We’ve learned to fall, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and forge ahead. And no one better stand in our way! Like the saying goes, “Everything you need to know is already inside of you.” Now THAT is something I wish I would have told my younger self!

Here are some more Ten Thoughts on Whole Living that you can explore, work with, act on, and use along your journey. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.” Can I get an Amen?

  • When you commit your dreams to paper, you give them a place to take root.
  • Be mindful of where you put your attention. The shape of your life will follow.
  • When you view your health as a non-negotiable, your priorities naturally shift.
  • Positive change starts with truth, and no one knows it better than you.
  • You’re more than just what you do for others.
  • Before you react to an emotion, first consider the source.
  • Learning to let go begins with understanding why you’ve been hanging on.
  •  Do more than understand stress reduction; put it into practice.
  • There’s no way to grow without taking a few risks.
  • Setting boundaries doesn’t keep others out. It defines where your life begins.

Carry on darlings!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

 

 

Finding Your Passion

“What lights you up more fervently than anything else in your life? Listen to whatever immediately comes to you – these are the signs leading you to your true passion, your heartfelt desire and ultimately, your destiny”  -Desire & Destiny Meditation Series

 

Some of the things that show up in our lives aren’t all warm and fuzzy. These are the hard lessons that oftentimes break us open, bring us to our knees and leave us in an extremely vulnerable state. A state that can be such a blessing when all is said and done. It’s been my experience that the more I’ve been brought to my knees, and have been broken open, the more that my heart expands and blossoms. Being in that vulnerable space allows for our hearts to blossom like a ten thousand petal lotus. It also takes those times for us to stop and listen to what our heart is trying to tell us.

Such times tend to lead us toward greater opportunities and are meant for us to find what sets our souls on fire. It makes us ask questions like: What are my gifts and talents?What brings me joy? What excites me? What do I have the most fun doing? Where do I feel like I belong? What makes me come to life? What makes me feel like I am being of service? How can I serve? And, what is at the bottom of all these questions? It’s passion. Passion is what drives us to be the very best we can be. It’s our soul expressing itself through our intention. It’s that spark in our eyes, the skip in our step and the opportunities that allow us to shimmer and shine.

Unfortunately, there will be people in our lives who may attempt to extinguish our light as a result of their notions of what we “should” be doing. Other times, our internal dialogue will keep us from living our passion because of the stories we have created for ourselves. Part of the journey is looking at those stories as well as the situations and circumstances that have broken us open and ask ourselves, “What is this situation here to teach me?” I always say there are lessons and blessings to be found in each challenging moment. They may not look like what we may have imagined, but they are lessons nevertheless.

When we do what we are passionate about, our dreams, desires and successes come to fruition. We feel alive when we do what we love. We feel aligned, productive, and creative. We don’t feel like we are working. It feels more like fun!

If we aren’t having fun doing what we love, then we must examine our situation. We’ve all had experiences where the thought of going to work the next day was sickening. How about constantly getting sick on the job (and boy can I speak to that)!?!?! Or feeling like our life energy is slowly being drained from us? Is this a way to shower ourselves with love? Obviously not, but it certainly is a way to get our attention!

These situations allow us to determine what we are no longer willing to compromise. And it usually boils down to our health, well-being and quality of life. We cannot put a dollar amount on our mental, physical and spiritual well-being. What we can do, is live our passion – for it will most definitely lead us to our calling. It may not all happen at once but, taking the initial steps of determining and following what our hearts and souls are tugging at us to do, will always put us on the right path. We are telling the universe that we are ready!

For many of us, the second half of our lives presents us with the opportunity to do redefine ourselves and how we want to live out this time in our lives. Our life experiences and wisdom have brought us to a place where we no longer do anything we do not want to do. It’s a time where we want to focus more on being of service in ways that only we can do via our unique creative expression of who we are. It’s a time in our lives where we’ve learned what happens when we don’t take care of ourselves and the importance self-love, self-care and self-respect play in all facets of our existence.

So darlings, to keep us in a constant state of showering ourselves with love and affection, I leave you with another dose of Ten Thoughts on Whole Living. When we take the time to pause, breathe and shift some of our thoughts and actions, magic tends to happen!

  • Rather than muscle through your day, take a moment to breathe and go with the flow.
  • Personal growth is a winding path. Expect to revisit the same issues and the same mistakes.
  • Empower your decisions and your self-esteem by learning to say no.
  • Tune into your sense of smell. It connects you to your emotions and your health.
  • Surrender isn’t about giving up. It’s about letting go.
  • Listen to your body; it knows what it needs most.
  • Balance is self-improvement with self-acceptance.
  • Invest in your work space. Inspiration and fresh ideas bloom in a positive atmosphere.
  • Use your vacation as an opportunity to engage your creative side.
  • In everything you do, align your actions with your personal philosophy.

Here’s to keeping the passion and the magic flowing!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

Start Wherever You Are

“You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed, so is your destiny.” -The Upanishads

Wherever YOU are…not where someone “thinks” you should be, how long it should take you to “be there” or doing what THEY deem is the “appropriate” thing for you to be doing. Just be…..BE YOU, in all your glory, divinity and magnificence! How about just making and taking the time meet your Self  and start wherever you are?

I recall the first time I decided to do just that: take the time to meet my Self…really meet myself and decide who I was. It was the first time I had decided to be in a relationship with me. Invest in Me. Become intimate with my Self. Explore my life. Assess my assets and re-assess my core values. Take a hard look at my core beliefs. Examine how I was living, breathing, eating and conducting myself. Trust me when I say this did NOT sit well with some people.

You see, that’s what often happens when we break free from the status quo and break from the mundane,  the routine, jump off the stressful carousel of life and look for ways to come back to our Self. It’s what we do when we want to live a deeper, more meaningful life. It’s work that some people may be uncomfortable doing because it brings about a certain level of change. Let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable around the face of change! Others may just not “get it” because they are on a totally different path or have a very different level of awareness. We may even find others who feel the need to poke fun at us…..and it may even be a family member. Regardless, we shouldn’t let any of that take us from going on whatever life exploration journey we feel called to go on.

Little did I know the life journey I was about to embark on when I took my first step onto a yoga mat. Little did I know the changes that were awaiting me. Little did I know how life-altering a yoga practice would be. Little did I know how expansive my mind, body and soul would become. Little did I know how I was about to enrich my life. Little did I know of the impact that yoga philosophy would have on my life, values and core beliefs. Little did I know that I was going to have the most fulfilling soulful relationship of my life. Little did I know how peaceful and happy my life would be. Little did I know how critical, judgmental or weary some people could be when we are living a life that doesn’t mirror theirs. Not that it mattered to me because there is only one person I need to be accountable for, and that person is Me. At the end of the day, we are the only person that matters. How we love and honor ourselves should be the one investment we are all committed to making…always and in all ways!

However, at the time I was embarking on this journey, I didn’t have the words to accurately describe the how, when, what, when and why I was undergoing this change. All I knew was that it was the ultimate form of self-love and ecstasy I could have ever imagined. I felt like I had come home to my Self. When I finally did find the words, it was magical!

That’s what happens when we meet ourselves…really meet ourselves for the first time. It requires us to put and end to all that external and internal chatter and criticism and own our authenticity, bravery and courage. I can’t think of a better way to meet our date with destiny than choosing to own our truth, authenticity, bravery, courage, divinity, fiercelesness, grace and vulnerability! Oh yes, and with a sense of awe, adventure, magic and openness to the infinite possibilities, love and abundance that is always available to us.

Darlings, when we take full-on responsibility for who we are in the face of scrutiny, you will not believe how it stops some people dead in their tracks. There is this one woman I know who, whenever I would see her (which wasn’t often), would always insist on asking if I was dating anyone and why I was not doing so. Well, when I finally felt comfortable enough in my skin, owned my truth, bravery, courage, and found the precise mindful words…..it shut her right up. Now, I wasn’t a bitch or anything. Remember, it’s all in the delivery. I am a firm believer that we should always speak our truth kindly, clearly, calmly and compassionately… and with a smile. I recall feeling so at home when I said something like, “I AM in a relationship with me. I AM taking the time to fall in love with me.”  Yep, it was priceless, and she was speechless….and has never brought up the subject again. Period. The End!

So my darlings, let’s continue showering ourselves with some good lovin’… Ten Thought on Whole Living sets the stage for us to do just that. These thoughts allow us to meet ourselves where we are, open our minds to new ways of thinking and being, and give us new ideas and practices that allow us to approach our life, our self-love and self-care in more mindful, enriching and enlightening ways. Here are some more Ten Thoughts for you to consider:

  • When you believe in an abundant universe, your world feels more plentiful.
  • A healthy diet is about how you prepare, not just choose, your food.
  • Walk, run, dance, and jump a little every day.
  • Explore your inner adventurer. Try things that excite you.
  • Sustainable living goes beyond a single action; it requires a shift in our philosophy.
  • Your limitations aren’t flaws; They are opportunities to cultivate self-kindness.
  • Think of smarter, greener ways to stay warm and dry this winter.
  • The most motivating thoughts spring from gratitude.
  • Become aware of what you are eating…and why.
  • A resolution isn’t what you “should” do; it’s a chance to move your life forward.

Start wherever you are, and come home to You.. to your mind, body and spirit…it is the most important date you can ever have! Finding my Self was my deepest desire. What’s yours?

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

Conscious Self-Love

“Everything in life is most fundamentally a gift. And you receive it best and you live it best by holding it with very open hands.”  – Leo O’ Donovan

We are each a gift. Our presence in this lifetime is a gift to those around us. When we stand in that knowingness, in our power, see it, feel it, smell it, taste it and embody it wholeheartedly, we are in alignment with our essential being. We are better able to honor our role in this cosmic carnival of life. We are better able to embrace our life, take juicy bites out of it, celebrate it and be more conscious of the love, affection and attention we first give ourselves. Showering ourselves with conscious self-love is an intentional act!

So, as we continue moving through this love-filled month, a month that I hope is filled with radical self-love for all of us, I will continue sharing with you Ten Thoughts on Whole Living. If you missed my previous blog, Radical Self Love, I encourage you to check it out before going any further so that you will know the focus of my writings throughout this month.

  • Forgiveness is more that a one-time choice; it’s a whole approach to living.
  • Develop a consciousness of your body. You’ll more effectively maintain balance.
  • Make your workout anything but routine.
  • Embrace the full spectrum of energy, from charged-up thrills to moments of calm.
  • Family traditions are a screed practice- they affirm our deepest values.
  • The best gifts are infused with intention.
  • Sometimes the situations that make you most vulnerable offer the greatest rewards.
  • True beauty can’t be applied from the outside; it must emerge from within.
  • Think simpler. Less fuss equals less waste.
  • Living well requires a focus on the present, not just a promise for tomorrow.

As we read these thoughts on whole living, we can examine how they each play out in our lives. We can think of ways we embody these practices. Some may stand out more than others. Perhaps some strike a chord. We can look at the feelings that arise as we read them, and take some time to sit with these feelings, name them, and describe them.

The more we honor the gift of our life, and everything else that shows up in our life as the divine gift that it is, the more we will be able to fully embrace our greatness and be more conscious of the love, affection and attention we first give ourselves. It’s never to late to start….the point is to start wherever we are.

Approach the act of conscious self-love as the most intimate relationship you will ever have….Enjoy and savor every moment!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

Radical Self-Love

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

Greetings, darlings! Since my last two blogs dealt with relationships, I figured I would delve a little more into the most important, authentic, up close and personal relationship we can ever have – the relationship with oneself. And since February showers us with all things love, everywhere we turn, I thought it would be nice to place ourselves in the spotlight for a change. After all, we deserve it! If we don’t shower ourselves with radical self-love, who will? What images does the phrase radical self-love conjure up in your mind?

Love is our divine birthright and, in my humble opinion, we should unapologetically own it. Yep, stand tall, proud, open-hearted and grateful for the unconditional love that supports us and is always available inside of us – the Divine life force that brought us into this existence. The love that oftentimes shows up at unexpected times. The one we call by many names….Father, Mother, God, The Creator, Divine Being, Celestial Being, Allah, Spirit, The Almighty, Great Mother, Divine Source  and all other names denoting a Supreme Being. We are an extension of this divinity! How can we not shower ourselves with love knowing the great love that resides in us? How can we best honor the Source? How can we be more gentle with ourselves? How can we be more loving with ourselves?

Some people have mastered the art of loving others but have lost themselves in the process. They have forgotten about themselves, their needs, desires, wants, dreams, and aspirations. They are quick to meet the needs of everyone around them but wouldn’t know where to start, or how to start, taking care of themselves. They are barely getting by. If you are one of these people, I encourage you to think long and hard as you ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What happened to me?
  3. How did I let this happen?

Whether you have forgotten how to shower yourself with love or not, I am certain we can all practice a whole lot more radical self-love. Let me ask you this? If you could spend an entire day showering yourself with love, and taking care of your Self, what would it look like? How could you carve out some time for some self-care practices or routines that would allow you to amp up your livelihood?  What is your soul calling you to do or not do?

For some reason, I felt compelled years ago to rip out certain pages from Body and Soul magazine (not even sure they are still in publication – perhaps under another name). They used to have a monthly feature called Ten Thoughts on Whole Living. Now I know why I kept these pages – because some day I would be able to share them with you! So, throughout the month of February, I will be sharing some of these thoughts on whole living with you to help you get jump-started on some major self-love, self-care and mindfulness practices and/or enhance your already existing practices.  Being mindful of our needs and attitudes towards ourselves, our thoughts and actions greatly impact our quality of life. My heartfelt wish for you is that you feel inspired and motivated to shower yourself with a whole lot of love and affection!

  • Ease into the day slowly: take a few minutes each morning to gently wake up. 
  • Be straightforward. An honest response often trumps a clever one.
  • Discover new ways to share the things you love. 
  • Worry breeds anxiety; intuition invites calm.
  • Create habits that help you live sustainably – wherever you are.
  • Don’t second guess; sometimes the best idea is the one that comes first. 
  • Respond to life with openness and curiosity.
  • Don’t wait until you have no room left in your day to breathe; make space now.
  • Anger has a way of evaporating in the face of compassion. 
  • Find pleasure in the simplest of tasks. 

Another great way to work with these Ten Thoughts on Whole Living is to use them as journal prompts. You can set the stage by lighting a candle, centering yourself, connecting with your breath, and anything else that helps you to feel grounded. Read and think about each one and how you can apply them to your way of being. When you are ready to write, don’t over think; just write from the heart and see what comes up. As I like to say, lead from the heart….right from the start. You may just surprise yourself!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

 

On This Day

“On this day, the Lord gave you life. May you use it to serve here.” Snatam Kaur

On this day, October 25, 1958, a baby girl was born and was given the name Jo-Ann Theresa Carricarte. Yep…..me! Apparently, by what I’ve been told, it was a happily anticipated event (I was late) and my birth brought much joy because a baby girl was born into our family. You see, most of my first cousins were males, and the few female cousins were already much older than me. So, I guess I was like a new toy…a doll.

My mama told me that I drew a lot of attention in my early years. If you saw baby pictures you’d understand why.  Suffice to say I have her to thank for my fashionista ways (among so many other things, of course). She dressed me up every single day. I mean really dressed me up…to the nines! When she would take me out in the carriage or stroller, people asked her if she was taking me to a party. Can you imagine?  Mama was every bit the fashionista herself. Those were the days! Everyone dressed up at all times. Women wore fashionable dresses, shoes, hats, gloves, broaches, necklaces and earrings, stunning coats and furs….you rarely saw them in pants. As a matter of fact my only living grand-mother, at the time, passed at 102 never having worn pants. Can you believe that? And the men! Oh the men were dapper in their slicked back hair, structured suits, ties, bow ties, sweater vests, sports jackets, overcoats, hats and polished shoes. Looking back, all my aunts and uncles were every bit fashionistas too! Guess it’s in my DNA! My favorite picture of me, probably around the age of 3, is sitting on a little stool with my legs crossed and sporting a spectacular pair of black lace high heels belonging to my mother. I can still see them in my mind’s eye. They were absolutely gorgeous and stunning! I’m willing to guess that’s how and when my life-long love affair with shoes started. Shoes are my beloved children…wink, wink!

Now onto lessons and blessings. As I look back at every decade in my life thus far, I can clearly see the lessons I was meant to learn and the people / teachers who were instrumental in my learning, growing, evolving and enlightenment – especially in the area of romantic relationships, which is what I will share with you now. I’ll start with my early teens. They were difficult. I really didn’t feel like I “fit in.” I had a strict mother and the strictest of aunts, and my high school years weren’t as fun as you would imagine. As a matter of fact, my high school years were mortifying! Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make the best of those years. Did I mention I went to an all girl Catholic high school and that we lived two doors away from the school? And that I had a super jealous and possessive Cuban boyfriend? What was I thinking? Was I even thinking?

High school was truly mortifying – I wasn’t even allowed to hang out with girlfriends at night and had to have a chaperone when I went out with the boyfriend! In addition, the “tape” that was running through my head at the time was that of when  I was little and my aunts saying, “What’s wrong with that girl? She can’t sit still. What’s the matter with her?” Now darlings, we know JUST how destructive those tapes can be! In one way, shape or form, they become part of the limiting beliefs we start to construct for ourselves. Regardless though, my mother instilled in me the will, desire and drive to be “different” when it came to how I presented myself as well as when it came to fashion, of course. She used to tell me to be a leader and not a follower, and that  I shouldn’t want to “look” like everyone else in a room despite the current fashion trend. Like I said earlier, she was grooming me to be a fashionista (with out me even knowing it). Seriously though, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the influence my parents, grand-mother, aunts and uncles who are no longer with us had on my life. They were made of substance, integrity and dignity and taught me to live my life in that manner. I’m proud of the legacy they left behind, and I try my best to be conscientious and mindfully uphold the values they instilled in me.

So what brought me comfort? Journaling (surprise, surprise), music, and our Saturday shopping trips to Alexander’s in Paramus. My dad would drive, peruse the store, buy himself some cashews, and sit outside on a bench as his ladies had their shopping fun. And boy did we have fun, and did I enjoy putting outfits together! Presentation, presentation, presentation…Thanks, Mama! And Honey-Honey (that’s what my dad and I called each other), cashews are still my favorite, and I always think of you when I eat them. By the way, when I finally did start to think, it was bye-bye boyfriend!

On to the “trying twenties.” I always joke and remark that a nice Cuban girl leaves the house in either a wedding dress or a body bag (pregnancy being a BIG taboo and don’t even THINK about going away to college). So what did I do? I got married after my freshman year in college to get out of the house. I was “in love,” he looked like John Travolta, cool as could be and came from an absolutely amazing and wonderful Italian family. They took me in as if I was one of their own. Good Italian in-laws always put their daughters-in-law before their own boys. I learned how to cook and keep an uber-clean house. Oh, and they were big into fashion as well!!! My most valuable lesson though, was Respect….especially between two romantic partners. Once that line of respect is crossed, whether by lying, cursing, arguing and screaming to out-do / out-say one another, you’re done. You can kiss your relationship good-bye. And that is exactly what we did.

The “terrific thirties” was a very fun and exciting time for me. I was free and self sufficient. It was a time where I relished being extremely independent and dedicated to my career (my career is for yet another essay altogether). In addition to teaching, I was an adjunct professor at a local community college, tutored on the side and even worked as an optometric assistance – fashion was a hobby I was very committed to, so I had to pay the bills!

During the first half of my thirties, I was in a relationship that commenced in my late twenties and one that worked for both of us. We had the best of both worlds. We each enjoyed our individual alone alone time  and then enjoyed the time we had together. That was an important lesson in itself. What was the other one?  Don’t loose yourself to another person. You see, when we were together, a lot of it revolved around what he wanted to do, when and how. Don’t get me wrong, we loved each other deeply, but there were times I should have spoken up and didn’t. Speak up, or you will lose yourself! You guessed it, I started to lose myself. More lessons learned!

My “fabulous forties” brought a whole lot of change, challenging and stressful situations and, by the same token, were very enlightening. Allow me to rewind a bit and set it up for you, The later part of my thirties brought an unexpected surprise to me, my families and my friends. Little did any of us ever, ever, ever expect me to say I was getting married again….and to a Cuban guy! You see, I had sworn off Cuban men after my super jealous and possessive high school boyfriend. That man I was marrying was a gem! I loved our relationship, the way he loved me and how he showed it. I always remarked that he reminded me of my cousin Al and the relationship he’s always had with his beloved Sheryl Ann. My then husband-to- be may have had an over-bearing, possessive, and jealous mother, but I was always his priority as was our relationship. Truth was first and foremost – as it should be. I always remarked that I felt that I could fall backwards off the Empire State Building, and he would be there to catch me. That’s just who he was…..honorable, respectful, sweet, hard working, a man of integrity and of his word…..and an amazing dresser who loved to shop! You know the feeling when someone has your back? Well, he did. And boy, did I ever enjoy our “hug therapy,” as we coined what we would do the second either one of us walked in the front door. We were always very supportive of each other’s goals, dreams and ambitions.   Sadly, the one guiding principle that was a mainstay in our relationship –  truth, was the one that I failed to honor in the end. I guess I was still grappling with finding my voice on some level and didn’t have the words, courage, confidence or the skill-set to adequately explain what I was feeling and experiencing.

Hindsight is a most powerful tool and, years later when all was said and done, I realized I was peri-menopausal in my early forties. I came to realize that my emotions were all out of control. I was fighting hard to stay in control and even control the behavior of a man I knew for 20+ years when our worlds collided. I ended up dating him and tried to change and save him too. We all know that does NOT work! The only person we can change and/or save is ourself – and that is only if we choose to do so. Another lesson learned! In a last-ditch effort to salvage the relationship, I moved in with him for what I called “my limited engagement of broadway.” You see, I knew it wasn’t going to work, so I was wise enough not to give up my apartment. I still recall my mama saying it was the smartest thing I had done!

The next person I dated for about a year in my mid-forties was like a knight in shining armor. A big lesson I learned from him was that I didn’t have to do it all by myself. I didn’t have to be Wonder Woman, so I took off the cape. I was so exhausted and worn down from what I had put myself though in the previous relationship, that I actually allowed myself to rest and to let someone take good care of me. I remember sleeping a lot. This man would cook for me, watch me sleep and knew what I needed and when I needed it. Sadly, the emotional reality of what I had previously put myself though was starting to take a toll on me and on our relationship. That emotional reality was actually the catalyst for me to do something entirely differently. THAT is when I came to the realization that I needed to be by myself for a while and get to know Me. I had always been in relationships and knew who Jo-Ann was as a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, aunt, lover, wife, teacher, school administrator, colleague, caregiver – but who was Jo-Ann deep down at the core? The other lesson I learned from this man was to do things “the right way” no matter how painful it may be, so I prayed to God to give me the skillful words to honestly convey what I was feeling and why I needed to end the relationship. I asked, and the words were delivered!  This man may not have understood or believed my reasons for ending what “appeared” to be a wonderful relationship at the time, but it had nothing to do with him and everything to do with ME.  There’s that famous line in Sex and the City where Samantha tells Smith, “I love you, but I love myself more.”  Yep, that’s what I was feeling! It was a “conscious uncoupling” and the right thing to do in my heart. I was able to put my head on the pillow at night and know that I did things the “right way” just like we had promised each other we would always do. Lesson mastered, wink wink!

It was also at this time when I found my yoga practice. It saved my life! Yoga opened me up in unexpected ways, softened my heart and started to change me from the inside out. The more I studied yoga philosophy and delved deeper into the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which are ethical precepts / guidelines for yourself and how you interact and show up in the world, the more that I felt like I was coming home. The more I studied and practiced, the more my soul was set on fire. The more self-inquiry and inner investigation work I did, the more I was able to be mindful and present in the “now” and for the people in my life.  Another HUGE lesson I learned at this time was to be in relationship with my Self first (this also prepared me for how I was to “show up” in my next romantic relationship months before I was turning the big 50). Honestly, I had not learned to do that. It was circa 2005 when I went on what I called a “self-imposed tour of celibacy” and dedicated that time to working on me. My sacred living space became my own ashram, my own sacred dwelling place, my own church. I found myself in a relationship with the Divine, Spirit, the Source in unimaginable ways. God is not solely in a building. He/She is in every living, breathing thing we say or do, how we say or do it,  and is ever present in the magnificent beauty around us and in us. My main goal was to be in a relationship with myself, the Divine and learn how to truly love myself unconditionally – the way the Divine Creator has done since the day I was born. This is what allowed me to show up 100% ready, willing and able when “Scandalous” blew into my life (Scandalous needs a blog all to himself…wink, wink). What I will share is that unconditional love, patience and leaving my ego at the door were the fruits born of this relationship. So were detachment, letting go, surrendering and non-judgement. What wonderful tools to have as I was entering my fifties!

Fifties are freeing and filled with much fabulousness! That’s what I always heard the women around me say. I can personally vouch for the fact that they are. However, it requires work. When we work on ourselves, find ourselves, find our path, purpose, and passion and, more importantly, our voice to speak our truth, we are FREE! It requires so much gut-wrenching, heart-opening and soul-bearing painful work; nevertheless, the benefits are all worth it. My fifties were a time of just that. I grew into my authentic Self and loved it. I was able to look back, connect the dots and see how every single life experience led me to this wonderfully freeing and liberating decade, the work I was doing and how I was being of service to my Maker. My goal wasn’t just to talk the talk, but to truly and authentically walk the walk. I have been able to show up this way because I learned how to first make the time to show up for myself. “Lead by Example” became my mantra both personally and professionally. Truth, authenticity, transparency, discernment, integrity, steadfastness, reconciliation, resilience, gratitude, joy and balance have been my guiding principles throughout my fifties. They’ve been valuable lessons and blessings for which I am eternally grateful. As I look back, I see how much love I was blessed with having and how each romantic partner was instrumental in weaving this tapestry of a masterpiece I call ME. I would not change or alter a thing! I approach each new day from a place of  reverence and the deepest gratitude possible that fills my heart with endless love and joy. No one is doing that for me….I AM doing it for ME! My daily request is to be used as an instrument of peace and for the ability to be of service to whomever needs motivation, consolation, inspiration, an ear to listen or some sage advice.  You can bet that God and this most beautiful, whimsically magical, oftentimes mysterious, hilariously comical and infinite organizing Universe always delivers on all counts!

The relationship that has been the most lasting- one even life-long, and others spanning 20-30+ years has been that of my Tribe of Girlfriends. And let me not forget the “Lovelies” that came into my life during this fiercely fabulous decade! The constant, ever supportive, entertaining, amusing, special, creative, passionate, and sacred girlfriend relationship is one I value more than anything. Having said that, beware of women who don’t have female friends and/or their own tribe for that speaks volumes!!!  And if there is one additional piece of sage advice I’ve learned and can share with you regarding “that new special person” in your romantic life, is that Your Tribe Knows Best. SImply stated! Throughout our life, our girlfriends have probably known us better than we’ve even known ourselves for they have seen and been there through it all….the good, the bad, the ugly, the highs and the lows. Remember, they are part of our Spiritual Board of Directors; therefore, they need to be consulted!  FYI though, you may have to ask some of them for their input. Not everyone may be as forthright as you would be or expect them to be. Your Tribe knows when you’re not being yourself, when your energy is being depleted, when you seem overwhelmed, compromised, not being true to your Self and not in a good place. Just ask! I will say no more on the subject other than to quote my lovely Linda Lou, “Period. The end.”

As you know, I like rituals and celebrations, so I am thinking of a word I want to work with this coming year. Maybe even two words. What keeps showing up for me, time and time again, is Grace (and my confirmation came when my yoga teacher was sharing the word she wants to work on as she embarks on a new year as well). I want to find Grace in the places that I never knew it existed. I want to dig deeper than ever before and help others do the same. The start of the InspireLoveServe blog was a good starting point. I want Grace to revel itself in unexpected places, the dark as well as the light places, and I want to be able to share those places with you so we can linger together in those moments of Grace.

Now that I’ve unlearned things I learned, only to relearn them in a way  that better serves me, I also relearned how to be a child again and approach each new day with a deeper sense of wonder, awe, magic, creativity and playfulness. This is something we should all do more of, don’t you think?  We should all want to spend more time in nature and do more of the things that bring us joy and nurture our mind, body and soul….things that bring us a sense of calm, ease and deep peace, and encourage all those around us to do the same. Just look at small children and see how open, loving, free and inclusive they are. They are fearless, open and accepting…they don’t see color, race or religion. They are so spirited, carefree and vibrant! I want to live in that kind of world. It is my deepest desire that we all re-learn to approach life and others from a place of love, compassion and kindness and that we see our souls reflecting back at us when we look deeply into another’s eyes and deeply listen to their words. Another thing I know for sure is that in order to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves. We must move from a place of fear and separation to one of love and oneness.

I’ve recently taken to looking more and more at the life vision board that I created just before going into surgery in January of 2016, and seeing that I am living and doing most of the things I included. More importantly though, I want to continue growing, evolving, serving, learning, deepening and expanding my practice, inspiring mindful seeds of change, making a difference in the world and in the healing of humanity, helping others grow into their best self, empowering and supporting young girls, paying forward, celebrating with friends and family, going on adventurous retreats and cozy getaways, loving deeply and passionately….to sum it up –  Living With Intention! And as far as romantic relationships go, who knows? I am perfectly happy in the most fulfilling and intimate relationship I’ve ever had, and that is the one I’m in with Me. If that realization isn’t a moment of Grace in and of itself, then what is? What I do know for sure is that the appropriate soulmate will show up in divine time, and we will be able to reap all the beautiful benefits of having “worked the work” over the course of the time it took for us to come together. I’ve learned not sweat the small stuff my darlings…I have arrived!

Sixty is virtually around the corner. I’ve heard “60” described as seismic, sensational and spectacular. Starting tomorrow, each new day will bring me closer to that mountain top called 60. Each new day will bring me new opportunities to serve here. I mentioned Snatam Kaur’s song, On This Day, in an earlier post. Please take a moment to listen to it if you haven’t already done so. She has such an angelic voice! Listening to that song is an absolutely sacred and meaningful way to start the day! It allows us to settle in, ground, root, re-commit and set the tone for the way we’d like to approach the day, shine our brilliance and magnificence, and honor that life we’ve been given.  Each day we open our eyes is our birth day. We are given life again. How can we not ask, “How can I serve here?” Yep…Grace it is, and Gracefully is how I’ll do it!

“The ghosts of all the women you used to be are all so proud of who you have become, storm child made of wild and flame.” Nikita Gill

 

This essay is dedicated to all the women, ancestors and guides that paved the way for me, walk along side of me and have made it possible for me to carry out their legacy. With infinite love, grace and gratitude, Jo-Ann Theresa Carricarte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Good to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affirmation:

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

 

Love who you are darlings!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC