Soul Spaces & Personal Sanctuaries

“Your home both reflects who you are and can help transform who you are.”              -Marianne Williamson

Not everyone enjoys moving and setting up a new home or apartment. Me? I love it! It thrills me.  I’ve moved so often, and am so good at it, that I always say I could have owned my own moving / staging company. As a matter of fact, the average number of years I have remained in one place has always been about 6-9 years. And, I am known for leaving things behind and starting “fresh.” There is so much to be said for the art of “paying forward” and keeping the abundance circulating! Doing so warms my heart and brings me joy.

There was a time where I briefly, ever so briefly, thought about the money I have spent decorating my new places. Then one day, I had an “aha” moment and realized that one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed moving and decorating new spaces was because it’s allowed me to express my creativity. Each new house or apartment I have ever lived in has reflected who and where I’ve been at that point in my life. Oftentimes, I referred to these new places as “sanctuaries” for my soul to rest, renew, heal, evolve, grow and expand. Today, every where you look you find books and articles on creating your personal sanctuary, creating a sacred space, your personal oasis.

One such book I came across 4 years ago while I was at Lumeria in Maui, was SoulSpace Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life. It was written by Xorin Balbes who, at the time, was the owner and designer of this beautiful yoga and educational retreat oasis. As Marianne Williamson writes in the forwards, “If you are looking to make your home more reflective of the deepest truths of who you are and what you want in life, then SoulSpace is the coolest thing you could possibly read…..This book is unique and filled with wisdom, not only about design but also about us, not only about beauty but also about transformation, not only about how to decorate your rooms but also about how to better your life.” Just reading those words made my mouth water, and I couldn’t wait to savor all the wisdom and beauty the book had to offer.

Since Xorin was on the property during our stay at Lumeria, we got to talk to him quite a bit and had the opportunity to hear his soul speak. Needless to say, practically everyone in our group purchased the book, and I have since purchased some as gifts. As I read Xorin’s book, it was as if all the pieces of the puzzle known as my “moving life” fell into place. It was yet another “aha” moment. So much so, that it made me feel as if I could have penned that book myself. I had a whole lot of Xorin Balbes inside my heart and soul!

Creating your own personal sanctuary, sacred soul space and oasis is a whole lot easier to do when you live by yourself and do not have a house full of children or anyone else to answer to. However, I truly believe that where there is a will, there is a way. It does not mean that we have to live in a cluttered mess, a house that looks like a college dorm or one giant playroom. Every thing and every one should have their own personal space. Organization, attention to detail, love and intention are key factors. Remember, your outer world reflects your inner world! I invite you to sit on that for just a moment. Pause….inhale….exhale…Your outer world reflects your inner worldWhat does your living space reflect? What does it say about you? Does it reflect calm or chaos? Do you reflect calm or chaos?

Do you have a sacred space that supports your dreams, is inspirational, and houses the items that nurture your soul? It could be a corner of a room, an alcove, an extra room, maybe even an area of your bedroom or your entire bedroom for that matter. Our mind, body and soul need a place of calm, ease, deep peace, a place to retreat to, unwind, decompress, rest and relax. A place where we can write, reflect, seek inspiration, read, ground ourselves, dream, pray, meditate or perhaps even help us heal emotionally and spiritually. If you do have such a place, then kudos to you…how awesome! I’d love to hear all about it. If you don’t, then why not? Do you make the time to rest and relax? If not, why not? If you don’t, I humbly invite you to read my previous blog, R&R. 

For me, the end of a relationship usually signaled a time to move on, start fresh and do some big-time resting and relaxing. The way I decorated was always reflective of where I was at that point in time. Playing with color, furnishings and different designs expressed my moods and stages. The most important design element though has been the love, intention, fun and energy that has gone into creating my own personal sanctuaries. My home is my temple, my sacred soul space, my oasis.

Helping others create their sacred space(s) is also fun, exciting, meaningful and therapeutic. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I love to organize, purge, give away and display items that bring joy and nurture the soul. They can be different works of art, religious artifacts or deities, delicious candles, incense, essential oils, inspiring books, coloring books, meaningful jewelry and accessories, crystals, stones, pictures, found treasures or souvenirs from world travels or places of exploration, special gifts, journals, a comfy pillow and yummy blanket, soothing music, plants and flowers (one must always have fresh flowers). Regardless of the space we have available to us, the size of our home or the number of people living in it, our home will either reflect calm or chaos. More importantly, it should be a place where we can flourish and not just exist.

You know the all too common question, “Where do you live?” Well, in the introduction to SoulSpace, Xorin invites us to consider the question in a new way, and I will leave you to do so with his beautiful words of inspiration:

“Where do you live? Where do you feel alive? Where do you feel safe, peaceful, hopeful and supported? Where can you explore your hobbies, think, learn and love? If your home is just a temporary holding pen where you leave all your things during the day instead of a beautiful space that makes you feel safe and calm every time you walk in the door, something is wrong. Your home is more than a place where your possessions are – it is a place where your body can recharge, where your passions can be fulfilled, where you safely explore yourself and your desires, and where your soul can rest, be inspired and soar. Home is about satisfying our basic animal needs: eating, sleeping, seeking shelter. But it is also about achieving transcendence on earth through our other needs, the ones that are the basis of our humanity: beauty, love and creativity.”

Where do you live, darling?

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

R&R

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” -Maya Angelou

I remember when I first started teaching and was always on the go, my mother would always remind me of the importance of resting, slowing down, taking naps or, at best, just closing my eyes for a few minutes. It was her belief that one got old before their time if they didn’t take/make time to rest and relax. However, I had a difficult time processing this because of the conflicting message that her actions sent my way.

You see, what my mom practiced versus what she preached were two different things. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around the irony. I didn’t think my mother knew what she was taking about since she was always doing, on the go and tired. How could she possibly know what she was talking about back then?  With the passing of time, I did in fact learn the importance of self-care (not the easy way), and that is why I am such an advocate for radical self-love, self-care and R&R. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes is, “How beautiful it is to do nothing and rest afterwards.”

Are you sending out mixed messages? Are you saying one thing and yet modeling a different behavior for your children and/or loved ones? Today, more than ever, with all the sensory overload and stimulation, round the clock connectivity, and idol hours being spent in front of electronic devices, we cannot overlook the importance of “making the time to take the time” to unplug and take care of ourselves. No excuses! On top of this throw in the state of our world, planet, the on-the-job demands, raising children, caregiving for our partners, and aging parents. And if that’s not enough, add to that mix the problems and solutions that are required to keep our heads above water. Whew! I don’t know about you, but I am tired just writing about it! We can either let all these things wear us down, beat us up and disempower us, OR we can make the choice to go down a healthier path. The choice is truly ours to make. No one can do it for us. As Maya Angelou used to say, “When we know better, we do better.” 

The activity in my last blog, Who’s in Charge Here, gave you “permission” to do identify the things that your mind, body and soul need in order to function optimally. If your mind, body and soul are out of alignment, you can bet your pretty backside that you are feeling its ill-effects. Remember, dis-ease in the mind, body and soul will manifest into disease. And that is the absolute truth! For starters, look around at the havoc that hovering over our electronic devices is doing to our physical bodies. Take a look at how hunched over and collapsed people are looking these days. Young children and young adults already have signs of severe muscular-skeletal issues caused by their poor posture. Witness the anxiety, anger, frustration, grievances and ill behaviors in and around us. All these things can, and should be nipped in the bud because we do, in fact, know better. As I mentioned in Who’s in Charge Here, we need to take charge and act on it! After all, if you’re not in charge, then who is? No excuses darlings!

While the notion of R&R may conjure up visions of retreat centers, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, spa vacations and all the sensory delights that come along with them, we don’t have to go away to experience the healing effects of good old-fashion rest and relaxation. All we need to do is be still, connect to our body, and listen to what it is trying to tell us. We can have a conversation with our Self, and listen to what our heart is longing for… we must do in the name of self-preservation. What is your mind, body and soul calling out for? Is it calling for more quiet time, less time on social media, a digital detox, early bedtime, a bedtime ritual, a soak in the tub, candles, soft music, time to read, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, healing and nutritious foods, an hour of silence (perhaps more), a massage, energy work, reflexology, a facial, mani/pedi, long walks in nature, time with your tribe….you get the picture, don’t you?

Well, then it is my heartfelt wish that you have started to carve out the time to take care of your beautiful, precious, magical, and divine Self and that you have identified your talents, gifts and uniqueness (if not, check out the blog Exercise the I AM in You). We only get one mind, body and soul in this lifetime. Our physical shell holds the miraculous systems and organs that make us who we are.  Shouldn’t we want to honor that precious temple the best way possible? After all, we are good at helping and serving others; yet, oftentimes we do for others and not for ourselves. Let’s change the narrative and the stories we are telling ourselves and modeling for others. Rest and relaxation MUST be on everyone’s list of “non-negotiables.” And, speaking of non-negotiables, have you identified yours?

I will leave you with a beautiful prayer/meditation from the May You Know Joy deck of meditation cards I purchased while I was at Kripalu.

May You Know Nourishment

May you nourish your mind, your body and your soul daily. They are your divine trinity. Nourish your fibers, your ideas, and your values. Strengthening these will carry you further than you might dream possible. May you treat yourself with kindness and compassion and share your nourishment with whose in need of it. They will come to you and you will both be nourished in the process.

 

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Exercise the I AM in You

“All of us are seeking the same thing. We share the desire to fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves as human beings….the most valuable gift you can give yourself is the time to nurture the unique spirit that is you.” -Oprah

As children, we are taught to love others and treat them with kindness and compassion; yet, we rarely heard the message that it first starts with us. I don’t know about you, but I feel the most important lesson that should be taught early on in life is to do just that: Love and accept ourself, show up for ourself with loving-kindness, compassion and understanding. Take care of our beautiful soul and nurture it with food for all the senses. The value in this lesson is that we learn to put our Self first, and not in a selfish way, but in a self-preserving way!

Fast forward to when we are in our adult lives, and we will most likely get to the point where we seem to be unraveling, disconnected, lost, not grounded, spiraling, fatigued, anxious, and exhausted from doing, doing, doing and giving, giving, giving. Why? Because we are doing and giving to others. We are “do-ing” instead of “be-ing.” We’ve all heard the adage, “If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t take care of anyone else.” Why is that so difficult to do? We’ve put ourselves at the bottom of the “to do” list, that’s why!  We should have been at the top of the list all along had we been taught to do so early on in life.

Somewhere along the line, we find ourselves lacking joy, stamina, wonder, love, excitement, creativity and a host of other things. We are quick to see the gifts in others and admire them in ways we seem to have lost the ability to do for ourself. We lose touch with our true essence and the connection to that divine energy that is much greater than us. Where did it go? Well darlings, remember the line from the Wizard of Oz? You’ve had the power all along.” You just mis-placed it, gave it away, ignored it or chose to forget about it all together. There comes a point in your life where you must find it, polish it, step into it and reclaim the divine power and glory that is You. How? Well, a good place to start is to turn inward and start acknowledging your personal gifts and uniqueness. We all have them. We’ve just lost sight of them. Be still and listen!

Look around and take a close look at all the young girls and women of all ages, beautiful women inside and out, who fail to see their beauty, light, uniqueness and gifts because they are so caught up in doing for others or comparing themselves to others. Just think about the behavior that is being modeled for younger generations. It’s certainly not a healthy one. A good way to break this cycle is to first acknowledge the behavior and then consciously “choose” to end this cycle of madness and struggle. Instead of prioritizing your schedule, schedule your priorities (when I heard my lovely friend Christy once say this, I felt a shift occur in my mind). And if you’re not sure of your priorities, a great way to re-claim them is to identify your “non-negotiables.” As I’ve shared before, mine are prayer, yoga, meditation, sleep, water, nutritious foods, exercise (and other self-care practices). Nothing, or no one, comes between me and my non-negotiables. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way! What are the things your mind, body and soul need in order to “show up” for yourself in a healthy, kind, compassionate, mindful and peaceful way? And by the way, leave the guilt at the door when doing so! These are the things that need to be a priority on your schedule. Along with the guilt, leave the prioritizing of the schedule in the past, and start scheduling your priorities!

Another powerfully insightful way to identify and connect with your personal gifts, uniqueness and divine power is a wonderful exercise called I AM. If my memory serves me correctly, I first did it as part of Iyanla Vanzant’s Inner Vision Institute Do the Work series. It “appears” to be a simple task and one you may have doubts about. It may also be one that you struggle with as you try to “come up” with what to write. You see, with each passing day, you will most certainly find yourself delving deeper and deeper, excavating and finding those long-lost gifts you have buried or, perhaps, never even acknowledged.  You do this exercise for 7 consecutive days, and all it requires is a pen and paper (no typing – it must be hand-written).

Directions:

As will all sacred practices / rituals, I suggest you take a moment to perhaps light a candle, clear your space, burn some sage, palo santo or incense. Take a few deep breaths, get comfortable, set an intention and don’t over-think. Approach the activity with an open mind and open heart! Now take a piece of paper (you may want to do this in your journal) and write Day 1 at the top. Then, below that, write I AM. Number your paper from 1-40. You are now ready to say to yourself, “I am……” and write whatever comes up next to each number. Do not judge or over-think – just go with the flow! You will do this for 7 consecutive days. 

Believe me, you will be amazed and in awe of the magnitude of what you have written. It will leave you feeling empowered, strong and in love with You. No one….I will say it again….no one, can give you the most valuable gift of nurturing the unique spirit that is you other than You! In doing so, you will fulfill your highest, truest expression of yourself as a human being, and not a human “do-ing.”

Happy exercising and remember, just do you…. And love who you are!

Inhale Love…Exhale 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

 

 

If Not Now…When?

Boundaries allow me to take care of myself. Boundaries enable others to take care of themselves. Boundaries create freedom of choice. To give, share, or support need not mean taking care of. I can say no and still give love and support. Boundaries keep me in my divine, right space.” Iyanla Vanzant

Do you find yourself getting irritated, being unforgiving of your slip ups, questioning your self-worth, giving away your personal power, giving too much of yourself to others, not valuing your time, being too self-critical, feeling compromised, and perhaps even feeling fatigued, drained and exhausted? Well, then someone needs to work on setting boundaries! We all need boundaries darlings. As children we needed them, and we need them even more so as adults. Why? It’s quite simple. We need boundaries because we need our mental, emotional and spiritual health in tact.

Today, more than ever, the art of setting boundaries needs to be honored if we want to face each day with grace, hope, inspiration, kindness, understanding and ultimately engage with others in the best way possible. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like we are on “fast forward” and everyone is just scurrying around. The minutes, hours days, weeks, and months feel like they’re just slipping away and into some black hole somewhere.  Despite all the wonderful self-help tools and resources out there, a great many of us are still giving more and more of ourselves away and doing less and less to honor our Soul’s needs. As a result, our quality of life is deteriorating and will only worsen unless we stop, take stock of the things we know we should be doing to take care of ourself,  look at the areas of our life that are out of balance and are being compromised, identify areas in need of healthier boundaries, and love our Soul enough to finally draw a line in the sand…”If not now, when?”

Back when I was working with establishing boundaries (circa 2005 shortly after I found my yoga practice), I’ll admit it was a little challenging. Not everyone around me, especially loved ones, were very happy. However, it was about my mental, emotional and physical well-being and not about them. I was working on myself and changing; unfortunately, that didn’t sit well with everyone. Sometimes people aren’t comfortable being around someone who is changing and morphing before their very eyes. People can be very set it their ways and would never dream of stepping out of their comfort zone and rocking the boat. And others simply may not be able to understand because they have a different perspective.  However, I will tell you this – I felt better and healthier once I learned to set boundaries and was very clear and committed to what I was willing to do if the line was crossed. My mental, emotional and physical health improved by leaps and bounds!

Our life is a miracle, a precious gift, and we need to honor our own sacredness. Imagine if we all made that a  priority?  Think of it as your moral and spiritual obligation to the miraculous gift of life and love you were given. One of the best ways you can do this is to take care of yourself. If you aren’t already doing so, then I humbly ask you, “What are you waiting for?”  If you answered “yes” to some of the questions I posed at the beginning, I am certain your physical, emotional and spiritual body have been sending you signals and trying to get your attention.  Are you listening? What has to occur to you before you start to shift and make changes? Right now is a great time to just pause, reflect and make a list of the things that are keeping you from taking care of yourself. No excuses, no blaming, no shaming, no judging…..just the facts! Take time to be still and listen to what your body is trying to tell you, feel it, see what shows up, maybe even journal on the thoughts and emotions that arise. It may not be as easy as it sounds for you personally. After all, every one is different. Regardless, be as truthful, authentic and open as you possibly can, and remember to be patient with yourself! Furthermore, ask yourself this: If your life isn’t working, whose responsibility is it?

Next up….loving yourself….. Check back on Friday for more ways to be good to yourself,  inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart… right from the start.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

Be Still…Connect & Listen

“The degree to which you do not believe you have time to spend ten minutes sitting quietly, is the degree to which you desperately need to spend ten minutes sitting quietly. If we did nothing else in our spiritual practice but reduce our accelerated pace, the world would be transformed overnight” Donna Farhi

I walked into my acupuncture appointment last week at Stillpoint Acupuncture & Yoga in Denville, NJ, and the lovely Terri had this quote posted in her waiting room. I knew the quote was one I wanted to use for the post you are about to read. Donna Farhi,  brilliant author, international yoga teacher and retreat leader, could not have expressed this sentiment more eloquently. By the way, her book, Bringing Yoga to Life… The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living is truly a manifesto for living whether or not you are a yoga practitioner.  If you want to bring your “life to life,” then this is a book for you! It is so chock full of wisdom and depth….This book was given to me as a gift and, in turn, I too have given several as gifts. It’s just one of those books you return to again and again for just about every paragraph is a revelation (thanks, Peem, for this observation, or I could have highlighted the entire book).

So, back to the topic of being still, connecting and listening….call it meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection – or whatever suits your fancy. The point is that allowing ourself to sit in stillness, preferably in the quiet of the early morning,  can and will eventually set the tone for our outlook, attitudes and interactions with people throughout our day. It allows us to connect with our breath (our life force, prana, chi) ease into our morning, and bring clarity to our thoughts and emotions. Let’s be perfectly clear here, our minds will never be empty of thoughts, but we can step into “witness mode” and just acknowledge those thoughts without becoming them and getting all wound up in the stories our reptilian brain is spinning for us. Instead, we can lovingly bring our attention and focus back to our breath.

The practice of being still allows us to connect and align ourselves to our “higher power” the Divine force in the Universe. The more we do this, the more we are able to have a 360 view, like older dragonflies are said to have. The art of being still, listening, connecting and aligning are, like other mindfulness practices, a conscious choice we make. This quiet time we create, allows us to pray, ask for guidance, talk  to God (or whomever your higher power is) and listen to the voice and messages that show up. There is truth in the saying that “stillness speaks“…let the feelings and that wave of peace and calm wash over you! Listen to what your heart is telling you or guiding you to do. In doing so, it allows you to feel deeply rooted and grounded and gives you the confidence, ease and grace to approach the start of a new day like the precious gift it is.

I like to start my day, even before getting out of bed in the morning, by listening to Snatam Kaur’s song, On This Day. It’s actually a birthday song, and it’s significance, the words, and her soothing angelic voice remind me of the fact that I have been given life on this day yet again. I open each day as the gift that it is, and I want to live it to the fullest, use my time wisely, and serve accordingly. For me, this is truly a meaningful, significant, remarkable, powerful and inspirational way to embrace the new day ahead. One of my  beloved yoga teachers, Angela, played this for me at the end of class on my birthday last year. It’s coming up to just about a year of listening to this song every day. And, if you know me, you know I like to share…in turn, I’ve sent it on to some friends on their birthdays. Talk about exponential influence! I’m a firm believer in sharing the love. After listening to the song, I say out loud, “Thank you” as my feet are beginning to touch the ground. I enjoy my early morning quiet time. Oh and a word of advice, shut off your phone! Don’t put it on silence or vibrate…..just shut it off!!! It makes a world of difference, and I like to say that my entire body exhales the moment I turn off my phone. It allows for a deeper level of relaxation, concentration and connection. I have other morning rituals that, as you can very well surmise, are for yet another post!

It saddens me when I hear people say they don’t have time to meditate, or be still….seriously???? Darlings, all we have is time, and what we chose to do with it is another story altogether. These are the individuals that, as Donna Farhi’s quote hammers home, are in need of stillness and quiet the most! These are the individuals who are stuck, tend to be reactive, tightly wound or restless, oftentimes anxious and/or depressed, perhaps have unhealthy addictions, always running away from their issues, spend hours and hours trolling social media and, as a result, are most likely to be their own worst enemy. Can you relate? Do you have people in your life that fit this description? Are you the poster child for this description? if so, then it’s high time you let go of behaviors, situations, and circumstances that aren’t serving you and find a better, more balanced way of living. Your health and peace of mind deserve it!

Another valuable lesson I’ve learned along the way, is that we CANNOT change people. Don’t waste your energy, or you will be the one who winds up sick! Instead, follow the rules the airlines give us, “In the event of a change in cabin pressure, put the oxygen mask on yourself first”…..this is the time for you  to work on yourself, make your Self a priority, dedicate time to your Self. Shower your Self with loads of self-love and self-care. Trust me, people around you will begin to see the change in you – a different, calm, peaceful, centered, glowing and vibrant you. They will most certainly want to know your secret!

Remember, as with any practice…..that’s just what being still is….a practice, and not a perfect. Over time, I can assure you that your mind, body and soul will also want some quiet, down time before you go to bed…..especially when you find yourself sleeping like a baby!  I think we can all agree that we’ve mastered the art of “doing”…..let’s challenge ourselves to practicing the art of “be-ing”…you’ll be surprised at the magic that shows up! I leave you with a beautiful quote and affirmation by Tanaaz Chubb from her precious book, Messages for the Soul:

“Your heart is trying to speak, are you listening? Your heart holds its own type of wisdom that is different from the wisdom of the mind and body. Tune into the smooth hum of your heart, and see what it is asking from you today.”

“I am open to the Divine messages of my heart, and I am ready to hear its message. I trust my intuition and know that my heart will guide me”

Be Still….Connect and Listen!

Inhale Love….Exhale Gratitude, JTC