Fully Engaged and Passionately Committed

“Live life with an open heart.” Panache Desai

Greetings, my beloved darlings!

I hope this blog finds you in good summer spirits and that you are finding joy in the many aspects of your life. This is usually a fairly easy thing to do, despite what calamity or chaos is swirling around, if we operate with an open heart… the operative word being usually..wink, wink!

Leading from the heart and finding joy, even in the mundane things or in painful times, allows us to live fully engaged and passionately committed.

When I reflected on these past couple of months of not blogging on a regular basis, I realized that I’ve been engaged in lots of fun, leisurely and meaningful activities. At one point I even wondered if I had writer’s block, but it’s not as if I wasn’t writing; after all, I was keeping up with my journaling. And it wasn’t as if I was not inspired. There were many occasions in which I was inspired and motivated. I just did not make the time to sit down and blog. One thing I was sure to do though, was NOT to judge, criticize or be hard on myself.

So today at lunch, with my dearest soul sister Kat, we talked about my dilemma, and everything became crystal clear. I have been fully engaged and passionately committed to living joyfully- FINALLY- post retirement, post a life altering injury and epic orthopedic surgery, post living in chronic pain for 3 years, post another very complex orthopedic surgery that gave me my life back and post 5 years of physical therapy. Whew!

For the first time since September 2012, I feel like I’ve FINALLY started decompressing from my stressful career and everything that altered my life as a result of those 2 surgeries- which, needless to say, created yet another level of stress. Like Kat pointed out, the weight of the world was has been lifted off me. For the first time, I feel like I can FINALLY breathe, relax, sleep long hours, stay up late, sleep in, ease into my day, have fun, socialize and do all the things that bring me joy… without being in pain. For during those difficult years, the joy was being zapped from my life more and more as a result of chronic pain.

That’s why writing has been so cathartic for me- especially my earlier blogs (2017-2018). It was a good way to share my life story, my struggles, my journey, and the different things that helped me along the way. Writing allowed me to take stock, process and heal. And, hopefully, to inspire and/or help others along their own journey.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is not to be hard on myself. I tend to go with the flow more these days and allow for magic and spontaneity to show up. I’ve learned to let go of anything and any one that is dragging me down or causing me to have unproductive thoughts. I’ve learned the art of detachment.

While we all need to schedule certain appointments and commitments, I’ve also learned that it’s OK to bow out gracefully when and if I feel like I’ve overextended myself. If not, there would be no joy to be had.

I’m trying to live more mindfully than ever before and to be present and fully engaged in whatever I am doing or whomever I am with at any given time. This can be very challenging for some people given the constant state of distraction they live in. Some people are more fully engaged and passionately committed to their electronic device(s) than they are to face-to-face, present-time interactions. So…it came as no surprise to me when I started to focus on how grace shows up in my life.

So much so, that my word for 2019 was GRACE. As a matter of fact it is written, in colorful chalk, at the top of my yoga mat. One of the things I’ve always strived to do since finding my yoga practice in 2005 is to live my yoga off the mat. This year, I’ve refined that to living my life off the mat with intention and grace. It’s amazing to see everything that shows up when we move through life with intention and take notice of the many ways grace shows up!

In doing so, I feel like I am becoming more expansive. I feel like I’m taking up more space. I feel like I am more focused on living purposefully. I feel like it always brings me back to my purpose and intention. It takes me to the things that bring me joy… and that is to Inspire, Love, Serve.

Darlings, I encourage you to think about sharing YOUR story with others. Our stories can inspire, guide, motivate and encourage others as they move through life’s challenging times.

In order to grow through the challenging times or whatever it is we are going through, we are tasked with doing a certain amount of work in life. The work we do ultimately allows us to take action and evolve. In doing so, we transform and grow into the best version of ourselves, and live a full, meaningful, and purposeful life in the process.

I invite you to peruse the following questions. May they serve you in whatever way you need and may they inspire you to take action wherever you need so that you can joyfully live fully engaged and passionately committed and inspire others to do so as well!

What are 5 words that describe you?

How are you moving through life?

What values shape you?

What people (dead or alive) inspire you and why?

Are you changing and growing over time?

What sort of activities or events do you focus on?

What brings you joy?

What are your challenges at this point in your life?

What areas of your life are in need of changing?

What are you good at?

How can you influence and/or inspire others?

How can you be of service to others?

If you would like more questions to use for meaningful conversations or to use for journaling, please search for my blog titled Grow Through it All. It was published July 8, 2018.

We can further use these questions and answers to explore, investigate and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life. A life filled with peace, tranquility, serenity, truth, transparency and authenticity.

Darlings…. stay cool, remember to hydrate and live with a heart wide open!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Full of Truth

Darling, you feel heavy because you are too full of truth. Open your mouth more, let the truth exist somewhere other than inside your body.” -Della Hicks-Wilson

Greetings, my darlings!

I was listening to a meditation recently that got me thinking on the subject of joy, creativity, and truth. These are a few ways in which we can manifest and cultivate happiness at all times.

We all know the famous saying, “Happiness comes from within.” Unless we take the time to sit in stillness and cultivate each of these areas, we will always be searching for happiness “out there.” Exactly where is out there? That’s an easy one to answer. Out there are the places and the vices that we turn to when we are not plugged in and connected with our Self, our essence, our creativity, our voice and, most importantly, our truth.

I invite us all to ask ourselves how we feel, and what are the things we do and say, when we are not plugged in and connected? How do we feel knowing we have truths, gifts, creativity, joys as well as sadness that are in need of expressing but are sitting dormant in our souls? What do we find ourselves thinking? How does this translate to our daily existence, habits and patterns?

Personally speaking, I know I do not make the most evolutionary choices when I am not connected and in my flow. However, I’m also aware that, at any given moment, I am able to self correct and make a better choice that is for my highest good and the highest good of all parties involved. That’s when magic happens!

Who doesn’t want a little bit more magic and happiness in their world? I’ll share a little secret with you… the magic of happiness occurs when our truth and creativity are aligned. It’s a win-win situation!

I invite you to take a moment and ponder the following questions. You may even want to return to them later on and jot down the thoughts that have shown up:

  • How do you use your voice?
  • How do you express yourself throughout the day?
  • How do you express yourself on social media?
  • Do the words you use unite and bring together, or divide and separate? Do they express love and creativity or fear and hatred?
  • What gifts do you have that can be of service to others?
  • How do you honor of yourself and your creativity?
  • What are your creative outlets?
  • What words do you use with your Self?
  • Does your throat feel constricted when you are not speaking your truth or coming from a place of authenticity?
  • What sensations do you feel in your body when your truth is being compromised and your creativity stifled?

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it takes a great amount of energy to restrict the natural flow of our creativity, thoughts, and feelings. We’ve all been there, and it’s fatiguing! This, my darlings, is what zaps the magic and happiness out of our lives.

This is the heavy weight we feel dragging us to to deeper and deeper levels of despair. And when we are in the depths of despair, we say and do ugly things. But…. despair no longer! For this is a wonderful time of the year to review and assess any and all areas of our life that could use a little more truth and joy. All we need to do is to get real with ourselves. Perhaps even tap into a friend to help us stay accountable. Any step in the right direction is the right direction!

Having said that, the first step truly involves going within. And if you are new to this, it could be a tad scary. This is the time when we get to identify any areas in our lives that may be out of balance or in conflict.

It’s a time we ask ourselves if we are living to our highest potential and feel that whatever it is we are doing is of value and purpose. It’s a time we take a good hard look at our relationships with the people in our lives. It’s a time when we examine our jobs or careers and how they are impacting our state of mind, health and well-being. It’s a time we assess, get clear, and move towards articulating exactly what it is we need and want to do. It is the time we let the truth exist somewhere other than inside our body.

I’m not going to lie… it’s hard work, darlings. but only we can do it for ourselves. If you feel compelled to dig and delve a bit deeper into your heart and soul, you may want to check out my blog Now I know my ABC’s. The questions contained in that blog really require us to get to the core of who we are…both our light and shadow side. And my previous blog, New Beginnings, contains a vision board check list if we want to get creative with our intentions, goals, dreams, aspirations and to the truths of who we are. Personally, I find images and pictures help me to articulate my intentions in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Here to us, our journeys and our truths!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

100 Blogs…A Prayer of Gratitude

“When the personality comes to serve the energy of the soul, that is authentic power.”

-Gary Zukov, The Seat of the Soul

Greetings, darlings, and welcome to blog number 100! I can’t believe it was one year ago today that I published my first blog after lots of encouragement and the support of some friends. I guess it was the right time, and I was in the right place. Happy Anniversary, InspireLoveServe!

While I was away this past month, I toyed around with ideas for an anniversary blog, scribbled some things down, yet ultimately knew that what I wanted to convey was just a profound sense of gratitude for being able to inspire, love and serve from the very depths of my soul.

Gratitude for the love and support of friends, family and acquaintances. Gratitude for their support and encouragement. Gratitude for my yoga and meditation teachers. Gratitude for being able to share my lessons, blessings, struggles, mistakes, successes, eccentricities, energy, passion, guidance, reflections, tools, resources, thoughts, ideas, insights, and, oftentimes, my wit and sense of humor, and my overall animated self. Gratitude for being able to speak from the heart. Gratitude for a lifetime of journaling. Gratitude for my inner fortitude and resilience. Gratitude for those of you who participated in one of my personal homework assignments and shared the three words / sentences that best described me. Gratitude for the over achievers who couldn’t stop at three. Gratitude for not being overly preoccupied with the number of followers or comments I receive (or lack thereof). Gratitude for the bloggers out there who have found me and are following me. Gratitude for the people who take the time to read, reach out to me and share how a particular blog resonated for them. Gratitude for those of you who have shared or passed on my blogs  to others. Gratitude for the strangers who have  found their way onto my blog and have shared it too. Gratitude for a year that has been filled with much creativity, reflection, courage, transparency, openness, healing, growth, fun, laughter, transformation, confidence, authenticity and, above all, joy.

And speaking of joy, I have joyfully and unapologetically stepped into my authentic power at this stage of my life, and upon deciding to start a blog. Yippie!  It’s been a long road. The blog has evolved and will continue to evolve, as I have evolved and will continue to evolve as well. No stagnation for me! I truly feel a deep sense of accomplishment and purpose in being able to use my personality to serve what my soul came here to do: inspire, love and serve. 

And speaking of inspiration, I recently completed the latest Deepak and Oprah 21 Day Meditation Experience, The Energy of Attraction, and I loved it so much that I purchased the series (as I oftentimes do). As I started listening a second time around, I came upon a comment that Oprah shared which really hit home for me: “You’ll know when you’ve hit your sweet spot when your desires are more about being than getting.” Perhaps that’s why I am not overly concerned at this point in time with numbers and statistics related to my blog??? Instead, I am allowing my soul and my purpose to be my guide every time I sit down to write. Handing my writing over to God and the Divine always works best! After all, they are the overseers and keepers of my soul here on earth.

While I ultimately would like to gain more followers and have more interaction with my readers, I know it will occur when the time is right. As a matter of fact, I have quite a bit of homework to do in that department! For now though, my hope is that each blog lands in the hands of whomever is meant to read it. As they say, “Take what you need and leave the rest.” That’s the approach I have taken up until now, and it feels genuinely good in my soul. It truly is about being and not gettingso I guess I’ve hit that sweet spot.

And on that note, I will leave you with a lovely prayer that I hope fills your heart with joy and inspiration. It was written by Joyce Rupp. I’m not sure where I picked it up, but it is most appropriate as my heart is currently overflowing with gratitude as I write this anniversary blog.

Prayer of Gratitude

To be grateful for what is, instead of underscoring what is not.

To find good amid the unwanted aspects of life, without denying the presence of the unwanted.

To focus on beauty in the things of life, as well as being deliberate about the great beauties of art, literature, music and nature. 

To be present to one’s own small space of life, while stretching to the wide world beyond it.

To find something to laugh about in every day, even when there seems nothing to laugh about.

To search for and to see the good in others, rather than remembering their faults and weaknesses.

To be thankful for each loving deed done by another, no matter how insignificant it might appear.

To taste life to the fullest, and not take any part for granted.

To seek to forgive others for their wrongdoings, even immense ones, and put the past behind.

To find ways to reach out and help the disenfranchised, while also preserving their dignity and self-worth.

To be as loving and caring as possible, in a culture that consistently challenges these virtues.

To remember to say or send “thank you” for whatever comes as a gift from another.

To be at peace with whatever cannot be changed.

Heartfelt thanks for allowing me to come into your world, your home and your heart! Infinite love and gratitude, Jo-Ann T. Carricarte

Love and Connection

“Nobody, but nobody makes it out alone. What really matters is love. I mean, that condition in the human spirit that is so profound it allows us to rise. Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, is what really matters. There has always been evil. But there has always been good, and there is good now.” -Maya Angelou

This has been a brutal week. A painfully, heart-wrentching, brutal week that will impact our history and future generations. A week of trauma, intergenerational trauma, that will be inherited by children of the universe and citizens of our world. A week where I’ve been appalled at the righteousness of fellow citizens who believe that everything is “just fine.” A week where I’ve been dismayed at the indifference of others who do not see, or cannot feel, the separation of infants and young children from their families for what it is: inhumane, barbaric and a violation of human rights.

The flip side though is that we are all being challenged to look ever so deeply inside our hearts. That is what we do in times of darkness. It is a time for us to delve into our own individual consciousness and see how it has been influenced by the collective consciousness of our family, ancestors and society at large. We examine these generational pains and traumas in hopes of understanding, healing ourselves and healing the collective consciousness. We move from out of the darkness and into the light!

And on this day, June 21, the solstice and international / world yoga day, I give thanks for my practice. I give thanks for the shadow work we actively do on the path for it leads to greater understanding. These times are what we have been practicing for. These are the times where we seek refuge in our practice and in the loving, kind and supportive hands of our “tribe.” My heart has been so heavy that I’ve been spending more time in prayer, reflection, in community and on “intervention” duty alongside those who are hurting as well. Can you relate?

This morning I felt the need to ease into my day, make a nice cup of Jasmine tea, and read something that would feed my soul. I grabbed Oprah’s book, The Wisdom of Sundays, and decided to peruse the chapter on love and connection. I came across the following by Sister Joan Chittister:

“Humanity is about identifying with somebody else’s pain, with being there. With somehow or other knowing you cannot pass on the road because it’s not your bird and it’s not your child and it’s not your pain. Humanity is the ability to hurt for others. Because that’s the only fuel that will stop the injustice. You must know people are people, and you must do what they need in the middle of their pain.”

And when it comes to those people around us whom we know are suffering, we can show up. We can be there. We can hold that space for them. We can share in their pain. We can join forces, get involved, do whatever it is we are called to do in order to be of service in some way. By the way, if you happen to find yourself in a state of indifference, ask yourself, “Why?” Dig deeper, connect with your own suffering or perhaps reach out to friends to help you with the process.

As Thich Nhat Hanh states in his book, Practices for Happiness, “Anger, fear, anxiety, craving, greed and ignorance are the great afflictions of our time.” And this is where our tools come in handy. This is when we reach into our spiritual toolbox, and pull out whatever we need: yoga, meditation, prayer, mantra, chanting, singing, tapping, dancing, social activism, etc. We try, more than ever, to stay in that present state of mindful living; where our love is then front and center and leads us to taking collective action. It’s not a time to be indifferent. Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and best-selling author Elie Wiesel shared the following with Oprah, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”

Darlings, I share the following sentiment from the section on love and connection with you: We know humanity is in need of the healing power that comes from love in all its forms. Use your life to serve the world and you will discover the myriad of ways the world offers itself to serve you.

Each and every one of us has the power to do just that. In whatever way, shape or form that looks like to you, go out and do it. We have the power to transform not only ourselves but the collective consciousness of this beautiful planet we call “home.” We are all inextricably connected. The more we tap into this knowingness, the more we see and feel the oneness all around. The more clearly we see that we a human race of billions, we are citizens of the world, and that our children are the children of the universe.

Each and every day, I encourage you do ask yourself the following question upon opening your eyes: “How can I be of service today?” And before closing your eyes at night ask yourself, “How did I live in love and connection today?”

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

My Honey-Honey

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

My father, Julio R. Carricarte, was born in Cuba on October 1, 1914. Just 3 months before he turned 80, he suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to speak or walk. Essentially, he was trapped in his body. Since he was non-ambulatory, and needed total care, we made the decision to place him in a nursing home…..and that’s an entirely different blog all together! He crossed over on July 7, 1999 at the age of 84. I was 40 at the time and can now look back and see everything I didn’t know that I didn’t know!

My dad and I always called each other “Honey-Honey.” It’s something he started when I was very young, and I just followed along. It was our special “something-something.” To be honest with you, I have no recollection of how or when it started, but it’s a nickname that I held onto until the last day I spoke to him: the day before he crossed over. The day I gave him permission to let go, because I was going on vacation three days later, and I told him so. I told him that if he wanted to let go, he had to do so BEFORE I left, because Mama could not have handled that on her own. He passed the next day and looked as beautiful as ever and just as I had left him the day prior (unlike two days before where he was distressed and on oxygen). That’s a call I will always remember getting!

Over the years, there were many calls: he fell, he hurt himself, he pulled out his feeding tube, he was being sent to the ER, etc., etc., etc. But that Wednesday at around 7:45 on  the evening of July 7th, I had a fleeting thought of going to visit  him but decided against it, because I wanted to remember him glowing, sparkling and present (should something happen while I was away). I got “the call” shortly thereafter within a half hour. Now mind you, I never worried about getting a call from the nursing home. Over the years, it’s something one becomes immune to. This call was different: the nurse asked me right up front if I was alone or had someone with me. In that instant, I knew! As a matter of fact, when I told her I had someone with me, and asked if it was finally over, she responded, “Yes.” My body exhaled like never before. Ironically my body felt like Jello, so I’m glad I was not alone. I took deep breaths, collected myself, called Cousin Al and made the decision to tell Mama the following morning.

At the time, I literally lived about 20 minutes from the nursing home, so I got there in no time.  I remember how warm his body felt. I remember cleaning his hands and under his finger nails. I remember him looking as if he was sleeping, I remember him at peace…finally! I remember being grateful for giving him permission to let go. At that point, he was a shell of the man I knew as my Honey-Honey. He had withered away. He had given up the fight years earlier. It was time, and I am blessed to have had him in my life as long as I did…even though I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time!

Honey-Honey was a character! Ask anyone who knew him, and they will attest to that. His humor, the glint in his eyes, “the look” he’d cast with that smirk on his lips (strabismus eye and all – it would take a while for you to be able to focus on the eye that was looking directly at you). He had a sense of humor that would bring you to tears and the biggest heart that would give you his last penny and make you feel like everything was going to be OK. He was gregarious, outspoken, a spokesperson for others,  and deeply loved and admired by all who knew him.

My Honey-Honey LOVED life! As I may have mentioned in a blog long ago (or I’m totally making this up), I asked him what words of wisdom he had to share with me on the occasion of his youthful and vivacious 79 years of age. How ironic that this conversation took place just days before he suffered his devastating stroke and was never able to form a sentence or articulate a feeling other than a vehement “No” or a few choice curse words. This from a man who never cursed in front of me!

I do recall his eyes during those times…..oh those eyes! They were like daggers to my heart. Oh, and the way he would hold my hand, fingers interlaced, and place it on his chest as he looked at me with those damn eyes! My heart would break. I couldn’t handle when he would break down and cry sometimes. I didn’t know at the time, but I could feel his entrapment, his pain, his frustration, and his embarrassment as he lost his independence and needed someone to care for his most basic needs. I felt his desperation in wanting to be free as well as his exhaustion when he gave up the fight.

So, back to the question I asked him about his words of wisdom. In retrospect, where did I even manage to pull that question from? I mean yes, I was on some path to self-realization, but not nearly the “spiritual” path that lay ahead of me and that evolved over the decades. What was Honey- Honey’s answer? Take one day at a time and live it to the fullest.” Then he went on to tell me and my husband at the time, Jorgie, how he would never be able to get a good night’s sleep if he worried about what the next day would bring. Furthermore, he said that was why my mother took so many “pills.” And of course he cast Mama one of his mischievous looks and silly grins as he said it!

At that point in his life, he wouldn’t even take an aspirin! Actually,  he had a little “incident” and was taken to the ER a few week before his stroke. He was prescribed blood pressure meds, checked himself out of the hospital, and he decided not to take the prescribed medication. So what did he do with them? He flung the blood pressure meds out an eleventh floor window when my Mama was hounding him about taking his medication. That was my Honey- Honey!

Honey-Honey had a “strong character” yet was loving, funny, giving, and the epitome of “service.” Oh, and did I mention he was the forever “poster child” for living life out loud? He was vivacious, cheerful, a jokester, a prankster and the best dressed, best smelling, Dapper Dan in town! As a matter of fact, my mom (Ms. Fashionista herself) used to tell me stories of how he would get his suits custom-made in Cuba. Seriously!?!? And if that wasn’t enough, he would have two pairs of slacks made for each suit! Wow! Honey-Honey had come a long way!!! Of course, this was well after he first came to the states as a child and then went back to Cuba as a young adult (where he eventually met my Mama and got remarried).

Allow me to digress for a moment. Before Honey-Honey married Mama, he was married to a Jewish woman named Josephine. For some strange reason, I have their divorce decree. Weird! Apparently, he broke her heart (a trait I obviously inherited, and not proud of…wink, wink). By what my mother told me (because he never spoke about it), she died very young…leukemia or cancer…something like that. Don’t even ask me why I am sharing this, but I guess it is a story I want my nieces and nephew to know…family history!

So back to Honey-Honey’s childhood. He was one of four brothers born to an amazing mother named Angela Ramos (with too many surnames to even recall at this point in my life). I used to get a kick out of reciting all her names when I was a young child. My grand-mother, aka Nany,  was a school teacher in Cuba in the early 1900’s and would have to travel by horseback to teach.

I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been! Dresses, layers of undergarments, corsets, boots and coiffed hair-dos. I remember as a child looking at the old, tattered, sepia photos and being enthralled by them. Nany taught the children of “the help.” Class pictures looked like a scene out of The Little Rascals! Oh the eyes on those children, their expression, their mischievousness, their light, love and probably adoration for this beautiful human being who taught and loved them was visible to the naked eye! I believe her spirit lives on in my niece, Megan.

However, at some point, my grand-father (whom I never met) left my grandmother with four small boys (Louis, Henry, Eugene and my dad). My grand-father fled to Mexico (hence, the Carricarte families I learned of back in my running days upon seeing who made it into the NYC Marathon). As adolescents, my dad and his brothers were shipped off to boarding school in Virginia. The Virginia Military Academy to be specific. My Honey- Honey was eleven at the time (I believe he was the youngest of his siblings). It is there that he got a taste of what it was like to live in America. His experiences at the military academy shaped who he was to become as an adult,  how he would choose to live a life of service and the legacy he would ultimately leave behind.

During one of our conversations, Honey-Honey shared with me how impacted he was by the generosity and compassion of the family members of his fellow cadets. So much so, that he would never forget it. You see, during holidays, everyone would return home to their families. Obviously, that was not an option for a kid from Cuba with no family in the states. He was embraced and taken in by his fellow cadets’ families during these times. That generosity of spirit is something that he always remembered, and I guess that is why Honey- Honey became the man that he became and left behind the legacy that he did!

Back in 1999, on the eve of his passing and when I started to ponder his eulogy, (as I recorded Frank Sinatra music to play at his funeral), I  started to think about the words to say. I thought, “What tribute can you pay a man whose whole life was a tribute?” A tribute to goodness, kindness and generosity. A couple of weeks before his major stroke, he received the highest tribute and honor which he felt he did not deserve: He was given the Hudson County Senior Citizen of the Year Award! And he was up against a nun! He could NOT wrap his head around that (especially since he was not a church go-er). I’ll always remember how humbled he felt.

At his eulogy, I shared the following: ‘There really was no need for words. For my father’s life spoke loud and clear. He lived life as an exclamation, not an explanation. Julio, aka Honey-Honey,  was a man who was always there to lend a hand or solve a problem for friends, family, neighbors or perfect strangers. A man you could call on at any hour of the day or night, and believe me, people called. A man who did not acknowledge the powerful word, “no.” It simply did not exist in his vocabulary when it came to helping, lending a hand or somehow serving. As a result of his illness, we’ve already missed this man and have paid  numerous tributes to him over the years. This one, however, is the final tribute.”

I went on to share some of my favorite memories of Honey-Honey: grocery shopping with him as a child on Sundays after he picked me up from church; our yearly trips to Florida and how he always got lost because there was “always a better or quicker” route to take; the array of “fix-me-upper” cars he would get at auction and put them back together again (always having parts left over) – this is true – Cousin Al, the family historian, will attest to it; the hearty appetites and needing to eat steak even if Mama made chicken (according to him, chicken was bird food); the gusto with which he ate his food (a foodie for sure even though the term didn’t exist back then); the hearty servings of cantaloupe (get this- filled with vanilla ice-cream and pancake syrup); the loose bills he always had in his pocket (which sometimes he lost, and sometimes my mother just helped herself to); his pockets filled with coupons for Shop-Rite and his multiple weekly runs to redeem them; indulging in Aramis soaps, cologne, aftershave, body lotions and potions (so that his skin would be as soft as a baby’s behind); his joy for spoiling  and buying things for his grand-children (even buying bags of groceries filled with their favorite cookies, ice-cream and other treats). Obviously, I had to stop somewhere, or I could have gone on and on. We would have been there for days!

My intention was to give you, as I did with everyone present the day of his funeral, a snapshot of my fondest memories. Yet, my fondest and most heart-warming memory of my Honey-Honey was his zest for life. His joie de vivre. His exuberance. His ability to take live his life as if it was his last day on earth. In his own words, “If I was to worry about tomorrow or things to come, I would not enjoy today nor would I be able to sleep at night.” These are the wisest of words, my darlings! Remember them…I sure do!

My consolation at the end of his physical life form here on earth was that, prior to his stroke, Honey-Honey did live each day to the fullest. His words of wisdom will forever ring in my ears and in my heart. I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken those word to and and with whom I shared his sage advice.

Honey-Honey was loved by everyone who knew him. I can now clearly see and appreciate his big personality, his loyalty, boldness, braveness, tenacity, relentlessness, joyfulness, resilience and fearlessness, as well as his ability to detach, accept, forgive, surrender and let go. Julio R. Carricarte led from his heart. He taught me to do the same.

My greatest desire at this stage of my life is to leave behind a legacy of love and service, like my Honey- Honey, and to inspire others to do the same- especially his grand-children whom he deeply loved and great-grandchildren whom he never met. It is my hope that both our legacies will live on in the hearts and minds of generations to come.

Thank you, Honey- Honey! I hope you are proud of how I am filling those big shoes you left behind. I love you! 

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

Inspired by the Sea

“Live with intention and create your own legacy. Live it, go for it and stay dedicated to following your truth. You have much to offer.” –JTC

Since the beach is such an inspiring place for me, and since my last two blogs – Beach Baby and Beach Bum Bliss –  were inspired by time spent at the beach, I decided to pull out some of the pieces I’ve written there. Actually, most of  the pieces have been written on “The Hollywood Riviera” (as my cousins and I have taken to calling Hollywood Beach in Florida). Just so you know darlings, I’ve never shared this side of my writing with anyone. So, perhaps it’s time I do just that. May it touch you in some way, shape or form! Here goes:

A New Dawn

Lonesome Star. Brilliant Moon. Waves Crashing. Swirling Colors of Yellow, Blue, Orange and Pink. Seagulls Hovering. Cruise Ships Entering. Wind Sweeping. Palms Swaying. Light Approaching. (November 2007)

Visions

Visions of white sand, turquoise waters, luscious plant life in all shades of green. Visions of early mornings, sacred spaces, holistic rituals and a calm center. Visions of practicing gratitude, compassion, loving kindness and helping the less fortunate. Visions of peace, a global community, uniting hands, minds, bodies and spirits for the good of humanity. Visions of abundance and wealth, giving and receiving. Visions of a beautiful circle called Life. (May 2008)

Post Hurricane Frankie

Stillness…in the air, in the water, in my heart. Quietness… all around me, inside me, within me. Stillness & Quietness. (August 2008)

6AM Quiet Darkness

Full Moon Shining. Stars Illuminating. Heavens Protecting. Life All Around Me. Air. Water. Birds. Trees. Nature. Nocturnal Creatures. Light. People. Breath. Music. Rejoice!!! (Easter Morning 2009)

One

One Soul. One Heart. One Mind. One Body. One Look. One Touch. One Caress. One Kiss. One Today. One Tomorrow. One Forever. One Eternally. One You. One Me. One Us. One. (April 2009)

Twilight

Darkness all around me. Raindrops falling on my dewy skin. The fresh scent of rain permeates my inner being. Rough waves crash & collide and become one on the shoreline. The breeze blows and the palms sway. Twilight is turning into dawn.

A light is on the horizon waiting to start the day. Dawn is soon approaching. Light, a hint of pink, a clearing, clouds hovering up above. The sun is creeping up, an orange ball of flame. Up, up and away obscured by dark clouds. Yet, its rays shine down between the clearing. A new day has graced us. (August 2009)

 

It’s amazing how memories are stored in our bodies and on a cellular level! As I typed each piece, I was transported to the exact time and place where I wrote each one. Memories flooded my mind and sensations crept through my body. Memories of hope, love, peace, humanity and the intention to live a life of purpose and meaning, as well as leave behind a legacy of love, peace, service and unity. All this still lives wildly in my heart, and I gratefully approach each new day with a sense of steadfastness, integrity, intention and grace. It is a practice, both on and off the yoga mat, as I move through my days.

How do you move throughout your days? Do you set intentions? What legacy are you creating? Remember darlings, we all have much to offer. Now go out and find ways to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start!

Inhale Light & Love…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

PS: Throughout the remainder of April, my blogs will be published on Sundays only. I will be going on a yoga retreat next week and need time to prepare then time decompress as I renter….wink, wink!

Special Edition… ‘Tis the Season

‘Joy is Prayer. Joy is Strength. Joy is love.” -Mother Teresa

Season’s Greetings darlings! I read a most beautiful article written by Elizabeth Lesser  yesterday, featured in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I love, love, love Elizabeth Lesser and her style of writing! Her messages are always so deep, profound and life-altering! So, here it is:

10 Ways To Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday

by 

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as “The Holidays,” when into the dark little months of late November and December, we squeeze Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years Eve, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, dysfunctional family feasts complete with political disagreements, airplane flights and long drives, darker days, colder weather, budget-busting shopping, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress for most, and for some, real depression and loneliness.

Some greet the season with excitement and joyful expectation. Others dread the whole thing. Personally, I harbor both excitement AND dread. So I’ve come up with some ways for all of us to stay healthy and sane, to celebrate and enjoy, and to dig into the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, another option is just to ignore the madness completely (good luck with that) or to knock yourself out trying to live up to all of your holiday expectations (good luck with that, too).

Here are my ten ways to approach the season with reasonable expectations and good cheer.

1) Be Kind: Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us, so remember to take a few breaks during a busy day or at a family gathering or whenever you feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot—even if you have to go into the bathroom and lock the door—and just sit still for a minute or two. Put your hand on your chest and pat your heart gently. Then take a nice deep breath into that spot and flood yourself with warm feelings of kindness toward yourself first. Breathe in acceptance and forgiveness and appreciation. If you only have time to do that, it’s enough. You can add this to the practice, too: As you exhale, let the breath of kindness move back out and feel it all around you—as if you were wrapped in a cloak of light. Now inhale again, and breathe kindness into your belly, your organs, your bloodstream. Exhale, and feel that cloak of light expanding. Inhale again, all the way down to your fingers and toes and deep into the center of your bones, flushing every cell with warmth and vibrancy. On each inhale, bring kindness into your body. On each exhale, extend the cloak of healing light further and further—embracing the people in your life, those in the world with whom you disagree, and finally our whole big, amazing, hurting, evolving world. This is a wonderful practice to do when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or whenever you like during the day. 

2) Simplify: We live in an excessive culture. There’s just too much going on. But there’s one thing we seem to have too little of: time. We fill each day with too much activity, too much stuff, too much media, and too many responsibilities pulling on us in too many directions, and time races away. We go to bed at night and wonder where the heck the day went. We wake up and do it again. And now at the holidays, we’re supposed to add more excess to the excess. More food, more socializing, more presents that require more money. I think it’s a revolutionary act to resist the more-more-more culture and, instead, to simplify. Purchase fewer gifts and put more thought and meaning into the ones you do give. Say ‘no’ to engagements that will only add more stress to your week. Say ‘yes’ to gatherings that fill your soul and make you and others happy. Unplug from the 24/7 news and social media. Spend time in nature. Look at the stars. Find a little kid and hitch your wagon to their wonder.

3) Roll With the Changes: As families change and grow, traditions change as well.  For example, if you are a working woman who had a stay-at-home mother, instead of knocking yourself out trying to reproduce the exact old-fashioned holiday of your childhood, relax your standards. Do what fits YOUR life and infuse it with meaning, humor, and love. Or if you are a divorced dad or mom, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure up. It will be the best gift you give to your kids this year. If you are far away from your family (or choose not to be with them), invite others into your home and give the words “extended family” new meaning. 

4) Help Others: not because you SHOULD but because it feeds everyone—the giver and the receiver. Find someone who is struggling financially or emotionally or physically, and lend them a helping hand, soothe their loneliness or hunger or confusion or pain. Check out the stories of every holiday tradition—from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas. If you celebrate any of these holidays, you might as well get down to what they are really about: generosity, connection, the promise of light-in-the-darkness. Be that light for someone else.

5) Drop In: to a church or mosque or synagogue or temple or . . . you get the idea. Even if you have no religious affiliation or belief—even if you have deep-seated problems with religion in general—these kinds of spaces have a mysterious quality that can bring peace to a visitor. They carry within their walls the prayers and songs of our human family. Most places of worship welcome all people, even those just looking for a touch of grace. Instead of hurrying by that church you have passed a hundred times on the way to work, take a moment to enter its doors and sit quietly, imbibing the beauty.

6) Take Care: Eat well, drink water, exercise, and then be merry. Instead of making one more feeble New Year’s resolution to join a gym or cut back on the drink or sugar or Twitter, do it right now. You will be amazed at how just the littlest bit of movement and healthful habits will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. And sleep for goodness sakes, do whatever it takes to get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is at the root of so many of our mental and physical problems.

7) Love Everything: Even the hard times; even the cranky and crooked people of the world; even yourself, with all of your embarrassing shortcomings. If loving everything seems impossible, start with forgiveness. Forgive all sorts of people—those from your past, your work, your family, even those abhorrent jerks and so-called enemies in the news. Bitterness towards others is like drinking poison. Put down the bitter cup and take up… 

8) Tenderness: See what happens if you keep your heart open and soft. When you feel fear, or anger, or judgment clutching at your chest, put your hand on your heart and pat lightly. Instead of shutting down, stay open. Stay tender. Just try this and see what happens. Your mind will tell you it’s not safe to be open, that you don’t want to soften, that you’ll tenderize only if the other person changes first. But those strategies haven’t really worked, have they? Try something new.

9) Connect: When you practice love, forgiveness, and tenderness sincerely and consistently, you begin to feel so connected to other people and to life itself that your sense of “me” frays at the edges, loosens, merges. I heard a man at a retreat with the teacher, Eckhart Tolle, say that he’d been practicing compassion meditation and a weird thing was happening to him. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” the concerned man said. And Eckhart replied, “Congratulations.” When you let go of that firm sense of who you are, and what you must protect, and why you are better or worse than anyone else, you are free. There’s less fear, less striving, less of the need to prove your case. There’s more room to let others in, more comfort with the world just as it is, and at the same time, more courage to speak up for truth and beauty.     

10) Joy to the World: How strange that we have everything we need to cheer up right this minute, but so often, joy alludes us. You may recoil at this idea. You may think, “She has NO idea what I am going through; cheering up is not possible.” But I have met some of the most joyful people in the most unlikely, difficult places, including jails and hospitals. And some of the gloomiest, most aggrieved people in luxurious homes and privileged situations. Albert Einstein said that the most important thing to pursue is “sacred awe.” If you think about it, how awe-some—preposterous really—that we are here at all. That YOU showed up here on this little blue marble floating in space. Each one of us has a joyful core that is truer than the worry, the sadness, the blame, the fear. Find your joyful core. Trust it. Be it. Share it.

ELIZABETH LESSER is the author of several bestselling books, including Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most. She is the co-founder of Omega Institute, recognized internationally for its workshops and conferences in wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She has given two popular TED talks, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of a hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.

 

Together we can all inspire, love, serve. And if you choose to Lead from the heart…right from the start, you will see a big shift in your life and the lives of the people around you. Now go out and Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday!

See you all back here on Wednesday for my own little holiday to-do list.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

How Can I Serve….Synchronicity

“Giving to others through service is simply recognizing what you do best in any given moment and offering that to someone else” Deepak Chopra

If there is one thing you can be sure of, is that nothing, not a thing, happens by chance. It’s said that we cannot connect the dots looking forward (if anything that will cause you anxiety). However, we can look back at events and connect those dots that got us right to this moment in time. The Now. Well darlings, these “dots,” this synchronicity, has been divinely charted for us by our Maker (God, the Universe, whatever entity resonates for you). This beautiful, infinite organizing force in the Universe is always conspiring on our behalf and for our greatest good…. even if we do not “see it” the way we “expected it” to look like (ohhhhh expectations……that”s for yet another blog all together).

A few weeks ago, I was on Day 15 of the Deepak and Oprah 21 Day Meditation Experience. I’ve been taking part in them since the inception of the meditation series. Day 15 was “How Can I Serve.” As I listened to it, journaled the questions for reflection (this is the meat and potatoes of the “work” by the way), and reflected on what it means to be of service, what I have to offer, my gift, etc., I knew I had to get moving on the Blog I had wanted to create for years. You know when you just know??? After all, blogs and books are outlined in my head and journals, and notebooks and more notebooks contain a plethora of material in them to fill volumes upon volumes. Remember, I am a student of life, so I take lots of notes!!

It’s customary for me to post something inspirational or motivational on Facebook in the morning either before or after I meditate. I usually go with the flow and see how it unfolds. Sometimes I post things in the evenings as food for thought. I believe it was the morning of Day 15 that I posted something, and my friend, Mary, commented that I needed to start a blog. When I replied that it was something I have been wanting to do,  my neighbor, Annie, followed up my comment with the link to WordPress. Are you following me? Synchronicity! The time came for me to step up my game and take it to the next level. I had to put on my big girl panties and take action!

Needless to say, I eventually made my way onto WordPress, didn’t have a clue what I was doing and somehow purchased the domain. Then, I attempted to start writing. Easier said than done when you have no clue as to how to even navigate the site that is staring you in the face! I tried and tried and got tired of trying. If there is one thing I’ve learned along the way, is that when you try and try and get no where, it’s not the time to do it. So, I decided to just leave it alone. I didn’t judge, moan or get annoyed…..I knew that exact moment wasn’t the time. I also knew that the “right” time would present itself.  I happily went along my way. A few days later, since I’ve also learned to ask for help, I reached out to my friend Jenn (SHIFTFORWELLNESS.COM). I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sitting with me for an hour or two and give me a brief tutorial. The ever-gracious Jenn sat with me, guided me through WordPress and I took copious notes. Just enough though to get started.  Oh, and we had yummy snacks and a delicious salad prepared by Jenn, the hostess with the mostest….snacks are always good, don’t you think?

So, back to the topic of Synchronicity…I’ve also learned to pause, take note of what is unfolding and how, and proceed accordingly. When I was working, I called it “wait time.” Someone, some-thing, is guiding my boat, and I’m not about to mess with that higher power! Not everyone acknowledges these divine messages / messengers. Not everyone is open, aware, awake or enlightened…..and I don’t mean that in a condescending way. It’s just a fact of life. There are many people among us who are close minded, rigid in their thinking,  and essentially sleep walking their way through life. It takes years of learning, stumbling, falling and picking ourselves up before we actually acknowledge there IS a “better way” and start making evolutionary choices that better serve us and the good of all. Being flexible, open, mindful and present to what is unfolding in front of our very eyes is a finely tuned gift. It is intentional and magical!

For those of you who know me well, you know how much I like rituals, ceremonies, celebrations…any and all things sacred that mark new beginnings and special occasions. Like service, it’s something we do for others as well as ourselves. That is why I announced inspireloveserve.blog in September, the start of a new school year for many and on the day of the glorious full moon.  If you are struggling with ways to serve, I’d like to offer you this: reflect on your gifts, your talents, the things that bring you joy and fulfillment …..you know, those things that make you happy when you’re doing them and can do them for hours!?!?!?!? Tap into that and let your creativity take you on a magical, mystical ride. I love this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic:

“What is creativity? The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration”

Darling, what sets your soul on fire?

I challenge you to go out and do it…Inspire, Love, Serve AND Lead from the heart….Right from the start!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

Why Blog?

“Our task is to choose to live our own life as an example of grace and humanity, and to surrender to both the light and the dark, and to create a space within for beauty and devastation and for all that life will reveal”  Seane Corn

Unbeknownst to me, the idea of starting a blog came to me around June 2012. At that time, the seeds were already being dropped into my head and, subconsciously, I began watering them with my beliefs, actions, intentions and, yes, compromises I had made years past and over the next several years. I recall being so sick with an upper respiratory thing and a looming migraine that was threatening to take me down. At the time, I was an assistant principal in an elementary school, and there was a Saturday workshop being conducted for administrators. Additionally, we had to bring in our laptops for something (swapping out? re-imaging? You get the picture). I was so sick that I considered staying home and have the laptop issue resolved at school. However, something was pulling me to go. Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of The First 30 Days of Change, was the featured speaker at our workshop.

Now, if you know me, I LOVE CHANGE…It’s what keeps us alive, thriving, growing and ever-transforming into better versions of our old selves. Something (my internal GPS) was telling me to go despite how violently ill I felt. Through “divine intervention,” the Universe used a dear friend and co-worker of mine as a messenger. My friend sent me a text along the lines of this speaker being someone that would be of interest to me. I immediately googled the author…there it was! I picked myself up, armed myself with some herbal remedies, tissues, water, etc., and I headed to the workshop / seminar.

Our stories and journeys are not only our lessons but they teach others as well. What we do and how we do it has the power to light the path for others in need and can serve as a great source of inspiration, motivation and consolation. We are all on the same path, returning home to find ourselves, our true self, the connection with that force that is greater than ourselves and that resides inside each and every one of us…..and to light and pave the way for others. How we live out our purpose is as unique as we are. It is our responsibility as a human being to want to contribute…to inspire, love, serve and leave behind a legacy of love and service. Let’s be clear, what I just mentioned is our purpose; However, it is up to us, our passion, and our willingness to be vulnerable, broken open, courageous, brave, fearless, fierce, intentional and deliberate that will allow us to grow, transform, flex our resilience muscle, make an impact and affect change. In the end, it’s all about healing ourselves, helping others to do the same and, in turn, helping humanity to heal. I know, without a shadow of a doubt,  we are here on this earth to love, serve and uplift each other.

Oh, and did I mention ask for help? Yes, you heard it…..Ask for help. If you are that rock everyone comes to, the fixer, the handler (come on now, we all have a little Olivia Pope in us), you know how difficult it is to ask for help. Well, my darlings, if we do not learn to ask for help and allow others the joy of helping us, you can be sure the Universe is going to deliver some hard lessons and get us to utter the word help;  I need help; Can you please help me…. Get the picture? Trust me, this will teach us to leave the EGO at the door!

Towards the last several years of my career, I was fed up with what I saw and experienced first hand: fed up with the big egos, the abuse of power, politics, lies, bullying, harassment, intimidation, a system not doing “right” by its clientele and personnel, the back stabbing and everything else that comes with working in a toxic work environment. I felt that my talents and my gifts weren’t even being tapped into. My creativity and light were being zapped! Nevertheless, I was committed to impacting and influencing others by continuing to “work the work” of self transformation, talk the talk and, more importantly,  walk the walk. I committed to living my yoga off the mat. The more my yoga and meditation practice deepened and flourished and the more I studied yoga philosophy, the more that I felt morally compromised and suffocated. The more I spoke my truth, operated from an authentic and transparent place, the more I saw that I no longer fit in that organization and that my soul needed, and was craving, expansion……Be careful what you wish for……that will be for another post!

The only thing that got me through those last few years leading up to 2012 and the last few months on the job, were to Lead from the heart….Right from the start, always and in all ways. And, boy, can I give you ways to do that!!!!!

Hence…….the Inspire Love Serve Blog.

Please stay tuned!

Inhale love….Exhale gratitude, JTC