Love Who You Are

Kiss your own body, and hug your own curves. You are made of LOVE and honey and hot peppers, when it’s necessary. You are a Wild Woman Goddess!”

Happy Valentine’s Day, my darlings! I hope we are all taking some time today to shower ourselves with lots of loving-kindness!

Let me start by saying that I had a most beautiful draft finished for today’s blog but, somehow (and unbeknownst to me), I failed to save it AND accidentally discarded it. By the looks of it, and by what I have read online, it appears that it is gone.

Apparently, the universe did not want me to publish that blog. So on this rainy day in South Florida, the day before Valentine’s Day, I have spent most of the day deleting 16,000+ photos and videos from my phone. And wouldn’t you know I came across some beautiful quotes and ideas for this blog you are about to read. I know, I know… I’m taking the easy way out here; nevertheless, I want to remind us all that we are beautiful, spirited, strong, talented and powerful Goddesses!

We’re powerful alright! We each possess gifts and skill that allow us to be whomever we want to be- without needing anyone’s approval. Not that the road to this place in our lives has been an easy one for any of us. But on a day like today, a day we celebrate all things love-related, we need to fully embrace the road that got us here as well as celebrate our MAGNIFICENCE. We need to own our GODDESS POWER!

Some of us are full-blown Goddesses to the core, and others of us are Goddess-in-training. For those of us who are not quite sure what authentic Goddess Power looks like, allow me to share something I came across as I was clearing out my photos:

  • Authentic Goddess Power is knowing who you are: Your Beauty
  • Authentic Goddess Power is knowing what works for you and what does not: Your Truth
  • Authentic Goddess Power is being your own best friend: Empowered Relationship with Yourself
  • Authentic Goddess Power is being connected with your soul and I AM presence: Spiritual Power
  • Authentic Goddess Power is having the courage to do what is right: Making the Tough Choices
  • Authentic Goddess Power is living from Your Creativity: Not the competitive ego

As any true Goddess knows, the other key piece is to make sure we surround ourselves with people who are authentic, inspiring, passionate, motivated, grateful and open-minded. And most importantly, those who see the greatness in us!

As if right on cue, when I was working on my ill-fated blog, my dearest and loving friend, Kat, sent me a beautiful prayer/ affirmation. We’re unsure where it came from… perhaps Louse Hay???? The moment I saw it, I knew it needed to be part of my Valentine’s Day blog.

Since I’m all about sharing the love and paying forward, I will share the prayer/ affirmation with you as MY Valentine’s Day gift to YOU. As with all prayers and affirmations, you may want to further tweak it to suit your needs:

“I am willing to see the magnificence of me. I now choose to eliminate from my mind and my life every negative, destructive and fearful idea and thought that would keep me from being the magnificent Goddess that I am meant to be. I now stand up on my own two feet, support myself and think for myself. I give myself what I need. It is safe for me to grow. The more I fulfill myself, the more people love me. I join the ranks of women healing other women. I am a blessing to the planet. My future is bright and beautiful. And so it is!”

My Darlings, on this day, and every day, we must make sure we put ourselves at the top of our to-do list. For when we do so, we TRULY step into our AUTHENTIC GODDESS POWER and become UNSTOPPABLE and LIMITLESS!!!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Wholehearted Living

“No one can create negativity or stress within you. Only you can do that by virtue of how you process your world” -Wayne Dyer

Yes, I am a Wayne Dyer junkie! As a matter of fact, in the third blog I wrote last year, The Power of We…Who’s Your Tribe, I mentioned that Wayne Dyer sits on my spiritual board of directors. If you have not read it, I invite you to do so. Of the 120+ blogs I’ve written, that one is still one of my favorites. If you do not have a spiritual board of directors, I highly encourage you to form one…wink, wink!

Having like-minded supportive people whom we can connect to, without being judged, is vital to our spiritual and emotional growth. Whether dead or alive, the wisdom and life experiences we obtain from our support network is both therapeutic and validating. Our community of like-minded individuals help us see and process our world. Over time, our perceptions and thoughts change, we move from a scarcity mentality to one of being and having enough, we learn to lead with an open heart, we embody the power of vulnerability and authenticity, we shift from fear to love, we learn to flex our courage, we build our resilience muscle, we value our connections and learn the secrets for wholehearted living.

All of this takes time, energy and a life-long commitment to change, growth, expansion and transformation. We must have that burning desire to learn and push beyond our boundaries. More importantly though, we must learn the art of letting go.

The art of letting go requires us to live and lead from the heart. It requires us to leave our egos at the door and silence the nasty and obnoxious roommate we have living in our heads. It is recognizing everything that is holding us back and learning the skills to move forward. It is the utilization of every tool in our spiritual toolbox. It is when we live and work from that space in our hearts that we are better able to engage with ourselves, our friends and family, our communities and the world at large. That is what the art of letting go and wholehearted living look like.

In Brené Brown’s Book, book, The Gifts of Imperfection,  she designed “guideposts” for living wholeheartedly. These guideposts also make a cameo appearance in her book, Daring Greatly, and I will share them with you a little later. As I read each guidepost, I realized that each and every single one personifies what life here in “Earth School” is all about.

You see, Earth School always brings us people, circumstances and situations to learn from. A lot of the learning comes from the exchange of information we have when we take part in meaningful and enriching conversations with others. These conversations allow us to share our insights, questions, speak our truth, share our wisdom and embrace new ways of looking at things. It goes beyond the nagging and complaining and having the same meaningless, dead-end, and shallow conversations that leave us feeling empty, without purpose, hopeless, negative and maybe even worse off than when we started.

Whether we like it or not, no one is exempt from Earth School’s curriculum or its classes. The lessons may be tailor-made to suit our own individualized curriculums, but the over-arching themes are what lead us to wholehearted living. How we process our world throughout the process of living wholeheartedly is what spiritual awakening is about. Wholehearted living, in my mind’s eye, is about living a quality life AND thriving while doing so!

I will leave you with the ten guideposts that Ms. Brown defined and encourage you to spend some time thinking long and hard about each one. Perhaps share them with your tribe, discuss them and maybe even journal about what may be keeping you stuck or may need tweaking. It is a good way for us to access where we are with our individualized curriculum. 

These guideposts are just that….a guide. Their purpose is not to create negativity or stress. We do enough of that for ourselves! Instead, look at the guideposts as tool to help us dig, delve, excavate and reveal the parts of our lives we may want/need to work on. Oh, and we must remember to acknowledge and celebrate the ones we have under our belts!

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear
  5.  Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion and a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control

Darlings, consider the guideposts your “cheat notes”….do with them what you please, or do nothing at all. As Wayne Dyer would say, the choice is yours by virtue of how you process your life….Change your thoughts, change your life!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

A New Year’s Practice

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

It’s the last day of 2018, and I am looking forward to some of my end of year rituals. I already cleaned my apartment, from top to bottom, did all the laundry, emptied the garbage and am currently washing my bedding as I write . With the exception of some throws and pillows, all that’s left to clean is my bathroom… and get rid of any added garbage.

My intentions are to skip the yoga studio this morning and do my last, home practice of 2018. In addition to yoga and meditation, I will spend some time journaling and perhaps even empty my blessings jar and read all of the things I wrote throughout 2018. Afterwards, I will take myself to lunch and pick up some fresh flowers along the way.

I am not the one for New Year’s Eve parties and staying out till some ungodly hour of the morning. As the saying goes, “Been there, done that.” Instead, I like to spend my evening reflecting, journaling, and perhaps doing a guided meditation. This will be my second year going to a friend’s yoga studio for a New Year’s Eve practice from 7 to 9 PM. That most definitely works for me because I am home with plenty of time to light some candles, burn some incense, soak in the tub, and do my evening practices. Oh, and my 12 grapes are already washed and ready for midnight!

Doing some sort of reflection at the end of the year, setting an intention or goals for the following year, or perhaps even working on a vision board are lovely ways to ring in the new year. Why? Because as the quote at the beginning of this blog stated: You yourself, as much is anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Pausing, and taking time for ourselves, are the ultimate expressions of self-love and self-care. What practices do you tap into when you find your Self in need of some TLC? Are there any end of year practices you especially enjoy doing to usher in a new year? Is there a particular ritual or activity you do on the 1st of the year?

My written practice this evening, which I will share with you, comes from Elena Brower’s Practice You Journal. This particular Practice will help us to explore and embody our Self. It will allow us to look at some of our beliefs, labels or assumptions we place on ourselves and perhaps allow us to dismantle or shake them up wherever needed.

There’s nothing like contemplation to shift our perspective. Guided journaling gives a voice to our most unfinished, raw, and passing emotions according to Elena Bower. She further states that journaling allows us to refine our listening, elevate our inner dialogue, meet our deepest self with compassion and love, and amplify the inherent intelligence of our own heart. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE those words! I feel them stirring deep in my soul.

Below is the beautiful Practice I will be doing later in this evening. I have my space all ready with a few new candles, some sage and palo santo, and a yummy throw in case I get cold. The title of this exercise is Embody.

Begin by taking a moment to sit and get grounded. Place your hands on your thighs, palms down, and begin breathing, deeply and slowly. Breathe audibly at first, then make your breathing increasingly more silent. Sense the weight of your seat, and let your spine rise tall. Feel your self embodied, present and steady.

Let the questions serve as continuing contemplations. Your thoughts will evolve over time, so respect where you are right now, stay steady, and be soft with yourself as you write. Keep these questions close as you might find yourself returning to them time and time again. As you come to know yourself, you may be surprised to see what’s unearthed. Let it out!

  • How do you define yourself?
  • Who are you today? Can you note some of the “labels” you’ve placed on yourself, your place in your family, your work, your world?
  • What are the words you would use to describe your current attitude about your life right now?
  • What’s the most visceral, urgent need you have right now in order to feel alive, happy, and at home in yourself?

I sense that these four questions will have us traveling inward time and time again, so we best make sure we keep our journals or paper handy. And if journaling isn’t your thing, then by all means color, draw or use graphics to express yourself. The point is to be You!

Also, if you feel like your juices are flowing and want some more journaling prompts, you can reference “End of Year Review & Rituals, which is the blog I wrote December 27, 2017. It contains close to 30 questions from which you can pick and choose. I will most likely be perusing them as well…. wink, wink!

Darlings… May your 2019 be bountiful, blissful and beautiful. May you know peace in your heart, peace in your home and peace in the world. Namaste!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Perfect Stillness

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

How very true! Life is indeed simple, and it amazes me how complicated we make it- how we consciously choose to make it. We can come up with a dozen excuses for doing so, but they are just that… excuses.

So then what happens? Over the years, and as we grow in wisdom and insight, we start to pare down, we eliminate clutter, clear out the things that weigh us down as well as the people who drain our energy, we schedule priorities and guard our energies, and we find ourselves keeping things simple.

This holds true for our practices too. We don’t need 3 hours at the gym nor a schedule so packed with social activities that we are running around like a chicken without a head and without true quality time spent with those we love. We find ourselves pausing to breathe… really breathe. And I don’t mean shallow breathing, I mean revitalizing and grounding breaths. Above all, we crave perfect stillness, quiet, tranquility and the peace we feel inside when we allow ourselves to be still.

As I mentioned in a blog this time last year, December can really mess with people’s emotions and energies for a myriad of reasons. I’m sure you can make up your own list that will attest to it. Oftentimes, the end result this time of year is that we are left swirling, spiraling, depleted and perhaps even sad, frustrated or angry.

Last year’s blog, Hold the Vision… Trust the Process included a guided meditation that enhanced our sense of support and stability. I thought I would share yet another lovely guided meditation called Statue of Stillness. It truly is very grounding because it directs breath and awareness to the base of the body, helping to release tension from this area. It enhances a sense of of inner stability and slows down the breath and lengthens the exhalation.

Before getting started, you may want to light a candle, maybe clear your space, put your phone on airplane mode and maybe even burn some incense. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair with your feet touching the floor.

If you would like, you can also add a hand gesture which is called a Mudra. For this particular meditation/Mudra, tuck your thumbs into the palms of your hands and curl your fingers loosely around the thumbs, forming soft fists with both hands. You can then rest the hands on to your thighs or your knees, with the palms facing down. Be sure to relax your shoulders… bring them up to your ears then back and down. You will feel your spine naturally aligned and sitting straight.

The other thing you can do is to have someone read this meditation to you, or you can voice record it so you can listen to your own voice. I just glance down at it, and sit with the vision and the feelings for however long I feel like it. After a few times and with practice, it comes rather naturally, or I practice my own version of it.

The benefit of this meditation, as with most forms of meditations, is that it activates our parasympathetic nervous system thereby initializing the relaxation response. Darlings, there’s nothing like a relaxed nervous system!!!

If you’re new to meditation, you WILL feel it’s benefits almost immediately. And remember, don’t stress yourself… just go with the flow. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. Don’t put added stress on yourself wondering if you’re “doing it right.” Be still and trust the process. Ready? Here goes:

  1. As you hold this Mudra, take several natural breaths to attune to all the feelings and sensations evoked by this gesture.
  2. Notice how your breath is gently directed downward, toward the base of your body, instilling a sense of stability and grounding.
  3. Take some time to sense the natural pause at the end of each exhaling breath, cultivating a space of silence in which your body and mind can deeply rest.
  4. For your next few breaths, attune to these pauses even more deeply, experiencing a sense of serenity that allows you to become completely still, like a statue softly breathing.
  5. As stillness and compasses each area of your body, you experience the absolute peace and harmony that is a reflection of your true being.
  6. Begin by taking several breaths to allow stillness to permeate your pelvis, legs and feet, creating a firm foundation for your statue of serenity.
  7. Now, allow your abdomen solar plexus, low and mid back to enter into stillness and completely relax.
  8. With your lower body still and serene, takes several breaths to sense your heart, lungs, chest and upper back merging with your statue of stillness.
  9. Serenity now fills your shoulders, arms and hands, all the way to your fingertips, integrating these areas into your statue of stillness.
  10. Finally, stillness permeates your neck and head, inviting all of your senses to naturally turn inward and gently rest.
  11. Now, take some time to sense your entire being as a statue of stillness.
  12. Affirm your essential stillness, repeating the following three times, aloud or silently: “In absolute stillness of being, I experience complete peace and serenity.”
  13. Now, slowly release the gesture, taking several breaths to rest an absolute stillness.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes, returning slowly and gently, while remaining aligned with the stillness of your true being.
  • This meditation comes from the book Mudras for Healing and Transformation, by Joseph and Leslie Le Page. This treasure trove of a book is a wonderful one to add to your self-care “toolbox. ” You will learn more about mudras, guided meditations, energy centers (chakras), doshas (constitution), balance and health conditions in the warm comfort of your own home sanctuary.
  • Like a statue softly breathing, may you rest in the perfect stillness of your being throughout the next few days, weeks, and months!
  • Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC
  • The Sky’s the Limit

    “Do what makes you happy…on your birthday and every day” 

    The Sky’s the Limit is the name of the establishment where “Scandalous” took me to and I jumped out of a plane ten years ago, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve written about that experience before, and I recently came across pictures that I didn’t realize I still had in my possession.

    In looking back on that day, it was definitely symbolic of what this past decade was going to be like. Now, skydiving was nothing I had ever thought of doing. But then again, I did a lot of things I never thought I would have done with Scandalous.

    I recall sitting inside the little plane as it made itself up and thinking how liberating it was probably going to feel as soon as we jumped.  Fear, nor anxiety, did not play into it at all.  And that’s the truth! It couldn’t because I was so damn present in every second of every moment as the plane ascended into the sky. As a matter of fact, I did not even read anything I was given to sign nor did I pay attention to the video you are instructed to watch. If I had, then I can only speculate that fear may have shown up.

    I remember breathing…connecting with my breath…long deep inhales, long smooth exhales. It was like a meditation as I sat there getting in tune with my breath and remarking to myself how I was most likely going to feel one with all things as soon as I was “out there.” Well, it was beyond liberating and freeing and the most zen-like moment    I could have never imagined all in one. There was the rush of the free fall, the silence once the parachute opened and the “appearance” and illusion of stillness even though we weren’t still by any means. The stillness, silence, curvature of the horizon and expansiveness were breathtaking in an exponential way.

    In looking back to the past ten years, my 50’s were all about freedom,  liberation and expansiveness….freeing myself of many things, people and circumstances that were not for my highest good. It was about giving up the need to control. It was about pain, loss and suffering. It was about eliminating illusion and attachments. It was about looking at things from a different perspective and having a bird’s-eye view of things. It was about silence and stillness. It was about spiritual expansion. It was about feeling and doing things from a deeper and more meaningful place in my soul.

    So what will this next decade bring? I would venture to say perhaps more of the same but on more profound levels, grander scales and with greater heightened awareness. And let’s not forget daily opportunities to celebrate life and the beautiful souls I get to walk with on this path in the light.

    And I have to look no further than at how my Mama lived her life. Sharing the love, celebrating in style and leaving her mark is something Mama did very well….on top of being beyond generous, Mama brought  joy to everyone with whom she came into contact. I have a good example for how to live out the rest of my days. Mama was always a good example of how life should be lived as well as celebrated. A friend and co-worker of mine once remarked that Mama was all about the celebration…from her outfits to her outlook. This same friend also shared the following words with me when Mama left this physical world: “Your mom exhibited a true sense of  freedom- free to think, to dress, to act, to speak what she believed in….the true Madame Butterfly.”  

    Yep, that pretty much described my Mama! And pretty much describes the person I grew into over the last ten years. So on this day, when Mama gave birth to me 60 years ago, I am grateful for all the characteristics my little 5 ft., sassy, bold, brave, funny, fierce and fashionista Mama somehow managed to leave ingrained in me. She truly showed me, by example, that the sky’s the limit!

    Darlings, regardless of your age (for I truly believe it’s just a number), I invite you to take a page from Mama’s playbook, live out loud, and leave your mark wherever you go!

    Inhale Love & Light….Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    Who Inspires You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s to living an inspired life!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Scandalous Grace

    “Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valerie Kaur

    I have been reflecting a lot on life’s events from 10 years ago. It was one of the happiest times in my life yet one of the saddest. Light and dark. High and low. As I recalled my memories of the last few months of my mother’s life, I couldn’t help but also think of the person who was in my life at the time.

    A person who was instrumental in bringing Mama and me so much joy.  A person who was by my side when we laid my mother to rest two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. A person who took me sky diving for my 50th. A person whom I have been reluctant to write about but did mention briefly in a couple of blogs last year. A person who I said I would “leave for a future blog” on multiple occasions. Well, I think this is finally the occasion and the blog. Allow me to introduce you to “Scandalous.”

    Scandalous had many nick names….some given by me and others that friends coined. This particular one was given to him by a school secretary. Frankie came to school, where I was a vice-principal, to take me on a lunch date. Now mind you- this is a man who dresses to the nines, can sport conservative clothes as well as the most outlandish, is an engineer by trade,  has been truly gifted with the most logical, orderly, and organized left brain as well as the most creative, imaginative and artistic right brain. It’s no wonder we got along so well. There was never a dull moment between us….each moment was powerful and wonder-filled! But what did he choose to wear the day he came to pick me up?

    Would you guess if I told you that he picked me up on his motorcycle!?!?!?! If you guessed leather chaps, you guessed right (and a leather vest, bandana on his head…the whole enchilada). I still recall Sara, the school secretary, calling me with a sense of urgency in her voice. When he showed up and “strutted” into my office, I understood why the urgent tone in Sara’s voice. OMG! Although I tried not to show it, I cringed when I saw him and immediately fast forwarded to how I was going to introduce him to my principal AND how I was going to get him out of the building without many people seeing him. Well, I did, and we did, and the rest is history. We often joked and laughed at the memories of that day.

    So now you understand how the nick name “Scandalous” originated. On that fall Friday afternoon, we rode off on his LOUD, colorful motorcycle and, unbeknownst to me, the principal gathered  the office staff, and they crowded by the window to check out the entire scene as “Ms. Carricarte” got on a motorcycle (probably in high heels) and with a “scandalous” looking guy.

    Scandalous and I had known each other for about 6 years or so at that time. We would frequently see each other at the gym on the weekends. During the summer of 2008, as my mother was in hospice and coming to the end of her life, I decided I would spend most of the weekends with her. However, I had to make sure I took care of Me first if I was going to hole myself up with her in the nursing home every weekend. And it was then that Scandalous and I saw each other after a while of me being absent from the gym. As with all things in life, timing and circumstances brought us together like never before.

    Scandalous had always been a flirt, but I rarely paid any mind to it. Actually, I always found him entertaining. However, this time around was different. I found myself being the flirt…or overly enthused and happy to see him. Take your pick. Perhaps  I needed to laugh, as I was already starting to grieve my mother’s pending loss. And believe me when I say that laughter was a mainstay with me and Scandalous. No one has ever brought out my inner child the way he did. We were like two little kids whenever we were together. Talk about mindfulness and being present…..it’s as if time stood still whenever we were together. We were so engrossed in whatever we were doing, or whatever antics he would be up to, or we would be up to, that I could not help but be 100% engaged in any given moment.

    Scandalous’ life was “complicated,”  which is one of the reasons I never got involved with him prior to that point in time. However, it got even more complicated once our souls connected and our grand love affair took flight.  We spent as much time together as we could. It was easy, it was fun, romantic, he’d stay over, we’d go out all the time, and we’d go away quite a bit…until the time came when I realized this “complicated affair” was not serving my highest good… nor his. Our 15 months together were the equivalent of having been together for 10 years.

    Throughout those first few months we were together, Scandalous got to meet my Mama and made sure she knew that he would take care of me when she was gone. Scandalous always had a very charitable and generous spirit and always knew how to handle things, so that just made him even more endearing. And during those last few months of Mama’s life, Scandalous brought a lot of love, joy, fun and laughter into her world. His sense of humor,  jokes, zaniness and thoughtfulness made her laugh, cry and also brought her a sense of peace and serenity. Mama even called him “mi segundo hijo,” which translates to “my second son.” In her mind, she was handing me off to him, and all would be well in my world.

    Needless to say, he was there for both of us and was instrumental in helping me to  honor my mother in fun and creative ways. However, full-blown grief came out to play once I ended the relationship. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a period of grief that, compounded with other losses (which I’ve written about in past blogs), would amount to about six of the darkest years of my life.

    The years that followed our breakup were times of much growth for me. Labels, ego, expectations and letting go of attachments was something I was working on at the time we came together. Scandalous taught me what unconditional love in a relationship looked like, along with compassion and patience.  When all was said and done, I learned acceptance – seeing, loving, respecting and honoring others regardless of where they are along their own path / journey. I also learned how to speak my truth clearly, calmly and compassionately without raising my voice, getting angry or heated. Most importantly though, I learned to value my worth and my own values.  However, it didn’t make the breakup, nor the six years that followed, any easier. Those post-Scandalous years were very difficult, painful, and dark to say the least.

    At the time  our relationship expired, which was a year to the day after burying  Mama, we woke up together on what would be our last day of doing so. You see, I realized I was done. For the first time since we had gotten together, my soul felt compromised. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had learned whatever lessons I was meant to have learned at that particular juncture in my life, and so had he. But it wasn’t about him…it was about Me.

    I vowed to myself to honor what my soul was guiding me to do. No more complications, no more hurts, and no more lies.  Even though the lies were on his part, I was still part of them and an active participant as long as we stayed together. I no longer wanted to be a part of the double life he was living. At this point, I was entrenched in my yoga practice, studying yoga philosophy and knew I was compromising my soul, values, morals, ethics and beliefs. I just couldn’t do it any longer. Authenticity was a MAJOR life lesson for me in my 50’s. I worked hard (and still do) at living my yoga, both on and off the mat, with intention, integrity and grace.

    Ahhhh “grace”…those mindful and meaningful moments of grace were a constant after our breakup, as well as continued faith, joy, gratitude, inner fortitude, resilience, peace, calm……and grief. These were such dark and sad times for me. I tried to find the grace and joy in each of those moments no matter how I was feeling. Actually, I felt like a part of my soul was missing, I felt like I had lost my best friend. More than anything I missed, and still miss, our friendship more so than the romantic relationship.

    For years after our breakup, I couldn’t listen to dance music, and I felt like a light had been extinguished in my soul. That’s when I started to experience the “grief is the price of love” thingI was grieving my mother, the breakup, and an injury that brought with it yet more losses, including the end of my career (not on my terms), and much physical, emotional and psychological pain. Through it all, my light-filled Treehouse oasis (which I moved to a few months after the breakup) became more and more of a sacred healing place filled with much love, light and joy.

    The Treehouse became a place for me to  retreat to and pamper my mind, body and spirit. It was, and still is, where I leave the world behind and go within. I cook, read, write and reflect a whole lot at home. I enjoy the peace, quiet, serenity, tranquility  and ambiance within the walls and the nature that surrounds me.  Little did I know that Scandalous, as well as these last ten post-Scandalous years, would lead me to the place and the woman I am today.

    One month shy of my 60th, I think its safe to say I have grown into someone who is brave and fearless yet vulnerable; wild and free yet responsible;  fierce and steadfast yet flexible;  compassionate and kind yet discerning; open and accepting, yet conscious of healthy boundaries; honest, truthful, transparent and unapologetically real….AND the bonus was I learned the beauty of leaving one’s ego at the door. It’s amazing how the universe is always presenting me with opportunities to use these skillful gifts. Yep, the lessons keep coming, deeper, with more layers and more complexities each time. Like the saying goes, “We can be a masterpiece and a work in progress.”

    What can I say?  Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Scandalous!  While I feel these are pretty healthy, balancing, abundant and harmonious gifts, I also know they constantly need tending to, chiseling and polishing. Our work is never done! One thing is for sure though: taking the time to “do me” these past ten years have blessed me with these endless gifts of grace….Scandalous Grace. 

    I guess I should mention that, on a few occasions over the years, Scandalous has even shown up at my door…unexpectedly. We’ve spoken about the “void” and have even tried doing “the friend thing.” Although the energy and soul recognition / connection will always exist between us, the “friend thing” just does NOT work for us. Especially when it’s apparent to you that you are not on the same playing field, nor on the same page, and you realize the woman you have grown into will not compromise her Soul ever again. There’s no turning back. Now that is scandalous grace!

    So, my darlings, there you have it. Scandalous 101- done and done!

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    PS- For more on relationships, you may want to check out two of my previous blogs, Relationships Expire and You’re Not Alone. As always, thanks for caring and sharing!

     

     

     

    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 Can Hold It All

    “Love is fully accepting what is.” -The Daily Love

    Greetings my darlings! I hope you all had a chance to check out my dearest Blondie’s recent blog, Sister Mother Friend. This was her third time guest blogging, and I think she is getting pretty good at this. You see, it’s all part of a master plan of mine. Sooner or later, Blondie dearest is going to be inspired to create her own blog. Hmmmm….I think I may have just stumbled on the name too: Blondie Dearest…wink, wink! Sounds like a fab name to me, don’t you think?

    The inner work we do along our journey, and the supportive souls we surround ourselves with, make it possible for us to truly love and respect ourselves and respect where we are in life. By fully “accepting what is,” we are bestowing upon ourselves the highest form of self-love, self-respect and self-preservation without having our egos take center stage and hijack our thoughts to a place of lack, insecurity, inadequacy or, worse yet, fear. Fear of what “others” may think, hear, assume or say about us. Fear that sets off all our triggers and sabotages our progress. Once we replace fear with love, we find that love, indeed, can hold it all! Yep, every little bit of it.

    It’s a beautiful thing to come to a place in our lives where other people’s opinions of us don’t sabotage our growth, evolution and acceptance. And speaking of growth and evolution, I hope you’ve had a chance to peruse the questions I listed in the blog Grow Through It All. If you love to journal, by all means write away. If you are new to journaling, and perhaps even new to choosing to do things differently, well then I invite you to write away as well! If you are willing to do the work of transforming your thoughts, habits, perceptions, intentions and your precious life, you too can come to a place of fully accepting what is.

    By accepting “what is,” (and as Blondie found along her personal journey), patience, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and love become our guiding principles. Furthermore, they invite more peace and harmony into our lives despite whatever turmoil may be looming. Who doesn’t want more peace and harmony in their life? Well, as we know all too well, peace and harmony are most definitely and unequivocally an inside job.

    It starts with our hearts. It can be viewed as merging our heart and our mind. There is a line in Matt Kahn’s book, Whatever Rises Love That, that speaks to this merging:

    “As your mind and heart unite as one, the more you see others beyond their divided and unconscious states.”

    This calls for a major shift in perspective. This shift allows us have more presence of mind and liberate ourselves from “victim” mentality, judgement, criticism and disappointment to one of understanding, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. We are better able to act rather than just react. We also free ourselves of the gossip and the “he said, she said” scenarios that are poisonous. Why would we willingly drink poison? Yet, this is what we do to ourselves when we operate from our own “divided and unconscious states.” Once we realize this, we can better relate to others and why they do the things they do. No judgement, just acceptance. And we can hold it all in a space of love.

    However, we must be willing to shift our energy, raise our vibration, go within and allow our minds and hearts to come together. This merging of heart and mind is like a beautiful dance. We master our dance only after much practice though. Practice and an  intention and willingness to stick with it. To put our love of the dance above it all. We see with clearer eyes. As if we were viewing what is going on around us not with both our eyes, but through the clear and luminous lens of our universal eye. The eye of unity consciousness. The eye of shared humanity.

    This oneness, this unity, this leading from the heart is what will enable us to love and accept others despite their limitations. Every single person we come into contact with is on their very own “growth track.” If we can grasp this and accept this notion, we can be in relationship with others despite where they are along their evolutionary growth track.    Acceptance, and its faithful companions, peace and harmony, is a relationship worth striving for. Like the saying goes, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” And from this calmness in our hearts, we will be able to accept and hold whatever “It” is.

    I will leave you with a lovely affirmation/prayer to guide you along your journey. It’s from the May You Know Joy Meditations for Everyday Living card and book set. Enjoy!

    May You Know Acceptance

    May you know acceptance. May you accept all that unfolds in your life – the expected and the unexpected, the positive and the negative. May you accept yourself and the circumstances you find yourself in. In choosing acceptance, you choose peace and kindness and compassion. Acceptance comes from self-love and creates a space for opportunity and transformation.

     

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

    Grow Through It All

    “When our souls are healthy, we change the environment; the environment doesn’t change us” -Pastor Carl Lentz

    This past week I have been finishing up the numerous books I’ve been simultaneously reading. While I still have 2 more to go, I did finish Own the Moment by Carl Lentz. And not only did I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoy reading it, but I finally made it to service at Hillsong Church this morning. What an experience! One can’t help but getting that feeling of  coming alive and getting our souls infused with a healthy and relatable dose of “the all-knowing word.”

    I will be taking a few weeks off from posting my blog, because I need to diligently and fervently work on all the blogs I want to write and schedule before going away and disconnecting from social media. I usually schedule one per week, usually on Wednesdays, while I am away. I will keep you all posted!

    But not to worry…I am going to leave you with some meaningful food for thought, conversation, guidance and perhaps even some writing for the next couple of weeks while I devote some uninterrupted time to writing myself. Should you choose to deeply explore the questions, it is my hope that you will be left feeling an expansive sense of Self. There is always room for growth, darlings! The key is to be accountable and keep plugging away at this most powerful, pure-hearted, heart-centered and self-loving process.

    So, I leave you with some questions from Own the Moment. The questions were scattered throughout the book. I may have tweaked some questions and added a few of my own. Nevertheless, I selected the ones that spoke to me in hopes they speak to you as well. Like I said, reflect on them, talk about them, journal or simply explore them in which ever way serves you best:

    • Do you know where you are going?
    • What drives you?
    • What shapes you?
    • What fuels you?
    • What guides you?
    • Are you changing?
    • Are you influencing?
    • What are you listening to today?
    • Is it helpful?
    • Is it life-giving?
    • Where do you put your focus?
    • What are your challenges?
    • Who challenges you?
    • Do you have broken relationships because you’re consumed with the wrongs somebody else committed and you have failed to own your part in the matter?
    • Can you be more constructive and look inward to bring change in your life?
    • Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
    • What do you demand for your own life?
    • What are your non-negotiables?
    • Do you know your convictions –  the “yes, I wills” and the “no, I won’ts?”
    • Are you changing your environment, or is your environment changing you?
    • Have you had to adjust your standards to fit in?
    • Have you lived with such conviction as people start rethinking their standards because of you?
    • How can you influence others?
    • Are you clear about your intentions?
    • Do the people in your life feel valued and appreciated?
    • If so, why? What do you do that makes them feel this way?
    • What would you do if you truly didn’t care about what other people thought about you?
    • How would you live, what would you pursue, and ultimately  how much fun would you have?
    • How many things in life would you have already tried if you didn’t fear failure?
    • How many people in your life might you be holding to an unrealistic standard of completeness when you have areas that are in the process of healing?
    • Do you find yourself living in the past?
    • Are you constantly in a hurry?
    • If you take a genuine hard look at what influences you today and the relationships that you hold most dear, are they helping or hurting you?
    • Could it be said that some things that should not be an option in your life have been given the opportunity to grow?
    • What makes you the most insecure in life? Why?
    • Where can you find time to stop and be grateful for all that you have in your life?
    • What is the one thing you can do today that can make a huge difference in the life of another?

    We can look at our answers and realize our journey, and our task, is to do the work in order to grow through whatever it is we are going through and, ultimately, evolve into the best version of ourselves AND live a full, meaningful and purposeful life in the process! We have much to do in terns of growing. By the same token, we can also look to see if we are allowing the way we live to suck the passion out of our lives.

    We can further investigate our answers and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life- and one that is filled with peace, tranquility and serenity. We can see, and feel,  if we are operating from a place of love or fear. We can look to see if we’re choosing to live in joy despite of the life circumstances that befall us all.

    Ultimately, our answers will reveal if we are living from a place of truth, transparency and authenticity, or of we are living a life of dishonesty, fraud, lies, deceit, half-truths, and omissions that are compromising our soul’s integrity. Remember, the choice is always ours to make!

    Darlings, stay calm, cool and continue to grow through it all

    Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC