Birthday Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready? Here we go…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planting New Seeds: Inspiration for Tumultuous Times

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

Greetings, my darlings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a time to:

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

Some affirmations that could be helpful in this time:

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

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

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

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

Hugging is Healing

“When was the last time you gave or received a hug? Whether it’s a comforting embrace or reminicent of a grizzly bear, hugging is a natural and unspoken way of expressing care and support through life’s ups and downs.” Breathe Magazine

Are you a hugger? Do you like giving and receiving hugs? Are you open to receiving hugs, or do you freeze when you see someone approaching to hug you?

Well…I am a hugger. And, in my humble opinion, there is nothing more satisfying, pleasing and delicious in my book than a juicy hug! There’s nothing like being in an embrace with someone who loves to hug as well.

When introduced to someone (via someone I already know), I immediately reach out to their extended hand if offerred; but, then I pull them close and tell them I’m a lover and a hugger. Then I go in for the hug….and linger for a moment.

Here’s a cute story for you: A couple of months ago, I was picked up at the airport by a driver (and beautiful soul) named Zach. He came highly recommended from one of my Maui sisters. We had spoken on the phone a couple of times prior to my flight, and now I was telling him exactly what door I was at and how easy I was to spot (I was attired in tropical print head to toe). When I saw his car, I moved toward it. He then got out of the car to see me with open arms. His arms were open too. I called out his name and, in turn, he called out “Mama Yaya!” He gave me the best hug ever! It was like being embraced by a bear. I chuckle when I recall our exchange because if anyone was watching us, they would have thought we’d known each other forever. Hugging- the human touch- is so powerfully healing and soothing!

I recently read an article on hugging, and it stated that the word hug is thought to be derived from the Old Norse word “hugga,” which means to comfort. In case you’re wondering where “Old Norse” comes from, no worries- I looked it up. It appears that it’s a spoken language from the North Germanic (Sandinavian) language of medieval Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, up to the 14th century, from which the modern Scandinavian language is derived. And, according to Wikipedia,  it was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia  and their overseas settlements from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Who knew? Well, now we know!

There are so many benefits to hugging! It’s been shown to improve our health and well-being, our immune system, and our nervous system. Have you ever noticed how calm and cared for you feel when you’re stressed, worried, fatigued or out of sorts and someone offers a hug?  How about when you’re sad or just can’t find the words to adequately express how you’re feeling? We’ve all had moments like that. You know, when you’re feeling a feeling but can’t seem to name it or, if you do, you know the floodgates will open and the tears will start so you remain silent? There’s a level of intimacy that gets shared when we hug that is very healing and nourishing.

Since I am not in a romantic relationship, hugs are very important to me. I’ll take as many as I can get…wink, wink. Afterall, how else will I feel this intimate human contact and the level of care and comfort a hug provides? Thank goodness most of my Goddesses, Soul Sisters and yoga teachers share a love of hugging as wel! As a matter of fact, I have one beloved teacher (I call her Lovely Laura) who encourages us all to give or take a hug on the way out of class. Needless to say, she is a delicious hugger!

I am deeply grateful that I do not have tactile/sensory issues or suffer from some past physical trauma/abuse when it comes to hugging…that could be ugly!  Determining whether or not a person likes close, physical contanct is a craft I think I’ve mastered. I can usually tell if I look into their eyes and assess their body language…open or closed? Sometimes, a person may look like a deer in headlights (dead giveaway). If I sense the person doesn’t particularly care for a hug, I’ll usually offer a “quick” hug. Why torture them, right? However, the mischevious, rebellious child in me has been known to torture on ocassion. Oh well!

In my book, mastering the perfect hug can be an art of sorts. First of all, eye contact is a must – as are open arms. You will want to connect heart to heart. Typically, we are used to offerring the right side of our cheek and body.  By offerring the left side, our hearts connect. It takes a bit of practice to break this habit.

Next, linger in the embrace. Lingering is important, as is the breath. Take 3-5 deep breaths, and see if you can feel the other person’s heartbeat.  This can be so therapeutic, especially if we are totally present with our thoughts and feelings. The breath is what brings us into the pressent – the here and now.

We may also want to share a few words or silently wish the other person  some love, peace, harmony, joy, comfort, or ease. Our intentions are important, for we want our hugs to be genuine. Basically, we want the other person to know they matter, they are loved, cared for and connect to that feeling, or soul recognition, that is so much greater than we can imagine.

Since we are on the topic of healing, I’d like to recommend two blogs I wrote last year which you may enjoy and find helpful. The first one is Choosing Love at All TImes. The other one is Taking Charge of Our Own Healing. 

Darlings, we are all here on our own healing journeys, and our stories help others along their own path. We are all conencted. When we heal, others heal. When others heal, the collective consciousness heals. We are all part of the big picture of helping to move humanity forward. We are all the purest embodiment of love. Every moment presents us with the opportunity to choose Love!

So, my darlings, on this 2 year anniversary of InspireLoveServe (and 140 blogs later), I  am sending you all some major virtual love and hugs. Open your arms, feel your heart wide open, take a deep breath and feel my heart connecting with yours. Feel my virtual embrace as we wrap our arms around each other. Let’s just linger there for 4-5 deep breaths and connect with the rising and falling of our hearts.

Let’s take it one step further and take a page from a Thich Nhat Hanh conscious breathing teaching. As we breathe in say, I calm my body. Breathing out, let’s smile. As we dwell in the present moment, we know this is a wonderful moment! FEEL THE LOVE! FEEL THE GRATITUDE! Feel how appreciative I am that you are reading this blog. Perhaps you are a regular follower or  a casual passerby. You may have even shared one/some of my blogs with friends and loved ones. Sharing is caring! For that I am grateful.

Now…feel the love, spread the love and go find someone to hug!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

The Lost Art of Lounging

“Busyness is the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from ourselves, mistaking the doing for the being.” -Maria Popova

Greetings, my darlings! I hope this blog finds you in good spirits and enjoying the last few days of August.

Many of us may have just sent kids off to college, are preparing little ones to start school for the first time or maybe just getting kids organized and ready to start a new school year. For many educators, today, tomorrow or next Tuesday signals the dreaded “back to work” mentality. For those who work year round, maybe savoring the last few days of summer is your ardent mission.

Generally speaking, this is a time of year that people are cramming a lot in to their already packed days. Lounging may not necessarily be at the top of your “to do” list, but I’m here to tell you that it needs to be! Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. It’s self-preservation!

The way I see it, is that so many people are addicted to “the art of busyness” that they have forgotten the beautiful, nurturing, nourishing, refreshing, revitalizing, inspiring and necessary “art of lounging.”

We all have responsibilities. Unfortunately though, it seems like people today tend to create much of the unnecessary busyness for themselves. Between feeling the need to be connected and reachable anytime of day or night, the incessant lure of social media feeds, and emails and news alerts repeatedly pinging at all hours, the self-imposed need to respond immediately, more and more people are spending more and more time of their day on their devices and in a perpetual state of distraction.

As a result, HUGE chunks of the average person’s day is consumed with mindless activities and stressors. All this constituting “busyness” is reaching epic and overwhelming proportions and is affecting our quality of life- how we enjoy life, how we engage in life and how we participate in social and familial settings.

All these stressors have the tendency to leave us fatigued and our nervous system in “flight or light” overdrive. More than ever we need to pause, stop, restore, replenish and return our nervous system back to “rest and digest” mode.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I am a self-imposed love and gratitude junkie and a HUGE proponent of self care. So it’s no secret that I consider myself to be The Queen of The Art Lounging. Yep, you heard me! And those who know me can attest to it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can busy myself as much as the next person if I allow it. And I use the word “allow” because it is a choice. I also choose to guard my energy and make my rest and relaxation a top priority. And I do so by establishing little rituals I honor that refuel me, take my nervous system out of “red alert” mode, and allow me to enjoy my own company.

Whenever I’ve had a long day or a couple of back-to-back long days), one of my favorite things to do is to be in bed SUPER early. How early? Well…hold on now….ready??? Sometimes it can be as early as 6:30 pm. (I think I may have heard a gasp or a jaw or two drop).

I make sure I’ve lit some scented candles, have soothing music playing, take a hot shower or scented oil bath, slather on the lotions and the potions and the essential oils, do about 3-4 restorative poses (sometimes just legs up the wall will do), and then slip into my comfy bed. I surround myself with my journals, magazines or a good book and just allow myself to lounge…. sans phone!

Here’s the funny thing- I recall being in my 30’s and 40’s and my mother telling me how early she was in bed, or not to worry if I called her and she didn’t answer because it meant she was already sleeping, and I would shake my head and roll my eyes. I just didn’t get it. Needless to say, now I do…wink, wink.

When fully rested, we show up for ourselves. In turn, we can show up more consciously and be present for the people in our lives. We feel more grounded and less scattered. We enjoy our life more. We are more aware of the joy and love that surrounds us. We laugh more. We take in the beauty and the nature that is around us. We enjoy our pets. We are better able to connect with others. We engage with others more easily and happily.  We feel more inspired, creative and productive. We find ourselves allocating more time to doing the things we want to do or have been putting off doing. We have the ability to discern between doing real work and busy work. We become more skillful and learn to act instead of react. We become more grateful and graceful. In a nut shell, we become fully engaged participants in the ups and downs of life while still managing to enjoy and appreciate it all!

Darlings, I encourage each and every one of you reading this to take a moment to ask yourself the following question:

What can you do to be less busy and enjoy your life more?

Here’s to you and finding what the art of lounging looks like in your own world!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- Stay tuned to the next blog as I will be featuring a new Guest Blogger!

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

Ease and Effortlessness

“If you align in any moment with the flow of life as it presents itself, it will unfold in the right way at the right time with spontaneity and ease.” -Tosha Silver

There was a time in my life when I had to make sure that I was in control of every little thing, what would happen, when it would happen, how and with whom. The OCD in me maintained such a tight schedule, that the possibility of any sort of magic, spontaneity or synchronicity to occur were less than likely.

No wonder I was stressed! If I was going to entertain a large crowd, I would obsess over it for the weeks leading up to it. If I was hosting a dinner party, I would be setting the dining room table days in advance and making sure every little detail was “perfect.” I would let all the details consume my every waking moment. By the time the day or evening came, I’d already be exhausted.

At times, I’d be so hell-bent on something happening a certain way, that I would struggle when it appeared that it would not work out. And when it didn’t, I’d have a meltdown. I was like a fish swimming upstream. A part of me never paused long enough to notice that perhaps I was being “divinely guided” in another direction.

Whew! When I look back, it’s almost as if I do not recognize that person. Thank goodness those years are long gone!

By no means am I saying to throw planning and scheduling out the window. A certain degree of planning is always necessary. If we don’t plan, we are actually planning to fail. Any solid educator or highly successful person will attest to that. What I am saying is to be aware of that ever-so fine line between planning and obsessing.

Once we cross over the border to obsession, we’re doomed. We often have physical symptoms or get sick. But the sooner we come to that point in our lives where we realize that we cannot control everything, we are on our road to OCD recovery.

That’s when we start learning to sit back, chill out, relax, and have faith in knowing that everything will work out…as we see it happening with our own eyes. Before we know it, we have mastered the art of letting go and just letting life happen. Struggles be gone… how sweet it is!!! There’s absolutely no turning back once we’ve learned to have faith in the process.

For me, there is no better reminder of ease and going with the flow than when I’m on my yoga mat or when I sit on the beach and look out at the ocean. I love watching the waves roll in. Even when the waves crash, they do so ever so effortlessly. It’s as if they just melt into one another. There’s no struggle, no pushback…the pattern just repeats itself over and over again.

Letting go with ease and effortlessness is what we can do when faced with a decision, situation or problem we are unsure as to how to address. We can either get stuck ruminating in our heads or align ourselves with that power that is greater than us. Aligning ourselves with Source, is where faith comes in.

The faith in knowing we do not have to take on that decision, situation or problem and do battle with it in that very instant. We know, deep in our souls, that it’s already being handled. The lovely and delightful book by Tosha Silver, Outrageous Openness- Letting the Divine Take the Lead, is a perfect read in that it opens our eyes to the myriad of ways the Divine is always handling the details and conspiring in our favor. Through the often funny, poignant and practical vignettes contained in the book, we are delightfully and creatively shown how we can release the exhausting pursuit that has us seeking everything from perfection and control to safety and security.

The book club I belong to decided to pick this book last month. While I had previously read it when it was first published, I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it again. It allowed me to reflect and rejoice!

Tosha Silver’s Book a gem. As one of the reviews states: “By allowing the Divine to lead the way, we can finally put down the heavy load of hopes, fears, and opinions about how things should be. We learn how to be guided to take the right actions at the right time, and to enjoy the spectacular show that is our life.”

Darling, if you feel your life is lacking a fair amount of ease and effortlessness, and you feel exhausted and keep hitting dead ends, then it’s time to do something about it. If you feel like your life is a constant struggle and you’re tightly wound up and ready to snap, it’s time to snap out of it!

Know there IS a better way. You don’t have to go at this thing called “Life” alone. Actually, we aren’t wired to “go at it alone.” We are all wired to a path of enlightenment, and this is NOT a solitary path. The Divine is always there to guide us and show us how to live with ease and effortlessness.

All we need to do is be open…. outrageously open!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Inner Clarity

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Think about this for a moment, my darlings: the present moment is where we have “an appointment with life” as Thich Nhat Hanh is known for saying. After all, the past no longer exists and neither does the future. Yet, many of us live somewhere between the two… with one foot in the past and one in the future.

What happens when this occurs? We are either depressed or anxious. Sad or worried. Rather than being so fully steeped in present moment awareness and the joy and happiness that can be found there, we are living in some imaginary place where life does NOT exist.

Enjoying and basking in the joys that are ever so present in our lives, even during difficult times, takes practice. It takes work to undo the havoc we’ve created by doing all the things that keep us from being mindful and fully engaged in our everyday lives. I like to say that we are so caught up in “do-ing” that we have forgotten the subtle art of “be-ing.” We’ve gotten so far removed from the simplicity of life!

Instead, we allow ourselves to get caught up in “stuff” that is devoid of meaning. The minutia that robs us of quality life and quality time with ourselves and our loved ones. These are the stressors in our lives. The things that require endless work and drain us of our life energy. And guess what? It’s a choice we make. Yep, we choose our behaviors. And what we allow, persists!

The more important question is: WHY do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the things that keep us from being front and center in our own lives?

For some, it may be the fear of missing out while for others it may be the inability to be enjoy their own company. Some of us may actually enjoy the chaos, maybe even create it, and others may just throw their hands up and feel that there’s nothing they can do about it. And yet for some, running from the present moment can be a defense mechanism which keeps them from “feeling.”

One thing I know for sure is that, when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the vicious cycle that tears us away from our joy and happiness, it is because we are lacking inner clarity. In my book, inner clarity is part of self-care. And the art of self-care is also a practice.

If you are not sure where or how to start, fear not! As with all things divinely ordained, I just finished reading an email from Panache Desai, and in it he listed six steps to help us maintain inner clarity.

  • Avoid chaotic and stressful situations. All they serve to do is derail your focus and draw you into their chaos. 
  • Calm and center yourself several times a day through a habit of conscious breathing. Doing so, lowers stress and reminds you of who you really are and why you’re really here. 
  • Unplug yourself at least once a week from all devices, social media and news cycles. We are drowning in information, much of it increasingly negative. Step away from what’s secondary and focus on what’s primary. 
  • Go out into nature. We are natural beings. We are meant to be in forests, at the seashore and in the open. We are not meant to be tied to screens and cubicles and artificial lighting. 
  • Get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is restorative. Sleep is relaxing. Sleep is necessary to mental and physical health. A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of focus and clarity more than any other cause. 
  • Get as much exercise as you can. We were meant to move. When we move, we are using our bodies, and our minds, as they are supposed to be used. When you are sedentary, your mind and your body become clogged with sediment. Exercise flushes out the unnecessary, leaving you lighter

If you take the time to use these steps as a guide and make them a part of your everyday coming and going, I can assure that you will start to to feel refreshed, renewed, vibrant, energetic, joyous, expansive, peaceful and clear. Invest in your Self, my darlings…you’re worth it!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Tis the Season to Sparkle

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. All things can be mended. Not with time as they say, but with intention. So go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for light that is you.” -L.R. Knost

I saw the above quote on my neighbor’s Instagram, and it spoke volumes to me. It got me thinking, and thinking some more, and then realized I had to use it as inspiration for a blog.

It’s safe to say that the world has always been a broken place, or we would not have the advancements, developments, and changes that have taken place since the dawn of time. We humans have been broken and flawed as well and, with each generation, we hope we do better and leave things a little better than our parents and their parents before them.

If it weren’t for things gone wrong in history and over the progression time and space, things wouldn’t be fixed, and there would be no reason for just causes. Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” wouldn’t be on the tips of everyone’s tongues, on clothing, accessories, furnishings and a myriad of social media platforms.

What’s important is that we, as a human race, are awakening and evolving more rapidly than what seems like any other generation before us. That’s what technology has done for us. Every thing we need to know, what to do and how to do it is at the tips of our fingers…merely keystrokes and seconds away. However, it’s what we do with the knowledge we obtain that is the key.

How we integrate this knowledge into our being and everyday life is what propels us to those higher levels of awakening and ascension. It’s what allows us to tap into our inner light and shine it brightly. It’s how we integrate this knowledge and apply it to everything in life… our encounters, struggles, challenges, interactions and personal and professional relationships.

We cannot master a skill without experiential knowledge though. We can have all the book smarts in the world, but unless we immerse ourselves in practicing, engaging, sharing, comforting, giving, serving and allowing ourselves to be an active and vulnerable participant in the shared human experience, we may as well dig a hole and jump into it. We cannot light the way for others if we do not see our own light… our own influence, which is remarkably exponential by the way!

What else is exponential? Love. At the core of all our actions, is love. It is the love of self that permits us to “love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.” It’s our love of self that fuels us to be and do better…to grow, expand, awaken and evolve. It’s this love that ignites our passions and makes us want to share them with the world. It’s what makes us ask, “How can I serve?”

Well, we can start by acknowledging all those broken places in us, in our families, communities and in the world and asking ourselves how we can be the light that seeps in. What work do we have to do that will ultimately lead us to sharing our stories, insights, knowledge, passions, strengths and gifts with everyone around us? What work have we done that we can share with others? What mountains have we had to climb that has prepared us to do just that?

I have been having conversations with friends recently about our individual mountains. Whatever it is we’ve gone through/are going through, can NEVER be in vain. It’s all so connected to our life’s purpose and our ability to be the light that mends our broken world with love, peace and harmony. While it may take some time, and many lessons, we start to look back and connect the dots, we start to see the big picture… that which is our distinct essence- our higher calling and higher purpose/destiny. We may even have more than one purpose!

Darlings, our stories, experiences and challenges need to be shared, books written, support groups established, speaking engagements solidified, articles authored, websites designed, blogs started, programs, businesses, trainings and webinars created, non-profits founded, gardens planted, cakes baked, venues decorated, art (in all forms) created, songs and poetry written, movies and plays directed, produced and filmed and performances of all kinds scheduled. The list goes on and on…this is how we shine our own unique and essential light. This is how we climb our individual mountains, integrate all our experiences and celebrate our doing so. This is how we light the way, forge a path for others and leave our broken world a little better than when/how we found it. This is how we mend it, contribute and pay forward. This is how we inspire, love, serve.

What are your experiences calling you to do?

Whatever it is our experiences are calling us to do, me must tap into our inner artist, dreamer and creator to lead the way, and our desires are guaranteed to be driven by love and passion. And speaking of passion, I will leave you with some exceptional and inspirational quotes that are sure to get all of us thinking, dreaming and creating!

“You have to be burning with an idea, or problem, or wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Steve Jobs

“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” Jon Bon Jovi

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey

“There is no passion to be found playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” Unknown

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Amelia Earhart

Tis the season to sparkle, my darlings! So how about we all go about doing just that? Let’s all shine brightly…and remember to love extravagantly, intentionally and unconditionally!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Dedicated to my niece, Megan, on being chosen as Teacher of the Year by her peers. She’s had her own mountains to climb this past year, but she did not let that affect her performance, love of teaching or her studies. At the age of 30, she is most definitely on the path to greatness!

Overflowing With Gratitude

“Find just one thing that you feel grateful for right now and let that gratitude pour through your body. It’s a healing balm, like the warmth of the sun.” -Tosha Silver

Right now, it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing I am grateful for because my heart is still overflowing with gratitude post-birthday celebrating. I’m even grateful for burning the candles at both ends and being sick for two weeks post all the celebrations! If gratitude is a healing balm like the warmth of the sun, then I’ve been scorched! What can I say?

Welcome to my world! As a self-proclaimed gratitude junkie, I am ALWAYS finding gratitude and IN ALL WAYS…from the minuscule to the monumental. It’s simply a way of life for me. Throughout the light-filled, as well as dark times of my life, I find gratitude in each of those moments. Why? Because it fills my heart with joy and it keeps my nervous system happy. I guess you can say that my gratitude practice is one of my non-negotiables. It’s a ritual that keeps me fueled, joyous and humbled regardless on the circumstances that may be occurring around me or in my life. It’s a practice that allows me to  find the light, stay in the light and be the light.

As a result, I seem to have surrounded myself with brilliant light beings…some whom I’ve known forever, some whom I’ve met along the way and others whom have been recently  dropped into my universe. And it is because of these beautiful beings in my life, that I celebrated my “journey to 60” again and again, and in different ways this past October. It was of utmost importance for me to celebrate the beautiful light beings in my life. It’s all about the celebrations, darlings. It’s about always finding ways to celebrate life!

Between birthday lunches and brunches, a karma yoga class that was “designed” to inspire, love and serve, a celebratory dinner complete with Cuban comfort food, and then a 60 for 60 birthday bash dance party, I found myself at a loss for words. All I could do was “feel.” And what I felt was profound!

It took a while to process, but it felt like generations of love and gratitude pulsing through my veins. Generations of legacies left behind flowing through my heart and coming out front and center. There were times where I so strongly felt the presence and pride of my spirit family. Those who sacrificed, cleared the path and paved the way for me, who made it possible for me to be alive and become who I am today: a masterpiece AND a work in progress.

The culmination of all the festivities was the birthday bash, where all the people who’ve been a significant part of my journey to 60 were gathered under one roof. I felt like I was atop the mountain of 60 looking out at the people whom I most wanted to celebrate for their presence in my world. There are not enough words that could not adequately describe the gratitude, love and joy I felt on this most special and beautiful occasion. My heart was, and is still, overflowing  with gratitude. And, I must admit, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

For days leading up to the birthday bash, I reflected on everyone who would be gathered together, and I was humbled by the thought of the many blessings, much love and overwhelming wealth and abundance that show up in my daily life by way of my various vibe tribes: my longtime friends, my Lovelies, my Yayas, my Circle of Sacred Soul Sisters, my Pseudo-daughters, my Shopping Partners in Crime, my Sangha, my adopted Mother Yaya, my Goddesses, my Mama Bear and Papa Bear, my sister/mother/friends who were there in spirit, and family members whom have entertained all my fanciful whims over the years since what were apparently my early days of “Mama Yaya in training.” All I kept thinking to myself was, how can one person be so lucky?

Gratitude, that’s how! Unconditional love, that’s how! Stepping into the legacy my parents left for me, that’s how! Spreading love and kindness, being love, sharing love, being the light and seeing the light in others, that’s how! Celebrating others, that’s how! Proclaiming yourself a gratitude junkie, that’s how! I kept hearing my mama’s voice in my ears, telling me, You are reaping what you have sown…That’s how!

As I further reflected, I realized it wasn’t about the number of people in my life or gathered under one roof, or the number I could have had if space and money allowed, but it was about the QUALITY of my friends/family/relationships: their integrity, character, respect, kindness, compassion, open heart, generosity of spirit, sense of humor, outpouring of unconditional love and acceptance, inclusiveness, intimate friendship, un-wavering support, and the sacred space we all hold for each other during the happy, sad, pretty, ugly, nice and messy times of our lives.

My oldest friend, Ileana, whom I’ve known since I’m four years old, gave a beautifully touching and spontaneous toast, as did another long time friend of mine, Barbara, who had us all in stitches. And boy did I laugh at the Limerick my cousin’s wife, Sheryl Ann,  wrote for me. She’s also known me since I was five. Throughout all of this, as I looked out atop my place on the mountain of 60, I realized their toasts and memories pretty much summed up my evolution on this journey to 60. And on some very deep, emotional level, I felt like the child who always wanted to make people happy, be seen, recognized and validated.

That afternoon, especially after Ileana’s spontaneous toast, I felt seen, and I had to thank her for seeing me. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the words thank you for seeing me. She saw me in ways I had never even seen myself as I was growing up, and I had to express my deep gratitude for doing so. Which leads me to these questions:

  • Have you ever thanked someone for seeing you?
  • Have you ever been thanked for seeing someone?

It’s powerful stuff. Give it a try….you may just surprise yourself with the mind-boggling and breathtaking  feelings and memories that come up for you. I think it’s both a gift to ourselves and the other person when we express being seen. I know I’m going to be more mindful and intentional in expressing the words “I see you” and “thank you for seeing me” to others as I continue on my journey.

And speaking of journeys, when all was said and done, parties over, tears shed and laughs shared, we realize that’s all a part of life. Our lives are made up of moments, and what we do with those moments is what counts, inspires,  touches lives and what creates our legacy. There will always be the light and the dark, but it’s important to find your tribe and create joy in each of these moments, and ALWAYS make and take the time to CELEBRATE LIFE….always and in all ways. Remember, we are all simultaneously masterpieces and works of art progress. Now carry on!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC / Mama Yaya

 

 

 

 

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