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
  • Radical Self-Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

     

    Now I Know My ABC’s

    Accept Differences – Be Kind – Count Your Blessings – Dream – Express Thanks – Forgive – Give Freely – Harm No One – Imagine More – Jettison Anger – Keep Confidences – Love Truly –  Master Something – Nurture Hope – Open Your Mind – Pack Lightly – Quell Rumors – Reciprocate  – Seek Wisdom – Touch Hearts – Understand – Value Truth – Win Graciously – Xemplify Kindness – Yearn For Peace – Zealously Support A Worthy Cause

    Precisely ten years ago, I received these ABC’s in a holiday card that I have kept ever since. It too makes its way around my place during the holidays, as does the one I wrote about in a previous post, A Meaningful To-Do List.  Today, more than ever, it seems like the world needs these ABC’s on steroids! I silently give thanks for all the people around the globe who are working hard and tapping into their tools every single day to exemplify these traits, for these human beings are part of our global community helping to heal humanity.

    The healing though, as with many things in life, must first start with ourselves. We have been blessed with the privilege of being alive, and with that comes a responsibility to grow and evolve into the very best person we can be. If you are committed to self-improvement, inner investigation and evolving mentally, emotionally and spiritually, you know it’s not an easy job. The work can get ugly, messy, and painful; but, the rewards outweigh it all. Remember, true transformation occurs from the inside out, and it takes time, practice and patience! One of my favorite quotes is, You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.”  Amen to that!!!!

    As I was thinking about what to write about in this blog, I came across some questions that one of my favorite people in the world, Seane Corn, posed at a yoga workshop I did with her about 4 years ago. These questions really require us to get to the core of who we are…both our light and shadow side. If we want to be able to live peacefully, coexist and truly effect change, I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves, and the life we have been given, to really dig deep and work hard at chiseling away the dark residue from our shadow side. It’s hard work. It’s also heart work!

    Below are numerous questions – I invite you to peruse them, answer them if you like, share them with your tribe, have conversations about them, or just see what thoughts, feelings and emotions arise inside you as you read through them. Hopefully, you will find them useful in some way – if not now, then sometime along your personal journey.

    • How are you showing up for yourself?
    • How are you showing up for others?
    • What tapes are running through your head?
    • What conditioning, grief, dysfunction, pain, sorrow, situations or people who no longer serve you are you still holding on to? Why?
    • What limiting beliefs are holding you back or keeping you stuck in “victim” mentality?
    • Are you in a state of denial?
    • What hurts, traumas, surgery, loss or life situation has shown up?
    • What behavior do you turn to when you want to avoid feeling your feelings?
    • Who or what situation has brought you to your knees?
    • Who or what has broken your heart wide open?
    • Do you choose love over fear?
    • Do you act from a place of love or fear?
    • How can you connect to your pure essence which is Love?
    • How do you show compassion, empathy, understanding and kindness to others?
    • What ways do you show up for yourself from a place of hope, love, compassion, understanding and empathy?
    • Who taught you how to love?
    • How do you contribute to the collective energy of the planet? 
    • Are your thoughts, views, actions and speech negative and judgmental in nature, or are they positive?
    • What words do you use?
    • What type of language do you use to communicate with others?
    • Does your language emanate positive or negative energy?
    • What types of example are you setting for those around you…partners, children, family, friends, co-workers and strangers?
    • Who are your closest relationships?
    • Who or what triggers you?
    • What sensations do these triggers cause in your body?
    • Do you react or pause, then act?
    • What tools can you employ so you don’t react?
    • Do you abuse power?
    • Do you have issues expressing love and acceptance to those of a different race,  nationality, color, gender or religion?
    • What words / language do you use that causes separation?
    • What does peace look and feel like for you?
    • What ways can you contribute to making your surroundings, as well as the collective energy of the world, more peaceful?
    • How can you exercise patience, understanding and non-judgement?
    • What are you grateful for?
    • How do you express gratitude for what shows up in your life?
    • Who were / are your spiritual teachers?
    • What’s your shadow side?
    • How do you shine your light?
    • How do you step into your power?
    • What change do you want to see in the world?

    Darlings, may you always feel your essence with each heartbeat…LOVE, LOVE, LOVE…..and send that out to into the world….and feel the earth pulsating with LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Oh, and one last thing – please be sure to practice your ABC’s…wink, wink!

    Inhale love and light…Exhale grace and gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

     

    A Meaningful To-Do List

    Be Merry. Be Happy. Be Bright.

    About 20 years ago, one of my girlfriends (and soul sister), Patti, sent me a beautiful card for Christmas that I have treasured ever since. As a matter of fact, I keep it in a picture frame and display it every year as part of my decorations. Over the years, I have also typed it up on colorful stationary and passed it on to staff members, friends and family.

    With three major holidays this month – Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa and, in addition, Winter Solstice and New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d share the contents of the card with you. Needless to say, we don’t have to wait for the holidays to do any of these things. In my humble opinion, what you are about to read should be part of our to-do list on a regular basis…..just sayin’

    This Christmas

    • Mend a quarrel
    • Seek out a forgotten friend
    • Write a love letter
    • Share some treasure
    • Give a soft answer
    • Encourage youth
    • Keep a promise
    • Find the time
    • Forgive an enemy
    • Apologize if you were wrong
    • Think first of someone else
    • Be kind and gentle
    • Laugh a little
    • Laugh a little more
    • Express your gratitude
    • Gladden the heart of a child
    • Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth
    • Speak your love
    • Speak it again
    • Speak it still once again

    If you are in need of a little token gift, strapped for cash, or just want to be mindful of where and how you are spending your money, you can get creative with this beautiful to-do list, add to it, create your own, print copies or have it printed on cardstock at Staples, and perhaps slip into small frames as gifts. You can also roll them up and tie with a lovely ribbon. We don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of money on a gift. Simple, no fuss gifts from the heart carry our energy, love and intention with them. They are the gifts that keep on giving.

    Create away darlings….and remember… be merry, happy and bright!

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

    Good Morning Sunshine…Hello Joy

    “The Joy of Being, which is the only true happiness, cannot come to you through any form, possession, achievement, person or event – through anything that happens. That Joy cannot come to you – ever. It emanates from the formless dimension within you, from consciousness itself and this is one with who you are.” Eckhart Tolle

    There’s nothing like seeing someone first thing in the morning and feeling a ray of sunshine beaming down on you. I can best describe it as a feeling of inner Joy. When I was working, one of my colleagues and I would always exchange the greeting, Good Morning Sunshine, and the other would say, Hello Joy! And since tomorrow is Susanne’s birthday, I was inspired to write this blog by the memory of this exchange – and one that we continue to have when we see each other at our monthly birthday luncheons.

    Simply stated, we are either Joy or not. Joy is something that comes from within our very being, our essence, our true self. We can’t make it up, seek it outside ourselves, buy it, or expect it to come to us. This type of “expectation” is one that just causes more pain, suffering, disappointment, negativity and unhappiness. In the book, A New Earth,  Eckhart Tolle goes on to say that Unhappiness or negativity is a disease of our planet.” He wrote these words ten years ago, and they are ever so true to this very day. He further states that “Pollution is on the outer level, negativity is on the inner. It is everywhere! It’s not just in places where people don’t have enough, but even more so where they have more than enough.” When I saw him interviewed on Super Soul Sunday, he remarked how the tremendous amount of earth’s energy field is produced by people. No kidding! That is definitely clear as daylight. How can we shift the energy field?

    Imagine if every single person took responsibility for the energy they bring into a room? Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, speaker and author, talks about this in her Ted Talk, My Stroke of Insight (one of those talks that went viral). If you haven’t heard of her, she was a brain researcher who studied her own stroke as it was happening. Talk about things happening for a reason and living one’s purpose! Being left in a state of pure consciousness (and unable to speak, read, write or walk at the time), she was ever so conscious of the positive and negative energy that different people brought into the room. Imagine if more people chose to clear themselves of negative energy, be still and connect to their inner being-ness and knowing-ness, and operated from that place of Love and Joy? Imagine what that would do to our beautiful planet’s energy field?

    It’s not a difficult thing to do. All it entails is to be aware of that moment of negativity creeping up, and choose differently. Some may argue that it is easier said than done; however, with practice, diligence, and healthy boundaries, we do come to that place where choosing differently becomes our default setting. Sometimes, a good visual helps us be with what is in that moment (my visual happens to he a big red stop sign in my third eye – with flashing lights around it). If we stay rooted and grounded in the present moment, we are better equipped to be more mindful and aware of the decisions we make, exchanges we have, what we are willing to let into our own personal space or energy field, and the energy we bring into a room.

    And speaking of energy fields, this is a time of year people tend to unravel, spiral, lose control, and push themselves into a state of sheer exhaustion…all self-imposed by the way! Rather than enjoy each moment, each day, each exchange or interaction, the “Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers” come out to play, tensions build, tempers flare, guilt sets in and the ugly in people comes out. Obviously, we have the ability to rise above all that if we take the time to listen, make our well-being a priority, heed our intuition, honor our boundaries, and bring consciousness and awareness into our daily modus operandi. With practice, commitment, patience, steadfastness and grace, we can all honor our inner needs during trying times by taking care of ourselves and protecting our precious energy field – regardless of the people and/or circumstances with which we are dealing (and if there are people who add way too much stress to your life, well it’s then time to “clean house”).

    Here are a few simple and power-filled tips that pop up now and then on Facebook and Instagram, and they are right on the money.

    To Protect Your Energy:

    • It’s okay to cancel a commitment
    • It’s okay to change your mind
    • It’s okay to want to be alone
    • It’s okay to take a day off
    • It’s okay to do nothing
    • It’s okay to speak up
    • It’s okay to let go 

    If someone gets upset at you, that is their problem not yours! Remember, YOUR well-being, sanity, peace of mind, health and wellness should be the priority…..just sayin’!

    Now that the holidays have started, we can savor them in a stress-free and enjoyable way. Time is precious, and we have the ability to enjoy wonder-filled and beautiful moments with our friends and loved ones and when we are alone too.  If we tap into our true essence and acknowledge our limitless, love-filled, miraculous and joyous self, cut ourselves some slack, loosen up, relinquish the need to control, ask for help and make our well-being a priority, we will be walking around radiating lots of Sunshine and Joy! The choice is ours to make….doom, gloom and negativity or sunshine, joy and positivity? If you ask me, it’s a no-brainer….wink, wink.

    To keep my energy levels in check, I’m going to add one more to the list. I will only be blogging on Wednesdays throughout the month of December. This way, I can relax more, spend time reading and perhaps even write more!

    Protect your energy, embrace the joy and shine away darlings….You’ve got the power!

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

     

    Soul Spaces & Personal Sanctuaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Where do you live, darling?

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

    Who’s in Charge Here?

    “I need to take an emotional breath, step back, and remind myself of who’s actually in charge of my own life.” Judith M. Knowlton

     

    Greetings darlings! Well, if all goes well, today I will be returning from a much needed and long anticipated visit to Kripalu in Lenox, MA. Staying there always leaves me  feeling so relaxed, renewed, recharged, refreshed and connected to nature ( much needed after all the celebrations that took place in the month of October).

    There’s nothing like giving ourselves permission to go out and do the thing(s) that our mind, body and soul are calling us to do. Once again, the key is to acknowledge it, make a plan, and consciously choose to schedule it as a priority. I personally see it as a duty and responsibility we have to our higher self, and we do not need anyone’s approval (other than our own) to do so. It’s self-respect at it’s best! If we aren’t in charge, then who is?

    So, I am going to keep today’s post light and fun, especially since some of you may still be catching up / finishing up with the I AM exercise that was part of my blog, Exercising the I AM in You. And, since I believe in total transparency, I also needed to schedule some posts for publication in advance for while I was away.  My intention (as I type this) is to disconnect and do a digital detox while at Kripalu. Digital detoxes are also a much needed thing we can all benefit from every now and again….disconnect to reconnect!

    Remember how as kids we always needed to get a permission slip signed for a filed trip or class trip of some kind? Perhaps you are the one signing them now if you have children. Well……here goes……

    I invite you to make  your own permission slip for the field trip, activity or pampering you have been needing, the dream you’ve been holding onto, the thoughts you haven’t allowed yourself to voice, or any other activity your heart is telling you it needs. Like one of the pages in the I Am Her book says, “Give yourself permission to live.”

    • Take out a sheet of paper and at the top of it write: I Give Myself Permission To
    • At the very bottom of it, write: Starting This Very Moment
    • You are now ready to list the things you will be giving yourself permission to do

    Perhaps this is an activity you would also like to share with your Tribe. It’s always fun to share these types of activities with those girlfriends who support and encourage one another. It’s also a good way to hold yourself, and each other, accountable. Make a night of it, host a pot-luck dinner or a happy hour and gather around the table. Have nice art supplies of all kinds if you really want to make it special. That’s  the event planner in me speaking – a simple idea evolves into an “event” of some sort. One thing I know from experience though is that a fun time will be had by all!

    Now go take charge, and enjoy yourself!

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

    Broken Down or Broken Open

    “Being Alive and present with those I love is how I want to live my new life. This is what I want to motivate me: quality of life, quality moments and quality love”        JT Carricarte

    How ironic that I finished Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open – How Difficult Times Help Us Grow just days before my “epic” orthopedic surgery in 2012. Whew! Was that book preparing me for something of great magnitude without me having the slightest inkling! Little did I know that I would be in for yet another self discovery journey over the three years following that surgery (only to have surgery again in 2016). Broken Open not only prepared me for the change I was about to undergo, but it equipped me with the strength and inner fortitude I needed to battle the most difficult, challenging and life altering event I was about to experience. Oh, this most fascinating and funny universe of ours surely knows how to deliver!

    I took the book out as I sat to write this blog, and I had written the following on the inside cover: “This book, by far, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As if divinely ordained, I finished reading it just days before I went into the hospital (and I had ordered it quite some time before that). I must have purchased 10 copies and gave them to  my Girls for Christmas. It’s an absolutely  beautifully written book that makes you embrace The Phoenix Rising.” In case you’re interested in reading this book, Elizabeth Lesser shares stories about people who’ve “risen from the ashes” after suffering all types of loss such as death, divorce, illness, loss of a job, and how they did so with love and wisdom.

    If you’ve ever heard Elizabeth Lesser speak, seen her interviewed or have read any of her books, you know how, real, heart-warming, compassionate and honest she is.  She’s such a gifted writer and storyteller. Talk about total transparency! In her book, Elizabeth asks, “Will we be broken down and defeated, or broken open and transformed?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve always opted for the later. I’m not sure who instilled that in me. Was it my father? Was it my mother? Did I, in an effort to be independent from a controlling Cuban mother? Somehow, in their own way, my parents instilled in me the knowing that I could get through anything I was faced with head on. Thanks, Mama and Honey-Honey – I don’t know how you did it, but it worked! Is there such a thing as being too independent? Let me not even go there….that’s for another blog!!!

    We all have choices in this life, and we can either choose to break down and succumb to the poor me/why me/victim mentality, or we can be broken open and forge ahead with strength, grace, faith and gratitude knowing that whatever experience we are going through is for our highest good, and we will come out of it transformed. We can call them lessons and blessings alike for there is, indeed, a silver lining in every single challenge and life event with which we are faced. Furthermore, these life events are also “priming” us for something much greater than we can imagine. Sometimes we are so caught up in what is happening, that we fail to see the big picture or, at the very least, acknowledge there even is a big picture even though we may be unable to see it at the moment. One thing I have learned though, is that these moments are somehow tied to our life purpose,  rich in learning experiences, and the wisdom that comes with it.

    When I read Broken Open, I was planning on ending my career in the near future, but this magical universe of ours had a different plan of sorts. If you read my first blog, I mentioned how unfulfilled, underutilized, suffocated, and compromised I felt on the job. I knew I needed to get out of there. My soul desperately needed expansion and air. I am a free spirit and my wings felt like they had been clipped. I desperately needed to fly free! Despite my spiritual practices, yoga, meditation, working out, being out in nature, etc., I was constantly fatigued, exhausted, and sick. My quality of life was taking a hit, as was my personal and social life. All I did was work, work, work and saw less and less of my friends. I couldn’t wait to get home to go to bed. Sometimes, I’d be sleeping by 7PM. More importably though, while I was in tune with my body, I wasn’t listening to it. You know very well what happens when we don’t listen to our bodies, right? It will find a way to get our attention. In the end, if we fail to listen to these signs and messages, we will certainly broken down. That is precisely what happened to me. I went to work one day, suffered an injury that evening and was unable to return to work. I’m sure you can relate and can share your own experiences of being brought down to your knees. The game changer is what we choose to do once this occurs. Do we accept defeat, or are we willing to be transformed? In either case, our mindset will be the determining factor. Will we blossom into something extraordinary or wither away? The key my darlings, is the willingness to change and do things differently.

    Even if we love change and accept it freely and willingly, it’s all together a different thing when the quality of our life is affected. It poses a new set of challenges. In my particular case, I found myself being able to do less and less, suffered from chronic pain 24/7 and was forced to establish “new normals” with each passing day. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other in hopes of getting through that particular day. When I looked in the mirror, I was unrecognizable. Stressful situations take a toll on our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, especially when the joy is seemingly zapped from our life. This is when our limits are tested, and we have ask ourselves, “Will I be defeated or transformed?” No one can do this for us. This is when we dig deeper than we ever have before, down to the very core of our existence. This is when we re-evaluate everything we think we know and have learned only to have to re-adjust our thinking and re-learn all over again. But it’s all good! You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” No kidding! In the end though, the outcome is sweeter, more meaningful and rich in lessons and blessings alike. This is when we are able to look back, connect the dots, and have a sense of deep gratitude for the opportunity to start anew.

    Personally, my experience and brush with death in 2012 not only made me thankful to be ALIVE, but it gave me a major attitude adjustment. It made me re-group, re-think my quality of life and re-assess my boundaries. It motivated me to re-commit  to living a life of inspiration, love, and service while being totally mindful and present each and every step of the way…..quality life, quality moments and quality love! And part of that quality of life, quality moments and quality love is having the opportunity to share my lessons and blessings with you via my blogging in hopes that you too will find ways to inspire, love, serve even when facing the challenging times in your life. Use these times, your talents, gifts, uniqueness and whatever platform you have each and every day to share your stories and  lead from the heart…right from the start!

    When faced with a difficult or challenging life event or loss of some kind, will you  choose to be broken down and defeated, or will you choose the beauty of being broken open and transformed?

    Inhale love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

     

     

     

    Be Good to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Affirmation:

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

     

    Love who you are darlings!

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

     

     

    Bye Bye Fear…Hello Faith & Love

    “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom”  Anais Nin

    Oh darlings…..the “F” word…Fear! Volumes upon volumes have been written on the subject, yet we sometimes allow fear to hijack our minds and kidnap our souls. Yet, in the end, it’s actually quite simple. As Michael Singer asks in his book The Untethered Soul, “Do you want to be happy?” Your answer will be either yes or no. Hopefully, it’s a resounding YES……no “ifs, ands, buts” allowed….don’t “qualify” that yes or attach “conditions” to it. Make no mistake about it, fear will paralyze you….and do I have a first hand experience for you, but that’s yet for another post.

    So what happens when we allow fear to take over our thoughts, when we ignore our gut feeling (our internal GPS), operate from a place of fear and/or allow fear to be our default setting? Well, you can answer that for yourself. Just pause for a moment and reflect on a time you made a decision based on fear, took a certain action because you feared what would happen, ignored the “feeling” you had that was guiding you to do otherwise, or just feared the thought of allowing yourself to do something differently. My guess is that nothing good came of it, am I right?  After all, nothing good ever happens when we act from a place of fear! It’s truly simple….we either have faith or fear. We either operate from a place of love or fear. When we operate from a place of fear, we are forgetting our connection to the divine, our oneness with that power that is greater than us and we are actually creating a whole lot of suffering in our lives simply by being sucked into the “stories” we are telling ourselves.

    Do you want to “live” a juicy, joyful, rich, peaceful, meaningful and fulfilled life or “fear” life altogether? Do you want to continue to suffer or do you want freedom? Well, the first step is to get out of your comfort zone….aka the “prison” you have created for your Self. To be fearless, fierce in your conviction and faith is knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are Divinely guided, guarded, directed and protected. This is why it’s so important to take the time to be still, listen and connect. Meditate, breathe, practice yoga, let the uncomfortable feelings to come to the surface, get the blocked energies that do not serve you out of your system, release them and let them go. Continue being “the witness” to your thoughts, and let them go. Letting go is an art and a practice in of itself. And just when we let go, more “stuff” in need of letting go shows up. Yup! There are layers upon layers of things in need of letting go before we come to that place where we can breathe a sigh of relief and feel liberated. The key is to have an open mind, be willing to stay in that flow of connection, and creating that space and those rituals that will allow you to delve into the sensations, feelings and emotions that arise. It’s like a purification process. It’s growth, transformation and evolvement at its best. It allows you to soar and fly free!

    What’s the flip side? I am willing to guess you know the answer to that as well…..more inner turmoil, tension, anxiety, blocked energy channels, dis-ease in the body, the body breaking down….just to name a few. If we operate from our heart center, the knowingness that we are love and that the universe is always conspiring in our best interest, we will be better equipped to inspire, loveserve AND lead from the heart…right from the start. There is no other way! The heart will soften as opposed to feeling rigid, it will feel expansive rather than closed off and we will feel confident, deeply rooted in our faith and unafraid. We will be grounded, centered, peaceful, calm, serene and feel a sense of expanded awareness. More importantly, we will feel divinely guided, guarded, directed and protected. Why? Because the choices we make will be from our higher Self and be more evolutionary.

    So, are you saying bye bye to fear and hello to faith & love? Remember what the late, great Maya Angelou used to say, “When you know better, you do better.” Enough said!

    I leave you with this short prayer from the Live Your Yoga Conference at Omega that I came across while perusing through one of my notebooks:

    “May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we create strength among one another. May our study be filled with light. May we not oppose each other. Om, peace, peace, peace” 

    Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC