The importance of Sleep…

Who knew how important sleep could be?

When I was in college, I could pull all-nighters, go out all night, and be up early the next day like nothing was happening. Our world has been thriving on this notion that sleep is a commodity more than it is something essential to our overall wellbeing. 

I have noticed changes in my sleep during this pandemic. The first few months, I slept a lot, and I was grateful to actually have what felt like was time to sleep. During this time, I also had an uptick in weird dreams, some of which I wish I had written down. As we have settled more into a routine, I have noticed slightly less weird dreams, and now a focus on making sure that I am creating real boundaries between work, technology, and my sacred sleep. 

My sleep journey actually started a few years ago, but due to “being busy,” I admittedly did not give it the time that it deserved. I have learned a lot since then about the beauty and importance of quality sleep and rest. More on this on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/r_WrMm4Ygr4

On Monday, April 25th, 2016—I know because I still have the ticket stub, I took myself out to dinner, savored my meal at a restaurant—probably Nandos–in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington DC, and then stood in line to get into the Historic 6th and I synagogue for an event. That evening, and in that beautiful space, Arianna Huffington, yes, the creator of the Huffington Post, was going to talk to her audience about something that most people didn’t actually seem to be talking about, except in the negative. The topic was sleep! Most people talk about how little sleep they get, or we hear in this society we live in about, “You can sleep when you are dead,” and “Sleep is getting in the way of my progress.” People glorify how little sleep they can get by on. There are scientifically a few people who can actually survive on a few hours of sleep, but that is not the norm, and sleep is in fact, a most important part of our life equation.

In her book, “The Sleep Revolution,” Arianna made the case for why sleep is so essential to everything that we do! I listened captivated, and after the event, I scuttled home on the metro to try to get enough sleep for the next day. I put the book on my bookshelf, and that is where it remained until this year. Because of the pandemic, I had to inventory the amount of books that I had that had not been read yet for various reasons. I was determined that during this time, I would read more of my untouched books. That has not stopped me from getting new books haha, but they will all be read in time. I also think that sometimes a book might come to us, but it is not yet the time for us to read it. When I started the book finally, it really opened my eyes to my own sleep habits, and when I finished it, I felt that my perspective with regards to sleep had been transformed. 

Sleep is essential to everything that we do. We need sleep to function well, and to live this life.

Do you ever ask yourself the question? How much sleep and rest am I getting? Do you think that you are sleeping enough? I did a bit of my own research, and the CDC, NIH, and the American Academy for Sleep Medicine all have similar results for how much sleep we should be getting. Infants should be getting anywhere from 12-17 hours (including their naps), children anywhere from 9-13 hours, teens 8-11 hours, and adults come in at a solid 7-9 hours. But the reality for many people today is that we are not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is an issue all over the world, and it has led to some very unfortunate situations especially in the corporate world, where many young workers have committed suicide or had complete mental breakdowns. We live in a world that promotes the hustle culture. I don’t have any issue with someone doing their hustle neither am I knocking anyone’s hustle; I just want you to rest. It would also be remiss of me to fail to acknowledge that there are many socioeconomic issues that play into why someone may not be getting enough sleep. As a Jamaican, I know all too well about the culture of having multiple jobs. So there is a social commentary here, but that will be for another time.

When I did my own sleep analysis, I found before that I was getting anywhere from 5-6 ½ hours of sleep per night with an occasional nap here and there. This meant other things started happening in my life. Fluctuating weight, fatigue, and moments of irritability that I regret. It also led to other health issues, some of which I am still working through. I had to start learning that the amount and quality of sleep that I was getting could actually affect my physical and emotional health. 

There is also a thing called “sleep debt.” If you sleep less than you need, that total sleep loss adds up to what is called your “sleep debt.” Bad sleeping habits and long-term sleep loss can have really serious repercussions for your health. Also, being extremely sleepy is the equivalent of being legally drunk. We don’t condone drinking and driving, or drinking on the job, and yet we allow people to do all of these things and more while super tired. 

Poor sleeping habits are linked to certain medical conditions like, heart failure, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and stroke. Poor sleep can actually affect glucose metabolism and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Poor sleep is also linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Asides from the medical impact, there are other major ways that your life can be impacted by lack of sleep! 

When sleep improves, you can also improve your concentration and cognitive functions like memory retention. You can increase your productivity, feel more focused, increase your athletic performance, your immune system, reduce the risk for common colds, and lower the risk of inflammation to your body. With better sleep, you can also increase your emotional and social interactions, and decrease moodiness and irritability! 

Why is this even the case?

Scientists have found that sleeping actually provides the body with some very important and much needed functions when we sleep. When our brains are at rest it is also doing a sort of self-cleaning. The body has its own waste clearance system known as the glymphatic system that washes away a harmful protein known as beta-amyloid that can build up in our body. The lack of sleep can also cause the buildup of the stress hormone cortisol. Don’t you feel a sense of gratitude for the amazing things that your body does? I do!

So what makes us sleep? Many factors help us to sleep and to wake up. The body’s clock functions on a 24 hours repeating rhythm known as the circadian rhythm. Circadian comes from the Latin words circa (around) and dies (day). This rhythm is governed by a small group of brain cells located in our hypothalamus, and our rhythm dips and rises at different times in day, and this correlates to our feeling sleepy and feeling awake. There are two main process that control this. A compound called adenosine is linked to the need for sleep. While you’re awake, the level of adenosine in your brain continues to rise. The increasing level of this compound signals a shift toward sleep. While you sleep, your body breaks down adenosine.

A second process involves your internal body clock. This clock is in sync with certain cues in the environment. Light, darkness, and other cues help determine when you feel awake and when you feel drowsy. For example, light signals received through your eyes tell a special area in your brain that it is daytime. This area of your brain helps align your body clock with periods of the day and night. This is one reason why it is important to get natural light in the day, if you can, because it helps to keep our circadian rhythm in order. When it gets dark, your body releases a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin signals to your body that it is time to prepare for sleep, and it helps you feel drowsy. Some people take melatonin sleeping pills to help increase this hormone in their body. Due to the research for this post, I read many stories about the dangers of sleeping pills. Some people have woken up in strange places without any memory of how they got there! Scary stuff.

Sleep also plays a role in our dream world. I consider myself a deeply spiritual person. My dreams have been very important in my life, and I have gotten some important guidance from dreams. There are many historical figures who have talked about how they gained some valuable insight from their dreams that helped to change the face of the world. Arianna gives the example of Dr. Otto Loewi, a German psychobiologist, who dreamt of a chemical experiment on nerve impulses. He got up from his dream, rushed to his lab, and the results of that experiment won him a Nobel Prize. Dr. J. Allan Hobson said, “Dreams may be our most creative conscious state, one in which the chaotic, spontaneous recombination of cognitive elements produces novel configurations of information: new ideas.” Freud and Jung studied dreams in depth, and this could be an entire video by itself as well. The essence here is that dreams can also be super important. They don’t happen without sleep. Most people recommend, keeping a notebook by your bed to record your dreams. It can be interesting to revisit them!

There are many factors that can affect how much sleep you might be getting; I urge you to find ways, no matter your life, and schedule to try to get as much sleep as you can. Recently, I started trying to make sure that I get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep per night. I have noticed a change in my energy, and just my overall mood. I feel better overall.

Arianna and others offer some really amazing suggestions for getting more and better sleep. 

I also add a few tips of my own. Here are Celestial Goodness’s Tips for getting more sleep and better rest:

1.     Make your sleep time a ritual. Create a sacred process for getting sleep. You may decide that when it is bed time, that you will first take a warm shower, then have a hot cup of tea, and then read a physical book for thirty minutes. Creating a ritual can help your brain prepare for sleep.

2.     Keep technology out of your room or as far away from your bed as possible. Mostly this means your phone. The blue light affects your circadian rhythm and says that it is still time to stay awake. Most technologies now have a nighttime mode, but we are still tempted to check our emails, social media, and other messages. When it is out of sight, it is easier to be out of mind.

3.     Adjust the temperature to a cool temperature. Apparently, temperatures over 75 are not as comfortable for sleeping. The ideal is somewhere around 66 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, if you are like me and love a fan, a cool temperature, the fan blowing, and a comfy blanket make for the best sleep.

4.     Are there any sounds that you like to hear while sleeping? I use my Alexa device to play rain sounds or ocean sounds. When we sleep, there are four cycles that we go through, and they include delta and theta waves. YouTube has some excellent “sleep sounds” that you can play as well. I used to listen to theta wave sounds when I wanted a deeper and more peaceful sleep.

5.     Have your special sleep clothes that you don’t wear for other purposes. Arianna says, don’t wear the same clothes you wear to the gym as sleep clothes. When you put on your special sleep clothes it will indicate that it is time for bed. Some people also like sleeping naked, and that is also a scientific recommendation. 

6. Utilize aromatherapy. I have an air diffuser and sometimes I drop a bit of lavender oil into the water. Everything smells so good, and I feel really relaxed. Find a scent that works for you!

7.     Make the room as dark as possible. The darkness also helps your circadian rhythm, and indicates to your body that it is time for sleep. 

8.     Consider what you eat in the evening. Sometimes what we eat and drink (coffee, alcohol) can impede getting good sleep!

9.     Instead of sleeping pills (research the devastating impact of some of these pills), try meditation or deep breathing. There are excellent resources available nowadays for both sleep meditations, and breathing practices to help you sleep. 

These are just a few tips; find what works best for you; keep a sleep journal, and take small meaningful steps towards getting better sleep and living your best life! It won’t all happen overnight, but even a week of better sleep can make a marked difference in your life. I wish you well on this endeavor, and I hope that as you go through the week, being more rested will help you face whatever comes your way. May the stars shine brightly over your week.

Lessons learned from Travel

Travel has been a topic on many people’s minds this year, as so many of us have been grounded and have been unable to do a lot of travel. We might wonder about the future of travel, but I am hopeful because as humans we like movement. We like to see things, to experience things, and travel is one way of doing this. Due to increased globalization over the years, the world has gotten smaller. Many of us have loved ones in different places that aren’t a short drive away, and so we will travel again. The world will recover from this pandemic hopefully wiser, stronger, and with more innovations that make travel safer and accessible. Watch this week’s YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/mb5rOfHe9RM

I could talk endlessly about travel. It is one of my favorite things to do in this world—whether domestic or internationally. Some form of travel or movement has been with me throughout my life, at each stage, and I can tell you stories from my youth to more recently. In each case, I have always learned something, whether about myself, a situation, a place, or a person.

Before his death, one of my favorite people to watch travel around the world was Anthony Bourdain. He had what I thought was the best job. Travel to cool places, eat yummy food, and have equally delicious conversations with cool people. He left his mark on the world, and some of us won’t forget his words and his lessons. He said, “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.” I agree with this completely.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Jamaica, in the country. It was lush and beautiful, with places where the river met the sea. One would be tempted to think that everywhere in the world was like this. My first plane ride taught me that this was not the case. When I was a little girl, we moved from the Caribbean to Wisconsin. It was difficult to explain to other Jamaicans where Wisconsin was. North of Chicago, but not quite Canada, and cold! They literally had little pieces of ice falling from the sky—my first introductions to snow and black ice. I learned immediately that while all places have their beauty, that all places are not the same in appearance. There are just some places in the world that take your breath away in beauty.

Even though when I was younger, we did not have a lot of resources, my family always made sure that we went somewhere. We squished together in a vehicle listening to reggae and eating sandwiches my mom made; once we drove from Wisconsin to the Grand Canyon—stopping in each state along the way. My aunt woke us up at the crack of dawn to hike down into the Canyon. I remember seeing red dirt, beautiful birds, and the most amazing desert sunrise. The lessons from the dessert are not the same as the lessons from the sea.

One year we drove from Wisconsin to Florida. I learned just how massive and varied in landscape this country was. In high school, my friends and I took our senior trip by riding a Greyhound, with local stops to Disney world. I learned that music really can get you through a lot. I also took a college tour with Upward Bound where we visited several schools along the East Coast. I marveled at the big cities out East, and dreamt of visiting one day. The East Coast was much more fast paced than the Midwest. Later I would learn that the big city can shred midwestern values if you are not supremely grounded in yourself. But also that in every big city you will find people who still will share a smile and a good morning with you. (After coffee of course).

In middle school, I had a Spanish teacher, Senorita Winters. She had lived in parts of Latin America, Mexico, and Spain. When she showed us slides of Spain, I knew that I wanted to go there one day. Other teachers of mine also influenced my desire to travel. Some had used their summers to travel the world, others had studied in different countries. I ended up at a language high school partially fueled by a desire to travel one day. But I was by all means, a poor girl from Jamaica growing up in Milwaukee. Was this even a practical dream?

In college, I received the opportunity to travel internationally to somewhere that wasn’t Jamaica. I studied Spanish in the Dominican Republic, and I formally studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. I learned about mofongo, bachata, and more deeply about the interconnected history of the Caribbean. Going to Spain, was an experience that changed my entire life, and opened up my eyes to the wonderful possibilities that the world was my oyster. I had to immerse myself in the language, learn how to get around, and learn that even though my family was far away, they were still with me wherever I went.

My good friends including Melody—my sister for life—encouraged me, planned with me, and made a lot of things possible. I traveled in that semester all around Spain—Bilbao, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Palma de Mallorca, Toledo, Segovia, and more. Places I had only read about before suddenly came to life. I learned about history, culture, music, food, and the siesta life. We also traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, Italy, Morocco, and England, where I met some of my favorite relatives for the first time.

Each of those experiences changed me for the better. Later in my life, I would have the experience of traveling all over the United States, Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, Scotland, Mexico and Nigeria. I traveled to Italy with Catholic University and had the opportunity to do a solo trip to the beautiful town of Assisi. There I found a peace that passed understanding. There I made a prayer for my life, and understood why Elizabeth Gilbert chose Italy as one of her destinations in Eat, Pray, Love. I too learned about “il dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing.” While in Italy, my colleagues and I received a private tour of the Vatican’s Secret Archives and the Apolistic Library. I learned just how ancient some of the world could be.

Traveling also shows us who we could be. Part of the great damage and disservice of the institution of slavery is that for most people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, our ability to trace our ancestry is limited. I traveled to Nigeria once for the wedding of one of my best friends. While there, it was not uncommon for people to think that I looked like people from a certain tribe, and one lady swore I was related to someone she knew. I wondered if maybe I had ancestors from there? The food, music, and people reminded me of Jamaica and Jamaicans. But there was something else about seeing people so sure of themselves and their lineage. Proud to have descended from kings and queens that made the people walk with a sense of pride. Maybe it was by osmosis, but I felt that pride too.

Each mode of travel grants you a different perspective. Whether I have walked, taken a boat, driven in a car as driver or passenger, taken a train, or flown, the perspective has always shifted to accommodate each mode. Life can be the same way. Sometimes we see things when we are walking that we would not see from the plane. Sometimes we need to slow down to see clearly, and sometimes we need to elevate our thinking so that we put ourselves where we need to be.

Other important lessons:

  1. Travel pushes you outside of your comfort zone. There is so much goodness outside of your comfort zone. When you travel, you have already left the comfort of your pond for the great ocean. There are things for you to see and experience, and they are outside of the comfort zone.
  2. You learn how to be flexible. There is a saying that the tree that survives the windstorm is the one that learns how to bend with the wind. If you remain rigid and inflexible, you will snap like a tree in the wind. The pace moves differently in different places, and you have to adjust or risk frustration.
  3. You gain a new perspective. You see things done in different ways, you see people you would not normally see, and your whole sense of being attunes to the fact that there could be a different way or multiple ways of living, being, and doing life.
  4. Travel is healing. There have been several times in my life when I needed deep healing. Thanks to the lovely family and friends who accommodated me in those times, and let me sleep. When I need to heal, sleep is so vital. Like Tere, who provided me with food to eat-plantains and Milo, and words to nourish my heart and soul. Maybe it was a cool breeze in Jamaica, the cafes in Abuja, or the seas and stars of Bermuda, sometimes you do need to “get away.”
  5. Travel shows us how brave we really are. I have traveled to places by myself and wondered, am I being silly or am I really called to go to this place or do this thing. Travel will show you that you know more than you think and you have unbounded courage. It will also require that you rely on common sense.
  6. Like life, travel isn’t always easy. You might lose your luggage, or get lost yourself, or encounter an experience that isn’t the best. But what do you do? You get up, figure it out and keep going.
  7. Travel can teach you a lot about people. Want to know someone better? Travel somewhere with them that you have to stay overnight. You will learn a lot. Travel will also teach you that there are some really kind, beautiful souls out there across the world.
  8. Travel teaches us that the world is beautiful, and that people all over are generally dealing with the same issues. Love, purpose, finances, spirituality, and health. We are so different, yet so alike.

You might say, “Ah this would be great but I don’t have money to travel.” Well, not all trips are costly. Some travel is local, you can walk to it, and yes some requires planning and saving. I did a lot of travel as a young student with very limited resources. I sacrificed a lot but in the end, experiences and the memory of them stay with us always. I hope that if you want to go somewhere, that you are able to find a way, that it is a powerful and beautiful experience, and that you learn just how magical, amazing, and courageous you are. I hope when it is safe to travel again, that you will get your bag ready and let your soul guide you to where you need to go. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and if you feel inclined, please let me know what is on your travel bucket list! Thank you.

An Ode to Friendship and the importance of our Tribe

Last week, I used this space to write about gratitude. One of the things that I am most thankful for in this life are the friends and family who make up my tribe. The pandemic has heightened my sense of gratitude and appreciation for the people that make up my tribe. Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite poets, once said, “Give me the sorrow of the entire world, and I will turn it into hope.” I am more cognizant than ever what it means physically be in someone’s presence, to go to brunch or to have a friend reunion, or the beauty in a deep hug! We are taking on the sorrows of the world, but when we are loved well by those around us, even at a distance, we do not lose our sense of hope.

So who is your tribe and how do you find them? Jennifer Pastiloff wrote this amazing quote, “Find your tribe. You know, the ones that make you feel the most YOU. The ones that life you up and help you remember who you really are. The ones that remind you that a blip in the road is just that, a blip. They are the ones that when you walk out of a room, they make you feel like a better person than when you walked in. They are the ones that, even if you don’t see them face to face as often as you would like, You see them Heart to Heart. You know that kind of tribe.” I love this quote and I picture the faces of the people who make me feel that way each time I read it. This week on my YouTube channel, I talk more about this topic. You can find the video here: https://youtu.be/9N1MXiNrN_Q

Last week, marked my 20-year friend anniversary with a few of my friends from university. I remember especially that my friend Nancy and I sat right next to each other in student orientation. She introduced herself to me first, because that is the kind of person that Nancy is—caring, compassionate, empathetic, and loving. There isn’t someone out there who is a stranger to her, just someone who is yet to be a friend. We realized that we were registering for some of the same classes—a 6 credit intensive Japanese language class, and Political Science. This was interesting, a Hmong young woman from Eau Claire, WI, and me a Jamaican born, Wisconsin bred young lady coming from Milwaukee. We looked at each other quizzically but like two old friends finding each other again, and that was the beginning of our friendship.

Nancy and the Sunflower Field

This led to friendships with Richmond, Jess, Julia, Melody, and David. So many of my college experiences stemmed from that one meeting. Nancy and I also lived in some of the same places, and during one of the most painful times in my life, she called me and said, “Meet me at the sunflower field.” I could not even talk, tears lived in my throat. But when I saw her, she brought me lunch—all of my friends know that I am no good when I am hungry lol! She reminded me of things that we had already survived in life, and helped anchor me to a hopeful future moment. She could see a brighter future for me when I could not even see if for myself. This is just one example of the people who are in my tribe. 

My cousin Latoya allowed me to come and visit her in Bermuda once when I needed some deep heart healing. She cooked for me, made me take walks—on one walk up a rather brutal hill, she gave me a flower to hold—a frangipani. She said when I felt like giving up to smell the flower and be hopeful. She took me swimming, and took me out to dance. She tried to make me do yoga. I have heard it said that in some indigenous tribes, when you go to the healer, they say, “when did you stop dancing, when did you stop laughing?” It is true… movement and nature are master healers.

Frangipani

I also think of Melody, mi hermana mayor, who among other things traveled with me across Spain, and who has taught me incredible lessons of friendship, finances, and what it means to show up. She has literally flown across the country to spend my birthday with me, and regularly sends me cute things in the mail that makes my heart smile. 

Desi, who trained me at work, but also loves me like her own family and vice versa, she has taught me the importance of not dimming my shine for anybody. 

The Rishis, not just Mr. Rishi but his whole family, who helped and encouraged my spiritual life. 

Caria, who taught me to see the magic in the world and flow with it… 

And I could list so many of my dear dear friends… The Richmonds, the Dereks, the Shawns, the Camillas, the Katrinas, the Stephanies, the Tiffanys, the Bibis, the Teres, the Z’s and so many more of you brilliant, wonderful people. If you are reading this any of you, please know how much your presence in my life means to me.

My mom and family are also my friends. Having a stellium of planets in my fourth house of family indicates good relationships with my family, and I am fortunate in that sense. My mom is a good travel partner and a good person to tell the things that are going on in my life for true Virgoan commentary. My aunt has also always shown up for me, since before I was born she knew me, and I know she has always supported me. 

My younger sisters offer age-old wisdom that is beyond their time.

My love offers his support, affections, and kindness. 

My tribe is amazing.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking with one of my favorite astrologers in the world—Gregory Scott. One of the things that we talked about was how my natal chart revealed the importance to me of relationships—not just romantic ones, but all kinds. In fact, I am often the person who tries to make them work, and in the past, I have often put others and these relationships before myself. Sometimes I did not know when to let go of toxic friendships and situations. I learned a lot from these situations though, so there are no regrets. Based on the placement of what are known as the North and South nodes in a natal chart, one of my lessons in this lifetime is to learn how to put myself first, and how to take care of me. Keeping in mind that relationships are important to me, one way that I can take care of myself is actually by nurturing and investing in healthy relationships, and by creating healthy boundaries in all areas of my life.

Healthy boundaries = happy me

One of the most important lessons that I have learned especially within the last several years of my life is that we have to learn what healthy relationships look like. For me, this looks like love, caring, compassion, respect, trust, honesty, independence, freedom, peace, and understanding. Our tribe helps us to make life more meaningful, to provide support in many different forms, and to feel love. There is scientific evidence that healthy relationships help in many ways with things like a longer lifespan, and improved mental and physical health.  What do healthy friendships look like for you? Are you able to recognize the signs of a toxic friendship? 

In addition to learning what healthy relationships look like, we must also learn when a relationship has run its course, and how to let go of toxic friendships and situations. Everyone can have a bad day, but with toxic friendships a bad day turns into a bad week, month, year, and so on; they form a pattern in which you are left feeling drained, with lower self-esteem, anxious, and unsettled. These kinds of friendships can also teach you bad habits, and potentially create a situation in which either you believe that all friendships should be like this or you give up on wanting to have healthy friendships. Please don’t give up on good friendships!

A few years ago, I learned some important lessons from dealing with a casebook narcissist. There is no need to delve further into that than to say that sometimes when you think you are going crazy, you just need to take stock of who and what you have let in your life. It is never too late, and never wrong to cut off things and people that blot out the light of your soul. 

We must learn how to trust our inner guidance and intuition when it comes to people. Often times we start hanging out with someone and they leave us feeling drained or we get the sense that if we hang out with them long enough, we might find ourselves in situations that we don’t want to be in. The famous motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that we are the average of the five friends that we spend the most time with. Most of us have also heard the quotes, “birds of a feather flock together,” and “iron sharpens irons.” These are all really just telling us that who we have around us matters. It matters because the people that we choose to allow into our lives do influence us and have an impact on our lives and our thinking. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and we want to feel like we have a place and a space to belong. We want to be a part of a tribe. I encourage you to find friends from all walks of life, and of all ages. Your worldview will expand tremendously, and you will learn a lot. Not just empathy, but how to understand where someone else is coming from and why they do the things they do. I have friends in their 80s, all the way down to little kids including my 11-year-old sister. I have learned so much from people of every age. Wisdom is ageless and timeless.  

It also matters when these people show us who they are. Maya Angelou said, “when people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Oprah added to that saying, “Remember this because it will happen many times in your life. When people show you who they are the first time believe them. Not the 29th. time. When a man doesn’t call you back the first time, when you are mistreated the first time, when someone shows you lack of integrity or dishonesty the first time, know that this will be followed many many other times, that will some point in life come back to haunt or hurt you. Live your life in truth. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You will survive anything if you live your life from the point of view of truth.” When you find yourself in a place you don’t belong, with a tribe of people that aren’t your own, you can feel completely out of sorts.

The point of all this is that when you find the people who sing to your soul, and who massage your spirit with joy and love, that you have found your tribe. These people might not be even your own family, or a lot of the people that you know, but metaphorically speaking you are all swans. You will know when you find them by the way they speak directly to your heart, and make space for you to feel ok with being who you are. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of people. Some people only need 1 or 2 good friends in their life, and some people have many people in their tribe. You decide what is best for you.
I am personally thankful for the people in my own life that I can call my tribe of friends and family. These are the people that laugh with me, provide a shoulder for my tears, help me to coax away my fears, remind me to reach for hope and my dreams, show me the magic in life. They show up for me, they hold space for me, and they allow me to do the same for them without violating my trust or taking me for granted. I feel their love supreme, and I hope that I offer a similar feeling for them as well.
I am thankful because I have friends from each chapter and phase of my life, and they matter very much to me. Even if I don’t see them every day or talk to them every day, they reside in my heart space. A very big thank you to my tribe, thank you for helping to enrich my life, and for loving me as I am. I appreciate you in ways that you might never even know.
As you are working on ways to live your best life, I urge you to consider what healthy relationships look like for you. In the realm of friendship what does this mean. Are you also a good friend? Do you extend the qualities to others that you are looking for? I pray that you do find good people to surround yourself with, and I hope that you feel inspired and loved, and that you continue to live your best life. No jealousies, no unnecessary drama, no untrustworthiness, just real, genuine and authentic relationships. Let me know if you have found your tribe! May the stars shine brightly over your week!

The Art and the Beauty of Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie

I love gratitude… 

The entire practice of being more thankful and appreciative for the things, events, and people in my life completely transformed my life for the better. I noticed somewhere along the way that when I was more present, and more appreciative of the good things that I had going on that even the not so good things seemed less intense, less scary, and gave me less anxiety. The word gratitude comes from the Latin words gratia and gratus. These mean grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful: thankfulness.” I came across another definition that I really loved from the Harvard Medical School. They said that gratitude is, “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” I would also add to that, at least in my own gratitude practice, that I gained a deeper connection with myself. I also learned to appreciate the person that I was, my quirks and all, and it led to a deeper love of self. This is not self-fish, this is necessary for maneuvering gracefully through this world. If you don’t learn how to love yourself, the outside world can tear you apart. So, to me, gratitude is also about self-preservation. I talk more about this in my YouTube video this week and there is also a short gratitude exercise. You can find the video here: https://youtu.be/NgUz4KrlvyI

According to scientist Dr. Robert Emmons from the Greater Good Science Center from the University of California Berkeley, the feeling of gratitude involves two stages (2003):

  1. First comes the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we say yes to life. We affirm that all in all, life is good, and has elements that make worth living, and rich in texture. The acknowledgment that we have received something gratifies us, both by its presence and by the effort the giver put into choosing it.
  2. Second, gratitude is recognizing that some of the sources of this goodness lie outside the self. One can be grateful to other people, to animals, and to the world, but not to oneself. At this stage, we recognize the goodness in our lives and who to thank for it, ie., who made sacrifices so that we could be happy?

We might be tempted to think that gratitude then is some new age concept, but really it is at the basis of numerous religions, spiritual practices, and philosophies. The concept of gratitude is not new. As an example, the ancient philosophers Seneca and Cicero both made comments on gratitude. In Letters from a Stoic, Seneca said,

“We should try by all means to be as grateful as possible. For gratitude is a good thing for ourselves, in a sense in which justice, that is commonly supposed to concern other persons, is not; gratitude returns in large measure unto itself. There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbour, has not benefited himself, — I do not mean for the reason that he whom you have aided will desire to aid you, or that he whom you have defended will desire to protect you, or that an example of good conduct returns in a circle to benefit the doer, just as examples of bad conduct recoil upon their authors, and as men find no pity if they suffer wrongs which they themselves have demonstrated the possibility of committing; but that the reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves. For they are not practised with a view to recompense; the wages of a good deed is to have done it. I am grateful, not in order that my neighbour, provoked by the earlier act of kindness, may be more ready to benefit me, but simply in order that I may perform a most pleasant and beautiful act; I feel grateful, not because it profits me, but because it pleases me.”

Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” To take it to a more modern place, the former writer and amazing human being, Dr. Maya Angelou said, “I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.” I believe this too! I believe that when life sees you loving to live it, it will give you more reasons to keep doing just that!

It has also been scientifically proven that gratitude improves self-esteem, improves sleep and neurological functions, lowers stress, increases immune functions, leads to a more positive attitude, makes our relationships better by enhancing our empathy and reducing negative emotions, enables us to live a happier life, and really just leads to a better overall quality of life. So why would we be hesitant to this? Everything that we do is a choice—and that includes the decision to be hopeful, to be grateful, and to view this world from a place of love. That can be hard and for many people; the default is to despair, to thinking things can never work out, and to be reactive to life. I do believe that practicing gratitude helps us to be proactive and to grab life by the horns and say, “this is how I want things to be.” So how can you incorporate more gratitude in your life?

Celestial Goodness’s Tips for increasing Gratitude in your life:

1)     Say “thank you” more. Not just when someone does something good for you, but also when its just you around and you feel thankful for something—whether it is a delicious meal, or you feel relieved at how something unfolded. Maybe you paid off your student loans—congratulations! Or maybe you finished a huge project and just feel the relief of that. You can also incorporate “thank you” as a replacement for “sorry.” Maybe you were late to something. Instead of saying, “sorry that I am late,” try, “thank you for waiting for me and extending your time.” 

2)     Send a “gratitude letter” to someone that you want to thank for something. Letter writing is not a lost art, and it is so meaningful to so many people to get real mail! I had a pretty good pen-pal streak with my friend Valerie, and whenever I get real mail from any of my friends, it really makes me feel a burst of joy! 

3)     Write down a list of things that you are grateful for and that you appreciate about your life right now. Take a look at it often and be reminded of the wonderful things that you do have to feel good about!

4)     Do a random act of kindness. There is no shortage of ways that you can infuse kindness into this world. You don’t have to be Oprah to do something good. 

5)     Do a gratitude journal or a gratitude jar. Create a journal or decorate a jar that you write down things you have to be thankful for. Going back to read these can be a real treat. If you are kind of lazy about journaling like me, there are some great free digital journal apps that make things easy! 

6)     Read books on gratitude or other feel good topics. We absorb a lot of information from the world at large. Be a gatekeeper of what goes into your mind. Balance some of the heavy world news with stories that uplift the soul. 

7)     Make a feel good stone. I love crystals as many people know. I have a special one that I wrote love on one side and gratitude on the other. When I need a reminder about this, I might hold it in my hand to feel a burst of these emotions. 

8)     Talk about it. Talk about the things that you are grateful for with your friends and family and encourage them to do the same. Hold space for their joy. 

9)     Give to a charity. You don’t have to be Oprah to do good. Even $10 can go a long way in helping!

10) Give compliments. I love to give people compliments and to see their eyes light up. I think we should hear the good things!

I hope that the next week is a wonderful one for you; I hope that you are able to practice more gratitude and more love. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may things unfold in the most beautiful of ways.