Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about legacies, and the legacy that I will one day leave behind. Some of this is because I have become so intimate with the concept of death in recent years, and this year in particular it has been such a constant. When we think of those who passed away, we naturally remember something about them—what they were known for, how they made us feel, what they inspired within us, and so much more. See this week’s video here: https://youtu.be/Oj5zmvS54W0

There are people who have passed away in my own life, ages ago, that still influence how I live my life. I often think of my paternal grandparents, and my maternal grandfather. I am fortunate enough to still have my maternal grandmother, alive and in my life. Whether they are here in the physical or on the other side, they have impacted my life in profound ways.

My maternal grandmother is full of wisdom and teaches me endless lessons about life. She reminds me to see the blessings in situations, and to think deeply and intentionally about the life that I am living and want to live. If I start worrying about something, she will always encourage me to look at things in a different light. I did not fully appreciate this when I was younger, but as I am getting older, I see what a gift it is to be able to choose our perspective.

My paternal grandmother was a fiery advocate and big supporter of her community. People came from all over to see her, and I just remember that her presence often felt larger than life. Sometimes when I feel nervous, I think of her courage.

My paternal grandfather was a friend to all and had a great sense of humor. He told great stories, and I remember when I was little sometimes he would cook us lunch because the school was nearby. It was whatever it was, but always made with love.

My maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur, a community builder, and left a legacy of kindness. My mom and aunt tells me the story of how he found someone stealing from his land. Instead of punishment, he asked the man for some details about what was going on. He found out about his struggles and gave him a job working on the land.

Both of my grandfathers were farmers, they loved the land, they loved their community, and they loved Jamaica. While I feel that they were rooted, my grandmothers had and have wings. My grandmothers utilized their vision to create paths of future progress for their descendants.

This notion of legacy also came up because my mom has been sewing an amazing quilt. She has drawn pictures on fabric that mean something for some aspect of her life, or from some major life event for her. She embroiders the pictures with bold and beautiful color threads. Now please understand, my mom is what I call a right and left-brain person.

She is logical, analytical, but also super creative and talented with artistic endeavors. One of her amazing talents is at sewing. I hope that nothing major ever depends on me sewing because I can barely sew a good hemline. LOL!!! Back to the quilt—the quilt is amazing, and one day while we were talking, I think she said, she hoped that one of us—her four children—would want it. I volunteered myself immediately… I will take it! I just feel that it is being made with so much love, and it is a beautiful way of remembering major moments in her life. I think this quilt made me think about some important moments in my own life, and what it is that I want to leave as my own personal legacy. How would I want to be remembered? William James said, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

I also thought about my dad because I know that one of the things that I definitely got from him was my sense of humor, my cooking skills, and he has a kind heart. Both of my parents do. My dad also seems to know everybody in his community. We can’t go anywhere without someone saying hi. He will give people a ride to insert location here at the drop of a hat, help with things, and try to connect people to necessary information. I have been told that I am similar in that way.

I carry the lessons that I have learned from not only my parents and grandparents, but from everyone who has left a mark on me with me every day. This also includes my aunt, who in my eyes exemplifies vision, hard work, and creating a lasting foundation.

She reminds me of something that I read once about the Iroquois Native American tribe of people. Under the principle of the Great Law of Peace, is also the Seventh Generation Principle. It is based on the ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. My aunt thinks about the future a lot, about what will be left for future generations, and what foundations are we creating right now to ensure that they have something to build from? This is what leaving a legacy is about; it is simply asking the question, “What will I be remembered for?” What will you pass on to the next generations? This is not just financial or physical resources, but also maybe your values, or your character.

Joan Moran said, “The idea of leaving a legacy is the need or the desire to be remembered for what you have contributed to the world. In some cases, that contribution can be so special that the universe is unalterably changed. However, for most mere mortals walking this earth, most will leave a more modest legacy that doesn’t necessarily change the world but does leave a lasting footprint that will be remembered by those whose lives you touched. You hope your life matters in some way.” If you are watching this video, I want you to know that your life does matter. It does matter what you do here, the kind of energy you put out, and the way that you treat others and yourself. 

Former president Barack Obama said, “I saw myself as a relay runner. I would take the baton and I would run my leg of the race. And then I’d pass the baton to someone else. . . Each generation tries to make progress knowing that what we do is not going to be perfect. . . But, hopefully, we’ve run our leg of the race effectively – and the world’s gotten a little bit better.”

Shannon L. Alder said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” And of course, Maya Angelou one of my favorites said two things that I love. “If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” She also said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” There is a video clip out in the ethers of Maya Angelou called, “God Put A Rainbow in the Clouds.” She said, “When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds. Imagine! I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I had so many rainbows.” She actually equated rainbows to all of the people who have ever helped her along her life journey. She said that she carried them everywhere with her, and that we should always be willing and ready to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. “The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”

Recognizing that as we go through life, you are going to interact with other people, and have an abundance of life experiences, you are constantly building on your personal legacy. You might not always believe it or feel it, but you are having an impact on someone, and on this place and this time. You matter, and so I think it is important to be intentional about what kind of legacy you want to leave here. Whether it is big or small, it matters. 

Stephen Covey, the author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” also has an exercise that he calls the “Obituary Exercise.” Essentially, you are picturing your own funeral. It sounds morbid, but just follow where I am going with this. He says, “In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral parlor, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there. As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral; all of these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand.  There are to be four speakers.  The first one is from your family…who have come from all over the country to attend.  The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person.  The third speaker is from your work or profession.  And the fourth is from a community organization where you’ve been involved in service. Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life?  What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect?  What kind of son or daughter or cousin?  What kind of friend?  What kind of working associate?  What character would you like them to have seen in you?  What contributions?  What achievements?” I really want you to sit with these questions, and allow them to help you create the sort of values and legacy that you would like to be remembered for…except that you can live them now, each and every day.

So here are a few tips this week from Celestial Goodness for creating a lasting legacy. 

1)     Don’t be afraid to share your story. Leave a paper trail. Yes, leave pictures, journals, words, or something so that those who come after you can have a sense of who you are. 

2)     Offer yourself in service to the world. Whether that is time or other resources, and whether that is big or small, even the tiniest actions can having a lasting impact. This includes supporting causes and people that mean a lot to you! It also means standing for something, and being a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. 

3)     Give the gift of your time to your loved ones. Spend some quality time with your loved ones. Don’t get so caught up with life that you miss the magic in the moments that you spend with your loved ones.  Sweet conversations, creating memories, and just enjoying the presence of other people. 

4)     Be honest and authentic in everything that you do.

5)     Live your values daily, pass them along, and be an example of that to others.

6)     Be generous and kind. Share your blessings. 

7)     Enjoy your life to the fullest, whatever that means for you.

8) Love, and love some more.

It can be weird for some people to have to think so far ahead, but it is so important! Thinking ahead, thinking about some of the questions that I asked here are important in helping to define who you are, and what you want your own legacy to be so that you can live it now, and that you can live a full and amazing life. I believe in that for you. Let me know if you had any epiphanies! May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be a good one!

Celestial Goodness: Decompress and Disconnect (Unplug) a bit…

This is a very special week for me because this is my 26th week of Celestial Goodness. This moment marks half a year since I launched my blog and channel. Thank you for tuning in/for reading and for being on this journey with me. I appreciate you! Click here for this week’s video: https://youtu.be/Nv7DwmYntp4

Admittedly, this past week was not an easy one for me. After my elation last Saturday, Sunday and Monday brought with it news of multiple deaths of people that I knew—including the unexpected death of a dear soul, amazing person, and my friend. I think that as humans there is a part of us that always thinks that we will have time… time to say a proper goodbye, time to do the things that we want to do, and time to live more fully. Yet life is always saying to us—do it now, do it before you do not get the chance to. I desire and work towards living my life in a way that the people in my world know just how much I love them. I also feel daily, an abundance of love, so there is no question for me of am I giving love, or am I receiving love?. Does it matter if we know that or not? I think it does. And I hope that wherever you are watching this, that you feel love—from your own self, and from the people in your world. A few years ago, I actually had to do a purge of people from my real life because I realized that they were not good people for me to have in my life. That is, however, a topic for another time.

Because of the unexpected news this weekend, I felt myself slipping off into grief. I wanted to believe that the death of my friend was not real, that I could pick up my phone and send a message, and that they would respond, but that reality is different. Therefore, I was left rereading old messages, and remembering those good times. If you have never thought about your own grief process, it is important to know for yourself when you feel it coming on. In my case, I felt unable to smile, and I felt the need to be alone with my emotions. My friends Z and Natalie have a great podcast “Nat and Z sippin’ tea,” and one episode is about dealing with Grief and Loss. https://anchor.fm/sippint-nat–z/episodes/The-Gravity-of-Grief-eijlmt/a-a31d0o4

Of course because I still have responsibilities, it was a situation where I had to make time for my emotions, and then forge ahead with the other things that I needed to do.

When I grieve, I often turn to the words of Elisabeth Kubler Ross, Swiss-American psychiatrist, who is famous for her work on death and dying, and the proponent of the five stages of grief. She said, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not “get over” the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” I don’t think that we are ever the same after meeting and knowing certain people. Their legacy will forever be etched into our hearts. In Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief, we go through a series of five emotions: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Depending on the situation, it can take any amount of time to go through these stages.

Because I am aware when I am entering into the stages of grieve, I had to do some decompression and disconnecting this week. I got up each day, and did my work, but I also had to spend some time off social media, and I had to spend some time out in nature. Most of all, I spent some time with my love. He was very supportive, and not only gave me the space to grieve, but also lots of hugs when I needed them.

One day while I was out for my evening walk, I put away my phone, and just listened to the sounds of nature. Close to where I have been walking is a small river, and I like to look over the side of the bridge and hear the river. Some days it comes rushing down with its full force—those are the days after it has rained. Some days, it looks like it will dry up if it doesn’t rain soon. This week I felt that the river was a perfect parallel to how I felt. Emotions can rush down so quickly—and we should not push them aside, but let them come. Let them inform us of how we are really feeling.

Anyway, as I was walking, I noticed that nearly everyone who ran or walked past me was on their phone or device. Maybe they were listening to music, talking, or they stopped in the middle of the road or sideway to text.

I also noticed an older couple, holding hands, and observing everything. Often times one of them would stop and point to a beautiful bird, or flower, or to the amazing colors of the trees right now. Maybe because I was being low-key creepy and observing everything (appropriately social distanced of course), I too also noticed so much more. The colors were magnificent, the way the sunlight streamed through the trees, and the way I noticed how in one place there are two trees that seem to be hugging each other. I noticed things that I had not noticed having taken this same walk hundreds of times.

And it felt in that moment as if nature said, “Just keep going.” We have been around for an eternity, and even when you are gone, these trees will probably still be here, this river will be here, the sky and the birds, will be here… and for at least one moment, a lot of things made sense. We are here for this moment in time, and while we are here, we are everything, and yet we are also just a small blip in the grand scheme of things. This moment of decompressing, and of disconnecting from technology was so comforting, that I forgot for a moment about everything else going on in the world. In that moment, it really was just me, a child of the universe, nature, wild and free, and a reminder that life is both fleeting and beautiful.

There is a poem that was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann that I love. It is a poem that always brings me peace; and I felt that I understood it so well in this moment. That poem is Desiderata.


GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

So, this week, I am encouraging everyone to take a moment to decompress in some way from everything going on. I also encourage taking a few moments to disconnect from technology. I took some time away from social media, and I dropped the ball about replying to messages—my apologies if you tried to get ahold of me. However, in that time, I was grieving, healing, and remembering some of life’s most beautiful lessons. I did a google search, “How much time do people spend on their phones?” and the top result said that Americans spend an average of 5 hours per day on their phones. I suspect that when you include computer time, television, and other devices, that we are spending a majority of our day getting an overload of information. What is the time that you spend in the day where you let your own mind create? Think freely? Rest? Do you have that time?

So here are just a few tips this week to decompress and disconnect from technology for a bit. (After you read my blog/watch my video lol).

1) Make some time: Whether it is 15 minutes or an hours—having some downtime to decompress from technology can help your mind get some of the rest that it needs from the daily overload of information. This “information overload” can cause anxiety, stress, and depression. Write it on your calendar if you need to!

2) Start your day off with something other than technology. Most people reach immediately for their phones to see what they missed while they were sleeping. Sometimes the best thing that you can do for your day is to start with prayer, meditation, and a cup of tea. Allow yourself to set an intention for a good day because the news of the world bombards your life. I actually love the wee hours of the morning right before the sun comes up. I like to stand with my tea, warm in my hand, and see the first light of the day coming in… that is my sacred time.

3)     Realize that “free time” and down time are sacred. Sometimes we feel bad when we are not doing anything. We feel the need to be constantly productive…but playtime is also valuable. Throughout history there are people, I have mentioned Albert Einstein before, who found great solutions to the problems of the world when they were daydreaming. Some of these people were intentional about their free time and their down time. The world considers Einstein a genius… I am just saying!

4) Set technological boundaries. Let the people in your life know that there are times when you will be “offline.” That time is valuable to you, and you are asking them to respect that. I would also include here, that if you are using social media, it is ok to unfollow pages and people that just don’t vibe with your values. Would you be friends with these people in real life? Would you allow them into your home in real life? If not, why are you allowing that through technology? This also helps cure doom scrolling. LOL

5)     Find a hobby. There are many amazing things to do in this world and this life that do not involve technology. I know that sometimes after working an entire day looking at the screen, I want to do something that does not involve looking at another screen. It has been a bit hard to read the last few weeks, but sometimes I write, color, or literally just sit for a bit and let my mind wander. I also complain about cooking sometimes lol, but really, that is also therapeutic in some sense. 

6)     Initiate a no phone policy at dinner time. Make your meal times sacred. No scrolling, just enjoying your meal. If you live with someone, this is a good time to have a real conversation with them, where you are both focused on what the other person is saying. I hear this helps with digestion.

7) Spend some time out in nature. Whether you are the glamping type, or the hard core I am going to get out there and hike ten thousand miles today type, I think that even a few minutes in nature is helpful to overall well-being. Turn your phone on silent, observe how the light hits the leaves of the trees, or how the river, sea, ocean, creek sounds…. Or just how amazing it is the way that things keep the cycle going—things grow, they live, they die, they go back to the earth, and they grow again….amazing.

These are just a few ways to spend some time decompressing and disconnecting for a bit from technology. I enjoy using my social media, but I also enjoy living and participating in my real life. The spectrum of experiences in life are so varied…we will experience loss, but we will also experience love and everything in between. What kind of life are you trying to live? That is my question to you….and if you aren’t living it, then why? Why not live it? Why not you? Why not today?

Kubler-Ross also said, “It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.” Please live your life to the fullest…and that does include making some of your time sacred. It means carving out space for you—to process, decompress, daydream, and allow yourself to be here now—present and fully aware that life is yet a beautiful, mysterious, amazing unfolding…May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be a beautiful one indeed filled with moments of serenity.

A Return to Kindness

A small disclaimer that this message is meant to inspire, but to get to that place, we have to address the elephant in the room, within this country—the United States of America. See this week’s video here: https://youtu.be/ETfMTtzNEuI

As I was writing these words, Joe Biden won the United States presidency, and Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first black and Asian vice president of the United States. I had to take a moment because there was a lot of happy crying on my part. I personally felt just a sigh of relief and the release of something heavy that I did not realize that I had been holding onto.

However, there was something very revealing about the country in that this race was so close. After everything that people saw and witnessed over the last four years, children in cages, a refusal to acknowledge that racism does exist, the curtailing of basic human rights, and a lack of care and utter disregard for the environment, I was personally shocked that so many people voted for the incumbent. Obviously if you are reading this blog, then you know that I am a black woman, and that alone can probably give you a sense of where my vote fell.

I didn’t make my vote simply for me, but for so many reasons—for a return to basic decency, for my friends and family who are part of the LGBTQ community, for immigrants, for myself as a black person in this country, for science—climate change and its impact, and that list is long. Initially, I felt a tad bit of hopelessness, and the energy was heavy and intense. I reminded myself that because we just ended a Mercury Retrograde period on Election Day that getting the votes counted would be a slow process. I also had to really take care of myself, and my peace of mind. That involved taking a day off work, taking a long walk in nature, disconnecting from technology, and reminding myself of somethings that I know to be true. I have literally been reminding myself of the things that I talk about all the time. Hold on to hope, fight for what I believe in, do what I can within my span of control, and love—keep loving and having faith even when it feels hard. 

One of the things that I remembered is that throughout the history of the world, no matter what is going on, there are always people out there who are being kind, compassionate, and expressing love. Mr. Rogers had a quote that he used to say, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Some people have issue with this quote because they think it has been overused in tragedies, and that it was a quote intended for children. When I hear this quote, what I actually think is more that it is a reminder that “good” is always happening. When we train our eye to see it, we will see the good things that are happening. We will always find people that are helping and doing good. 

Furthermore, I also think that it is a call for us to do good as well. We cannot sit passively by the wayside; we must be proactive about going after the future that we want. We have often heard the Mahatma Gandhi quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” And I know, Gandhi was also not without controversy, but I think that the message is an important one. I read somewhere that this quote is actually part of a larger message from Gandhi that said, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” And for me the key line here is, “we do not need to wait to see what others do.” We can do good right at this moment, where we are.

If this election tells me anything, it tells me that there is work yet to be done. It tells me that at any moment, any of us could be called to stand on the right side of history. It tells me that when I have read history, and wondered, how could people do x, y, and z, I need not wonder anymore because I am seeing it all unfold before my very eyes. The beauty of democracy is that everyone can have an opinion and cast their own vote, and feel how they want to feel about something, and yet everyone can for the most part, still get along. But there was something different in how this week felt. I am reminded of the words of the great writer, James Baldwin. “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” It has been hard to feel that sense of unity when everything about the other side feels rooted in my oppression and as a rebuke of my very existence.

So this week, I want to remind you that good things are still happening, and that at any moment, you can indeed be the change or the goodness that you wish to see in the world. Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” So cheers to the beauty and love that yet remains in this world. Here are a few examples of the human spirit shining through in history!

1) During the Great Depression, the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong set up a pile of coal in Baltimore and let underprivileged families come and take as much as they needed. When he was growing up in New Orleans, he sold coal and realized the value to these families especially during wintertime. It would allow families to warm their homes during such a rough economic time.

2) In 1859, Henry Dunant had traveled from Switzerland to Solferino, Italy for business. While there, he witnessed a deadly battle that was part of the Second War of Italian Independence. He wrote his memories and observations in his book, Memory of Solferino. In the book he talked about how so many were left for dead and how little was done to care for the sick or those close to death. The book and his idea for a neutral organization that treated wounded soldiers became very popular. This organization became the Red Cross. His ideas also helped inspire other humanitarian organizations, and helped to establish the Geneva Conventions. Dunant was awarded the very first Nobel Peace Prize.

3) Some people may have heard of Nicholas Winton. Born to a Jewish family in the UK, he was horrified by what he saw happening to the Jews under Nazi regime. He worked with the British government to save over 669 Jewish children. He brought them to Britain and found homes for them. In 1988 his wife found the notes of his amazing deeds and informed a Holocaust researcher. The BBC did a story on it! There is some footage of a program on BBC where he was reunited with over two dozen of the children that he helped. Look up the video, but be prepared to shed a few tears.

4) The chef Jose Andres has done some amazing and kind deeds. His World Central Kitchen has provided over 1 million meals to people impacted by natural disasters. He always shows up for the communities around him.

5) I can mention Oprah Winfrey—most people know about some of the amazing things that she had done for lots of different people. It is reported that she supports over 23 charities and foundations including her own. She had often emphasized that donating time is just as valuable as donating money.

6) Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was a superhero. She saved hundreds of people during slavery, she fought with the Union army—actually becoming the first woman to ever lead an armed raid in the American Civil War, and she advocated for a better country for everyone. She was brave, and gosh, if you do not know about her, please do some research on this incredible woman.

7) During this year as the world as experienced a global pandemic, I have also seen small acts of kindness from friends, family, and even strangers. These small acts make a big difference and they give me hope for the future. Each day there are many people that you may never hear about who are shining their love light. You don’t have to tell everyone all of the good things that you do or blast it on social media, but know that the energy that you put out is helpful to everyone. I always get a visual in my mind of love as a golden light just being sprinkled all across this world. This is the world that I see and want for the future, and it is one that I will work towards helping to create. Every single day!

I am emotional today, and that is because I do feel more hopeful than ever that the things that make us human, the things that make this world great and beautiful will prevail. That is in short, our ability to transcend obstacles, to love each other, and ourselves and to love this planet. Tom Hiddleston said, “Doing good in this world, and being kind and being honest and noble is really underrated. And I think you have… I think everyday people have enormous power, and they have enormous power for good, and if you’re good to people, the world is a better place.”

May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be one filled with hope, healing, and love.

What we learn in the darkness…

There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of writing my blog, and working on my YouTube videos, but I have learned a lot, and I have found creating this content to be very rewarding. Sometimes I get a bit of anxiety, but once I sit down and begin the process, that eases significantly. I say this because maybe someone out there who has something in mind—maybe there is something that you want to create. I say that you can and you should do it. Create an action plan for your dream, and then do it. Do it with your hands shaking, do it with your heart beating fast, but just do it. You must remember that when you get a vision, that it is yours and yours alone. You have that particular gift within you, a treasure if you may, and you simply do not know how it could change the world—your world, or the greater world, or help make your life one that feels more purpose filled. Plus, it is fun! See this week’s YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/OrvVPZkuJbw

 And maybe that’s not your jam, maybe life is as good as it could be for you… but maybe you enjoy partaking in what others have created. Well, that is necessary and appreciated as well. And if you have started something, write the words “consistency” down somewhere so that you can see it frequently. I have attended lots of talks with “authors/writers” and other content creators, and they always get the question. How do you do x thing? The response is usually the same. They just sat down and did it, even when it was hard, even when they did not feel inspired, especially when they did not feel inspired, and even when they had a bunch of other things to do. My own commitment to this channel is to do it, even on the hard days. 

So what we are actually talking about this week, is I guess two fold. This is Halloween weekend, All Hallows Eve. Jessica Flammang, phrased it perfectly when she said, “Around this time of year, legend has it that the veil between the earthly plane and the spiritual world is thin, meaning the two realms collide, and it is easier for spirits to cross over and walk among the living, and vice versa — souls ready to move on are prepped for an exit.” This time of year coincides perfectly in this hemisphere with the transition between fall and winter. The days are darker, colder, and it is easier to sense that maybe there is something present in the unseen.

In some parts of the world like Mexico, there are cultural celebrations (with their own complex history). The ancient Gaelic festival, Samhain, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. Samhain (pronounced more like, “Sow-win”) is also considered the Celtic festival of the dead. There is some debate that it is also a time of new beginnings, and the ancient Celtic new year. So happy new year! 

In Mexico, it is the weekend for Dia de los Muertos—or Day of the Dead. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. It is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning. A lot of these cultural practices were Christianized and rebranded as “All Souls Day. All Soul’s Day is also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. To Christians who celebrate this day, it is one of prayer and remembrance for the souls of those who have died. 

In my opinion, Dia de los Muertos is one of the most beautiful celebrations in the world. The celebrations are planned during the year, and on the holiday, people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed. Families and friends build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. There are so many cultures throughout the world that honor their deceased, and that honor their ancestors. You may be part of a culture, religion, or spiritual practice that sees this weekend, and this time as sacred. This year because of the global pandemic among other things, many people have lost their lives. Some have lost their way of live, and that too can feel like death. Just taking a quick moment of silence now for the people who we love who have lost their lives this year. What is remembered lives on…

I also want to add this quote from Cynthia Vidaurri, a folklorist at the Smithsonian. She said, “Culture is a set of tools created and used by humans to meet life’s challenges. A fundamental truth about culture is that it is complicated. In order for culture to serve its purpose, it must be able to adapt to the needs of the user. Individual elements of a tradition can be discarded and new elements can be incorporated. New materials can be added if they meet the aesthetic and practical needs of the expression. Rituals from other communities are accepted if they are meaningful for community. Some aspects of culture can take many years to evolve and yet others can change very quickly. When a cultural expression no longer serves a function, it can simply cease to exist.” 

I include that quote here because so many different cultural practices have had to adapt to continue to exist. We have also had to be adaptable to the changing nature of life. If you feel called to a particular tradition or practice, it may be worth doing research to see if it is something that you can work with (properly), and without improper appropriation. On this weekend, I will take a few moments to remember my own ancestors. I will remember the lessons that I learned from them not only when they were alive, but also what I know from learning about their lives. They were people too, going through the daily struggles and joys that we balance constantly. 

In this next week, the United States will have a major election. I have personally felt the emotions and anxieties of others running high, and my own emotions are also present, and fluctuating on the table. I encourage everyone to do what you need to do to take care of your mental health, and your overall wellbeing no matter the outcome of this election. The reason, I bring up ancestors, is that when we can remember what our own ancestors have gone through—and I don’t mean just blood relatives, but maybe people who cared and nurtured you—when you can remember that they lived and went through their own struggles, and survived, and thrived, then hopefully you will feel an infusion of strength to go through your own struggles. Why? Because you know that they survived, and you know that you can too.

I went to a retreat once, and one of the speakers, a brilliant mythologist among other things, made us do an exercise. In it, we closed our eyes and imagined ourselves stepping back four generations. I stepped back into imagining my mother at my age, what was she dealing with? What was the world like? What was the economy and the society like? What were some of the struggles that she had to overcome? What would be her hope for me? I also had to do this with my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. Even if I didn’t know them well, you can still imagine some of what they went through? You can imagine that you are their dreams manifest. The things that you have been alive to experience and see? And maybe one day someone will do this and you will be the person they step back to. 

Our ancestors have gone through difficulties, through wars, through pandemics, through economic decline. My ancestors dealt with classism, racism, and so much more, and yet through it all, they also cultivated spaces for love, for joy, for hope, and for the belief that after the darkest night, dawn would come again. I am trusting that no matter what happens on the path before me, that as long as I am alive, that there will be a dawn. I am trusting in the dawn. Florence Scovel Shinn said, “It is dark before the dawn, but the dawn never fails. Trust in the dawn.”

Despite looking ahead to the dawn, I am also feeling gratitude for what we learn in the darker half of the year. I am also in reverence of what we learn in the darkness. This is the other part of this week’s discussion. We have become a society obsessed with the light. I am guilty of this too, and I should write here that optimism and a positive nature, should not be mistaken for an inability to revel in the wide spectrum of experiences and emotions that we go through as humans. The “darkness” gets a bad rap. Part of that is what we have been trained to associate with the word itself. We have been conditioned to believe that the word “dark” is bad and associated with scary and less valuable things. In a world, where bleaching creams are a thing, and people who have dark skin, have been forced to hear that their complexion is not the standard of beauty to which people should aspire to, and forced to see opportunities diminish because of their skin color, we must retrain ourselves on word usage. And yet, dark skin is so amazingly beautiful. Have you ever seen melanin under the bright light of the sun? Breathtaking. 

Taking away some of the improper uses of the word “darkness,” I want you to imagine for a moment. You are awake in the night, maybe you are standing outside, everything is still, quiet, and eternally peaceful. You look up, and see the most amazing stars. It is the Milky Way, and you are blown away by the sheer radiance of the beauty swirling above your head. In this moment, you can think clearly, and you feel present in the stillness of the night. Our world needs the “darkness.” There are animals, like turtles for example who need that darkness to navigate to where they lay their eggs. Our bodies use the cues of the light of the day to help structure our circadian cycle. In the darkness we learn how to use all of our senses. We might not be able to see as well, but we can hear, touch, and feel. Seeds planted in the ground, need the cool and dark place so that they can begin the process of transformation from seed to plant. When the world starts to get colder and darker, it is also a cue for us to turn inward, to rest more, to care for ourselves, to heal, and to have a certain level of downtime that we do not get in the daytime or in spring and summer. I also believe that in the darkest of times, we also realize how powerful the light is. The light needs the dark to reflect. So what does all of this mean for these times, and for the week ahead?

I am asking you in the week ahead to do several things if you are so inclined. First, take a few quiet moments to reflect on your own ancestry. What were the strengths that those who came before you exhibited? What did they survive? A simple way to honor your ancestors at this time, is to put a picture on a small table or atop a dresser. Maybe put a flower or something that they liked next to it. Think of your favorite memory with them, and offer gratitude that their strength runs through you, whether physically or spiritually. 

As the week progresses, I also want you to focus on your own self-care. I don’t mean just bubble baths, and lighting sweet smelling candles. I mean, I really want you to prioritize your care. Stop “doom scrolling.” Don’t get caught up in the fear, or with things that you can’t control. If there is something you can do, then do it, but if not, then do not allow worry about that thing to consume you. Rest when you can. Talk to people who lift your spirits. Spend some time in nature. Practice gratitude for the things that are still going well. And if you feel overwhelmed and overcome by some sadness or strong emotion, feel it, and remember that we can only see the stars in the darkness, but we know the dawn is coming.

When the dawn does arrive, you will be stronger and wiser than before. You will realize that in your life, many things will happen—the good, the bad, and the downright ugly—and most of what transpires will be out of your control. You will experience the entire gambit of emotions—everything from love to anger, and all that is in between. The darkness will teach you that no matter what happens, change comes, and you have the ability to react in the positive or the negative to anything that you face. Whatever happens, never give up! Look to the sky and remember that the dawn is coming, and with it, more joy. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be a good one, May you take good care of yourself, and remember that no matter what happens, you have the strength to survive it.

The Power of Meditation

To say that we live in interesting times is a major understatement. In either middle or high school, I was forced to read the story, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I say forced, because I did not really understand much of the novel, and found it to be rather boring. 

Despite the tedious nature of reading this novel, the opening line of the book lived on with me; and it is finally in this year, the year of our lord, A.D. 2020, a year unlike any other, when I finally understand what the dickens, Dickens meant when he said these lines. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”

I get it, boy do I ever get it. And with all of the things going on in the world, it can become extremely easy to give in to despair, to fall victim to our anxieties, and to feel extremely overwhelmed by everything. One of the coping tools that I use to help stay calm, and grounded, during the uncertainty of these times is meditation. Let me be clear. I am in no ways a perfect meditator. It is very much a work in progress for me; and on the days when I have the most angst about everything, that is when I rebel the most against one of the very things that helps me settle down. 

There are variations of an old zen proverb floating around the internet that says, “If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should probably mediate for an hour.” There is also a possibly fake quote from the Buddha. LOL, I can’t go back into time and ask the Buddha myself if he said it, but I can confirm that I have lost some of the things mentioned in this next quote as well. So that’s my validation. “Buddha was asked: What have you gained from mediation? He replied: Nothing. However, Buddha said, let me tell you what I have lost. Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of old age and death.”

I also like these quotes on meditation, “Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” By Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. Pema Chodron said, “Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who I believe was one of Pema’s teacher’s said, “Meditation should not be regarded as a learning process. It should be regarded as an experiencing process. You should not try to learn from meditation but try to feel it. Meditation is an act of nonduality. The technique you are using should not be separate from you; it is you, you are the technique. Meditator and meditation are one. There is no relationship involved.”

There is not an easy or clear way to define meditation. It is practiced in many different cultures across the world, and it is a tradition that has a long and ancient history in various religions and spiritual practices; it also has history in the fields of psychology and neurology. For some people it is about connecting to the divine, finding enlightenment, or deepening their faith. For some people it is about finding inner and external peace, awareness, calm, and general harmony and overall improvements to their wellbeing. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate because there are many ways; you have to find the one that is right for you. You should find a practice that works with your life, your personality, your values and believes and ultimately your schedule. I mean you probably are not going to give up your current life and retreat to the Himalayas to spend eight hours a day meditating. If that is your path, that is excellent, but for most of us, we need to start small, and work our way up to something that is right for us. 

Meditation has also been proven to have a number of amazing benefits that cover emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being:

·       Stress reduction is a big benefit. 

·       Reduces anxiety

·       Promotes more kindness and compassion

·       Leads to greater self-awareness

·       Helps with emotional intelligence and emotional health

·       Helps lower blood pressure

·       Improves sleep

·       Cultivation of peace of mind

·       Builds positive neurological connections to the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and decision making

· May lead you to a place of spiritual happiness/enlightenment

There are a variety of techniques for meditating. While you can do meditation almost anywhere, some tips are, to find a quiet, comfortable place, sit up straight or lay down (but run the risk of falling asleep), and wear comfortable clothes. Some of my personal best practices are to record your own mediation in your voice, and play them back. I think hearing your voice as you meditate is powerful. Also, if you speak another language as your native language, consider recording your meditations in that language. Here are a few examples of some meditation techniques:

·       Guided meditation: In a guided meditation, the guide or teacher walks you through the basic steps of the practice. This is great for beginners, or for those who like having a structure. 

·       Unguided meditation: This is also called silent meditation; you meditate alone, generally sitting in a quiet place and focusing on the body and thoughts. 

·       Visualizing mediation: Good for helping to picture yourself succeeding at your goals or some specific outcome. This is also good for boosting one’s mood. This technique usually focuses on visualizing positive images, scenes, and outcomes. 

·       Transcendental meditation: This is a trademarked technique founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and it is one where practitioners meditate for 20 minutes twice per day. It is a silent, mantra meditation. 

·       Chakra meditation: In this technique you work to keep the chakras (energy centers in the body) open and aligned. This helps to keep your chakras in balance. I will be talking about the chakras in a future blog/video.

·       Sound bath meditation: This uses singing bowls, drums, gongs, and other instruments to create sound vibrations that help focus the mind. 

·       Focused attention meditation: In this technique you focus your mind on something like your breathing or something that will anchor the mind and keep your awareness focused. 

·       Body scan or progressive meditation: This is a technique that works to reduce tension in the body and to promote relaxation. Useful for helping to get better sleep, release stress and to relax the body.

·       Loving kindness meditation: This technique is used to develop and strengthen feelings of kindness, empathy, compassion, acceptance and love towards yourself and others. This is a good meditation for helping to let go of feelings of anger, and to cultivate forgiveness.

·       Reflection meditation: In this form of meditation, you might be asked to reflect on different aspects of your life, or what you are grateful for. You focus more on the feelings that arise than the answers to the questions. 

I have done nearly all of these meditations based on things going on in my life, mood, need, and more. I find value in all of them, and really, I am just working on making meditation an integral part of my day and my life. Please find something that works for you, and let the results unfold.

We will now do a very short meditation that I wrote, that incorporates some of the aforementioned techniques. (You can watch this on my Youtube channel at: https://youtu.be/ceNbAtBbJyg)

Put yourself in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take in three deep but comfortable breathes. As you take in each breath, I want you to breathe in love, kindness, compassion, and prosperity. On the outbreath, breath out anything that is causing you stress, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. Breathe in (x 3), breathe out (x3). As you become more and more aware of your breathing, I just want you to feel a sense of gratitude and appreciate for the way in which your body functions without you having to give constant instructions. Isn’t it a blessing that our cells are working to keep our body happy and healthy. Isn’t it a blessing that our heart beats, and that we breath effortlessly. Focus now on your heart space. You feel a sense of warmth radiating out from your heart. You visualize a tiny golden light emanating from your heart space. With each breath that you take, it grows and expands. You feel that warm golden light moving through your body. It radiates out through your arms, and out of your finger tips, down through your torso, down your legs, and out through your toes. It radiates up and pushes gently out through your crown chakra. You feel a surge of love, and compassion for yourself. Any places of tension within your body, you feel the golden light massaging any stress and tension away. You feel a sense of love for the world around you. No matter what is going on, you feel safe, protected, and loved. You see the light shooting up to the stars above you, and down from your feet to the earth. You feel connected to celestial energy of this amazing universe, and you feel deeply connected to the earth below your feet. Grounded, solid, and stable. The light continues to grow, and you see that it covers the entire world. You feel connected to everything and you feel a surge of love pulsating through your body. You feel that you have a part of play just by being here, and you do. There is no one else like you, who can do the things that you do. Thank you for being here. As the light begins to dim, you feel a deep sense of peace wash over you. I am going to count down from 13 to 0. When I arrive at 0, you will slowly open your eyes. You will feel relax, rejuvenated, and at peace, ready to face whatever the next week holds for you. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. Open your eyes. 

Thank you. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and please remember that you have a whole tool case of things to help stay centered in these times. Have an amazing week.

Is it a sign…or just a butterfly?

I love to take long walks—the greener the area, the better. By that, I mean, the more trees, the better. Throw in a river, or even a creek and you have one happy camper. And by camper I mean “glamper.” LOL. Alternatively, if I am somewhere by the sea and the water is a good temperature, I like to just walk along the shore, letting the waves sweep back and forth across my feet. So I cannot choose, sea or woods, I love them both. I love to spend some time in the great outdoors because it gives me a peaceful feeling that is just priceless. See this week’s video on my YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/rT0MXBXbs7E

Recently, I have been taking some long walks around the neighborhood, looping back and forth to get to a certain mileage goal. If I am walking alone, sometimes I listen to music, astrological updates, or audio books, but at least some of the walk will just be spent listening to the sounds of nature, and observing my surroundings. Sometimes I notice things that I haven’t seen before, or I become overwhelmed with amazement and joy to hear what I call the “symphony of the trees.” Right now it is October, and because we are in a place where you can observe the seasons change by the way the trees change color (yes, there are places in the world where this does not happen), walks provide you with an exceptional view of nature’s artistry.

One day as I was walking, I could hear the wind rustling the leaves. Birds were chirping, and it all sounded like a beautifully orchestrated piece of music. The sunlight shimmered through the leaves, and felt warm on my skin. I closed my eyes for one second, and when I opened them, a huge monarch butterfly flew close to me. I have seen either this butterfly or a similar one before, and it usually has been when I had a particular question/thought on my mind. I wondered, is this a sign? 

If you know me, then you probably know that I love unicorns and butterflies. Butterflies have always appeared to me as a sign of something happening in my life—some personal transformation or just an abundance of reminders—stay on track, stay in the flow of things, remember the beauty that exists all around us. Butterflies also spark memories of loved ones who have passed away. Once a butterfly landed on me, and I remembered my grandfather in that moment. It almost felt like a reminder that I was not alone, and to remember where I came from. Butterflies also remind me to remember that small actions can have larger impacts. Like the actual butterfly effect.

The butterfly effect is an underlying theory within chaos theory—chaos theory being a branch of mathematics that focuses on chaos. It is closely associated with the work of American mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz, who in the 60s did research that showed how a small change in initial conditions in one location, like a butterfly flapping its wings, could have a larger and different outcome somewhere else. In the example from Lorenz’s research, a butterfly flapping its wings several weeks earlier could have a role in a tornado’s formation somewhere else.  I need to remember that somethings the small actions that we take in the present, can actually help to significantly change and alter our future. I did not know that taking one class in law school would alter my entire career path. 

I feel that the divine/universe/God/insert your preferred term here, is always trying to have a conversation with us. I do feel that we are able to co-create with the divine, and I do feel that we are often getting signs, but sometimes we aren’t paying attention—or it is just not time for them to come into our conscious awareness. I remember a time in my life when I wished the skies would just open up and someone or something benevolent would just tell me what to do. While life does not quite work that way, there are some ways that we receive signs, and there are some good mechanisms for tapping into understanding them and gaining more clarity.

Speaking of signs, I just received a book called, “Man and his Symbols,” by Carl Jung. I had written down in one of my notebooks that I should read this book. I never actually got around to reading it, and then in recent weeks, I have seen no less than five mentions of this book in either virtual talks, conversations, or other books that I have read. I do not believe in coincidence, personally, so I took it as a sign that it was time for me to read this book. I am sure I will let you all know how it pans out!

There are at least two other times in my life when I have felt the presence of someone who has passed away in the form of a sign. When my great aunt passed away in Jamaica, one of the things that I kept from among her possessions was a bright green dress. She wore it often, and it reminds me of her. I can close my eyes now and see her standing in her tropical and lush garden wearing that very dress. Her garden was a home for many beautiful birds and butterflies, but hummingbirds were a staple there. On the day of her funeral, on several different occasions, I saw a humming bird that was the exact green shade of her dress. It made me feel a sense of peace and calm knowing.

On another occasion, I was in Italy—a few of my colleagues turned friends and I had just done part of an ancient and not well-known walk called the 12 church walk. We had hurried to St. Peter’s to meet the rest of our group because we were going to get a tour of the Vatican’s Apolistic Library. I turned on my phone for one second, and was flooded with messages that one of my favorite uncles—my uncle Harry—had passed away in Jamaica.

Uncle Harry 🙂

Tears rolled hard and heavy down my cheeks. I had to get myself together though, and I remember when we were right in front of the library’s doors, I looked down and there were three white feathers. There were no birds around, and I remember Anita saying, “Dude that’s your uncle sending you a message.” Later I would research that white feathers were signs from your angels of “peace, protection, love, and light.” Seeing those feathers there in that way was comforting. My uncle was a Sagittarius like me, and he loved to hear of my explorations and travels. I may have been miles away from Jamaica, but he was and is always in my heart.

Before we talk about different ways of receiving signs, I think it is important to remember that we can ask for a sign. Maybe you have a decision to make about something, or need clarity and guidance. Asides from practicing trusting your intuition, you can solicit divine help. Divine help means that you are willing to relinquish some control and trust that things could be better than you envision. It means that you are willing to trust that you and the divine are co-creating something beautiful.

Just ask…. I know a lot of people, and they come from a diverse array of religions/spiritual practices; I think asking is universal to all. “Dear God/Goddess/Divine/Universe/Infinite Intelligence….thank you for your guidance and love. Please send me a sign that is clear and that makes sense to me and my sensibilities.” You might even add by a certain date, or you can say, “if I see a pink hippo,” then I will know. Adding a date/time is helpful because you might not get the sign, and that is also a sign, and very much “ok.” So you’ve asked, now what?

There are a variety of different ways that signs could appear in your life. 

· From actual signs. License plates, billboards, and more. Once I said, “I need a sign,” and looked up, and was standing in front of a sign shop. The universe has a sense of humor.

·       The animal and insect kingdom: I mentioned butterflies and hummingbirds before, but there are so many others as well. The author Ted Andrews has a book called, “Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small.” You can look up whatever animal or insect has come into your awareness to see what they are trying to communicate to you. Early on when I was having anxiety about putting my blog and Youtube channel together, a ladybug appeared on my desk. When I looked up the message it said, “The ladybug has always been a symbol of good luck. Ladybug asks you to make yourself useful and spread happiness around you. It invites you to push your limits and believe in yourself.” Message received!

·       Dreams. Dreams are often one way in which we receive important messages. If you have a hard time remembering your dreams, you can ask, “Please let me dream and remember my dream.” I have been bad about logging my dreams in my dream journal, but sometimes I call my grandma and ask for her help interpreting the messages. She is very wise and helpful with deducing everything from location, colors, people, and possible meanings. 

·       Music/Sounds: You might hear the message in a song. Or you may hear a particular sound at a particular time that might be helpful. You may hear a door knock—could that be opportunity knocking at your door?

·       Physical items: Coins and feathers are two things that come to mind. Once when I was younger and had applied for a job that was a bit more lucrative than previous jobs, I kept wondering and then asked. Show me a sign that this is the job. On the day that I got the call, almost everywhere I went, I found several coins. To me coins are a clear sign of prosperity lol, so I will take it!

·       Repeating Numbers: This is a favorite one of mine. A few years ago, I started becoming very aware that I was seeing repeat number patterns. I did some research, and discovered a whole world of people who were in the “repeating numbers club.” Everything from 11:11 to 444. Numbers and mathematics are at the foundation of this entire universe. (One day I will chat about numerology here). For me, whenever a big change is coming my way, I will see a lot of 5’s. When I feel scared about something, I see 444 (your angels are with you), and if I need a reminder to check my thinking—well I might see a reminder about that. There is a lot out there on this topic, so do your research and follow what feels right for you.

·       Emotions and feelings are also another sign. Whenever something feels makes me feel worried or uncomfortable, that is usually a sign that something is off. When I feel at peace and calm about something it usually is a sign to proceed. Learn how to trust your intuition—it is a superpower in these times. 

When you have asked and either have gotten a clear sign or gotten no sign (which I mentioned is also a sign). Sometimes not getting what we think we want is a huge blessing. I could write a whole book on that. Anyway, remember to say a word of thanks and appreciation for the guidance.

In the week ahead, I hope that you find and receive some clear signs about a beautiful present moment and future unfolding for you. May the stars shine brightly over your week!

Move your body…and maybe drink some water?!

Not related to the topic, but I love the picture hahaha. Taken by me on a recent walk!

By now, it should come as no surprise that I love to talk about wellness and overall well-being. In this space, we have discussed, meditation, sleep, creating a sacred space and healthy boundaries, tending to your spirit, and so much more, but there is another really important part of wellness and overall well-being that I want us to talk about this week. That is our physical well-being. Are you moving enough? What are you putting in your body for nutrients? Are you drinking enough water? Are you comfortable in your own skin? See this week’s video here: https://youtu.be/vnfBpT0AQmQ

It has been said that our health is our wealth. As we make our dreams come to life with our vision boards, goals, and plans, we also need to make sure that we are going to be around to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We want to make sure that we have the energy to take action on our goals, and the physical energy to be able to participate in enjoying our life. I struggled for many years with body image, and trying to control my weight. I pushed myself to lose weight, went on diets that probably did more harm than good, and ended up with a knee injury that still is with me to this day. Want to know when it is going to rain? Let’s ask my knee.

Even with losing weight, I realized that some of my own perception of self was in the mind. Other health related issues occurred with me that cause weight gain, and I felt disappointed in myself and some depression at how things were going. I will be honest here, I am also a really good cook, and I really enjoy a good meal. I am not the person you take traveling if you plan to eat salads the whole time. I want to try the local cuisine; I am a foodie at heart. Therefore, I know that some of my physical health requires me to do things in moderation. As a Sagittarius, my sign is ruled by Jupiter—the planet of expansion. We are the sign that knows how to overdo things. With that in mind, and that awareness, it allows me to enjoy delicious things, but also to know when to stop.

You can be where you want to be as a goal weight, and still feel insecure about your physical health and about your body image. It is a work in progress, and an ongoing one where you will consistently have to say, “I am going to love myself as I am,” but “I will also work to live a healthy lifestyle.” There is a lot that changed in my own life when I said, “I am cultivating a healthy lifestyle so that I can….” And you can finish that sentence for yourself. In my case, I want to be able to have the energy that I need to enjoy life as much as I can. I want to be able to work and support myself, but not feel drained to the point where I can’t go out and enjoy some time with family and friends. I want energy to work on my creative projects, and I want to feel able to participate in life.

I want you to finish the sentence…

Movement is also an important factor for my sign—in fact, for all fire signs. A practicing medical astrologer who I admire told me that it is essential that as a fire sign I move my body. It stirs up the warmth that my sign is known for and helps to get my blood pumping. The symbol for Sagittarius is the centaur, which is half man and half horse. The analogy there is that we need to tap into that animalistic instinct and run and move.

If you are wondering how you can get more physical activity into your life, I suggest a few things:

A) Try a variety of things. Not everyone is going to resonate with you but try. Try yoga, dancing, walking, running, biking, Zumba, weights, rock climbing, or swimming to name a few. When you try something, make the determination for yourself on whether or not you like it. 

B) Get the right equipment. There are some activities that you don’t need to make a big investment in. These days, you can watch free workout videos on YouTube. However, if you are committing to an activity, then get the proper equipment. It makes a big difference. I enjoy walking/light jogging. It is imperative in my case to have good shoes. Right now, the brand I highly recommend is Brooks. I have the Ghost 13 for women, and it feels like I am walking on a cloud. Bad equipment can cause injuries, or cause you not to get the results that you desire.

C) Don’t be afraid to start. Take one-step at a time, and just keep going. If you fall off the wagon, get back up and keep going. I have a journal where I write down what physical activity I did, for how long, and roughly the amount of calories that I burned. I write down my rest days, and whether or not, I took my vitamins. This process has helped me with consistency, and it helps me to have something to look back on and feel proud about. 

D) You are not in competition with anyone except yourself. Do this for you. Do this for your health. Do this for your dreams. 

E) Some days will be rough. There will be days when you don’t want to do anything. Get up and go anyway. That is literally half of the battle. If you don’t feel proud of you, know that somewhere across the ethers, I feel proud of you. Also, remember that you can do hard things!

Everyone has their own set of needs, wants, and desires, but when you are making your vision, please remember to include a space for physical health. Physical health also includes making sure that you are drinking enough water and getting the right types of foods into your body. I am confident that you can do some good research on proper nutrition. Some things that I have found that work well for me.

A) Get a proper breakfast. This really helps to get the day off to a good start.

B) Take your vitamins. Talk with your health care provider to see what your needs are. Some of us need extra Vitamin D, especially in the wintertime. I started taking a prescription strength Vitamin D supplement over a year ago, and it has helped with everything from my mood to my energy. B vitamins are also good ones to have in the cabinet! 

C) Eat the colors of the rainbow. I heard this bit of advice once, and put it into action at the grocery store. I can actually say that it helps with getting in fruits and vegetables and making it fun! This is all a work in progress, but small steps can take you where you want to do. 

Now one of the most important parts of what I want to talk about is water consumption. The other day I felt some body pains—nothing that I would consider serious, but I just felt creaky, like a door hinge that needed to be oiled. I also felt a bit thirsty, and intuitively my brain said, “You aren’t getting enough water.” Drinking water is not second nature to me. In fact, if there is a choice between water and anything else, I will probably choose the anything else. Especially ginger ale. I have such a love affair with ginger ale. Recently I made a plan that I would at least have one day of drinking my required amount of water. I wanted to know what pure hydration felt like. LOL!

Was that eight cups of water? So 64 ounces? Ok…I know that the adult humans are 60 percent water and that our blood is 90 percent water…but how much water do we actually need to consume to essentially stay alive. Well the librarian in me wanted to make sure that I found the right amount, so I did most people would do… I googled, “How much water should I be drinking daily?” Easy enough question, but as I soon found, there is not an easy answer. It depends. It depends on factors like:

• Do you exercise frequently? You may need more water than recommended to cover the fluid loss from sweating. You may also need to consider a beverage that adds electrolytes to your body to help replace minerals that you lose when sweating.

• What is your environment like? Do you live somewhere hot and humid? That may require that you drink more water.• Are you pregnant or breast-feeding? You may need additional fluids to help stay hydrated.

• Are there other health issues going on with your body? Do you have a cold? That may also require additional hydration.

• What is your current weight? You may need to drink more water depending on your weight.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that adequate daily fluid intake is: 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men, and 11.5 (2.7 liters) cups for women. 20% of this will actually come from other foods and beverages that you drink.

If you don’t drink enough water, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out your normal functions. Signs that your body is probably dehydrated are: dark yellow urine, headaches, dizziness, trouble concentrating or focusing, dry mouth, dry eyes, dry lips, increase in body temperature, rapid heartrate, and feeling thirsty. Dehydration can also cause low energy, make your feel fatigue, and your skin can become vulnerable to skin disorders and wrinkling.

Your body needs water to carry out some really important functions like:

• Getting rid of waste

• Forms saliva and mucus (Fun fact, saliva helps us digest our food; drinking water also keeps the mouth clean, and our breath smelling fresh).

• Keeping your body temperature normal

• Keeps the skin healthy and beautiful

• Lubricating your joints

• Protect sensitive tissues (It cushions the brain, spinal cord, and more. Drinking water is involved with the production of hormones and neurotransmitters that impact thinking and reasoning).

• Stabilizes blood pressure and heartbeat (A lack of water in the blood makes the blood thicker and increases blood pressure).

• Carries oxygen and nutrients to your cells

• Aids digestion

• Helps the kidneys (Water dissolves minerals and nutrients which allows these to get to the parts of the body that needs them. Water helps the kidney to flush waste products from the body).

• Potentially lowers the risk for diseases like: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney stones, and high blood pressure.

• Water also impacts your brain functions: Specifically, staying hydrated can boost mood and mood stability, improve concentration, improve cognition, aid memory, prevent headaches, and even reduce stress.

My tip for drinking more water? Just do it! Whatever works best for you! (However, think about stopping an hour before bed)! So all of this to say please consider your physical wellbeing as well. It is part of the great equation, the great balancing of our lives, and as Arabian proverb says, “He who has health, and he who has hope, has everything.”

May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may you be hydrated—you beautiful, capable, but dehydrated human!

Rome wasn’t built in a day… Patience young grasshopper!

Roma capitale (Photo from WordPress)

Over the past few months, I have written about so many topics that relate to living our best lives. Self-awareness, reading, meditating, travel, vision, and so much more. It has been an honor to share this content with you, but there is another side to it–by putting this information out there, it also helps me to remember to apply it. If I don’t take my own advice, lol, I know that one of my friends or family will remind me of the things that I have said, and encourage me with the things that I am working on in my own life. In the midst of living your best life, you will have to deal with some of the harsher realities of life and we have talked about that as well—disappointment , fear, failure, and other things. Nevertheless, whenever any of these things happen, promise me that you will pick yourself up, shake yourself off, and keep moving forward. This week’s YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/2o5sfXKuf8U

This week, I want to talk a bit about patience. Recently, I was lamenting to my younger sister—ok I was complaining—about how long it was taking me to see the results for something that I had been working on. My younger sister Ali is an amazing human; she is magical like a mermaid, and definitely, a wise sage filled with wisdom that makes me think she has been here before. She always knows just what to say and when to say it.

Little sister extraordinaire ❤

I remember once I was going through a very rough time, and we were sitting in my car—it was a very cold winter day, and I am sure that I was crying. She said to me, “What season are we in?” I was confused, but looked at her, and said, “Well we are in winter. I mean it’s pretty obvious, it’s hella cold.” And she said, “Is it obvious?” and I said, “Yes, Ali, it is…” and she said, “What comes after winter?” and I said, “Spring.” And she said “Exactly. Right now at this very moment, you are having your own personal winter, but I can guarantee you that after winter, will come your spring.” I was quiet. I had to let the words sit with me; I needed them to touch my spirit. She was right of course—after that personal winter, came my personal spring, and a lot of things bloomed right when they were supposed to. It wasn’t obvious to me that I was in winter, but to anyone observing my life, they could see it, in the same way, we can feel the chill of winter.

Spring, 2019 DC, Tidal basin by me…

It reminds me of a poem by Albert Camus, “Invincible Summer.”

My dear
In the midst of strife, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. 
In the midst of chaos, I found there was within me, an invincible calm.
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me, there lay, an invincible summer. And, that makes me happy. 
For it says, that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger…
~ Albert Camus

Each season of our lives has a purpose—I am convinced. Some of my most remarkable breakthroughs in life came after a personal winter. You never really know how strong you are, how capable, how adaptable you are until you are called to be. Know that when I say these things, I also mean that you may realize that you do not have to be strong, capable, and adaptable all by yourself. Sometimes, it means that you allow others to help you. No man is an island after all, or so they say. 

So here I was recently, lamenting to Ali about the time that something was taking, and she says very calmly and matter of fact, “Chill sis, Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Naturally what happened after that was that life gave me all sorts of reminders and signs that sometimes we need to be patient. I am not a naturally patient person, but there have been moments in my life, where I have seen the need for life to play out according to divine timing. As I like to tell my own friends, the things you want are out there, but you don’t want them before time. If you have ever tried to eat unripe fruit, you know that it can have dire consequences. It is the same when we try to get or do something before time. 

We do live in a society where instant gratification has supplanted the need to wait for anything. We can get almost anything that we want quickly, if we are living in certain parts of the world, and especially if we have certain resources. Even still, we have instant access to so much information, and the ability to connect to people worldwide quickly. Yet, there is also a beauty in allowing things to grow organically. There is a beauty in the “wait.” I have mentioned before that my family is from the country part of Jamaica—the beautiful Portland. Being in Portland is like being in an actual rainforest by the sea. It is green, vibrant, and lush. In the place where I am from, people have a deep connection to the land. Before she passed away, my great-aunt used to tell me, “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.” My grandfathers both did farming and there are so many important lessons from agriculture. 

1) All soil is not created equally—be mindful of where and what you are sowing. 

2) When you plant a seed, you cover it, water it, and allow the processes of nature to unfold. You don’t come to the seed every day and say, “Why haven’t you grown yet?” You allow the process to unfold. Sometimes we need to do the same with our own lives.

3) You may not tell everyone that you have planted something—and there are some things in your own life that you must allow to grow in silence. When the time is right—perhaps when you can see the flower or plant, then you might decide to tell someone else. The reality is that not everyone shares your vision, there will also be people who might feel jealous of your ability to plant, and so you protect your dreams by allowing them to grown in silence, or by telling the people who will water them with love and support.

 4) When you plant something, you are trusting in the potential. Ralph Waldo Emerson says that, “The creation of a thousand forests lie in one acorn.” It is also said that we should not despise small beginnings. Further supported by the Chinese proverb, “A journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step.” You must start if there is something that you want to achieve. Thinking about it great, but it is better if you do it. Many years ago, I wanted to go back to school. Several people questioned this because I already had a law degree. Someone said, “Oh, you are working, so it is going to take extra long.” But I felt the desire burning in my soul. I went back to school in what was a particularly stressful time in my life, and studied Library and Information Sciences. I took two classes per semester while working, and graduated before I knew it. That course of study not only led to some exciting adventures and experiences—including a trip to Italy that included a tour of the Vatican Secret Archives, but that also led to an academic publication, and work as an adjunct professor. If I listened to everyone else, if I hadn’t started, none of the other things that have helped make my life feel personally meaningful would not have happened. 

5) Your crop can fail, but you can plant again. Failure is something that can happen with planting anything! In Jamaica hurricanes, or a drier than normal season, have wiped out entire harvests. It hurts, and in some cases, it comes with financial implications. However, I have never seen a farmer give up because of a bad harvest. Instead, they plant again, and make contingency plans for when something happens that they didn’t plan for. I heard a talk with Denzel Washington, and he said, “If you haven’t failed, that means you haven’t even tried.” He talked about showing up for an audition and not getting it, Ok, he didn’t get it, he just went home and practiced for the next audition and the next. Failure happens. I have experienced failure many times in my own life, and when I have—yes, I cry—because I am a water bucket, but I get up and try again. My favorite, Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

6) One day you will take a look over what you have grown—your garden, and you will be proud. Be proud of yourself. It is ok to be proud of yourself. We need to normalize this!

Many of us see social media and we see the “highlight reel” that people post. Most people are not showing you the hard work that they are putting into making something happen. They are just showing the beautiful outcome. Anything that you devote yourself to opens you up to being vulnerable, to having to put in the work, and to possible failure. But there is also the possibility of success and of doing something that feels meaningful and worthwhile to you. Most people that you see as successful are not overnight successes, they honed their craft, they practiced, and most of all they were consistent. 

Picasso and Mozart did not become who they were in one night. They practiced, and became masters in their field. Robert Greene, in his book, “Mastery” said that it takes 10000 hours to become a master at something. He also said, “To the extent that we believe we can skip steps, avoid the process, magically gain power through political connections or easy formulas, or depend on our natural talents, we move against this grain and reverse our natural powers. We become slaves to time – as it passes, we grow weaker, less capable, trapped in some dead end career. We become captive to the opinions and fears of others.” “This intense connection and desires allows them to withstand the pain of the process – the self-doubts, the tedious hours of practice and study, the inevitable setbacks, the endless barbs from the envious. They develop a resiliency and confidence that others lack.” Don’t skip the steps. Be consistent. Consistency outweighs talent and inspiration every time. Dwayne Johnson said, “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”

So all of this is just to remind you that if you have something in mind that you want to start, or if you have started something and haven’t yet seen the results that you want to, please remember that as Ali said, “Just chill, Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Keep showing up, and your success will come. Sometimes, the great mysteries of this universe remind us that timing is also an important factor. So you want to be prepared because, “luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” I am rooting for you, and reminding you that somethings need time to grow, and when they do, it will be worth it! May the stars shine brightly over your week, and be it be a beautiful one indeed!

Know Thyself…

🙂 Smiles and good vibes to everyone!

I talk a lot about living your best life, and that is because I believe in that. Some people are totally satisfied with their life as it is, and I think that is fine. I also think there is always room for personal growth, there is always room to learn something more, and to be open to the possibility that there are still some amazing ways for us to live, to serve, to enjoy, and to experience life. Recently at work, I either have taken or will soon take a series of assessments that have proven to be very insightful into my leadership style, communication style, and just my overall personality. I make the analogy that these assessments remind me of what I have learned from astrology and reading a bit of Jungian psychology—but I digress. (To see this week’s YouTube video, click here: https://youtu.be/qFK1G-WO118)

Self-awareness is a very broad concept, and we won’t have the time to cover everything regarding this topic. This is more of a starting point (or a reminder) for a very very very important journey with yourself. Self-awareness has been vital in my own life in many ways. There was a point where I can honestly say that I only knew myself on a surface level. It can be terrifying to go deeper within and face yourself, but it is so important. Marianne Williamson said, “It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” Pema Chodron, “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” It can be difficult to take an honest assessment of who we are but it is worth it.

It is important work to do because we spend our whole lives with ourselves—more than with anyone else. You might as well like the person you are; you might as well like your own company. I believe that when you have a deeper understanding of who you are, the good, the bad, and the ugly lol, that it also helps with self-esteem, and with the ability to stand firmly against the harsher criticisms and projections from the outside world. I think it prevents you from being absorbed into people and situations that are not right for you because you have a deeper understanding of your values, and what feels authentic to you. I have also found that becoming more self-aware has actually helped me in other areas of my life, and has helped with my external relationships. When I know myself, it makes it easier to explain to others what are my expectations, what are the things that either hurt and disappoint me, or what are the things that make me feel loved and appreciated. 

The dictionary definition of self-awareness is “the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” Add into that, “the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection.” I would sum this all up as, “Do you know who you are?” If I asked you that question right now, what would you tell me? Would you tell me your job title? Or perhaps associate yourself with another role? Would you tell me where you were from? Maybe your zodiac sign because you know I have an appreciation for astrology? LOL. Telling me any of these things is great, but I am asking you to go even deeper. 

I liken this “going deep” to an ancient mythological story. In Sumerian lore, there is the story of the Goddess Inanna. She is beautiful, powerful, and smart. Her people refer to her as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She had everything she needed in her life, and it was a pretty satisfying life as it was. However, as is often the case in modern day, sometimes something happens that flips our life upside down, sometimes, like Inanna, we get the call for our own personal initiation into the deeper mysteries of life. Sometimes life challenges us to move outside of our comfort zone and grow.

Inanna got the call for initiation. She heard it calling to her in subtle whispers, and even when dissuaded by worried friends, she knew there was a deeper part of herself that she had to connect with. She had to go on what is known as her “descent” into the underworld to face her sister Erishkegal. I have heard one mythologist say Erishkegal was not really her sister, but a representation of her shadow self that needed to be faced. Before Inanna leaves for this journey, she puts on or carries seven items that show her power, wealth, beauty, and stature. She puts on her crown, a blue lapis lazuli necklace, another double strand of lapis beads, her warrior’s breastplate, her cape, her gold bracelet, and then she carries her lapis measuring rod.  

On her journey she has to pass through seven gates, and at each gate something has to be removed. When she finally makes it to the underworld, everything that she thought made her who she was had been removed, and she was left with just her naked self. She had literally been stripped down to her core. In a sense, this is representative of the things that build up our ego. Sometimes when we are stripped of all the things that we think make up who we are, when that part of us has died, we are forced into our own personal descent. What happens when we are in that space is that we realize our own strengths, we realize who we are and who we want to be. Often we realize what truly matters to us. The story of Inanna’s descent is a long and poetic one, but it is also a story about personal transformation. Eventually when you descend, you must ascend, and it is on the rise that we realize that we are no longer who we once were. We are generally stronger, more self-aware, wiser, and more compassionate to others and ourselves. When Inanna ascended, she truly became the Queen that she was meant to be.

I faced something similar many years ago when I went through a painful divorce. I was younger, and had planned my whole life. There is a saying that, “man plans, and God laughs.” So it was truly horrific when everything started to crumble. During that time, one of the things I realized was that I had not spent much time alone with myself throughout my life. A textbook extrovert who loves people, I was with either family, friends, or a romantic partner. Because of this, I had never really done much introspection and reflection. I remember the awareness one day that I was by myself. I was alone in my apartment, and I felt the weight and gravity of loneliness. I sank into despair and a very deep depression.

There are many tools including therapy that helped, but even in therapy I had to do the work of facing myself. My therapist often gave me the assignment of looking in a mirror right at myself, and having conversation with myself. I also had to look in the mirror and tell myself that I loved myself, and that seemed to be the most difficult part of the task. The first several of these mirror sessions resulted in deep tears. This was my personal descent, and it was my dark night of the soul. Echkart Tolle said, “The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.” Ram Dass also said, “The dark night of the soul is when you have lost the flavor of life but have not yet gained the fullness of divinity. So it is that we must weather that dark time, the period of transformation when what is familiar has been taken away and the new richness is not yet ours.”

 And so it was that in my personal descent I was truly able to learn a lot about myself. What did I enjoy doing? Who was I if my job title or my degrees got stripped away? What were the things that I loved about myself? What were the things that I felt vulnerable about sharing with others? What were my interests? Did I have any interests? Were my interests truly my own, or were they things that I had picked up from other people to fit in or people please? 

I also took a bunch of personality quizzes, which I love, lol, and did a deep dive into whatever I could learn about myself. It was very informative because I didn’t focus on why did I? Or what ifs? I think learning from the past is great, but we cannot stay there. Life is for moving forward, not making ourselves prisoners to the past. A funny anecdote, I leaned that my Myers-Briggs personality type was “ENFP.” This is one of the 16 personality types from Myers-Briggs, and it accounts for 5-7% of the human population. We are the “Campaigners,” the true “people-person.” I was scrolling through social media one day and my cousin posted about her MB type. It was “INFP.” The introvert to my extrovert. One of her friends said she was that too, and I literally said, “This friend of my cousin’s will one day be my friend too….” and that is literally how my friendship with Tiffany began. I don’t know if it is the personality type, but since the time we met she has been a wonderful friend. Because we do have an understanding of our personality types, I know when to let her introvert. I am literally also surrounded by introverts in my own life, and becoming more self-aware has allowed me to respect their boundaries, and understand when they need to recharge. If my younger sister and I go out, we have a code for when she has “peopled enough” and needs to go home. So what are my tips for becoming more self-aware? 

Celestial Goodness tips for becoming more self-aware:

1)     Do not be afraid of what you will find when you go deeper inside yourself. You may be surprised to find that you are endlessly fascinating. I hope that when you dive deep within yourself, that you find a reservoir of serenity, strength, love, and compassion for yourself and others. Meditation is one way, but there are others. Research what works for you!

2)     Become curious about you. Even asking some of the most basic questions. What is my favorite color? If I had to eat one food all day, what would it be? Plantains definitely lol. If I could sit and talk with five people from the past who would they be? Hmm. Bob Marley, my grandparents who have passed away, Nanny of the Maroons are a few. LOL!

3)     Look in the mirror. Literally, look in the mirror and talk to yourself. I found this to be one of my most useful tools from therapy. 

4)     Ask the people close to you for genuine feedback. Make a safe space for them to give their feedback. Don’t hold it against them if they say something critical. Try to understand why that came up. 

5)     Do a SWOT analysis. In business this is, “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats,” for a business plan. You can tailor this to you. What are your strengths? What are your areas for development? What are some opportunities that you can take advantage of to either make progress on your dreams, or get to know yourself better? I would identify threats as character traits that could impede your progress. Once you identify them you can do better. 

6)     Take personality tests, or see someone whose job it is to do assessments like this. Clinical Psychologists or coaches come to mind. Some tests include Myers-Briggs, the Dharma Types, and DiSC assessments. You can find many free ones online. 

7)     Identify your values, passions, and things that are important to you.

8)     Say “Yes” to life. When you say yes to new experiences and events, you will find either that you like it or you do not. That can help you become more aware…

Once you do these things, ask yourself the question of what you learned. How can you use what you learned to make your life and the lives of those around you better? Better communication, better understanding, and a better sense of self?

Before we part for this week, I want to share with you one of my favorite poems, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It is called “The Invitation.”

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company, you keep in the empty moments.”

I do hope that you take the invitation and find out something amazing about who you are. I have faith and hope in the treasures that are within you. I hope you pull them out, polish them up, or leave them raw if you choose, but I hope that they make your life feel meaningful and remind you of the love and beauty that yet remains. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be an amazing one indeed. Thank you!

Life, Death, and Everything in between…(on living a more full life)

There are years of my life when it seemed like nothing really happened, and then years when a lot happened all at once. Paulo Coelho says, “Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” 2020 feels like the year where everything happens all at once. See this week’s YouTube video at: https://youtu.be/2NSvu9x3r1U

The constant optimist, I can still see where there is beauty, love, and amazing happening, yes in this very year. In fact, there are some really, really good things happening for a lot of people that I know right now, and even just the thought of that brings a smile to my face. I mean some cute babies have been born, marriages are happening, health goals being met, financial goals being met, new homes, and for some just a deeper relationship with their authentic selves. Given that I don’t live wearing rose colored glasses, I can also see where there is pain and where there are difficult moments happening. Yes, to say that there are some less than stellar things happening in our world would be an understatement.

I attended a virtual retreat last weekend led by Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. I am not Buddhist, but I believe that we can learn a lot of many different people and practices. Pema has written many books on coping with difficult situations and times, and wise advice for our healing. I came across some of her work when I was going through a very painful time in my own life. I found her words at the time to be soothing, and helpful. The topic for last weekend’s retreat was, “Welcoming the Unwelcome.” Pema talked to the group from her home—the Gampo Abbey—located in a remote part of Nova Scotia. I wondered, “Does Pema know what’s going on, living tucked away in an abbey?” However, that thought dissipated when she began talking. She was well aware of all the things happening in the world, and she was especially aware of how fear seems to loom heavily over all of our heads. 

Have you ever looked at someone’s face and seen wisdom? That is how I felt when she began to talk. She was a picture of serenity, and I felt calm, hopeful, and inspired. She started us off with this prayer from Shantideva. “May all who are sick and ill, quickly be freed from their ailments. May whatever diseases there are in the world never occur again. May the frightened cease to be afraid. May those who are bound, be freed. May the powerless find power, and may beings think to benefit each other.”  I let those words sit with me, especially “may beings think to benefit each other.” How different the world might be if we were all a little less selfish. I don’t say that in judgment, just speculation because it does appear that some of our current problems are borne from selfishness. 

In welcoming the unwelcome, we identify our capacity for holding difficult feelings without panicking. We can acknowledge that these difficult events and experiences are happening, and even just that act of acknowledging what is happening is a powerful part of the experience and our healing. 

Pema once said, “Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

Pema used a phrase, “collaborating with the world,” frequently through the talk, and I saw it as the way we are all woven together, and how each of our individual actions influence and affect the whole. She also mentioned that our growth really happens outside of our personal comfort zone in what she called our challenge zone. I do believe that 2020 has challenged many of us and have thrust us right out of our comfort zones. What will we grow into because of this?

One of the things that throws a lot of us out of our comfort zone is the topic of death. Very recently, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an all-around amazing human, beacon of legal scholarship, and Supreme Court Justice passed away. She had battle health issues, but she was still working, still living her personal legend. I opened social media, and saw an interesting reaction to her death. Because of the political climate, many people expressed fears about what would happen next with her seat. The energy of fear was so pervasive that I felt a little guilty that we wanted an 87 year old woman battling pancreatic cancer to live longer so that we could be saved from something ominous. I know how important the times are, and I recognize the important of her role, but in that moment, I wanted the world to just say, “thank you Ruth, for a job well done. Rest well dear lady.” I saw something similar when John Lewis passed away, the concern that our heroes were dying, and we would be powerless without them. I offer gratitude for what these people did with the time that they had. I do not think that we are powerless; rather, these individuals have laid the foundation for us to carry on their legacy of love, compassion, and care for our fellow human being. We must rise to the occasion as these individuals did; we must collaborate with the world, to stand for what we value, what we believe in, and what we know to be an authentic and real way forward. 

Death is life’s great mystery. I have researched how different cultures and people deal with the notion of death. It has been a mystery since the early civilizations. The ancient Egyptians built the pyramids most as tombs and they had a reverence for what they felt happened in the afterlife. No one truly knows what happens when we die, but each culture, each religion, each country and whatever category you can put people in, all have a way of looking at death. 

When I was growing up, I thought that everyone had long multi-day celebrations to honor their dead. In Jamaican culture, a funeral had several components. We had the “grave digging,” where the community gathered to watch workers dig the grave. Then we had something called the “Nine-night.” Because of patois, for the longest time I thought it was “nigh night” and it does last nigh into the wee hours of the funeral morning. My experience with the nine-night is that it was a big celebration of the life of the deceased with music—old school music especially. The family of the deceased would be responsible for feeding the community with fried fish, bread, and lots of other food. They were also responsible for drinks—and rum seemed to be the preferred drink. Because of this tradition, I always saw death as a celebration of the life of someone who died. At the funeral, and Jamaican funerals can be long, people remember the person with speeches, song, and scripture. After the funeral, a smaller group gathers at the house for more remembrance and food. It wasn’t until later in life when I attended a funeral in America that I realized that Jamaican funerals were different; they were more celebratory than somber.

In researching death around the world, there are so many different traditions and viewpoints; we don’t have time to capture it all here. I did hear it say though that western cultures see death as something to avoid, while many Eastern cultures see death as a transition to a next stage of the soul’s existence. I don’t have the answers to that, but I know death is something many fear. The reality is that none of us are going to make it out of here alive. Death is what reminds us that we are not immortal and unless someone out there is, and I don’t know about it, our time here is finite.  Also sidebar: every novel or movie that I have ever read where someone was immortal, they seemed to hate it. It seemed like a curse more than a blessing. But getting back to my point, what does death tell us about living? I think death instructs us that we should make the most of the time we have, and we should live courageously and without regrets. We should love, laugh, and feel things—we will feel pain, and hurt, but we should not live in those emotions. 

The writer Bronnie Ware, wrote the book, “The Top Five Regrets of Dying People.” Two of those regrets were that they did not have the courage to live a life true to who they were, but they lived how others expected them to live, and that they wish they had let themselves be happier. Bronnie says, “The peace each of these dear people found before their passing is available now, without having to wait until your final hours. You have the choice to change your life, to be courageous, to live a life true to your heart, one that will see you pass without regret.” I believe that death can instruct us on how to live more fully. I believe that we should tell people now that we love and care about them. We should give them their flowers now. 

We can also learn what we can from the legacy that people leave behind. I had a great friend from law school, Israel. He and I had similar upbringings, and we could always share a laugh together. One of the things that I loved the most about him was that he was a true lover of life. He always said, “why not?” When he said that, he usually was on his way to experiencing some delightful adventure. He worked hard, but he truly lived. When he died, I took a look at my life, and realized that I was saving so many experiences for some future time that I wasn’t sure might even happen. I started to live, not just for myself, to honor all the people I knew who had died. In some ways, we live for those who are gone. I went out on work nights to performances, I traveled to places that I might have said no to previously for reasons like, oh the cost, or I have work. These excuses were preventing me from living. I think you should save and get your resources in order, but I also think you should say yes to life.

There is a famous poem called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, and it says,

“I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?”

And as an excerpt, The poet Mary Oliver who I loved, said in her poem, “The Summer Day,”

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Maya Angelou another great poet said, in her poem, “When Great Trees Fall,” I will read a small bit, “And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”

So many brilliant people have existed, and amazing people will continue to be born and die, and we will have to face life again experiencing death over and over again, growing and grieving, but knowing that whatever died existed, and whatever is remembered lives on. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you.” I think what she was saying is that life is also about service. What can you do to offer service to humanity, especially in these times? What can you do to live your life fully, so that when death comes, we would know that you enjoyed, and loved, and cherished every ounce of your wild and precious life? I hope this gives you something to think about. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be one in which you truly feel alive.