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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.

On Reading, and “The Alchemist”…

One of my all time favorite books!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me, that I love books and that I love to read. I believe that reading is one of the most fundamental things that we can do to improve and to enjoy our lives. Jim Rohn said, “Miss a meal if you have to, but never miss a book.” I have heard that reading for even 15 minutes per day can greatly enhance your quality of life, and can lead to better overall wellbeing. Within the pages of books are adventure, mystery, evolution, peace, love, and so much for us to think about as far as life goes. Gosh, so many of us are “surviving” the pandemic because we have books to entertain us, or to help us forget the outside world for a bit. See this week’s YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/4FazAe1f7eM

As nerds do, I read all kinds of books, on different topics, and so, I often get the question, “What is your favorite book?” That is an extremely difficult question for me, partially because there are so many different genres. Can I really put an Agatha Christie over Sherlock Holmes, or mythology over science fiction? Sometimes I have been in the mood for something more fluffy and easy to get through. And what about my beloved Harry Potter books, what can compare to the years of my life that I devoted to waiting for the next book, reading all night, and crying at the loss of some my beloved characters? Where would I put new authors like Tomi Adeyemi and Elizabeth Acevedo whose books remind me of the magic while also allowing a space where I can see myself in the characters? No, picking one book as a favorite is a cruel question to ask a book lover. 

Separately, in your own reading nooks 🙂

I also believe that some books came into my world for a particular season; so while they were a favorite at one point, at this present moment, and in this chapter of my life, there are other books that are filling the space of favorite. I sometimes read numerous different books at once, some books I have to be in the mood for, and some books I have to read them slowly to let the words roll over my mind like honey. I may buy books, and they might sit on my shelf until it is their time. In this stage of my life, I also have stopped trying to read books that bore me. There are so many other interesting books, that if I can’t get into it after several chapters and attempts, I send it on its way to find a new home. 

I confess that I love the feel of physical books, but I also like the convenience of digital books as well. Reading can really open your eyes to the amazing, the extraordinary, and the miraculous. George R.R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” Please do yourself a favor and read something. If you are having a hard time getting back to reading a real book, a phenomenon that I experienced after law school—I think reading all the legal books made me get to a place where I just wanted things to get to the point—this made it almost impossible for me to enjoy a good book. I had to start with something that did not require heavy brainwork, something light and fun, and then I pick up from there. (It was Harry Potter lol). I also had to remind myself of the value of reading, and that it is a truly worthwhile hobby. There is also something really delicious about reading a book, and finding a glorious sentence or quote; It might be one that stays with you, and comes to life at the right moment, in the right situation. If you are having trouble getting back into reading, start with something small and fun, and see if that gets your gears going.

Getting back to the question of my favorite books, like I said, that is very difficult for numerous reasons. I do have books that crack my top five, and their pages are worn with love. These are books that I will never loan out, but I will happily send you a copy.  One of these books for me is “The Alchemist,” written by one of my favorite authors Paulo Coelho. I like the style of his writing, and the way in which it feels that there is always a much bigger message looming below an easy to read, and easy to follow story. I have read many books by Paulo Coelho and some of my other favorites are: Manuscript found in Accra, Warrior of Light, The Pilgrimage, The Valkyries, Aleph, and Brida.  

The Alchemist is my favorite book by Paulo, and it is one of those books that found me when I needed it, and then it stayed for other moments when I would need to be reminded of its lessons again and again. I have read this book more than once; I have also listened to the audiobook numerous times, and in each time that I have read it or listened to it, I have seen something that I missed before, gained new insight, or some new reminders and I come away from the book feeling refreshed and inspired. I am sure that there are many reviews of the book, but this is not so much a review as a tribute to what I consider a classic and essential work. There are others who have said, they did not get much from the book, or they cannot see why people like it so much (This book spent over 400 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list), but alas, I think some things should be experienced for yourself so that you can decide. Make a hot cup of tea, sit somewhere comfy, and prepare for a desert adventure. 

In short, and without ruining it for you, The Alchemist follows the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago who is living in the south of Spain. After a series of prophetic dreams, he embarks on a great adventure to find and fulfill, his “Personal Legend.” That is to find your own personal destiny and to fulfill it. This journey leads Santiago from his home in Spain all the way to the Great Pyramids in Egypt and back again. T.S Elliot said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

From Pintrest…

What happens on the journey transforms Santiago’s life, opens his eyes to love, and yes, there is a bit of personal alchemy. Santiago overcomes many obstacles and meets many unforgettable characters, but what he gained in life experience and insight was priceless, not just for him, but also for anyone who reads the story. He also ends up learning a great deal of wisdom from an actual alchemist. What is an alchemist anyway? Well naturally, someone who practices alchemy. Hahaha. Alchemists are people who, “who transform or create something through a seemingly magical process.” In its simplest definition, alchemy was, “the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.”  Many people understood alchemy to be more than converting lead to gold; they saw it as the process of self-transformation.  If you did read Harry Potter, you may have heard mention of “Nicholas Flamel.” He was a real person, and many thought he discovered the philosopher’s stone and therefore gained immortality. That’s a conversation for another day. 

We are all on our own personal journey, and every day people ask the questions, “What is my purpose?” and “What is the meaning of life?” I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I heard a quote recently that really resonated with me. It said, “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” Anais Nin also said, “There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” 

I think that is a commendable goal. In the Alchemist are also some of the best quotes on finding ways to enjoy the journey of our life, on realizing that nothing is wasted in our experience, and that we are constantly looking for ways to fulfill our personal legend. “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.”

From: Sagegoddess

To me, this book becomes a manual, guiding anyone who has a dream in their heart on not giving up, but instead realizing that there are signposts, and people, and something bigger than all of us conspiring to help us realize those dreams; “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Alchemist. 

· “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

·       “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

·       “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”

·       “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 

·       “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

·        “There is only one way to learn. It is through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.” 

·       “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” 

·       “Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.” 

I guess the point of this week’s message is simply to remind you that you are amazing, that you do have purpose, and that you will be supported at each step of your journey. Life is always waiting to surprise us with good things, even in moments when it does not feel that way. Failure and the fear of suffering can prevent us from taking the steps that we need to move forward with our lives. If you have something that you want, and you let fear hold you back from that, you will never know how amazing it could have been.

I always say that if you want to get to the beautiful island of Tahiti and experience paradise, then you may have to get on a plane or a boat to get there. You may have a long trip ahead of you. You may worry that something bad may happen along the way, and yes, something bad could happen. Alternatively, you could arrive safely, and experience the joys of Tahiti. Life is similar. What you want might require you to move outside of your comfort zone and take a risk. 

Elizabeth Gilbert has two quotes that I love from her book, “Big Magic.” “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” And also this one: “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” Here I am hoping that you find your treasures, your jewels, and that you fulfill your personal legend.

The Alchemist also says, “We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

This is a precious moment, and you a precious part of this world and this life. Please make the most of it. Read some good books, give your heart to the things that make you come alive, and give meaning to your life. In that way, when the day comes for you to depart from this realm—and no one makes it out alive—everyone will know that you did all that you came here to do. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be a lovely week indeed.

Why I can’t give up on Hope and Love…

Two of my favorite things!

The last several weeks have been heavy for many reasons. Some of the reasons need no introduction. Enter pandemic, stage right. Enter global protest for a variety of different reasons including racism, environmental issues, and more, stage left.

As a black woman living in America, I have felt stretched to the limits of my grief at times. I wondered on some days if there were enough tears, while on other days I felt numb and mechanical, just going through the motions, observing myself, but not quite myself. This period has been the great balancing act, learning more deeply how to navigate joy, pain, and everything that happens in between those two emotions. Even if you are the type of person who tries to shield yourself from the news of the world, I am sure some news has reached your ears. There have just been so many things adding up to be that proverbial straw on the camel’s back. These things trickle into the psyche and fill us with a sense of fear, despair, and sadness. The biggest question often seems to be, “When will it all end?”

I too, an eternal optimist, felt disheartened because in addition to everything else, I started to sense a common theme. It scared me a little, because it seemed to be a sense of hopelessness, and when we have lost hope, then everything really is gone. I saw messages of, “I don’t want your love and light,” or “I don’t want your thoughts and prayers,” and things just as doom and gloom as we could get. To be fair, I get the meaning behind some of those messages; most people right now are yearning to see something concrete. They are yearning for action, yearning for proof that prayers can be answered, and yearning to know that miracles still exist. I cried reading some of these messages, because I am a water bucket; I feel a lot and I often can feel the collective grief. The past few weeks it has felt heavy like an iron ball and chain dragging behind me. I wondered what bothered me so deeply about this?

The notion of “light and love” and “thoughts and prayers” has come to be seen as something meaningless, popping up as hashtags on every crisis, ever tragedy, and everything that is demanding something more. I too want concrete action and justice for the woes of the world, but I urge us to remember that love is the highest emotion and the strongest power in this entire universe. Biblically speaking, 1st Corinthians 13:13 says, “And Now These Three Remain Faith, Hope, And Love, But The Greatest Of These Is Love.

I think it is beautiful that is at Chapter 13, verse 13; 13, in numerology is the number of the divine feminine, it is a number that brings things into balance, and is said to ascend matter; it is coded with the frequencies of Ascension, Oneness, and the Unity that transforms all things.

Divine feminine. Photo from Unsplash

I want your love, and I want to see you shine your light as bright as any star in the sky. (Be as bright as Sirius—the brightest star in our galaxy). I also want your prayers when things go wrong, and I want them when things are going right. I think it is beautiful to be in someone’s thoughts (for good reasons lol). For me, prayer is one of the most intimate acts that I engage in. Side note: I still write prayers/blessings for friends and family, so if you need one, let me know. When I say a prayer, it is personal, powerful, and an acknowledgment that I am co-creating something beautiful each day with the divine. If I pray for you, if I include your essence in that space, my most private space, how could it not be powerful?

Everyone is naturally inclined to their own views, but I will continue to advocate for these things: love, kindness, hope, and a better world for all of us. I asked, in my own prayers, and in conversation with myself (hahaha, yes, I chat to myself, no shame in that), how could this be made better? I started to notice a curious thing happening. When I slept, I get sensing this message of “don’t give up on hope.” Do not give up on humanity. Do not give up on love. That message was with me when I woke up each day this week, and it stayed with me throughout each day. As I am learning to balance days where something shocking could happen, and throw my emotions for a loop, with days where I feel joy, gratitude and love, in between each of these kinds of days, I encourage us to believe in hope and to believe in love. I am also asking us to be the best of humanity.

When I created my blog, and YouTube channel, my goal was to create a space where we could all be reminded of the best of the world, and the best of humanity—the beauty, the kindness, the love, the grace, the faith, and the hope. I wanted to create a space where each of us would be reminded of our own greatness, and be encouraged in our goals and dreams, to know that they are valid and possible. You can see this week’s video here: https://youtu.be/J5VHDVXoxk0

So when I felt that feeling that a lot of people were losing hope, I had to even grab myself and say, no. No. Don’t succumb to that despair. It is ok, as I have said before that we acknowledge the range of our emotions, and that we understand, that everything has its shadow side. Even for us as humans, our shadow side serves us in important ways. That is a conversation for another time. I do think that when we face ourselves truly and we can embrace the parts of ourselves that we do not love as much, or the parts of ourselves that we think other people might not like, it really does allow for deeper self-awareness, and the possibility for deeper healing. I really think some of what we are seeing, is a situation in which the world is facing its shadow. When we do face ourselves, and experience deeper healing and acceptance—and I do think that some part of “healing” is realizing that while we are growing, learning, and moving towards our own self-actualization, that we are beautiful and amazing as we are right now. But when we get to this space, this translates into a situation where we allow love to guide us on this incredible journey of life. When we allow love to guide us, what happens next? Miracles…

In her amazing book, “A Return to Love, Reflections on A Course in Miracles,” Marianne Williamson says, “Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. They reflect a shift in how we think, releasing the power of the mind to the processes of healing and correction…In asking for miracles, we are seeking a practical goal: a return to inner peace…We are not asking for something outside of us to change, but for something inside us to change…ultimately all creation is expressed through the mind. Thus, as A Course in Miracles says, our greatest tool for changing the world is our capacity to change our minds about the world.”

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but no one is coming to save us. The responsibility of saving humanity, the world, and ourselves from whatever we perceive that we need saving from, falls to us. That means that we are the greatest tool for changing the world. If we lose hope, then we have already lost a battle that we did not even attempt to fight. Let me also add, that small actions lead to big change. You don’t have to become a politician or Oprah, you can make small changes from a place of love, right where you are, with the resources that you have. 

The late Congressman John Lewis who was very wise, said this, “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.”

I can imagine that place, that world where things are at peace. I have not lost hope for that, and I know that to get to that place requires something of me as well. Maybe my role in all this is to help spread that light, spread that love, and to remind others of what they are capable of doing.  Maybe when the time comes, I can stand for the things that I truly believe in, and I can stand for the people that I love and care for. Maybe I can remind others to do the same. 

A few years ago, my mom gave me the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl. Frankl had survived the Holocaust, and he was the founder of logotheraphy—healing through meaning. He said, ““For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.” He also said, “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

Taking action can help us to regain a sense of hope. Barack Obama said, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” 

We do have a responsibility to answer to the highest calling of our life and to be of service to humanity. I absolutely love John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” It is worth taking a listen sometimes to remember that the dreamers of the world are not alone in their desire for something really beautiful to unfold, despite everything that may be happening. He said, “Imagine all the people living life in peace, You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.” Oprah Winfrey said, “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

I have sprinkled in this conversation some of my favorite quotes on hope. It is my desire that you let these words sink into your psyche, and that as the world changes before our eyes, and as things get seemingly worse, before they get better, that you do not give into despair; instead, allow the courage of your soul to remind you that hope lives, love lives, and that you can help to create the world as you would like to see it. Barbara Kingsolver, said, “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

Laini Taylor, said, “Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” Amy Tan said, “We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming – well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” Please do not stop dreaming. You are the master of your fate, the captain of your destiny.

The Dalai Lama, “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” His good friend Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see the light, despite all of the darkness.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

In his Autobiography, Nelson Mandela said, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” 

And to round things out, In J.R.R Tolkien’s, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” I think he captures a sentiment that fits our world well right now. “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

May love and hope continue to grow and may whatever unfolds for us—with our help—be something beautiful. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may you find hope aplenty, and may you find that love abounds.

The importance of Sleep…

Who knew how important sleep could be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this even the case?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned from Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other important lessons:

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

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

An Ode to Friendship and the importance of our Tribe

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

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

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

Nancy and the Sunflower Field

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

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

Frangipani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My love offers his support, affections, and kindness. 

My tribe is amazing.

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

Healthy boundaries = happy me

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

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

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

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

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

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