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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!

The Art and the Beauty of Gratitude

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

I love gratitude… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celestial Goodness: Affirmation…Speaking Goodness into Your Life!

A famous Hebrew proverb says, “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.” In fact, many religions and spiritual paths have a similar saying or notion. Why is that? It is because words are so very powerful and that transcends culture, religion, and spiritual practice. When I was a little girl, there was a saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, that never felt true. Words stung when they were not said from a place of love. Even as an adult, if I say something mean-spirited, I can feel my body recoil and tense up. Our body knows the power of words. Buddha said, “words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are true and kind, they can change our world.” I do believe that when we spend time to make our personal lives and the world around us better, that it spreads even further than we can imagine. There is an infinite ripple effect of goodness that stems from the good that we do, where we are—this extends to the words that we say. Hear more on my YouTube video for this week: https://youtu.be/yo9uXdDeT3Y

Last week we discussed how using the beauty of our imagination through creative visualization can yield some very powerful and positive changes in our lives. This week, we will talk about the power of words, and how you can bolster your creative visualizations by tending to what you allow to come out of your mouth. If you know me, you know that I try to be careful about what I say, and also what I allow the people that I love to say around me. Before you think that I am some kind of totalitarian new age Pollyanna meanie, what I mean by that is our words are very powerful, and yet it appears that humans gravitate towards talking more about the things that they don’t want. Think about why in Harry Potter, everyone referred to Voldemort as “He Who Shall Not be Named.” By speaking his name, they gave him energy and power. The same thing goes for your life. Give energy to that which is good—to that, which fills your soul with joy, and love. Sprinkle good words around everywhere you go. Give compliments, and lift others up with your words. You would be surprised to see how everything blooms under these conditions.

If I spend time with someone, I can almost have a good sense of what is going on in their life from what they talk about and how they talk about it. Someone who always complains about the lack of money in their life, will almost inevitable, never have enough. The person who complains constantly about their health, will certainly see a deterioration in their health. The person who says that there are no good (men, women, person, insert your pronouns here), will almost never find it. You can’t find something if you push it away with your words. I want to hear my friends talk about the things that are going well in their lives, and let that energy permeate all the other areas of their life. I want to hear about the beautiful relationships that they plan to have with amazing people. I want to hear about how well work is going for them, how they feel fulfilled, and delighted to be working with good people doing what they love. 

We have to say what we want! We must talk about the things that we want as if we know that we are worthy of having them. Essentially, we want to help talk the things that we want into existence. I encourage you to not only talk about them, but also believe that you are worthy of what you ask for. 

My former therapist, Alphonso once told me that I was being reactive to life—meaning I was accepting whatever came my way instead of proactively asking for and receiving what I wanted from life. I found the notes for this in my old journal. I often pondered that question. Why am I being reactive to life? A lot of us grew up feeling ashamed or guilty if we asked for anything or for anything extra. We perpetuate the Oliver Twist narrative. “May I have some more sir,” or things we don’t even like, and feel despair when we don’t get even sloppy seconds of cold porridge. Some of us did not grow up making our own decisions or even being involved in the decision making process, and that can cause a paralysis as an adult. It is actually just as easy to make the statement about why you can have, do, or be something as it is to the contrary. In addition, when you get the things that you want, you are in a much better place to help other people and pay it forward.

I learned a very important lesson from a young woman that I went to law school with. She grew up in a wealthy family, went to Ivy League schools, and always asked for what she wanted. I was stunned when I heard her ask for one extra point on a paper. She felt that she deserved that point, and why should she settle for less? It was not just limited to exam points, it was anything and everything. That was transformational. I thought maybe she got the things that she wanted because of her upbringing, but no, it was simply because she had learned one of the most powerful lessons in life. Ask for what you want. Those of us who may have grown up in the church have often heard, “Ask, and it shall be given; seek and you shall find it; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” But how many of us are asking? Seeking? Knocking? 

I ask for anything that I want, because either I am going to get it, or I will be right where I was before. We should do the same with our lives. We should ask for what we want from life, from our partners, from our relationships, from our careers, from everything. Many of us are afraid that if we ask, we will be seen in a not so positive light. Who does this person think they are to ask for X,Y,Z? What empowers them to ask for this? But who are you not to ask. I can assure you that my life up to this point has taught me that there are people out there not only asking for the things that they want, but fully advocating for themselves to get it!

Please believe that you are worthy of what you asked for. Not believing that you are worthy of what you asked for is like asking for success, but preparing for failure. One way to get to that place of belief is by utilizing affirmations. In the 1920s, the author Florence Scovel Shinn introduced her book, “The Game of Life and How to Play it.” This book influenced thousands of people to use affirmations, including Louise Hay (founder of Hay House Publishing), and Shakti Gawain (author of Creative Visualization). Affirmations are positive statements that something is already so. These statements affect both your conscious and subconscious mind. Repeating affirmations can help to create a mental image in your conscious mind, which affects the subconscious mind, and ultimately impacts and influences your behavior, actions, habits, and outlook. This powerful activity can totally transform your life, impact what you create, and what you manifest. Affirmations can be done silently, out loud, you can sing them, write them down, and do them as often as you like in a given day. In her groundbreaking book that I talked about last week, “Creative Visualization,” Shakti Gawain gives these tips for affirmations:

1)     Always phrase affirmations in the present tense, and not in the future. It is important to create it as if it already exists.

2)     Always phrase affirmations in the most positive way that you can. Affirm what you do want, not what you don’t want. 

3)     In general, the shorter and simpler the affirmation, the more effective. 

4)     Always choose affirmations that feel totally right for you.

5)     Always remember when doing affirmations that you are creating something new and fresh. You are not trying to redo or change what already exists.

6)     Affirmations are not meant to contradict or try to change your feelings or emotions.

7)     When using affirmations, try as much as possible to create a feeling or belief, an experience that can be true. Temporarily suspend your doubts. 

Here are a few examples of Affirmations: (Florence Scovel Shinn & Shakti Gawain). 

·       I am at peace with myself and with the whole world.

·       I love everyone and everyone loves me.

·       My good now flows to me in a steady unbroken, ever-increasing stream of happiness.

·       Divine love floods my consciousness with health, and ever cell in my body is filled with light.

·       I give thanks for radiant health and endless happiness.

·       All that is mine by Divine Right is now released and reaches me in great avalanches of abundance, under grace in miraculous ways.

·       My life is blossoming in total perfection.

·       I am whole and complete within myself.

·       I now give and receive love freely.

·       I am an open channel of creative energy.

·       I always communicate clearly and effectively.

·       It is ok for me to have everything I want. 

·       I am open to receiving all the blessings of this abundant universe. 

I urge you to create some of your own affirmations. Create them for all the areas of your life, and practice them repeatedly. Repetition is a power tool for training or retraining the brain. I also challenge you to watch carefully what you are saying to yourself and to others for the next week. How are you talking to yourself? I pray that you would never call yourself stupid, or anything demeaning. I also hope that when you talk about the things that you want, that you do so with enthusiasm and the belief that you can have it. I am asking you to demand the most from life, and allow it to be the most beautiful unfolding ever. This is not to say things you don’t want, won’t happen, but as my dear friend Mr. Rishi says, “Life is filled with hills and valleys. As you practice this, the space between the dips in the valley lessen, and your time on the hill becomes longer.” I may have mentioned this before, but apparently when Kurt Vonnegut had something good happen, he would look up and say, “More of this please.” I hope “more of this” happens for your life. I hope you use your words wisely to allow for “more of this.” May the stars shine brightly over your week. Have a joy filled and love filled week, and practice your affirmations!

Creative Visualization: The Beauty of our Imagination

From: Unsplash

The imagination is a beautiful thing. As we get older, I don’t believe that we are encouraged to use it as much anymore. When I was a kid, my grandma had a cherry tree, and I knew how to climb it. I sat for hours at the top of that tree, swaying in the breeze, and imagining all kinds of wonderful things. On some days I was a pirate on the high seas, and some days, I was swept up in a fairy tale. Something about growing up, and getting a job, and doing the routine aspects of “adulting,” means that there isn’t a whole lot of time for daydreaming. But I am going to advocate for it here, and on this week’s video on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/A2fxIGeZL5g

It is my theory that we need some time for our minds to picture life as we would like it to be, or just to wander and be in the clouds like my favorite Disney character—Belle. Or like Albert Einstein. I talk about him a lot, but hey the guy was a genius—Einstein took time each day for day dreaming. He even said that before he solved a problem, he spent 95 percent of the time thinking about the problem, and then the other 5 percent solving it. He would sometimes take a walk or play music, and this was also part of the process. He was an advocate for taking down time to let the imagination be free, seeing this as an essential part of the process to solving larger problems. He said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.”

But here we find ourselves in 2020, “adulting” as best as we can, and probably not doing much daydreaming. Before 2020 began, one of my favorite cousins and I would often talk about what we wanted for our lives in the upcoming decade. She referred to 2020 jokingly as the year of “clear vision.” She also said that we would be able to see not only our vision, but also the fears that have held us back, and then be able to surmount them. Now that we are a little more than halfway through 2020, you might wonder…is she still saying that? She is! She says that if nothing else, this year has granted a lot of us the opportunity to take time and think about what we want for our lives, what is working, what is not working, and think about where we can push the reset button.

Toya (one of my favorite cousins) and I 🙂

When I have needed a mini reset, I frequently turn to books. One of my favorite books, hands-down is, “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles,” by Marianne Williamson. When I was going through a particularly challenging time, I read it so much that it has creases in my favorite spots. This is one of those books that I will give to someone else as a gift, it is that good. I have sent many copies to friends and family, but I would never loan out my copy. The whole book is replete with wisdom, and there are many amazing quotes to choose from, however, there is one that is a favorite. It is often misattributed to Nelson Mandela, I think because it is so powerful. When I read it, I let the words soak into my heart and my soul. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, I think there is something in this quote for everyone.

Marianne says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  

We must overcome any fear that holds us back from shining our light, and from living our best life. Getting back to my cousin, even though this year has had its challenges, some heavier than others, she still says, “2020 is the year of clear vision.” What does 2020 vision mean? From a medical standpoint, It is a term that is used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) when measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. Having 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. This is important! 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. So this does not mean that your vision has to be perfect. It just means that you may need to refine it or get clear. I love to say that we should get clear about the things that we want. But how do we get clear?

One tool for getting clear on your vision is through creative visualization. Another favorite book of mine is, “Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life.” This book is by the author Shakti Gawain. She says, “Creative visualization is the technique of using your imagination to create what you want in your life. There is nothing at all new, strange, or unusual about creative visualization…It is your natural power of imagination, the basic creative energy of the universe, which you use constantly, whether or not you are aware of it.”

Most people have either seen or heard of the movie, “The Secret.” The creator of “The Secret” Rhonda Byrne, said, “Visualization is the process of creating pictures in your mind of yourself enjoying what you want. When you visualize, you generate powerful thoughts and feelings of having it now. The law of attraction then returns that reality to you, just as you saw it in your mind.” 

Essentially, with creative visualization we are being more conscious about how we use the power of our mind. We are also tapping into the law of attraction. Simply put, the law of attraction is about focusing our mind in such a way that we manifest more of what want so that we can live our best life. Visualizing is an extremely important part of this. When we get in the car and turn on our GPS, we put our destination. The GPS helps us to navigate there—sometimes we have to recalculate the route, but ultimately you will arrive at your destination. Our lives are the same. If we do not visualize the end point—the life we desire—we will drive along the road of life with no destination. We will end up anywhere life takes us, and waste precious resources along the way. Remember that everything that we see right now was once just a picture in someone’s mind.

When I first started learning about creative visualization and visioning, I felt very frustrated because I could not form a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted. When I closed my eyes, I just saw darkness, and then my mind got overtaken with fear based thoughts, and thoughts that were rooted in lack. What do I mean by that? We have been trained to believe that resources will run out, that there is not enough, and worse, that we are not worthy and good enough to have nice things and experiences, and the ability to live our best life. This is not true. To overcome this requires a retraining of the brain to realize that 1) we are worthy 2) we are love 3) the universe is abundant and 4) we should be living our best life each day. Again what living your best life means is different for each person, because we all have our own vision.

It is important to RELAX when doing your visioning work. Don’t put needless pressure on yourself. Remember that you are co-creating with the divine, and honestly, you have the easier part of the creating. You are not worried about the how or the when, just the what. Relax, close your eyes, and allow yourself to use your imagination. See your life the way you want it to be. How does it look? Where are you living? How does society look? How does the world look? Who are the people around you? What are you doing as far as career/purpose? How is your love life? How are all of your relationships? How are your finances? The answers to these questions do not have to look anything like what they are currently. You only need to dream big, and let it play out in your mind. I recommend doing this “daydreaming” for at least five minutes per day. Build it up! Whenever a thought comes into your mind that you can’t have something, ask this question: WHY NOT ME? 

Shakti Gawain and others advocate that when doing creative visualization, you need three things to form your INTENTION. (Intention is a big deal by the way!!) 

She says: “There are three elements within you which determine how successfully creative visualization will work for you in any given situation. 

1)     Desire. You must have a true desire to have or create that which you have chosen to visualize. By desire I don’t mean addictive, grasping desire, but a clear, strong feeling of purpose. Ask yourself, ‘Do I truly, in my heart, desire this goal to be realized?”

2)     Belief. The more you believe in your chosen goal and the possibility of attaining it, the more certain you will be to do so. Ask yourself, “Do I believe that this goal can exist,” and “Do I believe that it is possible for me to realize or attain it?

3)     Acceptance. You must be willing to accept and have that which you are seeking. Sometimes we pursue goals without actually wanting to attain them; we are more comfortable with the process of pursuing. Ask yourself, “Am I really willing to have this completely?

The sum total of these three elements is INTENTION. When you have total intention to create something—that is you deeply desire it, you completely believe that you can do it, and you are totally willing to have it—it simply cannot fail to manifest, and usually within a very short time.”

I utilized these tools to help create my own vision. I believe that in using creative visualization, you can still make 2020 your year of clear vision. Let you imagination work for your good. All of this is not to say that you won’t take action when the time is right… but visualization and using your imagination is one part, an important part, of the equation.

So let your imagination free my friends! 🙂 As you go into this next week, please take a few minutes here and there to picture the life that you want. Not just for you, but for this world. Daydream, use your imagination, and dream big. There is a visualization exercise in my YouTube video for this week, so be sure to check that out. I believe in your vision with you, and I know that with the divine, you are currently co-creating, and will continue to create a beautiful life for yourself. Have a wonderful week.

Your mission for the week ahead!

Life after Disappointment…

I have heard people say that 2020 is cancelled. We are living in cancel culture times, where the instant someone or something does something that is seen as offensive, the general masses are expected to withdraw their support. While, I do not believe this leaves any room for atonement and redemption, I am not going to police people and tell them who or what to support. What I will say though is that perhaps we should take a deeper look at what the disappointments from 2020, and what disappointments in general can teach us. Once we take a look at that we can then take steps to move forward. Undoubtedly, 2020 has doled out an overdose disappointment. We could probably sum up the whole whole year by the word disappointment. The dictionary defines disappointment as sadness or displeasure at the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. Have you felt this in your life? Have you felt this emotion at some point this year? Check out this week’s YouTube video on Life after Disappointment. https://youtu.be/mR96KxKcaGQ

Paris

I have. I am one of those people who has the calendar planned out as far as I can go. I love experiences—strolling through the bookstore, having a delicious meal with sweet conversations with friends and family. I love live music and theater, but mostly, I love to travel. I love airports, nice hotels, waking up in a new place and wondering what I will see. I love that no matter where I am in the world, most people are still facing the same issues, and still finding ways to live and love their life. So you can probably imagine my own disappointment this year when everything started to get wiped off my calendar. Outings to concerts, Hamilton, Once on this Island, and so much more. I had gatherings with friends, a reunion trip to Comic Con with my friends of 20 years. My friends from university and I were to converge on San Diego, spend days sitting by the beach and reminiscing, picking up where we last left off. I also had trips to Thailand, Singapore, and the UK scheduled with my love. While we have both been the the UK, neither of us have ever gone to Thailand or Singapore. I had spent hours in the bookstore perusing sites to visit, foods to eat, and just planning out what to look forward to. Adventure called. You can imagine how my heart hurt; but my own disappointment was mild in comparison to those who suddenly found themselves without work, or in the midst of illness, loss, and grief. Many friends of mine—especially those in the service industry or in the arts found themselves out of work, wondering what was next, or how they were going to pay the bills. My family and friends in health care spoke to me with weary voices, tired and fatigued from what they had seen on the front lines. Often disappointment does not come by itself. It is accompanied at times by anger, hurt, resentment, frustration, and sadness.

As the days turned into weeks and then into months, I have asked myself the question many times. What is it that this year—2020 is trying to teach us? Rest? Recharge? Move in a new direction? Tend to our health? Spend time on the things that matter? All of those things perhaps, but also, once we have regrouped from the disappointments, we must ask: What can we learn from disappointment? 

In looking back at my own life, each time that I have felt profound disappointment, somewhere down the line, I could see how that previous painful moment was paving the way for something better for me. And its not just me—I am sure if you pause and look at your own life you may see a moment where your disappointment was palpable. This is not to say that some things are easily explained in life. Some of us have lost people in this time, or an entire livelihood. I don’t have an explanation for why that is, but I hope that once you have grieved, that you will move forward with your life.

Many famous folks have recounted their own tales of how disappointment spurned some amazing moments in their life. There is a saying, “Man plans, and God laughs.” We may plan for things to go a certain way, but we must realize that things may not always go according to our plan. Sometimes the stars aligning in ways that we do not expect. Yet, we must always expect that life is conspiring on our behalf.

In my own life I have experienced countless disappointments, and what felt like failures. Only now I see that life was trying to encourage me to move in another direction. I graduated from law school in 2008 at the height of a global recession. I wanted to practice immigration law but small firms were shuttering, and it just seemed that no one was hiring. I sent out over 300+ letters and resumes. My mailbox was filled with rejection letters. I cried, but I picked myself up and kept trying. I ultimately made the decision to leave my home state and my comfort zone and move to the East Coast. Not only did I obtain a career that I enjoy immensely, I also saw how that disappointment was meant to push me outside of my comfort zone. It also lined me up for some other major life events.

I have also had relationship disappointments. These led to some pretty major heartaches and ultimately some soul searching. With each “failed” relationship, I received much needed clarity about what I wanted, what I would not stand for, and where I needed to heal in my own life. When I got divorced in my late 20’s, I left an abusive relationship. I felt so foolish, like how could I get myself in that situation. I felt that I had failed at love and that I had wasted precious years of my life. I went through a period of massive healing, and it was definitely not easy. Healing is often messy, painful, and so many people avoid doing the work. But when I was able to strip away everything that I thought I wanted, and everything that I thought I knew about myself—I discovered me. The authentic me. With therapy and other magical tools, I developed a deep relationship with the divine. This ultimately led me to a healthy and beautiful relationship. I have no regrets about the past disappointments.

My disappointments were also tied to my ego. I felt that if I didn’t achieve a certain thing, or if I failed at something, I would be exposed—people would see me and judge me harshly. But I was the one doing the judging to myself. I was my worst critic. In this life, we will fall, but we must never stay down. We have to get up again. 

Someone once said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived moving forward.” And so, how do we get from the point of disappointment to the point of transforming and transmuting that experience into something good?

1. Sit with the emotions. Do not cast your feelings away, each one is valid. As a human being, we are granted a wide spectrum of emotion. Each provides us with an important message. Disappointment can usually be accompanied by sadness, anger, or denial. Feel those things, but promise you won’t stay too long in emotions that drain your energy. 

2. Be kind to yourself. Do not take the disappointment as a reflection of who you really are. You are still smart, still beautiful, still courageous, still kind, still able to move forward.

3. Do a SWOT analysis. In business, SWOT means, “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.” Business uses this as part of their business strategy, but I think it is useful as well for humans. I just change weakness to “areas for development” and threat to “unknown factors.” What are your strengths, where do you need more training? Certifications? Healing? What are the opportunities that you can see? What do you want? And what are some factors to consider? Economy? Another person’s issues? Timing?

4. Keep moving forward. Try again, try something else, or make your own opportunities. 

5. Get the energy out in productive ways. Exercise, meditate, spend time in nature to clear your mind. 

6. Realize that what happened may not be about just you. We are all connected like a spider’s web across this great planet. Sometimes you are the stepping stone in another’s destiny. My friend Desi always says to me. You don’t know what role you play in the grand scheme of things. Do you think Dr. King’s grandmother knew that her grandson would change this nation? 

7. Believe in yourself, and know that you are worthy and deserving of good things

These are just a few ways to move forward after disappointment. I do believe that like Oprah says, disappointment is life’s way of moving us in a different direction. It is a delay but it is not a denial of who we are meant to be. Our birthright is to triumph. I believe that for you. Sending you so much love and positive vibrations. Have a beautiful love filled week.