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Celebrating Inspirational Sisters.... Keely Freeman of Sierra House, Empowering homeless youth and transforming lives, one young woman at a time.

From the early stages of my life, I have been surrounded by activism and those fighting for social justice. My mother tells me in the early 70s, being a new mom didn't stop her from from hitting the streets to fight for women's liberation. She would just strap me to her back and take me to those protests...with me wearing a kiddie “Women's Lib” t-shirt and all.

Keely Freeman, Founder & Executive Director @ Sierra House

Keely Freeman, Founder & Executive Director @ Sierra House

I've always found myself drawn to and inspired by people with a passion for making this world a better place. During my coaching course I volunteered for a program coaching executives pro-bono and as fate would have it, I was matched with the fabulous Keely Freeman. As we began working together, I was in awe of her and her life's work. I just had to share it with you all. Keely Freeman is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sierra House, an incredible non-profit organization, dedicated to fighting homelessness and rescuing the lives of at-risk youth and young adults through housing, education and community services to inspire healthy living, emotional stability and success.

At a time when I am pondering the concept of visioning and preparing for The Visioning Party Autumn 2014, Keely Freeman epitomizes how amazing one small moment can evolve into a powerful vision. It takes dedication, right action, positive intentions and diligence, yet here before you is proof that a vision can blossom into a beautiful reality. You can profoundly shift your life and empower others around you, when you live your life from a place of authenticity. In Keely's interview below you can't help but be inspired to do you. Join me on October 11th for some rediscovery & insight into taking the next steps. Check out my girl Keely Freeman, as I bask in celebrating powerful women, making this world a better place....

Hope: Just when many 20-somethings were in party mode and enjoying newfound adulthood, you left a prospering career in investment banking to help literally save the lives of at risk-youth in New Jersey.  What inspired you create Sierra House?

    Keely: Volunteering. I always enjoyed volunteering, but never knew that it would change my life. While volunteering at a homeless shelter for teenagers in Newark I learned that many youth were selected to enter the program from a waiting list and it broke my heart. Even more important, it compelled me to take action.

    Hope: It’s one thing to say you want to help others, it’s another to make the major life decision to do it.  How did you actually do it?

      Keely: I took the money that I saved and purchased a big house so kids will always have a place to live. No one deserves to be homeless. Especially, not children. I understand that Sierra House only puts a damper on the problem of youth homelessness, however my goal is to help as many homeless youth as I can.

      Hope: What are your top three most memorable moments at Sierra House?

        Keely: First let me begin by saying I have some many memorable moments at Sierra House. The first would be making the Sierra House a reality. It took me 6 years to get Sierra House off the ground. Why, because I was clueless. At the time, I had no clue what a nonprofit was. In 2006, I went back to school at NYU for my Masters in Nonprofit Management. During my time at NYU, I gained the skill set that I needed to make the Sierra House a home for homeless young women and mothers. Literally, I took the lessons that I was learning in school and applied it directly to the business. The day after I graduated from Grad school the doors of Sierra House opened.

        Friends of Sierra House.

        My second most memorable moment was of a young lady who entered the program when she was 18 and pregnant. Her mom lived in Jamaica and her aunt that she was living with kicked her out after she learned that she was pregnant. This young lady was in her last year of high school and had already had a son living in Jamaica. When she came here to live at Sierra House her motivation absolutely impressed me. Every day she would get up, rain, sleet, or snow and catch the bus two towns over to complete high school. When she graduated from high school, she didn’t want to apply to college because she wanted to work to provide a better life for her children. That’s what she said. The truth was, she didn’t think that she would be accepted into college so she didn’t want to apply and be let down. Here at Sierra House, we value education and encouraged her to apply. Guess what? She was accepted into five of the seven schools that she applied for. Today, she is living in an apartment of her own with her two children, works full time and attends college part time. I am so proud of her.

        The third most memorable moment was winning the Russ Berrie Award for Community Service. Of over 200 recipients, I was one of eleven finalists. 

        Sierra House, located in East Orange, New Jersey

        Sierra House, located in East Orange, New Jersey

        Hope: How have the youth you have supported through your programs affected you?

          A cozy bedroom for mama & baby @ Sierra House.

          A cozy bedroom for mama & baby @ Sierra House.

          Keely: My Sierra House residents keep me young. Although I am in my 30s, I am so old to them. I t’s funny to hear their perception of old age. Nonetheless, they keep me updated on the latest fashion, hair styles, music, etc. Above all, they inspire me to love harder, to give more, and to appreciate the simple things in life, friends, family, time and many, many more things.

          Hope: Share with us a favorite success story of one of your girls living at Sierra House?

            Keely: A young lady who came to Sierra House four years ago and wanted to study to be a doctor. Before moving to Sierra House, she was sleeping at the airport. While living at Sierra House, we helped her to get a job at a local deli. We also helped her to apply to Rutgers University. Three months later she was accepted into Rutgers. This individual cried tears of joy on the day she moved to campus, because all her life people told her she wouldn’t succeed and here she was, beating the odds. This individual, like many other Sierra House residents, can and will succeed.

            Hope: What changes in our society do you see still need to be made to aid in eradicating homelessness?

              Keely: Policy. We have to advocate for affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and funding to eradicate homelessness on a legislative level. It is impossible to live in our country without witnessing the pain of homelessness on our streets. The statistics are frightening: in New Jersey alone there are 11,818 homeless people (NJ Point in Time Count 2014), and a much larger percentage of residents go through each day without enough money to pay for adequate food and other basic necessities. Women account for nearly half of the homeless population and children make up about one-third of the homeless population. Essex County, where Sierra House is located, has the second highest number of homeless people, accounting for 14.7% of the state-wide homeless population, up from the 2012 amount of 13%. Without education and a stable living environment, people usually find it extremely difficult to obtain employment, pay rent, and meet basic needs, such as food and clothing.

              In addition, New Jersey is the fifth most expensive state in the nation. According to the January 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average monthly fair market rent for a modest one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey ranges from $870 to $1,184. Thus, a worker earning the minimum wage of $8.25 must work between 105 and 144 hours per week in order to just pay rent. In desperation for food, clothing, and housing, many homeless people, especially youth, gravitate to potentially dangerous settings for survival. Prostitution, selling drugs, and theft are just a few of the options taken. When homelessness is not addressed, the rate of crime, recidivism, childbirth, disease, and other conditions substantially increase, and we all pay the price.

              Yoga Classes @ Sierra House!!!

              Yoga Classes @ Sierra House!!!

              The Sierra House Transitional Program is important because it provides homeless young women, ages 18 to 25, and their babies the skills needed for self-sufficiency. Sierra House provides them with much more than a bed and a meal for the night; it provides other necessities, such as one-on-one counseling and extensive support services that enable young women to successfully get back on their feet and, most importantly, break the cycle of homelessness.  In summary, we as individuals must continue to advocate and fight for affordable housing and policies to protect children and families.

              Hope: How can we help you at Sierra House?

                Keely: Groups, clubs, organizations and individuals can help pave the way for homeless young women and their babies at Sierra House by hosting and event or activity and donate the proceeds i.e. a bowling event or a charity dinner to Sierra House, sponsoring a drive or collecting goods that will help residents with their day to day living, make a donation, becoming a Sierra House volunteer or by becoming a Sierra House member.

                To support and ignite change for homeless youth, at Sierra House please check out Sierra House.org

                Want to rediscover what your personal vision is and get inspired to take action? Come join me on October 11th at The Visioning Party Autumn 2014.

                What activités do you feel passionate about? How do you inspire or empower those around you? Do share. I would love to hear from you.


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                The Visioning Party Autumn 2014

                 

                 I'm excited to launch my next special event, the Visioning Party Autumn 2014. As many of you know, there's not much this party girl likes to do more than bring some friends together and have fun.  Well this gathering may not be a dance party, but rather a day of community, self-discovery and inspiration. Check it and come by if you can...

                What exactly is visioning you ask?  Check out my past article on the 'Six Keys to Powerful Visioning."  The upcoming Visioning Party Autumn 2014 on October 11th is a fun opportunity to revisit your youth or engage in some rediscovery and have fun sipping wine, vibing to chill music, escaping with guided visualizations and mini meditations plus creating a 'mood board for your life.'  Now for even more enlightenment, our party is taking place in a super chic private lounge, designed by Philippe Starck, with rooftop access and breathtaking city views. Not a bad place to dream big and be inspired to take action to live it.  For guests that didn't make it to the first Breakthrough Visioning Party, you can get a glimpse of my reflections in my article 'The Beauty of Community.' Here's what's been said from the first ever Breakthrough Visioning Party earlier in the year.... My experience at The Breakthrough Visioning Party was self-evaluative, creative, eye-opening, fun and multicultural on all levels. Even though I am entering into a lifelong partnership, I discovered I have many individual goals that I would like to accomplish. This is necessary to my personal development and growth. - Jodi Lin Weiner, Fashion & Lifestyle Publicist "When sifting through all the magazines, the best approach was to not overthink it and even let my subconscious took over sometimes. I was grabbing at imagery without fully knowing the "why." After doing the beginning exercises I felt like I was able to uncover a deeper part of my greater vision. Once things began being glued to the page that vision of my future life which at times was unclear to me, began to take shape.  My life totally changed after attending the Visioning Party. I was READY for some big changes to happen and I found the biggest shift was actually taking action. Sometimes when vision boarding I've created these lofty pieces and then just expected everything to magically come to fruition. But if you really want something to change in your life it takes a lot of WORK. There's an art of attention that you have to give yourself and your life in order for the magic to happen. The biggest shift from Hope's Visioning Party was creating the board and then setting out to fly.  The experience was a brain squeeze, yet transformative, inspiring, fluid and powerful! " - Lorenna Gomez- Sanchez , Associate Photo Editor, Billboard Magazine "Hope brings her stylish sensibility to everything she does. To be part of Hope's tribe means you are part of something truly unique. Her events are not to be missed. In her presence, you feel more joyful and open, like you're poised for greatness." - Amanda Berlin, Communications Consultant    *** I would love for you to share this evite with your friends that you feel would like to:  Make a bold move Acquire fresh insight Indulge in more self-care Summon the courage to live fearlessly Connect with like-minded cool people Release the old and rejoice in rediscovery 

                What exactly is visioning you ask?  Check out my past article on the 'Six Keys to Powerful Visioning." 

                The upcoming Visioning Party Autumn 2014 on October 11th is a fun opportunity to revisit your youth or engage in some rediscovery and have fun sipping wine, vibing to chill music, escaping with guided visualizations and mini meditations plus creating a 'mood board for your life.'  Now for even more enlightenment, our party is taking place in a super chic private lounge, designed by Philippe Starck, with rooftop access and breathtaking city views. Not a bad place to dream big and be inspired to take action to live it.  For guests that didn't make it to the first Breakthrough Visioning Party, you can get a glimpse of my reflections in my article 'The Beauty of Community.'

                Here's what's been said from the first ever Breakthrough Visioning Party earlier in the year....

                My experience at The Breakthrough Visioning Party was self-evaluative, creative, eye-opening, fun and multicultural on all levels. Even though I am entering into a lifelong partnership, I discovered I have many individual goals that I would like to accomplish. This is necessary to my personal development and growth.
                - Jodi Lin Weiner, Fashion & Lifestyle Publicist

                "When sifting through all the magazines, the best approach was to not overthink it and even let my subconscious took over sometimes. I was grabbing at imagery without fully knowing the "why." After doing the beginning exercises I felt like I was able to uncover a deeper part of my greater vision. Once things began being glued to the page that vision of my future life which at times was unclear to me, began to take shape.  My life totally changed after attending the Visioning Party. I was READY for some big changes to happen and I found the biggest shift was actually taking action. Sometimes when vision boarding I've created these lofty pieces and then just expected everything to magically come to fruition. But if you really want something to change in your life it takes a lot of WORK. There's an art of attention that you have to give yourself and your life in order for the magic to happen. The biggest shift from Hope's Visioning Party was creating the board and then setting out to fly.  The experience was a brain squeeze, yet transformative, inspiring, fluid and powerful! "

                - Lorenna Gomez- Sanchez , Associate Photo Editor, Billboard Magazine

                "Hope brings her stylish sensibility to everything she does. To be part of Hope's tribe means you are part of something truly unique. Her events are not to be missed. In her presence, you feel more joyful and open, like you're poised for greatness."
                - Amanda Berlin, Communications Consultant 

                 

                *** I would love for you to share this evite with your friends that you feel would like to: 

                Make a bold move

                Acquire fresh insight

                Indulge in more self-care

                Summon the courage to live fearlessly

                Connect with like-minded cool people

                Release the old and rejoice in rediscovery 

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                Visioning ignites Passion….. 6 Keys to Powerful Visioning:

                I wanted to share the power of visioning once again and how visioning can help transform our lives and that of our world. I have benefited greatly from visioning practices and wanted to spread the love. In today's world of beauty and joy paired with devastating current events throughout the world, the practice of subconscious deep reflection is quite empowering and enlightening. We feel renewed, rejuvenated and way less stressed. A feeling of peace can emerge.

                ocean solo.jpg

                Visioning is about stopping to reflect, allowing yourself to become aligned with your life's purpose. When you give yourself the time and freedom to seriously embody how you envision your life to be, you can gain crazy insights with razor sharp clarity. Your inner wisdom blossoms, a sense of fearlessness just may arise and all of a sudden anything appears possible. Visioning invites you tap into your intuition, which is instrumental to authentic, mindful living.

                With powerful visioning, over time you can awaken that energy that will lead you to your life's purpose---connecting to your core---the legacy you want to leave behind. We all have something waiting to be born. Do you have an idea? I'm working on mine and enjoying the ride.

                I have experienced the power of visioning in too many ways to count. But I can tell you these practices gave me the insights and conviction to transition into a new coaching career, which completely different from my lifelong career in fashion and art. Once the intention was made, action, persistence & patience put it into reality. Check out my tips....

                6 Keys to Powerful Visioning:

                1. Relax your mind.

                  Sit comfortably in silence. Just focus on your breathing and try to release thoughts that arise...aka...meditation. Walk within nature, do some yoga. (Those downward dogs go a long way.)

                2. Practice gratitude.

                  Count your blessings. Be grateful for all you are, all you have. Spread some love around. Try keeping a gratitude journal or just be conscious of gratitude daily.

                3. Live your future backwards.

                  Live the life you want for yourself as if it is your reality right now.

                  Take a risk. Surround yourself with those that inspire you. Splurge on something even if your safe self would tell you not to. Be that change you want to be and shifts in your life will appear. As the great Bob Marley said...” Stir it up...'lil darlin' stir it up.”

                4. Create Vision Boards

                  Never underestimate the power of an image. Your vision board can empower you with a fresh sense of clarity, excitement, acceptance and even, dare I say...fearlessness.

                5. Speak your truth out loud.

                  So the Gods & Goddesses, the Universe, or any other spirit guide you believe, can hear your thoughts, desires and dreams clearly. If you don't actually speak the words, your uphill climb just seems that much more difficult.

                6. Have fun.

                  Let go of all those adult responsibilities sometimes and just play. Tap into your inner child and have fun doing things you love. Release inhibitions and go back to the good ol' days. (Anyone want to roller-skate?)

                06moodboard3-superjumbo.jpg

                One day, I was walking down the street with a friend and was telling her about the past Visioning Party I was planning. When I described the concept of the Vision Board, she said “Oh, you mean like a mood board for your life.” “Exactly,” I stated. Just as fashion designers, create mood board of inspirational images for each segment of their collections, we can create Vision boards to inspire us throughout our lives. As a visual person, the power of photography and graphics are extremely potent. Images tell stories, express thoughts or feelings that may surprise you.

                Now, let's not fool ourselves into thinking all you have to do is state your intentions and put some photos on your wall and you are good to go. Oh no. It's all about taking ACTION! Sitting idle and hoping your life changes will leave you in a sad state of affairs. I've been there, without even realizing it, so I'm here to say it doesn't work.

                I love creating a sense of community.  Love igniting passions inspiring “mood boards for your life.” The Visioning events  I host is the cumulation of all this great, fun stuff, plus a chance to unwind, relax, get in tune with oneself and discover some inner wisdom.  It is empowering to create vision boards,  experience a mesmerizing sound bath and visualizations, share dreams and oneself with a fabulous diverse community. I've created many collages in my day and nothing compares to power of the human spirit to unite, uplift and inspire through visioning. That's what my Visioning events are all about. 




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                When getting wrapped up in other people's sh*t is killing you softly.

                Ever have that feeling that you just have to 'let go'? I feel like it took me a lifetime to learn how to mind my own business. A few years ago when I made a conscious effort to put this newfound ideology into practice....boy did I have positive transformations in those difficult relationships. Maybe it was the 'oldest sibling' syndrome or my Cancer Girl traits....but I have always been taking care of people since as far back as I could remember. My poor brothers! This care-taking can also evolve into feeling a self-imposed need to help others when maybe, just possibly, they have no desire for your assistance and may even want you to step off.

                Often, when you are wrapped up in other people's sh*t, it's enough to make you go crazy yourself....even if you aren't directly involved. It took some crazy stuff to go down until I realized the only answer was “letting go.” I know many that have experienced the same thing. It's amazing how just the simple act of letting go can lead to radical transformation. Energy shifts, life shines bright.

                How to recognize it's time to let go....

                1. Take a moment to look deeply. Are you minding your own business? If you are not, gently remove yourself from the situation. No matter how tempting it is swirl in the drama.

                2. Do you find that anger or frustration is taking over on both sides...within yourself and the outside party. Have trouble sleeping? Anger has a way of enveloping us if it gets out of hand. Meditation helps with dealing with anger and opening your heart. When you are more open, you will find that anger dissipates. It's true. I've experienced it! If the basic condition for happiness if freedom, then letting go is the first step to reclaiming happiness in ones life. Check out my meditation video with tips on a fantastic open heart meditation.

                3. Are you living your life to the max? It may be time to focus on your own needs rather than others. If you aren't living the way you want to for yourself, and want to make a few moves, focus on you. Being selfless is not selfish! If you are truly taking care of yourself, you won't have time dealing with the drama of others.

                What's wrong with a little Zen and R&B?  Zen Master Thich Nhat Hann & Soul Songstress Roberta Flack - a rare combo

                What's wrong with a little Zen and R&B?  Zen Master Thich Nhat Hann & Soul Songstress Roberta Flack - a rare combo

                Here are two powerful quotes on anger by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn...

                When you are angry, and you suffer, please goback and inspect very deeply the content, the natureof your perceptions. If you are capable of removingthe wrong perception, peace and happiness willbe restored in you, and you will be able tolove the other person again.”

                Anger has roots in non anger elements. Ithas roots in the way we live our daily life. If wetake good care of everything in us, withoutdiscrimination, we prevent our negative energiesfrom dominating. We reduce the strengthof our negative seeds so that theywon’t overwhelm us.”

                Regarding Roberta Flack...whenever I hear the term "killing me softly", her classic voice is always on the mind.  Her love song isn't necessarily about letting go, but hey....I love it!


                On the topic of 'minding one's own business", I  just crack up thinking of one my favorite characters from "In Living Color."  We're going retro here....  Benita needs to mind her damn business! But you didn't hear that from me. :)

                Of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to comment or share with your friends.



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                True Happiness


                As I am returning from a relaxing mindfulness retreat, I am inspired to dig into my archives of my original "Zen Mail", which are my musing on Buddhist thought that I once created to inspire some friends.....

                True Happiness

                With the concept of Mindfulness, there are a number of thought processes and actions that open the door for mindful living.  Mindfulness, meaning ......being aware of your present moment; taking note of your surroundings as you walk down the block, enjoying nature, eating a bit slower to enjoy the taste of your food, thinking before we talk, enjoying the little actions we take in life, being grateful for all we have in life, our health, our minds, our family, and friends.   For me, it's difficult to live mindfully on the regular. I have to make a conscious effort to be still, to be quiet, to open my eyes and be aware more often.  Last week I was listening to Five Mindfulness Trainings that  the celebrated Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn developed to help us understand and practice Mindfulness.  Want to exude true happiness?  Check this out.....it's deep and there are lots of layers......you could make this pact with yourself.......

                True Happiness - A Training in Mindfulness

                Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking and acting.  I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy and material resources with those who are in need.  I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply be remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings in Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

                ###

                ("Right Livelihood" means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully.)

                One key notion for me is " true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion."  Sometimes I have to dig to the depths of my soul for understanding in order to have compassion.  Sometimes I can't comprehend a damn thing...but I try and when I come to the realization of understanding, the resulting innate compassion always leads me to feel happier and enjoy better relationships.  Sometimes acceptance just has to do.

                I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please do share in the comments below.

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                Multi-Tasking is Overrated.

                As I pondered some universal struggles with parenting and modern life in general, the idea of multi-tasking just came bubbling to the surface.  The art of multi-tasking is completely overrated! 

                I used to think that because I am a master at multi-tasking, as are most women, I should be proud of my accomplishments. I can dissect recipes, cook dinner, respond to work emails and engage with my daughter at the same time! I am such an accomplished mama! While working crazy hours during fashion week, I can write and send out hundreds of press releases, field & place important calls, respond eloquently to emails and address colleagues and client's drama all at the same time. All while appearing cool, calm and collected. I'm a master of my domain! You know what? In hindsight, when I multi-task, nothing actually gets my attention enough to effectively be the best it could be. It's all good, but is it really great? Things slip through the cracks. Dinner takes way too long to prepare. Mistakes happen.

                When researching this phenomena of multi-tasking, psychologists actually use the term “task-switching”. In reality, our brains and actions can not do more than one thing at a time, so we actually switch tasks. An example of how we can overcome this is when we repeat tasks over and over, only then are we able to multi-task --- such talking and walking in synch.

                Task-switching really isn't the best example for our kids either. They want us to really listen to them. I heard some parenting advice from Dr. Shefali who wrote “The Conscious Parent”, where she offered a gentle, vital reminder....when our children are talking with us, we should stop, give them our full attention and listen. When we are busy, it's good let them know, mention we'll be able to focus as soon as our project of the moment is complete. They need us to stop and focus. Not to text and pretend we are listening. I know this is difficult especially when our kids just don't shut up. Breathe. We are teaching them mindfulness by practicing being present  ourselves. It ain't easy, as I slip up regularly, but I'm on the path. By the way, adults actually want us to REALLY listen too!

                Five Keys to Squash the Art of Multi-Tasking:

                1. Take on our most challenging or very important tasks first.

                At the end of your day, identify the most pressing tasks for the next day. In the morning, tackle these pressing tasks first thing...before you get swept away. As the day goes by and we don't accomplish our main goals, inevitably we end up with anxiety or disappointment. If you do the big stuff first, you can relax more and have a chill day. Instead of drafting your “To Do List”, my new thing is creating an “Opportunities” List. Create this list in the evenings to prepare for tomorrow. Many successful entrepreneurs taut this action as vital for accomplishing goals efficiently.

                2.    Divide and conquer.

                Photo credit: Refinery 29

                Photo credit: Refinery 29

                Divvy up your “Opportunities” into batches and set specific chunks of time. Rather than check emails and social media all throughout the day which sucks up your precious time, try setting aside a certain time maybe 2-3x per day to respond to emails. This can pertain to any activities, void of the digital world. Just implementing this concept of setting aside special time for key projects can add more effective accomplishments in your day. I personally find this really difficult, but when I do implement it, I see a crazy difference in my productivity.  It's also good for curbing email or social media obsessions.

                3. Implement the 80/20 rule

                The 80/20 rule states that 20% of our work results in 80% potent, powerful accomplishments. Running around, as if we are a chicken without a head, in no way means we are more efficient. The busier we are, the more multi-tasking we do... a vicious cycle. Some of us city dwellers actually pride ourselves in being busy. It's a sign of importance. I remember as a recent college grad, I was assisting a celebrated stylist and he told me, one thing I need to know about working in fashion in NYC is that I always have to appear busy with various projects. It makes for a good impression. No wants to work with others that have nothing going on. I saw how he practiced what he preached and to this day he actually is a successful designer and stylist. His advice is sadly so true, but I'm kinda over all that now. I wish living with our truth was more acceptable. How can we shift this consciousness? As I've slowed down to reduce multi-tasking, I realize that I definitely don't accomplish all I would like to in a day, but I do get to the VIP stuff done more often. But my new thing is “Tomorrow is another day.”....G*d willing.

                4. Wise Concentration

                This wisdom is actually the final step of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, a pinnacle of Buddhist teachings. It's also a key strategy on the the road to success. Concentration is to cultivate the mind to engage in the opposite of multi-tasking, but instead directed toward a single-pointed purpose. With focus and concentration, not only do we do our best work but we listen to others more effectively, which improves our relationships. According to Buddhist philosophy, there are two categories of concentration: one-pointed focusing and moment-to-moment concentration, which is also known as mindfulness. As they say, when one is able to cherish the present moment, they are able to live with more joy.

                5. Do Nothing.

                Photo credit: iheartloons

                Photo credit: iheartloons

                Silence offers you a unique opportunity to tap into your inner wisdom & creativity. Science has shown us that creative ideas are formed in the prefrontal cortex of our brains. Since our prefrontal cortex only accomplishes one thing at a time, multi-tasking is the opposition. Clear the mind...exercise independently, meditate, stroll in nature, surround yourself with beauty and enjoy.  Parents with young kids must really try to give themselves the gift of special solo time. We will all experience life transformations with more silence in our lives.

                6. Unplug. Enjoy Nature.

                Studies have shown that task-switching results in exhaustion and agitation...surprise, surprise!!! So what better reason, than to actually go on a retreat or vacation, unplug all your tech and live life the old fashioned way for awhile. It really is so refreshing. Even if you can't go away right now, you could try to challenge yourself by unplugging at certain time each evening. I'm heading to a retreat with my daughter soon and I'm actually looking forward to leaving my computer behind. We all could use a break.

                This is one powerful video about the digital world's residual effects on our modern-day society. What is our world coming to?  If this doesn't prove we need to unplug, I'm not sure what will.  After watching this, I refrained from my Instagram obsession.

                "I forgot my phone" Written by Charlene deGuzman Directed by Miles Crawford Starring Charlene deGuzman


                So what tips resonated with you to shift your multi-tasking, task switching lifestyle? Please do share with me in the comments below. 

                If you liked this post, please share the love.









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                An Outsider Discovers the Inside

                 

                This is difficult to admit, but for much of my life, I never really felt like I belonged within various environments I found myself in. Being that I have a bi-racial background and was raised in a Long Island suburb, race was always a huge factor in that feeling. But there was so much more to it. It's interesting that mixing deep personal growth with the natural fact of aging, I have overcome the sense of not belonging here or there. This illustration below sums up my life in one swoop. “Blend in, for what?” Why the hell was I even trying all these years? I actually gave up trying a few years ago which resulted in a sense of freedom and inner peace.


                Photo Credit: Cotton Candy Playground

                Photo Credit: Cotton Candy Playground

                It's all about embodying who you are at the core. As a woman, tapping into feminine power, that many of us girls have glossed over for too long, has proved to be pretty dramatic. People who know me may think it's strange that I say I felt like I didn't belong. All of us have insecurities and when you are often considered on the fringe... even freakish to some, who knows what untruths can develop in one's mind. “I don't belong” was one of my strange 'false beliefs.' Now I look back and see all those missed opportunities because I felt like I didn't belong, when truly, I actually did. I was down, but sometimes just didn't notice. What I do know is that life is too short. It's time to live our truth. Open up. I'm trying.

                 

                Love this girl under the ivy....Source:Characteronomy

                Love this girl under the ivy....Source:Characteronomy

                How do we overcome our most damaging false beliefs about ourselves? It's deep and does require serious introspection and inner work, but you can try these few steps:

                1. SOLO TIME:

                  Take some solo quiet time for yourself. Try meditation or relax for a few minutes. Indulge in nature. It's vital to give your mind and mouth a rest. This allows you to tap into your inherent wisdom which will allow you to take action based on instincts & inner knowing. ( I know for some of us, it's a challenge to keep our mouths shut.)

                2. JOURNAL:

                  If there is something you are looking to overcome, it's a good idea to journal about it. The written word offers for some a window to the soul. Things come out that you won't believe. Even if you don't care for writing, try it anyway. ( You can always burn the notes, to release them to the universe or trash them.)

                3. POWERFUL INTENTIONS:

                  Set a 'power statement' to counter act your false belief. Create a short sentence to powerfully state your truth. An example, if you feel “I don't belong.” Your powerful intention could be as simple as “I belong.” Once you create this statement, it's important to state it aloud and/or read it daily. (This works remarkably well if you stick to it.)

                Now that I inherently know I belong in the places I surround myself, my mindset has drastically shifted. I'm very in tune to energy more that ever, so I can sense in my body and energy what and who are right for me and what is not vibing. I was so surprised when I attended this event last year where I would normally feel like an outsider and even though it wasn't my type of crowd, I totally felt like I belonged and the people around me reciprocated that vibe. I was shocked how quickly a change in consciousness actually benefited me. Doors open.

                Tree Cloud by Chema Madoz

                Tree Cloud by Chema Madoz

                Do you have a false belief you want to shift? Have you altered your consciousness based on a false belief you have had? Have you ever felt like an outsider? I'd love to hear from you below. If you feel like you may want to go deeper shifting those false beliefs, reach out to me for a Spark Session. It's fun stuff.

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                Pride. Love. Joy. Reflections on an Ethiopian excursion.


                As I think about my recent trip to Ethiopia, I ponder life from a different lens. I think about my work as a coach, the wellness lifestyle I aspire to and enjoy. Yet, for countless people, those struggling to survive with daily necessities, the idea of transforming your life for the better, living out your dreams, seems like just that... a pipe dream. A joking matter. In the rural landscapes of Ethiopia, there is little need for my new vocation. I would be fresh out of luck. People need money, a good education, updated facilities in their home or school, a pen, new shoes, basics. Donkeys carry fresh water to homes without running water....which are the majority. Concerned about one's happiness quotient? I'm not too sure. It's survival mode.

                Donkeys are everywhere, carrying yellow jugs of water for local residents in rural Ethiopia.

                Donkeys are everywhere, carrying yellow jugs of water for local residents in rural Ethiopia.

                 

                I was in Ethiopia for a reason. The non-profit I founded with my mother & brother, h2 Empower, finally completed the community library we set to build and develop nearly 10 years ago. It's obviously been a long haul and when everyone wanted to give up, my mother Helen Boxwill did not. Perseverance. We did things the hard way, without big donors or grants, just fundraising little by little over the years. My family flew to Ethiopia for the grand opening celebration of the library. To actually see the fruits of my labor and that of my mother, friends and family was very moving. Government officials and VIP educators came from everywhere for this ceremony. I am told there is no other library as great as the one we built in an elementary school in all of Ethiopia. Libraries of that caliber would rarely be at the university level. This fact surprised me, but I saw the pride of all the students and faculty with my own eyes. The actual celebration was a life altering day that I may share at another time.

                Celebrating the Alemu Woldehanna Community Library in Hosanna, Ethiopia, April 2014.

                Celebrating the Alemu Woldehanna Community Library in Hosanna, Ethiopia, April 2014.

                At a dinner with some educators, I asked one gentleman, an elementary school director, what he does for fun where he lives in rural Hosanna, Ethiopia. He looked at me bewildered. What did I mean by fun? I was told that where he lives people are striving to provide food, housing and basics, that there is no thought of having fun. After I put the pressure on, he did say he relaxes by occasionally going out to eat. That's about it. The idea of fun and relaxation differs wherever you go, but it did cross my mind, how lucky I am, to even have the luxury to realistically think about recreation, relaxation, indulgences....such as being on the trip in the first place.

                While visiting the two- room home of a local family in Hosanna, a young boy asked me how much money it costs for me to fly to Ethiopia from New York. He was soooo shocked to hear it, he just couldn't believe it as he was converting dollars to birrs in his mind. It would take his mother an extremely long time to save up that money for such a flight. This kid was special, he has the smarts, I bet one day he will take a flight on his own accord. Despite his poverty, he is happy. He likes where he lives, pet goats and all. He told me so. Happiness is a mindset, regardless of your circumstances, you can make up your mind to enjoy life. He showed me that. Fun with homemade soccer balls made from plastic bags and patchworks of old fabric. I saw sooo many smiles from kids everywhere we went. So happy for what we would consider the smallest things....having me take pictures of them, the excitement of seeing strangers, offering of a banana or a pen. Very inspiring. These experiences ignited in myself and my family the gift of appreciation for life.

                Students from the Alemu Woldehanna School, Hosanna, Ethiopia.

                Students from the Alemu Woldehanna School, Hosanna, Ethiopia.

                The kids taught me the most and I guess that's why mother keeps on going back to Ethiopia...to work diligently for those children...to help expand their world through education and a love of reading. Wellness and personal development may be a luxury in rural Ethiopia, but I experienced the joy, love and pride of the people. The kids are so loving, all wanting to hug, hold hands and kiss you.  Too cute! No money necessary for that.

                My new friends in Ethiopia.

                My new friends in Ethiopia.

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                Spring Cleaning for Your Life

                10 Keys to Clear the Clutter

                We all need to engage in spring cleaning for your home to create a comfortable, open space as the seasons get a bit more bright and cheery. As they say, your closet reflects your mental state, so it's always good to reevaluate & de-clutter each season. But...what about your life? As the sun casts a warmer glow on us this Spring and heavy coats can be cast aside...what else in your life do you need to shift to start anew? Sometimes we literally need to push things and situations to the curb, but most of the time, we just need to adjust our mindset to do some serious Spring Cleaning of our lives.  

                 10 Keys to Clear the Clutter...

                1. LET GO.

                We all have people in our lives that really don't do us any good. They bring us down and invite negative energy into our space. No better time than the present to rid yourself of these toxic relationships. But how? That depends on who it is. With some people you can just try distancing yourselves slowly. Other people, we actually love, like family or they are work colleagues and we can't escape them. This is when we can engage in compassionate understanding--- looking deeply at where this person is coming from and gather up as much compassion as you can to evoke empathy and understanding. This can allow you to let go of our own frustrations and expectations. Much easier said than done...but how???

                  2. CLEAR YOUR MIND.

                  Relax your mind daily. Sit comfortably in silence for a few minutes a day. Just focus on your breathe. Breath In. Breathe Out. Yes, aka... meditation. This truly can ignite a sense of joy, compassion and calm into your life. Plus you can receive insight into your own inner wisdom. This inner wisdom will definitely help you navigate any drama that needs some spring cleaning. Mindful living is the best housekeeper.... cleans it all out and open doors. No wonder the world is so intrigued with the Buddhist nation Bhutan's focus on “gross national happiness”? Can meditation really offer one the ability to be happy no matter what? Many say, the answer is YES! I'm striving.

                    3. PRACTICE GRATITUDE.

                    Count your blessings. Practice Gratitude for all you are and all you have. Each morning or evening state out loud things you are grateful for. Stating your truth out loud is a powerful key...let's the universe hear you clearly. Keep a gratitude journal. I know of friends that text each other one thing they are grateful for each day as an inspiring way to keep in touch and live with gratitude. Try it out.

                    4. THE POWER OF NO.

                    Clear out all those feelings of obligation. If living life on your terms is considered selfish, than so be it. Step into your power and just say NO...to those “optional” tasks you don't want to do, but feel you have to. Of course there are plenty of things we don't want to do that we really do HAVE to do. I am talking about those countless frivolous favors or requests from everyone under the sun, that we feel like we can't say no because we are going to hurt someone's feelings. This is something most women struggle with. Selfish doesn't have to be negative. Each moment counts, so why waste it? With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. “ Collin Powell tells it like it is. I wish I heeded those words a long time ago. A friend stated this quote the other night....” Do for self. Not for selfish.”

                    5. DISCOVER YOUR INNER WILD CHILD.

                      Do something different. Get out of your routine. Take action and try that one activity you've always wanted to do that you never did. Go somewhere that you've always been meaning to go or do something you love to do, but never do. Just live with more adventure. Doing all your spring cleaning, will offer more time for adventure and youthful fun. (I'm taking a crazy adventure soon, by traveling to Ethiopia with my family.) What are you going to do?

                      Via GlobalFushionist....Thank you Amma!  Wild colors, hair, travel.

                      Via GlobalFushionist....Thank you Amma!  Wild colors, hair, travel.

                      6. WEAR COLOR. CHANGE YOUR LOOK.

                      Get a new hairstyle. If you avoid color in your wardrobe. Embrace it. Color really can change your mood and can have a positive effect on your world. If you love neutrals, it's time to to spice up your look this spring. No need to hide in dark colors..even chic all-black needs a break. If you are style-challenged, seek solace in a stylish friend... just make a change. It actually does matter how you present yourself to the world. When you look good, you feel good.

                        7. INDULGE IN NATURE:

                        The beauty of nature is so awe-inspiring. Surrounding yourself with nature can offer a sense of peace and relaxation. Even urban dwellers could try to walk in the park, tend to a garden, pick up flowers for your home. Just noticing the sky, any nature around you can offer a sense of calm, when you pay attention and send gratitude for our earth.

                        Gorgeous weeping cherry blossoms....nature's symbol Spring is here!

                        Gorgeous weeping cherry blossoms....nature's symbol Spring is here!

                        8. YOUR INTUITION IS GOLD.

                        Listen to yourself a little more. You know, that little voice that warns you, but you ignore it..and it comes back to bite you? You are wise. You know what is good for you. You don't need to consult friends. Your wisdom is with you all the time. We just have to listen a bit more deeply. Slow down. Stop and listen to your intuition. We will all be better off for it.

                        9. “YOU ARE YOUR FRIENDS.”

                        This famous quote is the damn truth.. Take a look at your life. Do your friends support and inspire? “If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.” by Collin Powell. So what are you going to do?

                          10. PRIORITY #1 – YOU.

                           As a mother, my motto is “ If mama isn't happy, nobody is happy.” This sentiment is universal. If you are not happy, no one living or working with you can truly be either. Spring cleaning is all about caring for yourself. Do whatever you need to do to be at peace. When you smile...everyone around you will be smiling too.  I like to save the best, for last....but truly...this is numero uno.

                          I would love to hear what Spring Cleaning 2014 looks like for you? Whatcha gonna do? Share some comments below.


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                          Cherish the Day

                          A lot is going through my mind regarding the idea of “non-attachment.” After attending powerful Dharma talk by the celebrated Guiding teacher Gina Sharpe last night, the words “ What are you going to do with your time?” resonated in my brain. These words flowing around. So much to say.

                          Recently there was some big news in the fashion world about the suicide death of a very talented designer L'Wren Scott, who also happened to have a 13-year relationship with Mick Jagger. He cited her as his best friend. Jagger, along with countless others are devastated by her death. Now from the outside looking in, this is some shocking stuff. Let's list the American Dream right here...she was beautiful (former model), talented ( successful designer), owned her $5.6 million fab NYC Chelsea apartment outright, her long-time boyfriend is one of the most famous rockers in the world and is worth an estimated $305 million dollars. One would ask....what could be the problem? Isn't beauty, brains, talent, fame and an uber-rich boyfriend a stereotypical American girls “glamorous life” dream? Come to find out she was in $6M in debt and wanted a family of her own, but no one knows what was the motivation for her to take her life. When asked, her longtime housekeeper said...”She always dreamed about having fame, fortune and money. She had all that in her hands with him.” This really resonated with me. The proof is in the pudding time and time again. Our capitalist world view is f**king people up, not to mention what's it's doing to our earth. One couldn't possibly have a more quintessential glamorous life than L'Wren Scott....yet she was suffering big time. Fame and fortune is touted as the pinnacle of success in America. As a young girl, I myself thought this false premise too. The American Dream needs a makeover!  

                          Designer L'wren Scott in her Paris apartment….RIP…..

                          Designer L'wren Scott in her Paris apartment….RIP…..

                          I do struggle with the Buddhist notion of “non-attachment”, the idea of releasing worldly desires and attachment to much of anything, which inevitably is the cause of suffering. But how? I want it all. The fabulous life...love, family, rich friendships, material luxuries, travel, financial security, good health. The concept of letting go of desires, in the cosmopolitan life that I live is rather challenging. The remedy? Cherish each moment. The now. Each experience. For what it is. In our fast paced, technological driven world, this is a difficult task. I'm always striving, but I need to remember to STOP and cherish all the moments of my life. If I do this, attempt to find the beauty in the tedious or annoying details of adult life, as well as the great stuff, when the shit hits the fan & really bad things happen, I will have to tools to deal, with a sense of calm and compassion. I've already experienced this truth, but there is a lot more work to be done.

                          As I listen to vintage Sade, my thoughts are reminiscent of her lyrics in “Cherish the Day.” I laugh as I site Buddhist thought, then drop some Sade...

                          Cherish the Day

                          I won't go astray

                          I won't be afraid

                          You won't catch me running

                          Now Sade is reflecting on some deep love affair, but the words can still resonate with our daily outlook on life. What is life without love?

                          We must strive to cherish our lives. The beauty is in the details. Release ourselves from attachment to preconceived notions of the good life. The good life is right now!!! No matter what is going on. No matter what you want to shift in your life. The good ol' days is actually right now.

                           

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                          YOLO

                           

                          I first discovered the term YOLO last summer. My friend's teen daughter had told her Mom she needs to have more fun...”YOLO!” she said.

                          I was like, “What the hell is YOLO?”

                          “You only live once,” I was told.

                          Later, when I asked a lovely tween girl about the term YOLO and how cool I thought that was she stated nicely...”That is so old. We were texting that last year.”

                          What happened to the days when I was cool and new all the hot sh*t???

                          We mamas may be considered old to the kids, but we still gotta keep our fabulousness. When we are living our lives to the fullest and having fun in the process, we are fabulous.

                          One way to keep it fresh is to truly embrace the idea of YOLO. And to do that, as we age, we have to work to keep a joyful mind, body and spirit.

                          To me, that means music. All I need is to hear a favorite jam or a good beat and I smile joy, body can't sit still... singing and dancing is my innate true love.

                          Last summer, one of my favorite old school R&B bands was performing at Central Park's open air concert venue, Summerstage. Rain was in the forecast, but that wasn't stopping me and my girls. So, the band is performing and the rain just starts pouring. Hundreds of people start clearing out. In my mind, they were missing all the fun. So we are there in the pouring rain, getting drenched, I turn around and somehow the largest electric slide I have ever seen just naturally started emerging as it poured. The bass is still deep, the band still doing their thing, rain not deterring them and everyone just realized that was a once-in-a-lifetime memorable moment of pure fun. It was all about YOLO.

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                          What about you? Today, we have a thousand adult responsibilities. Sometimes we just need to go back in the day and do what we love...whether it's something innate from childhood or some new activity you just discovered.

                          When I stopped to think of something else I love, but never do anymore, I thought of rollerskating. I am determined to a hit a rink soon. What do you love to do for fun? Do you do it? If not, make a move. YOLO.

                          One of my idols, The Boss, working those skates.

                          One of my idols, The Boss, working those skates.

                          Here's what to do to truly embrace the concept of YOLO:

                          1. Make a list of 5 things you love to do

                          2. Try to do one super fun activity this week or next.

                          3. Look at your calendar and actually schedule in your fun....(this may not work for everyone, but it helps me. If I don't put my dance class in my schedule, I'll book other things or not go.)

                          4. Make a pact with your self...you will make fun a priority....YOLO

                          Share with me what you do for fun in the comments below....

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                          3 Ways You Are Meditating And You Don't Even Know It….

                          3 Ways You Are Meditating And You Don't Even Know It….

                          You know how you are in the zone? Your attention is either sharply focused or completely relaxed. For me, for some reason this notion dawned on me when I was swimming in the pool. Swimming is my favorite sport (and the only sport I can actually do well.) It's in the stars for me as my water sign, Cancer, is often in full effect. This Cancer Girl is happiest near or in water. So during my summer early morning swims at the pool, I feel so alive. It kills me to wake up early to get to the adult lap swim at 7am, but when I hit the water as the sun rises, it's bliss. One day, as I was doing my laps, a thought popped into my head... swimming is meditation. What a sigh of relief I didn't have to feel guilty for not sitting down to meditate on the days I hit the pool.

                          Photo credit: Jodi Tris

                          Photo credit: Jodi Tris

                          As it's always beneficial to meditate daily, I will admit some days, it just doesn't happen. The Buddha's most vital messages are about living in the present moment...and by embodying joy in the here and now, we can live with more peace and happiness. It's not always about sitting in silence. Relaxing into activities that we enjoy or even dislike, can offer us time to clear our minds. The Zen Master Thich Nhat Han talks often about how washing the dishes can be a form of meditation. I've tried out mindfully washing dishes and you really can have a sense of calm in the cleaning zone. As a mom, I am a master at multi-tasking, but I find that great talent of mine can stress me out. There have been times where I am cooking dinner, answering emails, listening to music, watching my daughter's dance routines & doing dishes. Putting an end to all that and trying to focus is helpful. I know lots of people who say cleaning their house helps them relax. Oh how my husband wishes that was me! I wish it was me too, but at least hitting the pool and doing the dishes is a start. Check this out....

                          Three Ways To Meditate Without Realizing It....

                          1. Do what you love and get into the zone...

                            When you enjoy what you do, diving deep gets you in the zone..and poof..you can submerge yourself in a meditative state without even knowing it. When I am swimming or dancing or even working on my new biz, I get submerged in a meditative state. What do you love to do that gets you in the zone?

                          2. Take the train.

                          Photo Credit: Jose L. Velez

                          Photo Credit: Jose L. Velez

                          When I'm on the train and I'm confident I know where I'm going..than I can relax. Sometimes rather than read, I just chill, focus on relaxing and little do I know, I'm clearing my mind. For me, most of the time I rather do this than drive. Plus it's a baby step in reducing my carbon footprint. Is there a time during the day when you are in transit (drivers too) and you take advantage of that precious solitary time?

                           

                          3. Walk. Walk. Walk.

                          I had never heard of “walking meditation” until I visited a Buddhist monastery. It sure looks strange, seeing people walking super slow and attentively....being aware of each foot touching the earth. But I've realized that walking around the city streets, I can still practice walking meditation, not by being slow, but by being aware...of my movements and the beauty surrounding me. It can be challenging, yet peaceful and stress-relieving. Sounds crazy, but try it out next time you are speed walking down the street. Just be aware.

                          What do you enjoy in life that disguises itself as meditation? Whatever it is....do more of it.  Share with me in the comments below...

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                          THE BEAUTY OF COMMUNITY

                          I wanted to write a little something about my observations from the The Breakthrough Visioning party where a eclectic group of inspiring people convened at the Akwaaba Mansion to open their minds & envision their dream future. We were loving the Haute Spice specialty drinks from Manjoor Estate, delicious hors d'oeuvres, and the chill vibe of the party. With guided meditations and visualizations everyone was able to get centered and in-tune on a deeper level with who they are and what they see for themselves. Then the fun began, with music and magazines galore, everyone dove in to creating their vision boards, envisioning their lives through imagery and text. We all had a chance to share our visions and find inspiration to take actionable steps towards our dreams. I left feeling blessed and honored that friends would come to share in this experience with me and my dynamic colleague Eric Fleming who was a fantastic co-facilitator. While I was grateful that the event went well and everyone left with a new outlook on the coming year, the biggest take-away for me was rather unexpected. I was most struck by the impact of doing this visioning work in a group. I started reflecting on the importance of community in my own life.

                          Circle of friends @ THE BREAKTHROUGH VISIONING PARTY 2014

                          Circle of friends @ THE BREAKTHROUGH VISIONING PARTY 2014

                          Community is vital for my happiness quotient. I realized this more than ever when I moved to Bedford Stuyvesant, didn't know anyone in the neighborhood and became a stay-at-home Mom with a newborn baby. There were many lonely days at home with my baby daughter and no friends close by. I had to do something. I just starting getting out there meeting other moms like me in the area and little by little, it's been 7 years now and I have developed a rich, loving community of friends that I completely cherish. All we have to do is walk around our blocks and my daughter, husband & I find ourselves saying hi to this neighbor and that...it's actually a running joke that it takes us much longer than normal to do errands around here. Living within this amazing sense of community brings immeasurable joy to my family's life. I was inspired. Check this out...

                           

                          THE BEAUTY OF COMMUNITY….3 REASONS WHY...
                           

                          1.  WE THRIVE ON POSITIVE ENERGY

                          Since the beginning of time and humanity, it takes connection, collaboration and camaraderie to live in this world. From tribal villages, to government, to the intricacies of family life, humans need connection and love to survive. We can't exist without it. I find beauty in connection. I know not everyone is a social butterfly like myself and creating community can be challenging for some, but what a benefit to our lives when like-minded connections blossom. At the Breakthrough Visioning Party, I was reminded that we all just crave and need a little time out to cultivate peace, joy, clarity & support. With all that positive energy flowing around, there were smiles abound.

                          2.  WE ARE AS ONE:

                          I am someone who has befriended people from all walks of life throughout my entire life. You name the stereotype and I probably had a friend who could fit the criteria. Here is the issue, throughout my life I always seemed to keep my friends separate. Assuming one person may not connect with the next. This left me feeling uncomfortable. It's possible my assumptions were false and if I were to just relax everyone would just get along, but for some reason I always felt uncomfortable forcing the hippy chick to hang with the uber fashionista etc. Then you bring in race and culture. I know many a friend who would be scared to ever step foot in the reggae spot at midnight. But what a refreshing vibe to see people of all races and cultures come together at the Breakthrough Visioning Party. I came out of my comfort zone and just set the intention to let go and invite everyone. I was told by a friend that she rarely gets a chance to have a multicultural experience where everyone is coming together to just be open. I was really touched to hear that she enjoyed her day of multicultural living and it opened her up to something that was missing in her life. I feel so blessed that I can bring this connection to others. The realization that we really are one. I love being a catalyst.

                          3.  WE NEED IT

                          If you don't have a thriving community in your life. It's time to take one small step towards building community. Your happiness quotient in life will greatly improve, even if you are an introvert. Here’s how to cultivate community in your own life: You must know someone who intrigues you and whom you would like to know better. It's time to step out of your norm. If chit chatting is uncomfortable for you...try embodying fearlessness and reach out to those that interest you in a small way to connect. Remember, the same ol' can be so boring! If I can conquer my fear of public speaking and host a three-hour Visioning Party, you can step up and out, too.

                           

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                          What is one thing you can do to deepen your connection to those in your community? Reach out that much more. I know there is something. There are a thousand excuses we can give ourselves to do nothing. Even if you just smile a bit more often....just do it!

                          My wish for you is that you experience the overwhelming love and appreciation I have for community and for the life you get to create for yourself when you invite people in.

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                          Welcome to Inarukundo.

                          Welcome to Inarukundo, a place where you can get a bit of inspiration, a slice of my musings on life and learn about my coaching services.  I'm really excited to launch Inarukundo, pronounced “ina-roo-koon-doe”, as it's been a long time coming. So why did I choose coaching as my new career path?  It finally occurred to me that this is who I am anyway. To those who know me, it just makes sense.  My nickname in college amongst my girls was “Mama Hope.”  I just can't get away from my innate inclination to nurture. As the oldest sibling, always looking after my brothers, it is my destiny.

                          I am a Life Coach, in addition to the long list of roles I've played: mom, fashion publicist and producer, art gallerist, and non-profit director.  I've often wondered why I never just did one thing and admired those that focused on one career and mastered it.  It eventually dawned on me that it's not a bad thing to work in multiple arenas. Engaging in different projects just expands the mind and life experience. It's all good. It's who I am.

                          There was a time in my life when for some reason I just wasn't satisfied. I had soooooo much to be grateful for ---yet, I was unfulfilled. I live a great life, but I just didn't think so.  There was some serious family drama that I was a big part of, but I was blind to the fact that I played a role in these problems.  I needed some serious intervention. I took matters in my own hands by diving deep into my spirituality, going on retreats at a Buddhist monastery and really learning how to embody mindful living.

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                          The idea of living mindfully is so simple, yet ridiculously complex.  I will forever be a student and do often slip with my mindfulness, but I can vouch for my life drastically changing for the better when I ...stopped. Sat down and pondered. Walked slower. Ate slower. Opened my eyes. Felt deep gratitude each morning and evening. Noticed the sky, trees and nature as I walked through the city streets. I became a happier person. I discovered how I could find joy every day. I felt so elated I could finally have compassionate understanding for those preachers on the street corners with their microphones. I didn't go that far, but I wanted to spread the love. And I did. Over time my practice and the embodiment of my new mindset yielded dramatic and miraculous results. The negative relationships in my life did a 180.˚ I'm still in shock!

                          During all this soul searching I found that I wanted to be of service in a more expansive way. I discovered coaching was right up my alley, as I love talking, love psychology and with an innate sense of empathy I thrive on inspiring others to look deep and think big!  Since I am what I call a “recovering perfectionist,” I try in baby steps to “let go.”  It's a process, but I'm on the path.  For all those perfectionists out there--it's time to take a chill. I'm trying to take my own advice as I write this blog. I've been journaling since I was 6 years old, but sharing personal thoughts online is really not my thing.  But as a coach I realize I have to be honest and stand in my truth in order to connect and help others. So, I'll try really hard not to over-analyze every word I write or every video I produce. I'll just “let go.” We'll see how that works for me.

                          Thanks for stopping by Inarukundo and feel free to write me to share your thoughts. Come join me on the dance floor of life. If anyone can get you up and out, it's me.  (Just ask my friends!) Life may not be “perfect” but we only get one chance, so we gotta do what we gotta do to live it to the fullest. 

                          Lots more to come...

                          xo,

                          Hope

                           

                           

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