Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Honesty: Such A Lonely Word These Days

Today is Honesty Day and as it is a Wednesday, we have an audio blog on the topic. Listen here.

TRANSCRIPT

"M. Hirsh Goldberg, former press secretary to a governor of Maryland and author of five books, created National Honesty Day in the early 1990s after spending four years researching and writing The Book of Lies (Morrow). This book has been translated into Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

Goldberg created this day, because he felt that the month of April, which begins with a big day of lying (April Fools Day), should end on a higher moral note."

I am fast coming to the conclusion that many people prefer liars.

Storytelling is my hobby, craft and may even be my sole livelihood one day. It, however, has not and will never be the means through which I endeavour to get a lover, a job or wealth.

The "stories" I tell or better said, "share," are those of my journey. Frankly, there are enough twists and turns in my life's plot thus far for me to embellish my sharing.

You would think the same is true of the man sitting or languishing in prison, or the woman whose car was repossessed and her house sold from under her to pay her debt.

Is it denial or some misguided understanding of the "positive thinking" philosophy when a person tries to convince another of their wealth while driving a taxi for a living?

No, I am not suggesting here that a Taxi driver cannot amass wealth, especially if they have great money management skills and investment advice. However, take the guy who tried to give me this story. He said that he owns a multimillion dollar property that he has rented and it brings in couple thousand US dollars per month.  Given his age and the overall state of the Jamaican economy in the last few years, and the fact that he was driving an unlicensed taxi, I asked him how did he come into this property.

The story that followed was so outrageous and thickly coated in fable, it was annoying. To top it off, this grown man was unable to put more than a few litres of gas in his car. He had invited me out and while I am hardly the type of woman who expects to be regaled at anyone's expense, my 'well to do' acquaintance could only buy a bottle of water - which he needed more than I did, as his throat was parched, for all the tales he was spinning.

Do people lie and pathologically so because there are so many who listen and unquestioningly accept their stories as true?

Personally, I have done so in the past. In my fear of losing a 'friendship', a relationship or even a job, I went along with the stories. Turned a blind eye, as the saying goes, to the misdeeds of those in authority, said nothing to contradict the fable being told by politicians and friends alike. Fear immobilized me and zipped my lips.

Then I swung to the other end of the pendulum. You know the saying, "brutually honest?" Well that is what I became. Sparing no words, I would tell you and you and you as it is. Calling anyone to the mat became my hobby...until I noticed a couple things.

It made no difference as people will do, say and be what they want, for as long as they wanted. That was the first thing. Secondly, I was the one being hurt and angered by the brutality of my honesty.

Mahatma Gandhi's famous words was my saving grace. "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." When that sunk all the way down into my heart, my silence and my brutual honesty ended.

Some think that I have lost my fire. Maybe I have.

I am no longer interested in debating the rightness or wrongness of anyone's behaviour or words. My interest lies solely in my own words from which my deeds flow.

Do I tell a lies, engage in dishonesty? Yes, it is a process - one that took me many years to learn so it will take some time and lots of practice to unlearn. In the time that honesty - full disclosure, complete truth telling and open communication became my hallmark, inner peace has been a constant companion.

Another thing that I have noticed is that those would be liars who come into my experience, attracted by the remnants of my own dishonest behaviour, are soon repelled. Their true colours are more easily spotted and I more quickly ask them to leave my space or I walk away.

Is truth telling an important factor in your decision to be in relationship with anyone? Are you a truth teller?

Share with me on our Facebook page or leave a comment here. We would love to connect with you on Twitter as well.

Continue to have a truth-filled day! Namaste


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Love: Thy Will Be Done

Claudette Esterine
"Thy will, not mine." Is that a 'prayer' you have uttered? If you have, is there a time or situation in which you do so the most?

In my case, this re-commitment prayer is usually invoked when things are Topsy-Turvy and I have too many choices to make. Really close friends will tell you never to ask me what I would like to eat when my sugar level has dropped. Bordering on delusional and hallucinatory, it could take me hours to answer that question. Just feed me whatever you think best - it is in your hands.

The same is true in those turning point moments. With many choices or possible roads to take, there are times when confusion sets in. For many years, my choice would be the one that makes "the other" happy; the one for the relationship; the one that earns me the most money or the choice in the interest of the child.

Fear has a way of urging you to choose against yourself.

Afraid of being alone, broke, with no friends or, worse yet no family, we tend to make choices that does not consider our own hearts. We choose loving others over ourselves. "I can do that later," is often the consolation we give our hearts.

Maybe
Image: godisheart.blogspot.com
you can but is that the most loving thing to do?

"You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don't know it, all of that doesn't even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It's not like you have forever, so don't waste any of your seconds, don't throw even one of your moments away."
C. JoyBell C.

Here is an irony: the greatest lesson in loving oneself was taught to me by my ex! I was told that I was being dumped as the pursuit of self was most important at the time.

It took me a couple suicide attempts, financial loss due to the breakup, several horrible dates and a disastrous marriage to a man with serious mental health issues I knew not of prior to tying the knot, for the lesson to sink in!

Finally I had enough! Tired of trying to make ends meet, living to suit others and ensure their safety and wellbeing and moving on fully from the memories of my greatest teacher of Love, I decided to give Me first shot at my heart.

Since then, I have stumbled, people have come into my experience with ulterior motives and so-called family who abandoned me for 30+ years reappeared heralding their love. Yet, I am managing to remain focussed, keeping my eyes as fixed as possible in the mirror.

Even as this is being written, another choice is before me. I heard myself muttering the words: "Thy Will be done, not mine." This time there is a difference.

I really do mean it!

Share your experience with me regarding your ability to unselfishly put you first. Sounds paradoxical in a world that teaches us self-sacrifice. However, as on an aircraft, if you don't put on the oxygen (love) mask first, you are of no use to anyone.

Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. You may also follow us on Twitter.

Continue to have a love-filled day!

Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Are You A Survivor or Do You Have the Will to Thrive?

Claudette Esterine
"Claudette, you are a warrior, just like Nanny!"

That is what one of my Sistahs and close friends remarked when I responded to her query about our collective wellbeing.

In itself, the word "warrior," might have some negative connotations. I have certainly been accused of having "warrior-like" tendencies in the past and in the most negative sense of the word.

This time, however, my friend's use of the word and in particular her reference to "Nanny" was a compliment - one that I have completely embraced since she uttered it. 


 Who was Nanny?


 "Nanny was born c. 1686 in Ghana, Western Africa, into the Ashanti tribe, and was brought to Jamaica as a slave. It is believed that some of her family members were involved in intertribal conflict and her village was captured. Nanny and several relatives were sold as slaves and sent to Jamaica. Upon arrival in Jamaica, Nanny was likely sold to a plantation in Saint Thomas Parish, just outside the Port Royal area. Such plantations grew sugarcane as the main crop, and the slaves toiled under extremely harsh conditions.

As a child, Nanny was influenced by other slave leaders and maroons. She and her "brothers", Accompong, Cudjoe, Johnny and Quao ran away from their plantation and hid in the Blue Mountains area of northern Saint Thomas Parish. While in hiding, they split up to organize more Maroon communities across Jamaica: ...Nanny and Quao founded communities in Portland. 

By 1720, Nanny and Quao had settled and controlled an area in the Blue Mountains. It was given the name Nanny Town, and consisted of the 500 acres (2.4 km²) of land granted to the runaway slaves. Nanny Town had a strategic location as it overlooked Stony River via a 900 foot (270 m) ridge making a surprise attack by the British practically impossible. The Maroons at Nanny Town also organized look-outs for such an attack as well as designated warriors who could be summoned by the sound of a horn called an Abeng.

Nanny was very adept at organizing plans to free slaves. For over 30 years, Nanny freed more than 800 slaves, and helped them to resettle in the Maroon community." Source: Wikipedia

Yes, I am of African descent and proudly so, however, most of my life was spent in cities and urban areas. City girl that I am, nonetheless, should you drop me off in a wooded area, after a few hours of crying, my instincts would kick in and I would find food or someone to feed me.

I am a survivor.

Umbrella Palm (Image: msucares.com)
Now I am learning how to thrive. Another Sistah and Guest Author, Dr. Janice Chang, said to me just this past week as well that we "have to bloom where we are planted." Looking over my life, one could call me an umbrella palm.  

"The umbrella palm, known botanically as Cyperus alternifolius, is native to Madagascar. It is related to the well-known papyrus once used to make paper." This beautiful palm thrives anywhere and in whatever condition you plant it.

My transplantation has taken me from Jamaica, across Europe (East and West), back to the many islands of the Caribbean and throughout North America. Single, married, long term relationship, separated, not sure and every other permeation of "coupledom" you can imagine, I have experienced it.

For every stop, on every pause and in every mating my thought was "this is the one." As Nanny did, I strategically placed myself and went to battle for my relationship, marriage or life to work, to be perfect or at least not worse than the Jones's.

Heart break after heart break, financial loss to ruin, business failure and complete collapse, only once did I really thought and made an effort to give up. The survivor in me always broke through and "found food," fuel for the next leg of the journey.

"With every choice you create the life you’ll live; with every decision you design it." Molli Marti

Two days from the start of May 2014 and I have decided it is time to thrive!

No longer mindful of what anyone thinks, with no desire for bling or even a white picket fence, Love has become my eyes and my compass. Hardly realistic you might think, especially for a woman who has been betrayed, robbed, cheated, wounded by this thing called love.

Listening to my teachers this morning, the response to the cynicism that is certain to meet this decision came. "See the world through the eyes of Source (Love)" and only that can be my experience.

Yes, I accept the name "Nanny," but only if it means that moving forward, this life is no longer about fighting against anything or anyone. Thriving is my way forward, living in the fullness of my "greatest responsibility [which] is to live a life that nourishes your highest truth." That is my "battle," the hill that I am prepared to die on - to thrive as I be and become the fullest expression of Love.

Are you ready to thrive? Share your thoughts with me here or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Do have a truth-filled rest of the day!

Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Why Prison Isn't Working For Women - Daughters of Sheba Weekly

It is Saturday, April 26 and thank you for reading DOS Weekly where we carefully select stories to meet the interest of women all over!

Stories such as “Why prison isn't working for women,” which is the highlight of this the fourteenth edition of our Weekly.

Other stories this week focus globally on education, gender equity issues and health, our regular travel and our leisure stories for women.

 For the rest of the weekend, connect with us through Facebook and Follow us at Twitter.  

Namaste

Friday, 25 April 2014

Going With The Flow - In Pictures

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." Lao Tzu 

I have lived a very tumultuous, interesting, mind boggling and too risky life for some. Yet, I would not exchange it for anyone else's journey.  "Go with the flow," is a concept that only in more recent years I have consciously allowed to have its way in my life.

Looking back, however, I am seeing that there are many moments that "the flow" swept me up, carried me downstream to my healing place.

Here are a few such moments. These pictures cover the period late 2006 - 2009, my recovery from attempted suicide after the 16-year love of my life walked out to the beginning of another mistake.

My daughter and I at our Citizenship Swearing in
We migrated to Canada in pursuit of freedom and happiness. Unfortunately, no one told us that that is to be found within. Four years into the hunt, my then partner decided to saddle up with someone else.

Blessing Our Meal
A large part of the reason why I do not discriminate against persons of other ethnic groups, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or those challenged by mental health issues is that these were the angels who supported me through the darkest hours of my life.

Dancer getting ready for the Pow wow
They brought me food, took me out, distracted and cared for me like family. We spent Christmas together and they watched over me like hawks. My Aboriginal friends embraced me and swept me up into their culture. Their spiritual practices and ceremonies became integral parts of my healing process.

A day at the lake
When Love was having her way with me and my friends thought it was time, they led me to the river bank and patiently waited until my shuddering stopped. They took my hand and guided me back into the water and gently pushed my boat downstream.

The Rocky Mountains from Banff
It was on this "cruise" that I met my next mate. Only time would reveal that it was too early. In the meanwhile, he helped me to explore my still fairly new home. Banff and Calgary, Alberta became my new hiding and healing places. I relaxed into my new identity as Canadian and Albertan.
View from Calgary Stampede
My new friend - a Clydesdale horse
Things would change in a few years. New corners to be taken, different bumps in the road and many of plot twists.

Yet, the one thing I would do differently was to go more easily with the flow. An unknown writer said, "Don’t over-think things. Go with the flow. See where it takes you. Love is unpredictable, you know."

As this chapter of my life is being written, each day that I open my eyes and see that I am still here, my prayer is for more Love to flow in and through me. That is the stream that I am cruising along. There will be pictures and this revolution will be digital! Namaste

Do share some pictures of your flow moments and adventures with us here, or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Parenting: Does It Really Takes A Village?

"Those helpless bindles of power and promise that come into our world show us our true selves---who we are, who we are not, who we wish to be" Hillary Clinton

Clara Brown
When the then First Lady, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, made reference to the African Proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" in the 1990's, the WOW effect immediately got turned up. Many parents in the United States and around the world seemed to hang on to every word of this age-old proverb.

Surprisingly so for me as this was the very concept I grew up with.

Growing up, my Mother requested every mother/woman in our small district to report any infraction committed by her children. Was this not the village raising us? Indeed it was, as no woman or mother failed to fulfill this request despite the hateful looks subtly sent their way or the muzzled hellos forced from our lips after any such report was made.

My mother, in turn, would scold children in our 'village' who, for example, might have been playing in the rain. Simultaneously, she would offer them shelter in the hopes of preventing them catching a cold and resulting in a doctor's bill. She cared for the village children in other ways as well. Suck-sucks, home-made popsicles, were always set aside for the district children whose parents could not afford to buy them. There were times when we would not be the recipients of these delights although we were dying of thirst. 

My Village: Gibraltar, Jamaica
"Of course, we need children.  Adults need children in their lives to listen and care for, to keep their imagination fresh and their hearts young and to make the future a reality for which they are willing to work" Margaret Mead

As I have shared in a previous post, my formative years were spent in a village environment where the 'villagers' not only embraced this concept but the complimentary one of being their brother's keepers.  It is a natural transition from being a child of the Village to being our brothers' keepers. 

So why did Hillary's parenting tips resonate with so many? 

Was it because there was the renewed call to care or because this concept was new to many? Could it have been that so many were previously caught up securing their own children's wellbeing while ignoring that of other children?

Teach a child to fish
Too often, the best interest of children is seemingly not on the  priority list, domestically or internationally.  This African Proverb teaches truth but in these times, the community is not always what it is supposed to be.  We would all like to think we live in a place where people care about others - where people pitch in to help when things get rough. We all want villages where it is safe to leave the doors unlocked and let the kids play around outside.  This, however, is not always what we experience.  

Instead of community, we find alienation. Looking for safety, we are attacked by crime. Hoping for a better life for our children, we encounter gangs or drugs. The result: People often retreat behind closed and double locked doors and try to ignore their neighbours.

Like it or not, we are living in an interdependent Universe where what our children experience through hearing, seeing, learning or even dreaming about will affect the man or woman they grow up to be.  In many ways, they are leading us away from our claustrophobic villages.  They are much stronger and smarter and with their online access to everything and everybody, their interconnectivity allows them access to villages without borders.  

Children are more than a promise, more than a possibility. They are a great level of potentiality and it does take a village to raise them.

"We cannot live for ourselves alone.  Our lives are connected by a thousand threads and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions are run as causes and return focus as results" Herman Melville

Are you a 'villager' or a prisoner behind the walls of your self-made prison, locking your children away from the world and barring your heart from the village kids?

Share your thoughts or any parenting advice you have for 'successfully' raising children in our emerging world. You may leave a comment here, on our Facebook page and/or follow us on Twitter.

 Clara Brown is an Insurance Executive and lives in St. Andrew,  Jamaica with her spouse and only child, Jared. She is one of our regular Guest Authors. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Take A Chance On You!

Claudette Esterine
Today's audio blog is all about taking chances. Have a listen.

Transcript:

I am a huge risk taker. No, I would not necessarily call myself daring nor would I go bungee jumping.

Climbing Mount Everest or the Fast and Furious type car racing is not for me, although I find Vin Diesel extremely sexy!

The mundane, low flying types of risks are more my cup of tea. Things such as heading off to Europe - Eastern (communists) Europe before my 18th birthday, travelling alone on a train from Kiev, Ukraine to London, England and back with a ton load of 'contraband jeans' and electronics to sell in order to have money to take care of my baby.

Opening a luxury retirement home, a maid service, falling in love with an African man and packing my bag to go there against the wise counsel of friends, singlehandedly filing immigration papers to Canada for my small family and I - these are some of the types of chances I have taken.

"An unexamined life is not worth living," said Socrates and mine has been totally scrutinized! I have loved, lost, loved again and lost big time but I will never stop taking chances.

What's the point of living if we lock ourselves in boxes constructed by the fears of others? My daughter is six months pregnant now and I know she might be wondering how the little Kitten is going to handle my stories!

The story of how at 11 years of age I was participating fully in the electoral system in Jamaica. Use your imaginations folks! Lol. What will she think, our Lia, when she hears of my affairs, the real love of my life who shattered my heart after 16 years, the man who betrayed my trust and almost landed me in hot waters after I left my promising career for our relationship.

What is baby girl going to say when she is old enough to be told that I decided to hell with high flying, corporate jobs; kissed my degrees goodbye and chose to life how I wanted - finally?

My hope is that she will say, "That's my Cou-Cou," at my funeral, "always taking a chance even when everyone though she couldn't get any crazier!"

C. Joybell C wrote: "In case you never get a second chance: don't be afraid!" "And what if you do get a second chance?" "You take it!"

Life has been so rich for me and getting more prosperous with every chance I have taken. Why would I stop now?

Are you taking a chance on yourself; that your life could be so much more fulfilling if only you were not afraid to take a chance?

Share your story here or on our Facebook page. We would most certainly love if you would follow us on Twitter.

Go out now and take a chance!

Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.



Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Let No Man Put Asunder

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." The Bible, Mark 10:9

Claudette Esterine
No such words were said 'over' my first husband and I before we were declared man and wife. Come to think of it, they WERE said by the minister as he sent my last husband and I off into marital bliss.

Yet, as my spiritual guides always remind me: "Words do not teach, only life experiences."

"Asunder," is a word that I have not only heard but experienced and what it taught me is that 'love' is not enough.

Divorce remains a profitable business for lawyers and counsellors in many countries, particularly those in North America and throughout the European Union. The Canadian Encyclopedia, for example, indicates that while marriage remains an important social institution in this country, the rate continue to decline. More and more people are either choosing not to marry and remain single or live 'common law'. The 2011 census revealed that the marriage rate dropped three percent over a 10 year period, with only 67% of Canadian families headed by (heterosexual) married couples.

"50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri." This information is courtesy of a website called Divorce Rate and you can check the statistics for several countries around the world there.

Image: quomodocomque.wordpress.com
My question therefore is, are we self-prophesying or is it just 'hard' to stay married or at least in a committed relationship?

On my way to a brainstorming session yesterday, a woman revealed to me that she and her husband were calling it quits after 23 years of marriage. She said that she was at peace with the decision, now that it has been made and it is all systems go in terms of dividing their joint property.

Her words took me back to my own experiences of dividing communal property. It is something I never want go through again in this life.

What I also have no desire to experience again is heartbreak. Listening to this lady, I was not sure if she would 'chance' loving again - in the romantic sense.

My girlfriends tell me I will. Truth be told, I have but one experience was such a betrayal of trust that it 'ruined' me for the second.

Maybe I will have a chance to speak with my new acquaintance and share with her the Rumi quote I came across early this morning. Dr. Janice Chang is the Rumi 'expert' among us but when this quote came up in my search result, its relevance was unmistakable:
"Love is the cure for, your pain will keep giving birth to more pain until your eyes constantly exhale love as effortlessly as your body yields its scent." Rumi
Getting married a second or even third time might work for some. It certainly did not for me. My experience of being "put asunder," time and time again has been disempowering, disruptive and destructive to my personhood and my heart.  Until my "eyes constantly exhale" and saw only Love, the pain kept having babies.

Finally I learnt and also know for sure that only when one's heart gives love without thought or concern for its return, that Love is the constant experience.

The lesson I am now learning, and I smiled last night seeing it being taught to my new acquaintance, is that Love comes through many channels. We often block the flow of Love to us by expecting it from a particular height, weight or even gendered person. Hence the numerous broken relationships as we are disappointed when the substance of the individual does not match form.

Will I marry again? No. 
Will I Love again? I never stopped once I got it.

What about you? Have you been married more than once? Are you still looking for love or are you now open to the experience of Love?

Share your thoughts with me here or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Have a great Earth Day and be Love.


Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Life After Death?

Claudette Esterine 
Standing on a footstool, I looked into his chest cavity for close to eight hours.

Those eight hours taught me that there is no death.

As far back as I can recall, death terrified me. In preschool, throughout my primary school and high school years the mere mention of the word "death," would cause my body to spasm.

My first acquaintance with death was in my 10th or so year when two people who were fairly well known to me met their "untimely" death. One was a boy of my age, and with whom I would romp the school grounds and the streets of our neighborhood - Pembroke Hall. He was crushed to death one evening by a truck going too fast through the community.

The second was a quite popular Rastafarian man, who was something of a jock and who loved to "dally" on his motorbike. Think we called him 'Bull' and one day, he zipped once too often between vehicles on the same drive where my school mate was killed.

Both 'men' died swiftly and their blood splattered and smeared Pembroke Hall Drive for weeks. Every day that I had to walk pass the spots, although revolted by the sight of the blood, I was nonetheless curious about their souls. My feet would linger long enough for my eyes to search for them in the shadows of the nearby trees. Folklore had it that they both had been seen there but I dared not go by at night.

I never saw them. Neither did I see the soul of the patient who had been wheeled in for a triple bypass.

My fear of death was being challenged by my residency as a hospital chaplain. If you know me, then you would understand that backing down from a 'challenge' is not what I do. When our supervisor instructed us to choose a topic to write a major reflection paper on - I decided to go in search of the soul.

It was the first time a resident-chaplain had elected to observe a surgery in this hospital. Maybe that explains the surgeon's decision to test my mettle. Little did he know that I would not back down or run out of the operating theatre screaming.

Had I known beforehand that my "observation" point was not from an enclosed glass viewing room overlooking the surgery, maybe I would have. When I arrived at the hospital's surgical ward just before 4:00a.m. and was led directly to the theatre area and was told to scrub in, my knees buckled.

Image: hollywoodanesthesia.com
"Scrub in? Why?"

The news that I was to actually be right beside the surgeon, his instruction, shocked but provoked my sense of adventure. The scrubbing in process in itself was exhilarating and quite technical, particularly for someone like me who eats over her computer - my operating table.

Patient X was wheeled in for what should have been a triple bypass, duration of which was anticipated to be between five to six hours. My guest supervisor, the surgeon, wanted to ensure that I had the full experience.  He must have been amused about my quest.

For eight hours, I watched as Patient X was anaesthetized, blood vessel removed from his leg, his chest opened, his heart removed and placed on ice while some was packed into his chest cavity. The surgeon and his assistants got to work repairing Patient X's heart, declaring that it was worse than they thought.

Image: news.discovery.com
I was moved from the foot of the surgical table to the side then my guest supervisor invited me to come stand on the footstool above Patient X's head, looking straight into his chest cavity. I did not back down.

Neither did I see his soul.

Eight hours later, heart returned to his body and the machinery that was pumping his blood switched off, my search for the soul ended as Patient X's heart took over its job.

Unable to sleep, I stayed awake for 24 more hours and wrote my reflection paper. Crying, no weeping, as I wrote, my conclusion was that there must be life after death OR that there really is no death.

Eight years, one failed marriage, career change, unemployment, near homelessness and one high risk relationship later and I now am convinced that Life and Death, Beginning and End are one.

I love what Meg Rosoff wrote about death, endings and beginnings:
"I am almost a hundred years old; waiting for the end, and thinking about the beginning. 
There are things I need to tell you, but would you listen if I told you how quickly time passes?
I know you are unable to imagine this.
Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved."

Do enjoy the rest of the day. Leave a comment here, or on our Facebook page sharing with us your thoughts on this topic. You may also follow us on Twitter.

Namaste


Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.




Thursday, 17 April 2014

Are You The Boss or A Servant Leader?

Claudette Esterine
My face was smooching the computer screen as I tried to get one more thing done.

Four hours had passed since my girlfriend and fellow author of this blog, Clara, had dropped me off at my client's house. This was to have been a two hour job but little of what I had asked to be pre-prepared was done.

The good thing is - I love being on electronic-communication devices, so the hours had melded into one without me realizing.

Even 'better', I really love helping and serving others, especially those who respect and honour me with their generous portion of unconditional love.

Image: smsuc.com
Servant leadership is a term that at first baffled me. I heard it for the first time as a member of a United Church of Canada congregation in Alberta. The minister is a lesbian, married to her partner of umpteen years and one of the best preachers I have listened to in my second country.

Her sexuality is important here only because of the understanding of "servant leadership." This was 13 years ago and Alberta's then Premier was dead set against passing the law permitting gay marriages. Imagine my confusion then, still bearing a rumbustious rebel inside of me, hearing this soft spoken woman talking about serving the community in love, peace and with a focus on unity. The same community that many would not support her undying love for her partner?!

Delving into "The Servant Leader" book by Ken Blanchard and attending a couple workshops, I soon got it. Since then, I have hardly looked back. Of course there are people and situations that neither servant or leader I have no desire to be. You might have misread if you thought I said I became Jesus.

Still striving towards a deeper "being" of a servant-leader, my operating understanding of the nomenclature is simply this:  "We have all been called to be foot-washers." R. Alan Woods

Image: silvesterthemessenger.blogspot.com
Jesus was the 'biggest' foot-washer in history. Mary of Bethany, according to the Gospel of John, also did a similar act when she anointed Jesus' feet and wiped it with her hair.

Claudette (moi) is more on the level of the "unknown woman, who was a sinner" and who in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, bathed Jesus' feet with her tears, anointed them and dried them with her hair.

Servant leadership, to me, embraces giving respect to others. How do I do that? Well Mollie Marti said it right: "The utmost form of respect is to give sincerely of your presence."

My client last night is not computer or Internet savvy. I could have gone in, done my two hours, collected my money and be out of there. Would I have served her? Would I have given her the "utmost form of respect?"

When you tell someone you will be there for them, that you are their friend, that you have their backs but you disappear when they need you; reappearing only when it is convenient for you - is that being "sincerely present?"

You know the answer. It is not.

Enter my home (heart) - whoever you are: stranger, lover, friend, Sistah or client and you really have "all of me."

It took me a few years to truly learn foot-washing and there is an art to it. You have to balance your service with a strong sense of knowing who you are. Without the latter, there is a high risk of being a footstool.
Image: lci.typepad.com

Today, Maundy Thursday, let us remember Jesus', Mary's and the "unknown woman's" act of servant-leadership. Get your wash bowl, your oil of Love and begin washing some feet - starting with your own.

Do have a peace-filled rest of the day. Please write to us here, or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Namaste

Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Best Stress Relief - Befriend It!

Claudette Esterine
Today is Stress Awareness Day and in our audio blog, I share with you the best advice to a stress less life! Listen here.

Transcript

Until I watched a Tedtalk video, by Kelly McGonigal, my tendency was to "struggle" with worry. What she suggested, based on scientific evidence, is that we make stress our friend.

What she says makes absolute since! I truly believe that thoughts create our experiences. I have also been a proud worrier for most of my life!

It has been my pride and pleasure to announce this "fact" - that I love to worry. Even as recent as last week, I had two occasions to promote my tight relationship with worry and stress - even after watching this video a couple times before.

One of my DOS Sistahs and her husband were going on a road trip. They live in the States and at the time of the conversation, I am in Jamaica. For whatever reason unbeknownst to me, I insisted that she called me when they reached back home, "Otherwise," I said "I'll worry."

Now, would you believe that she did not call me in the timeframe that I was expecting them back?! And I am sure you all guessed that I worried, posted my worry on Facebook and stayed awake for much of the night!

Later in the week, life brought me to a crossroad and I just wanted to dig a hole and bury myself!  I worried, cried, stressed and contemplated all the horrors that could happen and some that I could do! It was rough and certainly not pretty.

"By the grace of God go I," and it was most certainly grace that took the flipping shovel out of my hands and sat me down for a long chat.

"What have you learnt about anger?" She asked me.

Sobbing, I said, "To use it as fuel for my journey rather than make it a pit stop."

"Then why are you here busy burying yourself in despair?"

Change the way I view this worry was the fundamental point. It is the same one psychologist McGonigal made in her video. If we see worry as a friend, pointing us where we need to go and stimulating the necessary resources (oxytocin) in our body to seek help, then our experience will change. Instead of slowly killing ourselves, we could heal ourselves.

I am surrounded by angels. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and from all over the world. Some even come via the Internet - YouTube in this instance.

As Marcus Aurelius said, "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

Try revoking your stress today. Embrace anything that would worry you. Sit and have a chat with it rather than carry it around. Invite a couple other friends over to join the conversation and watch how quickly worry takes it leave.

Watch the video, test this out for yourselves and share your experiences with us here or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Have a fun day sending stress off!


Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Drunk In Love? Are You F... Kidding Me?

I hate love.

Sounds like a strong statement but hear me out, please.

I hate 'love'.

This past Sunday was a particularly rough day for me. It was the culmination of three days of emotional turmoil that all had to do with - love. People saying how much they love me but somehow not translated into life-enhancing gestures.

Certainly in the past, possibly up to my late 30's, I was the needy type. Saying you love me was tantamount to agreeing to give me a blood transfusion.  After the last big heartbreak that left me with what feels to me "a piece of a heart," I got the point.

Image: mimiandeunice.com
To truly and unconditionally love someone means being willing to let them go.

Yet, there has to be a spiritual bond, a mutual level of respect and regard, a high standard of honesty and an agreement that we are in relationship for as long as we are both growing.

This is true of my intimate relationships and friendships, the latter meaning people I would give my life for - and they are few.

So when I read this piece yesterday, it came to me that, "Yes, I hate love!"
"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? 
It makes you so vulnerable. 
It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. 
You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you.
Then one stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...
You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. 
They did something dumb one day, like smile at you on a beach, and then your life isn't your own anymore. 
Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. 
It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness.
So simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. 
It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. 
It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.
I hate love!" Unknown

This love thing hurts really bad and hard and long and you cry all night, your head hurts, your eyes are swollen shut from crying and you are just a goddam mess!

Image: funnyquotesaboutfriendsimages.com
I hate love too!

Then there is Love.

It does not ask a price or desires favours in return. Respect, trust, full unrequited disclosure are its hallmark. Talking about the Love that is birthed deep in your soul the instant you know who and whose you are.

In the past several years, I have fallen in love deeply - the crash and burn type of love described in the poem above. They were breathtaking, risky, crazy-making kind of love. Really just as how Jodi Picoult states it: "True love is felonious… You take someone’s breath away… You rob them of the ability to utter a single word… You steal a heart."

My experience has taught me that that is not Love.  This is an emotional tie, connection or in some case wanting of a particular human being. That "love" runs dry one day and for many it is usually too soon.

Personally, I am trading up. The doors of the cell that would lock away my stolen possession have been taken down. In fact, the prison has been converted to a sanctuary.

See, I am taking up residency with Love, created a home where all are welcome, no one is special, an all inclusive package. No "drunk in love" business will be entertained - not any more. There are plenty other places for such carryings on.

In my temple, this sanctuary, Love is royalty.

Whether you are a Sistah, a friend or a would be intimate sojourner, the Love that I believe in and share "doesn't grow on you, feed on you, drain you and spoil your heart. It nourishes, waters the soul and intensifies in absenses long and short." C. Nzingha Smith

I believe in a Power greater than myself and as I prayed this morning, my request was not for anything or anyone. My request was for Love, the kind that Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve describes as "inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have...[Love that] if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more [Love] you draw, the more abundant is its flow."

Are you in for this type of Love or are you still "drunk in love?" Share your love story with us here or on our Facebook page. You may also follow us at Twitter.

Stay sober for the rest of the day!

Claudette Esterine is the Founder of Daughters of Sheba Foundation and Editor of our blog. She is a Jamaican-Canadian and a Free Spirit.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Angel At The Prison Door

Janice Chang
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.” Rumi 

It was crunch-time and stomachs were churning.  The lunch-delivery menu options were offered to the three staffers and two consultants.  One of these new consultant-colleagues, KK, selected the “oxtail and beans” – my all-time favorite meal. Like a beam of light from another realm, I knew then and there that he was “good people.” We became instant friends.

“What draws friends together does not conform to laws of nature...
A hand shifts our birdcages around.
Some are brought closer. Some move apart." Rumi
At that time, my marriage was disintegrating in spectacular blow-out fashion. Concurrently, my spiritual life was burgeoning upward from the “low-level spirituality” to which I had accustomed myself. There was an almost unquenchable thirst for God.  
Image: whirlingdervishes.org
KK gave me a book of Rumi poems, the Sufi mystic poet and I were entranced.  Rumi’s poems gave voice to my new spirituality, my new thirst and my new feelings about God, despite the fact that my path was Christian and Rumi’s was Islamic.  “Lovers” is what Rumi called those who have these life-enhancing yearnings for spiritual matters. 

Work was increasingly stress-filled and negative.  I prayed for insight into why I was in that place. The Inner Voice answered and stunned me: “For Judy” – my new (then) but now life-long friend.  

I was there for her. 

The reason only became apparent many years later as our friendship flourished.  It was delayed as tragedy struck. My father died suddenly.  I was devastated and had never before felt such emotional pain.  Facing our mortality with the death of a loved one, we recognize that life is too short to be unhappy. So I resigned from the job and the inexorable death of my marriage progressed.  

It was then I decided to leave my children in the care of their father upon our separation and relocated to another Caribbean island.  I was dying inside. I managed to hold it together on my new job, pushing myself through the days but my nights alone were hard.  Then my former colleague (my oxtail-loving friend, KK) took the lead and became my strength and sustenance when he told me that he “had my back."
Image: thisgirlcanhelpit.com
In many religions, angels are depicted as benevolent “celestial” beings who act as intermediaries between Heaven and Earth, or as guardian spirits or a guiding influence.  Other roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out God's tasks.
How did he know to call at that particular moment when the tears were overwhelming me and my heart was breaking into pieces?  How would he know that his affirmations of my worth as a person meant so much to my battered self-esteem? How could his seemingly simple questions lead me to explore the deeper meaning of my situation?  Statements and questions like:

  • "Don’t feel too bad about feeling bad – embrace your mood whatever it is” and “Use your journal as signposts to reflect what is going on in your soul."
  • Don’t let anyone take your dreams away.  They may not unfold as envisioned, but when you stop dreaming, your soul begins to die and it’s a slow excruciating death”
  • “If you feel separated from God, then who moved?”
Then almost a year later, I read an article by a Jewish Rabbi Marc Gellman, based on a Genesis 37:15 question “What are you seeking?” He interpreted the question as “what are you looking for in life," and showed how the man who asked that question and who re-directed Joseph had played a pivotal role in history.  

With that question, Joseph located his brothers, setting off a course of events that saw him being sold into slavery, later elevated to working for the king of Egypt and culminating in him saving the Israelites during the great famine.  If this “man” had not been there at that time, Joseph would not have found his brothers and would have returned home. The history would have been so different.


Rabbi Gellman concluded that this was not just a man but an “angel” who provided direction, a messenger who delivered a much-needed message and, when the job was done, the cameo appearance in a life ended. 

That was what my oxtail-loving friend KK was and is to me, “my angel," when direction was needed. KK’s presence in my life was not by chance. He guided me to my healing; he was at my prison door, he showed me the way to the pasture and my calling. It was now my turn to be there for someone else - "For Judy."

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along." Rumi
Have you met an angel, someone who directed you to a point in your destiny? When did you recognize who you had encountered? Did you exit your prison door? Share your story with us by posting a comment here or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Be blessed and remember to "show hospitality to strangers as you might be entertaining angels."

Janice Chang is a medical doctor and lives in Michigan with her husband.