Spirituality & Life

My Offline Escapades: Vol I

For the month of January, I went on digital sabbatical with the intentions to reconnect, rediscover and redefine my purposes here at Convivial Society (soon to be renamed and relaunched as The Convivial Woman end of February).

So, January has come and gone and I’ve returned on this fine, icy, cold day in February. Yes, me, Cheryl Chavarria A.K.A. The Convivial Woman is saying Bye Bye sabbatical, Hello writing again.

Wow! January was intense and unforgettable for me. Please tell me you’re all goo goo gaga about my return, because this is a big deal for me! I was beginning to feel pent up like a genie in a bottle. Being offline and in a sense out of touch was starting to wear on me…shall I dare talk about how moody and out of my comfort zone I felt toward the end?

Where to begin, ya’ll?

There are various experiences to share about my offline escapades, so get ready for (more…)



For the month of January and to kick off the new year, I’m going into full immersion mode and taking a sabbatical.

As I’ve written throughout 2010 and pondered the idea of a Convivial Society, I have decided that to create and experience such a place, you have to start with the very element that sets its foundation, that gives root to the possibility of its creation and existence, and that is the woman…a convivial woman. For this reason…

I’ve decided to rebrand by changing the name of the site from Convivial Society to… (more…)


A Convivial Little Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas and all was aglow with the love and light that shined in my heart. It was the first time I was hosting a holiday dinner for my family.

We had the option to spend Christmas in colorful, colonial San Miguel de Allende or the cow tipping mini-country of Odessa,Texas (yeehaw!) where all our relatives would congregate, but we decided to pass on the big holiday gatherings and stay home to bask in the joy and company of just the four of us.

White candles burned brightly throughout my home and it was beginning to smell a lot like… (more…)


The Seed is Planted

Tomorrow, my guest post for The Shed Project will appear on Bindu Wiles site, as well as here, so I thought it would be ideal to share this photo I snapped of one of my journal inscriptions in 2004- the year I made the decision to pursue a feeling of bliss and let myself go where my heart led me.

The piece I am sharing for The Shed Project will elaborate MUCH MORE and share the full story with you, but I simply wanted you to see where the seed was planted. The story on Bindu’s site is the full-fledged blossoming of what happened when I let myself go…


Guest Post by One of My All-Time Favorite Friends

Is it time for you to go from What Happened? to What’s Next?
I’d like to share these words of wisdom one of my all-time best friends, Juan Carlos Bernal recently shared with me.

Carlos (as I know him) has been very encouraging and supportive of my efforts and message at Convivial Society and I couldn’t be more grateful to have someone like him in my corner.

It’s certain that neither him nor I ever imagined he’d be making an appearance here since my site targets women and he’s a MAN MAN, but his words struck me as being pretty powerful and I felt it would be selfish on my part to keep them all to myself. I’m sure we can all benefit from some tough talk and love every now and then, so with his permission, here they are…


Mantra: What’s Your Thought Form?

I have this humongous Synonym Finder that I’ve had since my sophomore year in High School and keep handy, because looking up words and all the many different ways to say things fascinates me. The next best thing to that is Google, Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster online. I also love the book Sin and Syntax, and perusing books by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. (Feel free to share you favorite resources in a comment!).

So, I found myself hanging out on my bed with my friends, Synonym Finder, Laptop and my All Things Convivial notebook and I started thinking about the word Mantra. The following post evolved because of that thought…

MANTRA: is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of “creating transformation”; a translation of the human will or desire; an expression of “Being”; “Thought forms.”

Here are my thoughts in word, sound and symbol form (as well as a brief history behind how they came about for me):

Word: Convivial

The year is 2001 and ‘m watching Barbara Walters interview the cast of the movie, Ocean’s Eleven. Leading lady, Julia Roberts is surrounded by Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Don Cheadle. Along these lines, Barbara asks her, “So how was your experience making the movie with all these great guys?” Julia purses her lips as we all know her to do and says, “Convivial.” Like a gust of wind to the depths of my soul, I was overtaken by the sound of this word. Never forgot it. As you can tell.

Mantra: Know Your Power. Live Your Life.

Sitting in my kitchen with my dear friend, Nina thinking of a tag line for my soon-to-be site, Convivial Society. What do I want to say? What is my message? Those were the questions to kick off our brainstorming session. Nina wrote while I threw out words and phrases, scratching this and that off the list…then…it hit me…and she smiled and wrote it down. That was it. No doubt about it.


While working to create the logo for this site, I provided these details to the designer for logo creation:

Need a logo designed for woman’s website that will focus on empowering and connecting women in age group 20-40’s who want to learn from and share their experience with like-minded women who are ambitious, original, caring, energetic, positive, fun-loving, and seeking the guidance,resources and relationships to live a convivial life.

(Wanted designer to get a feel for me, since I am my target market, so I said the following…)

Intuitive, insightful, thoughtful, lover of the written word, creative, writer, diligent, vigilant, persevering spirit, embrace strength, humility and vulnerability ; love the words equanimity, rhapsody, sexuality, harmony, bossy…and lovely.

Convivial times, indeed.

When you imagine your thoughts in “form”. What do they look like? Sound like? Feel like?


Create. Embrace. Enjoy. Space.

On September 14th, Bindu Wiles launched The Shed Project, 8 Weeks of Losing It / An Adventure in Letting Go. Here is a woman who has created a space for anyone to join her in shedding anything from material possessions to love handles to burdening thought patterns. What an adventure to embark on!

I am someone who has usually found some ease in letting go- I repeat, some ease, because somehow I knew and felt there was something or someone on the other side, reaching for my hand, patiently waiting for me to grab onto it.

Space…it’s something I’ve always been very comfortable with and enjoyed. The first time I recall my ability to let go of what was to embrace what would be was the summer of ’93 when my friends and neighbors in Chicago, The Delira family, announced they would move back to their hometown of Aguascalientes in Mexico. I was about to lose five friends all at the same time.

They were my everyday go-to crowd. Our time together consisted of making cotton candy while dancing to Madonna’s Like A Virgin song, creating fake money out of grocery store ads when our monopoly money ran out from long intervals of playing, reenacting entire movie scenes from Mermaids (I played Winona Ryder), rollerblading through Lincoln Park to Chicago’s Boardwalk and back, and cruising the streets of Chicago singing Cathy Dennis’ song, Too Many Walls. We thought the world was all ours and it truly was in every one of those moments.

When they said they were moving away, I don’t remember taking the news hard. I simply accepted the direction life was taking us. When they left, I remember being alone. Still…I managed my way through it all. I knew I would see them again…someday and trusted the time and new space that surrounded me would bring me comfort and new people and experiences would enter my life. Eventually, they did and a new phase of life began.

In 1995, it was my family’s turn to pack up. I’d been away for nearly 6 weeks during my summer break working at a camp in Orr, Minnesota when I got a call from my mother letting me know as soon as I returned, our family would plan to move back to Texas. I had grown up in Chicago’s inner city, spent the most crucial years of my upbringing there, years that shaped me as a person, was almost finished with high school, and had all of my friends there, but the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Can we PLEASE go to Austin?” I was ready to go. It was just my nature to accept and embrace the new.

I’ll always remember one of my last nights before moving. I was with two close friends and we were huddled together, arm in arm, swaying back and forth listening to Boyz II Men’s song It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye. We were being overly dramatic and trying to make ourselves cry but we laughed more than anything. I thought I would really start crying or feel depressed when it was time to go, but it didn’t happen. I was ready to move forward and it didn’t mean that I didn’t care enough for my friends. I trusted the friendships would survive the change and that I would do my part to nurture them. Fifteen years later, they are still in my life and we’re as close as can be. One of them even served as my labor coach when I had my first son. She saw my vagina and e’erthing. Yup, she’s still my friend.

Shedding a new skin is hard to do, but I’m always reassured that taking this action is necessary and good for me. It’s another way of expressing my personal evolution and there’s no need to fear what results from it. So, I continue the ritual today with The Shed Project.

It’s a regular habit of mine to get rid of stuff around my house, thus making way for new things to enter, but after reading The Law of The Ugly Chair by Danielle LaPorte, I am reminded to be even more conscious of what I consider sacred to me and give it the space it deserves.

I’m thrilled that Bindu has asked me to guest write a post for The Shed Project and can’t wait to share it with you all so when the post is up, I’ll definitely let you know! My hope is to inspire you to embark on your own journey of shedding your skin for one that better suits your spirit. If you’re intrigued to learn more or ready to join the shedventure, check out Bindu’s launch video and sign up!


Giving Into Reverie

Staring out the window that overlooks my garden, I see the trees rustling in the wind and soon find myself in a state of instant reverie. A stream of thought flows through, causing me to recollect on various experiences in my life when I’ve felt disappointed in myself and in others.

For the most part, when I wasn’t happy, I walked away, but there have been many instances when I stuck around, tried to pull me and the other person through a tough or awkward time with the hopes that something could change, that I could help in some way, that I could understand my experience better.

Just when I thought my stream of consciousness was coming to an end, this message came through to me:

When you finally learn to listen to your heart and follow its lead, everything changes within you and around you.

I was so compelled by the sound of these words that I had to share them. I thought about the many ways to apply this truth: receiving new people into my life, overcoming negative thought patterns, facing my fears, taking on new challenges, leaving behind less than favorable circumstances and sometimes people contributing to those circumstances, forgiving myself and others for lack of wisdom in trying times, and oh so many more.

Letting my heart lead me in action means I am no longer a slave to my thoughts about a particular situation, person, experience and when I am no longer enslaved by thought, then my ego is dead and no harm or hurt can come or be done.

I’m not the first or the last person to experience toxicity of the mind, body and spirit, but I know I can minimize it by taking the time and action needed to release it…to be released.

Learning to distinguish between experiences that matter and ones that don’t can be a constant and conscious life practice.
Being a follower of the heart can cure so much, perhaps almost anything.
The definitive results are love and that’s all anyone or anything needs, right?

If your heart moves you to do something, do it.

If your heart tells you to let go, let go.

If your heart wants you to walk away, walk away.

Opportunity abounds when it comes to finding peace in your heart and letting yourself live out loud. When you find a message speaking to you, give it the attention it deserves because you deserve it. When you do that, ohh the places you’ll go…the people you’ll know.

Surrender is not only a beautiful word, but just as beautiful an experience.


Permission to be a Woman

Over the weekend, I went to a family gathering and met a couple and their daughter for the first time. While sitting at the table conversing, their 8-year-old little girl came from upstairs to tell her parents the other girls she was playing with were not being nice to her, saying things like they didn’t want to be her friend anymore and then she began crying when she said one of the girls had slapped her. Errr! Put the needle back on the record!

I was sitting next to the mother hearing bits and pieces of the discussion and what really threw me overboard was when the girl’s father, who seemed uncomfortable with her crying, asked her, “Well, did it hurt?” I thought, “What?!” Was he insinuating, “If it didn’t hurt enough or leave a mark on you, then hush up and take it like a man.” Was this his idea of tough love? I didn’t hear if the mother said anything about the slap, but that comment didn’t sound good to me. I don’t believe they didn’t care about their daughter, but it didn’t appear that they took her negative experience seriously.

I’m reminded of a friend who shared with me and a few others how she cries too easily and feels weak when it happens in front of her kids and husband, but she says she can’t help it, it’s just how she is. Another friend sitting next to her said, “Oh, that makes me feel so much better, because I am the SAME way! I cry so easily too and hate it.” That same friend brought up crying on another occasion and asked me, “When was the last time you cried?” I went blank. You see, I have trouble crying. I feel the emotions building up within me and wanting to burst out like a volcano, but throughout my life, I had experiences like the 8-year-old little girl and learned to tame my emotions to a flaw. It’s even affected me when it comes to showing excitement at times. I feel this blockage. I base my reaction on logic versus emotion in most instances.

When I heard Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues once say, “We are emotional creatures,” I was relieved beyond belief. It was the first time someone had validated my nature. Somewhere along the way, I became a victim to the myriad messages I heard in times of extreme vulnerability telling me to be strong, tough it out, to save it for later, hold it in, don’t start, not now, I don’t want to hear it, suck it up, and the times my tears were questioned. I was being questioned for just being…a girl.

Here’s what Eve Ensler thinks about being a girl:

I think the whole world essentially has been brought up NOT to be a girl. To be a boy really means NOT to be a girl. To be a man means NOT to be a girl. To be a woman means NOT to be a girl. To be strong means NOT to be a girl. To be a leader means NOT to be a girl. I actually think that being a girl is so powerful that we’ve had to train everyone NOT to be that.

We come into this world crying; it’s how the doctor stimulates us to confirm that we are alive. But once we leave, we are encouraged for the rest of our lives to repress our tears, our emotions, hence our very nature. Being an emotional creature is the very essence of being a woman. I would be a man otherwise! I’ll admit that I have been much more in touch with my masculine side than my feminine side for a long time. It’s a form of self-preservation and protection and has served me well, but I am trying to find balance and embrace the more vulnerable aspects of myself.

Thankfully, becoming a mother to two boys has helped me release my tears easier. It happens at unexpected moments, like when my oldest took a ride on his first bike and called out to everyone standing watch to see what he was doing. I was filled with such joy that the tears just flowed and felt good. My husband is a wonderful example of an emotional creature who happens to be a man.:) Tears flowed from his eyes before he could get the words out of his mouth the day he said he was in love with me. I remember wiping all the tears from his cheeks. I can’t help to think life paired us together for a good reason. I wouldn’t doubt it. There are so many opportunities to learn a new way to be, to reverse the blocked pathways in my memory so pure emotions can flow once again. And I’m open…open to them all. I admire tears and vulnerability and humility. I want to experience it all with abandon myself. I want to make it a life long practice.

Quote taken from Eve Ensler’s Embrace Your Inner Girl talk on Ted.com.


Freewriting Episode 1: Life Coaching Escapades

As of July 8th, I began work with life coach, Lisa Carmen of the site SacredSexyU.com. I don’t believe Lisa has crossed my path by accident. The day her and I met, she asked me some unexpected questions that tapped into my psyche and caused a commotion of emotions within me. It was then that I knew she had a gift and I needed it. People always talk talk talk about what they need to change, but don’t take any action to do so. Well, I’m people and I want to change, so I let Lisa know I was interested in her work. That can go either way, depending on how full of shit I am. She wrote me back an email that was full of excitement and anticipation and said, “I would LOVE to work with you! When?”

Ooh…specifics…getting to the nitty gritty…a concrete commitment. I could have chickened out and made up tons of excuses, but something in me reached out to her and something else in me said the time to woman up and take action was upon me, as in NOW. I want to get down to the bottom of why I do certain things I do and I want to improve on what I think is hindering me from being 100% convivial. So just as the day I lost my virginity went, I said, “Let’s do this!” Proof, that even today, I’m still trying to experience my nature. Life coaching with a burlesque dancer is the latest way for me to go about it. I want to share this whole experience, be as open about it as I can (and let me say, that is not an easy for me) but the time has come. This is where I’m at right now in the journey, so bear with me if it’s not all complete or the thoughts don’t seem organized.

Lisa’s asking me some challenging questions (this is a great thing!) and I’m feeling lots of emotions swirl around within me and it can feel frustrating when I don’t know why I am feeling a certain way – like all this impatience I have been experiencing this week, but I know it’s all a work in process like me. I’m going to get to the point of change I seek. I know it. The coaching will last for 3 months which breaks down to two personal sessions a month, and in between we’ll spend time online or on the phone talking about what’s happening with me as I work through some unfavorable idiosyncrasies I’m known for, don’t really understand myself, and want to overcome.

Here’s one peculiarity I’m calling out from the shadows: My discomfort with being celebrated. This is not ironic timing since my birthday is in one month. Can you believe it? Me, The Convivial Woman, feels funny about being celebrated. Haha funny joke there. No, really. I feel strange being the center of attention.

I recently saw New Moon and in the beginning, Bella receives an unwrapped gift from her father and is getting occasional birthday wishes from her friends at school and she’s trying to quiet them and go incognito as the birthday girl. Edward finally asks her, “Why don’t you want people to know it’s your birthday?” She says, “I don’t like to be celebrated.” Bam! That resonated deep within me. But is it true? No, not at all. But what I’m trying to figure out is if it’s an insecurity or a personality trait of mine or perhaps thoughts related to a negative experience from my childhood that I just need to overcome. If my ego wants to have a say in the matter, it’ll deny any insecurity and continue playing the tough girl role, but I’m trying to really get down to the bottom of this sentiment.

You see, birthday’s deal with me being the center of attention, in the spotlight, all eyes on me. That day is all about me, me, me, me. It’s my day and as a woman, well, I’ve heard the message plenty of times that it’s not suppose to be all about me; I’m suppose to be concerned with others, what they think of me, how they see me, feel around me, be nice when others aren’t so nice. I’m definitely thinking that growing up in a religion my parents chose for me which didn’t allow us to celebrate birthdays plays a role. I couldn’t even tell you what the reasoning was behind that form of deprivation, because even at 7 years old when we first converted, my little girl mind couldn’t understand how God would be pleased with me if I ignored the day I was born, the day I came into this world to share my gifts. News flash! I’m not in that religion anymore nor religious for that matter. Can you blame me?! I’m not into playing that game of my god against your god, my god is better than your god. What I learned is true is this: Religion divides / Spirituality unites. I’d rather be united.

Let me tell you about this one time when I was 8 years old and my family was the newbie family to Chicago. I had a friend, Diana down the street who was going to have an afterschool birthday cake in her honor. Nothing major, real nonchalant and low key the celebration. I wanted to go! Why? Because she was my friend and I was invited! So I braved the potential rejection and asked my mother if I could attend and sure as night and day, she said, “You know we don’t celebrate birthdays because it’s against our religion.” I was persistent and thought of a compromise to see if I could get what I wanted and said, “Oh mom, please please can I go? I promise I won’t sing Happy Birthday to her!” Cleverly, I thought, if I could convince my mom that I was being obedient to God by not truly participating, but still being there, I wasn’t sinning.

Tell me you’re mouth is gaping wide open from the shock of such a crazy story! It still boggles my mind how people can think they’re doing right by their kids and what they’re really doing is teaching them to withdraw from life, because there’s another world post-death that we should prepare for. Forget living in this world right now! That IS what happened to me a lot- I withdraw from life, because I wasn’t enough of a fighter, because girls aren’t encouraged to fight. Or they’re not suppose to, right? For the record, my mother and father aren’t in that religion any longer and those experiences are the butt of all my family jokes. Vengeance is mine! My mother regrets what she calls her naivete combined with her desire to save her children from the perils of hell (my translation: from the joys of truly living).

Anyway, I’m all over the place mentally these days and can’t process all of what’s floating around in my head, but I can say that this life coaching experience is the beginning to so much more for me. It’s going to really get me past some weird stuff that’s been causing me to hold back all these years, I’ve already taken on three new challenges and the whole purpose is to really know and therefore act on the power that lives within me. FYI: This was suppose to be a little snippet of my experience thus far, but it looks like there’s a storm of change brewing and I couldn’t stop typing! It’s all good.

CHALLENGE and CHANGE go hand in hand. What are some of the challenges you’re facing? What actions are you taking to overcome them?


You’re already in your proper place

I had a meeting of the minds that caused a stir in my soul. The thoughts and realizations I took home that evening have me brewing with possibility and wonder.

I met with Lisa Carmen, a Burlesque dancer and choreographer in Dallas and the creator of the site SacredSexyU. Lisa and I have been soul friend’s long before we met, so when it came time to mix the physical with our mental as was done over mojitos and micheladas, it got emotional. Alcohol was not a factor! There was a lot of smiling, giggling, and convivial mingling just as women do best, but what really went down was the experience of a full circle effect for me, the beauty of synchronicity, two apparent strangers going beyond the surface, and Lisa and I bowing to the universe for conspiring in favor of our new friendship.

Meeting Lisa was like reuniting with a long lost love. I was thrilled to be in her presence and humbled to know she was just as excited to be in mine. I felt honored to receive her love and challenged by her adoration, because it holds me accountable to my heart’s desire and calls me out and onto the stage I’ve created for myself.

Being the star of the show is not a role for which I ever auditioned…until now.

When there is potential for me to play the leading lady, (read: woman in charge, as we all want to be!) I swear the butterflies are on me like bees to honey, fluttering about my stomach. Just the idea of debuting Convivial Society (today known as The Convivial Woman) rocked my nervous system! I mean, how do you take something so private, like my writing, my art, something so intimate, spiritual and close to me, and make it public? You just do, because you know that it has to be shared for the world to benefit.

As an introvert, I have good reason to shy away from the limelight, to avoid the big crowds, but in meeting with Lisa, I realized that the light’s gotta shine on me at some point. The stage awaits. It’s simply a matter of when I’m willing (or pushed) to step forward and shine. Being the observer, the behind the scenes gal and feeling most fulfilled with one-on-one interactions has been the norm for me, yet my vision for Convivial Society is going to require me to come out from behind the turquoise curtain to take an occasional bow, cause some laughter, shed some tears, receive applause, glimpse a few yawns, hear potential boos and face numerous critics. It’s going to force me to stand firm in who I am and cause me to move forward anyway, because if I want to make any desire a reality, I have to accept the natural fear that comes with new endeavors and say, Fuck it. I lose nothing and gain everything. My life and the lives of those affected are richer for it.

Having great power is the reality of our existence, yet reality can be intimidating and scary.

There’s always going to be doubt lurking in the background, trying to convince me that I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know who I am or what I truly want, perhaps even that I don’t fully believe in myself. This is where my tribe enters the scene to help me combat the mind and push forward with the heart.

Instead of trying to become, I am trying to be…just be and by trusting, I learn more about my own power- what it feels like, looks like, sounds like, and oh what a beauty she is! The company I keep will test my commitment to further grow in my power and exercise it. The people we attract into our personal hemisphere are there to offer us what we need, especially when we aren’t aware of how much we need it. They should be someone we can open up to so that our vulnerable skin can be fully revealed and no room is left for judgment or disappointment.

As a High Priestess once said, people operating from their true strengths are generous as hell with their gifts and encourage you to operate just the same. You’ll have no other option but to be real, honest, and on your game, shining through as you do you. Take me by the hand…yes, we all want to be led, but there comes a point when it is time to lead.

Not sure how to go about it? Seek out your mentors, count on those friends who share the same vibe and worldview, and be willing to explore the questions that will cause you to sweat out your insecurities, render you completely vulnerable. I am better for the time I had with Lisa for now I know such people cross my path to reassure me that I am exactly where I need to be, doing what I am meant to do, already in my proper place.

Have you recently made any new friends who have caused a stirring in your soul or challenged you to be better than you were yesterday? Tell me your story in the comments below. I know I’m not the only one getting her blueberry mojito and bonding on!


Make the Given Effort

Ever feel like you’re in between two worlds with one foot ready to kick the next door down? It’s kinda like your own version of a Groundhog Day. Been there, felt that! But I haven’t bought the t-shirt yet. With all the angst and uncertainty surrounding this hot spot, it’s not exactly the best feeling nor ideal place to be, and as the stumbling-every-which-way humans that we are, we’re bound to book a few return trips. If you have yet to arrive, wherever your chosen destination, whatever your chosen vocation may be, what are you doing right now to get there? If you’re short on answers, forget worrying as much about the how or the when and get to work finding the who and the what that will get you to the where. When headed for an unknown place, somewhere you’ve never been, didn’t expect to travel to, or never imagined going, its certain your emotional compass will go haywire, directions will seem contradicting just as the route may appear a tortuous one, but don’t worry, you’re not alone and you’ll make it through. We all share the same road, see the same signs, however if we pay close enough attention, we’ll interpret distinct messages that can lead us down our individual paths. Finding is about refining…you. So, give yourself that chance, that time and effort to get back to or better get to know you. Peel back those layers. Pull up that hair. Take a good look. Be impressed. Cry it out. Breathe her back to life. Then be amazed. Your experience is what you make it, so go ahead and wipe away the excess everything that means and brings nothing to the core of you. Purging brings forth the new, but in this case, shedding the current skin allows for the rebirth of your original self. With a spirit as fierce and limitless as yours, its never too late to put your will behind the wheel and steer it. Experience the place that is meant for you. Happiness isn’t an effort, it’s a given.

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