Monday, April 14, 2014

Forgiveness: It's What's for Dinner

People have to forgive. We don't have to like them, we don't have to be friends with them, we don't have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don't we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!  C. JoyBell C.

Now that the book is published, I have time to get back to my reflective practices. I notice that since I have not been practicing regularly, I am quick to become irritated by situations that would normally not bother me. I think it has something to do with the fact that I just poured my soul into a book that is now out there for the whole world to see. My sleeping and eating patterns have been erratic, and I have felt fatigued. My body has been aching, and I know that it is telling me to get back into my movement practices.

This morning, I woke up early, and the first thing I did was get on my yoga mat. I literally crawled onto it and collapsed. I just laid there. After about 10 minutes of reverse savasana, I pushed myself up into child's pose. It felt so good. I found the rhythm of my breath and let it relax me deeper into the pose. After about 15 deep breaths, I moved into cat/cow and stretched my spine. The pops and cracks seemed to be saying "thank you".  

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. As I slowly made my way through my sun salutations this morning, my body was forgiving me with every stretch and every breath. I began to feel better. I returned to savasana after my practice, and as I felt my body release into the mat, I smiled. I'm back.

My body forgives. After celebrating my birthday for an entire month last summer, I had a lot to ask my body to forgive.  I remember going for a run the day after my last birthday celebration. I had not run for over two weeks, and I thought it was going to be awful.  I thought I would be back at the starting point.  

I started down the street, and I noticed that my body felt OK. Actually, not just OK. I felt pretty good.  My feet felt light, and it didn't seem to take as much effort as I thought it would.  Before I knew it, my 1.5 mile run turned into 1.77 miles, and more importantly, I was enjoying it.  My body remembered how good it felt when I ran nearly every day, and it responded by forgiving me so that I could enjoy running again.

My heart forgives.  In my exploration of compassion, I have made conscious choices to forgive the emotional lashings that my heart has endured.  My practice of compassion started with myself.  I am my toughest critic, and I discovered through my mindfulness practices that I can be downright nasty to myself sometimes. 

I have been fortunate to experience blissful episodes of loving exchange. When those relationships ended, there was always a feeling of loss, and the question of what went wrong pops into my head. When I can step back and see the bigger picture, I realize that nothing went wrong. Everything happened just as it was supposed to. 
True forgiveness is when you can say, "Thank you for that experience.” ― Oprah Winfrey
We are meant to experience loss and heartache. That's what makes us human. That's what makes us all more similar than we are different. Everyone knows what heartache feels like. When that familiar ache starts in my chest, I whisper the words my meditation teacher taught me, "Darling, it's OK to feel sad. It's OK to feel loss. It's OK to grieve. That just means that the experience meant something to you. Remember, I love you." And then I forgive myself and move on. 

My mind wants to forgive. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I want my mind to forgive. This is where my mindfulness practices really come in handy. I am constantly in my head. Without regular yoga, Nia, or meditation, my thoughts can easily take over and make my life miserable. 

It's easy to say I forgive others for their words or actions that I take personally, but I know that it's not really they who have caused my suffering. I have chosen to take things personally, and therefore become angry or hurt. 

One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book was introduced to me in 2007 during my Nia White Belt Intensive. I have tried to actively incorporate the teachings of The Four Agreements into my practice and my daily life since then. 

Here are the Four Agreements, in a nutshell:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  
2. Don't Take Anything Personally:  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.  
3. Don't Make Assumptions:  Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.  
4. Always Do Your Best:  Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
I began my personal forgiveness practice on April 1st as a gift to myself. The practice consists of me sending a kind word to myself every time I prepare to eat my evening meal. I've decided to serve up compassion and forgiveness as the first course of every dinner. I do this for me. It's a silent practice that only takes a second. It's a reminder, a prayer, a mantra, a gift. No one knows that I'm doing it, until now anyway.
The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward." -- Steve Maraboli
Since incorporating this simple practice into my daily life, I have not been as hard on myself. I've found it easier to let go of the little annoyances that creep into my space. I let go of thoughts that are full of shoulds. I invite you to give this practice a try, and see what happens in your own life. 

Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at 

Buy your copy of Mindfulness On the Move here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

On the Rocks

A quiet moment on the rocks.

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
― Barry FinlayKilimanjaro and Beyond

It is no secret that I'm afraid of heights. I generally shy away from any activity that involves me being high in the air, with the exception of flying, of course. Somehow, when I'm sitting on a mountain at 7,000 feet elevation, I don't feel afraid. I feel grounded.

The majority of my sitting meditation practice now takes place outside. I enjoy hiking up the mountains to just the right spot to sit and look out on the world. Living in Arizona, I am surrounded by mountains. One of my favorite things to do in Tucson is drive up to Mount Lemmon and soak up all that silence. There's just something about sitting on these rocks that have existed for centuries that calms me instantly.  

There is a stillness way up on top of mountains that we don't experience on the ground. We are often so busy with our daily lives that we don't stop to just breathe and take in the view around us. We allow people and images to influence our thoughts and actions. We are busy. We have work to do, papers to file, shows to watch, and products to consume.

From the mountain top, the view is more like a painting. The land is laid out before me, and everything is still and small. There are no demands, only an invitation to sit and breathe and see. When I look out and see for miles, I realize that the world is a great big place, and I am just a tiny speck.

When I get too caught up in the whirlwind of work, home, and family stress, I know it's time to go to the mountain. I remind myself that I need to step back and get a bird's eye view of my world from time to time. Sometimes, the challenges in my life seem too big to handle, but when I'm on the rocks, everything is small, even my problems. 

Jason Elliott
Mount Lemmon, Tucson, AZ
My friend, Jason, is a rock climber. When he is not working, eating, or sleeping, he can be found on the side of a mountain. I understand the need to be in touch with the mountains and the serenity of the rocks, but climbing them never crossed my mind.
Jason tells me that he climbs the rocks because they are there. He says that climbing is "a metaphor for dealing with challenges in life. Each route presents a new set of problems to be overcome. Sometimes, you have to change your approach in order to make it to the top without falling."

Watching Jason climb, I realized that rock climbing is his meditation. It's like watching poetry in motion. It is a slow process, and every move is deliberate. He is completely in the present moment. Every hand placement and foot hold is pre-calculated. He balances his body and connects with his breath in order to advance up the mountain.

There is an active rock climbing community in Arizona. Most of the climbers I've met so far are, forgive me, down to earth. They have an easy-going demeanor and seem to have their stress under control. They come from many different backgrounds, but when a group of them get together, they exhibit a camaraderie that embraces everyone in the group, whether an experienced climber or a novice.

Logan Patrick

My friend, Logan started rock climbing in February 2013. He says he was "not immediately drawn to the sport, instead it slowly grew on me. I climbed for four months and then did not climb for almost three months. In August of 2013, I rediscovered climbing and found it in a much different light."
When he first started climbing, his motivation was exercise and spending time with friends. Logan says, "my current motivation for climbing is more existential. I am motivated by the ever present mental and physical challenge of climbing."

For Logan, rock climbing is a form of meditation. He explains, "when you are on the rock, you must be supremely focused and in tune with your body and the environment. Space in your head cannot be filled with other thoughts."

Logan is inspired by "anyone who is willing to follow their passion and try to be their ultimate best for selfless reasons. The biggest life lesson that I have ever been taught is that life goes on, and that you mustn't forget that there is always a rainbow.

Eric Fazio-Rhicard has been climbing since 1976. He is the author of Squeezing the Lemmon II...More Juice Than Ever: A Rock Climber's Guide to the Mt. Lemmon Highway.

Eric Fazio-Rhicard
Eric is a free climber which means he climbs "with or without a rope and using my hands and feet to ascend a cliff from bottom to top without hanging on the rope or pulling on anything but the holds the rock provides." 

Eric says that he is motivated to climb by the "physical and mental challenge of climbing the hardest routes for me that I can. Most of us have heard other athletes say that physical activities are mostly mental. I have found this to be true, and I love pushing to the edge of what I think I can do and finding out again that what my brain says I cannot do, my body does anyway."

Eric's most memorable climb was "solo climbing Devils Tower in north eastern Wyoming. I set off on a climb without a rope. I had never done it before so I was relying on the knowledge that I had climbed a lot of
much harder routes successfully to get me up this one. I was 300 feet off the ground feeling as solid as I would if I had a rope to protect me." 

"I reached a point I could not find holds to continue upward. For a minute I was calm and focused on finding the next hold. When I didn't find it the fear crept in and my right leg began to shake and I began to over grip the rock. This caused the lactic acid to build up in my arms and they began to fatigue. I began to get tunnel vision and my heart began to race, in desperation I looked around and found a large hold to my left which allowed me to easily get to safety and the top of the climb. Had the fear of dying overwhelmed me to the point I stopped searching for holds I would be dead. As a famous climber named John Bachar once said 'the fear of dying will kill you'." 

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.
-- Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks  

Eric says that climbing is a form of meditation in that "you must focus your mind on moving upward. You must also weigh the consequences of doing so and make a decision to go up or back down. You must keep your mind open to the options and the features of the cliff give you to ascend it. You cannot waste energy with internal discussions about the hand or footholds not being big enough. At times you have to just accept what you are 
touching and use it, even when you think you cannot possibly hold on to it."

While I am content to hike to a suitable lookout point on the mountain, I am in awe of people who seek to be on top of the world by literally climbing it. Climb on! 

Read more in the book Mindfulness On the Move.  Get your copy here!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Good Vibrations

"Sound can be used to assist you in relaxing, gaining physical power, and breathing deeper and fuller. Used effectively, it can assist your physical body in naturally and organically correcting and even eliminating imbalances that cause illness and pain. In a way, sound is magic."-- Debbie Rosas, The Nia Technique 

When people ask me what I studied in college, they are often surprised to find out that my degree is in hearing science. I have always been interested in sound and how it is processed in the brain. When I went to college at the age of 18, I had no idea what I wanted to study for the rest of my life, so I picked the major that most kids do: Psychology. 

I found the study of the brain fascinating, and my love of true crime and horror fiction seemed to fit in well with classes like Developmental and Abnormal Psychology. I was happy with my course work and decided that perhaps I would become a therapist. In order to fulfill a graduation requirement, I had to take a public speaking class. It is no secret that I used to be terrified to speak in front of more than three people at a time. 

I began to panic. I actually considered dropping out of school just to avoid the public speaking requirement. My advisor saw the fear in my eyes as soon as I walked into her office. She suggested I take the Introduction to Communication Sciences and Disorders class in lieu of the public speaking class. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, but it did not involve speaking in front of groups, so I registered immediately. I was grateful for the opportunity to continue my college education. I had no idea that it would put me on a completely different career path.

I was introduced to the study of speech and hearing, and after a few classes, I was hooked. I began to take more classes in this field and soon changed my major from Psychology to Communication Sciences and Disorders with a concentration in Audiology and a minor in Psychology. 

I continued to take psychology classes, but sound made more sense to me. I was more interested in my coursework in phonetics and sound processing. By the time I graduated, I could perform a hearing assessment, write a report explaining an audiogram in detail, make a proper recommendation for a hearing device, and take a hearing aid apart and put it back together again. Sometimes, just for fun, I still write my grocery list phonetically.

After graduation, I entered an apprenticeship with Miracle Ear, Inc. I studied alongside the Hearing Instrument Specialists, and after a few months, I passed my state license exam. Over the next four years, I helped nearly 200 people hear better. I worked for Miracle Ear and Beltone and my practice spanned the entire state of Virginia. 

I loved my work. I felt deep satisfaction when I turned on my client's hearing aids for the first time and watched their face light up as their silent world opened up to all the sounds they had not heard for so long. Because of my background, I was able to fit the majority of my clients with a mid-priced model hearing aid and work with them closely to tailor the sound for them. I instructed them to return to my office frequently for adjustments and check-ups as part of their aural rehabilitation. I was combining my knowledge of audiology with my psychology training, and I felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

I wasn't just selling hearing aids.  I was helping people reconnect with their loved ones and enjoy a richer experience of the world around them. Sound is a frequency, or vibration, that affects everyone and everything. Loud, sharp sounds can startle us and trigger emotional responses such as fear and anxiety. Low, smooth sounds can cause us to feel relaxed and calm. Sounds affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Certain vowel sounds correspond
with each of the chakras.
Sounds are processed by the Auditory Cortex located in the temporal lobe of the brain. Of course, we do not absorb sounds through our ears exclusively. Our entire bodies are meant to receive sounds. We are composed of mostly water, a fantastic conductor of sound. Our bones "hear" through vibration. Our skin and other organs receive and respond to sound vibrations, as do our energy centers, or chakras. To sense listening with the whole body, turn on a piece of music and sit upright with eyes closed.  Notice what sensations arise in the body.

"Deaf people sense vibration in the part of the brain that other people use for hearing – which helps explain how deaf musicians can sense music, and how deaf people can enjoy concerts and other musical events. These findings suggest that the experience deaf people have when ‘feeling’ music is similar to the experience other people have when hearing music. The perception of the musical vibrations by the deaf is likely every bit as real as the equivalent sounds, since they are ultimately processed in the same part of the brain"-- Dr. Dean Shibata, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Washington
In most yoga classes, it is typical for the class to be led in the chant of "Om", loosely translated to "all that is". Rather than one sound, it is a set of sounds ("au", "oh", "mm") that have a calming effect on the body. When chanted within a group, the sound vibration is meant to harmonize the group to promote a calming environment in which to practice yoga together. It's literally "setting the tone" for the class to make sure everyone is in the present moment and ready to experience the class.
"The human body is made up of electronic vibrations, with each atom and element of the body having its electronic unit of vibration necessary for the sustenance of that particular organism."--Edgar Cayce 
Mantras are sounds used in yoga or meditation on which to focus one's attention in an effort to reduce the tendency for the mind to wander. Different mantras have different effects on the body depending on the sounds or frequencies that are present. The sounds may or may not have any literal meaning, but the vibrations of the sounds can affect the body and promote healing, both physically and mentally.
"The universe is created through the medium of sound, and all sound, whether subtle or audible, issues from a transcendent, "soundless" source called the 'supreme sound' or 'supreme voice' (shabda-brahman or para-vac). The sounds of mantras are far more forceful than other sounds."--Richard Rosen Yoga Journal
Bryan Phillips
To understand the power of mantra in more detail, I turned to my friend, and colleague, Bryan Phillips. Bryan is a seasoned teacher of Tantra, Tibetan philosophy, and Buddhist meditation at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Lotus Song: Heart Pulse of Buddhist Tantra

Bryan has practiced traditional seated meditation for 25 years. This includes "calm abiding and insight meditations, narrative meditations and visualization practices for the manifestation of compassion and other beneficial qualities, and naked awareness practices based in the luminous nature of the mind."

According to Bryan, the compassion mantra, Om manipadme hum, is "entirely steeped in the Buddhist ethos of boundless altruism, so there is no Buddhist meditation practice that doesn't harmonize with toning the Lotus Song."

Bryan considers mantras to be "mind tools. They stimulate attunement to particular psychological viewpoints and reinforce the potency of those perspectives with palpable physical sensations. One great Indian sound healer described mantra practice as 'kneading' the internal conduits of both the subtle and gross anatomy. So to be clear, it's not just meditation practice in the sense of 'chilling' the stream of mental chatter; mantra meditation involves dynamic transformation!"

Bryan first became seriously interested in the "Lotus Song", or compassion mantra, in 1997, while he was teaching courses in Buddhist meditation at the University of Virginia. As he researched decades of Tibetan history, he came across several different kinds of texts containing philosophical expositions, meditation instructions, sacred biographies, and a celebration of the compassion mantra.

The six syllables of the compassion mantra served not only to reconnect Bryan with his original practice inspiration that led him to pursue Buddhist studies as a profession. He also found the Lotus Song to provide an opportunity for self-healing. He says, "There is an aspect of this particular practice that harmonizes and integrates a wide variety of Buddhist practices including mindfulness and concentration, the generation of a compassionate heart for oneself and others, the recovery of innate intelligence, and more."   

Bryan says, "The goals of mantra practice are physiological and psychological well-being: balance, harmony, integration, resilience. Profound visionary experiences are also not uncommon. If you talk to professional musicians, they can generally tell you that part of the play of music making occurs between knowing precisely when to contribute, and when not to. The spaces between are as much a part of music as the intentional sound tones. So when toning a mantra, it involves both the volition to re-sound it, and a concentrated surrender to attuning to its resonance and that experience. Not surprisingly, then, my current motivation to tone the Lotus Song is to allow the field of compassion this mantra generates to manifest itself--both through me, and through others who are interested in actively embodying a more compassionate energy in our world at this time."

Bryan's most memorable experience with the Lotus Song occurred when his research landed him in Bhutan.  There he "received a powerful blessing from the reincarnation of one of the key proponents of this practice lineage, and shortly thereafter was granted access to some of the original handwritten texts and sacred relics from the authors I was studying. What started as an academic investigation with personal curiosity quickly turned into an archetypal hero's quest. I know it sounds trite to say, but I couldn't help feeling like Indiana Jones!"

The Lotus Song:
 Heart Pulse of Buddhist Tantra
by Bryan Phillips
As with any mindfulness practice, there are times when life happens, and it may be difficult to focus or to maintain a regular practice. Bryan says, "At its foundational levels, practice moves along a continuum from bodily acts to speech acts to mental intentions. So unless the mind isn't present, there's never an opportunity not to practice. Of course there have been windows in my life where I haven't been able to maintain a daily practice the way I did prior to marriage and children, but I have never considered that my roles as a spouse and father preclude me from practicing insight, compassion, and patience whenever possible. I'm sure there are lots of people in town who have seen me in the car and assumed I was singing along to the radio, when in fact I was engaged in toning practice. I find toning while driving to be a great practice. You are sharing those positive intentions and vibrations all around town and wherever you go!"

I asked Bryan what's the biggest life lesson he's learned.  He answered, "For me the life lesson constellates around patience. Like the example I used before about musicians who have to know when to chime in and when to hold back, the lessons of my life always seem to be about when to abide (like 'the Dude'), living with what is, and when to dynamically create, or to use my agency as an active being to make a difference. We must be comfortable in stillness and solitude, and search diligently for our own unique redemption, and at the same time, we need to joyfully participate in the drama of our own particular time and location. Knowing which to do when is the great challenge."

In his book, Bryan includes a suggested playlist for anyone looking to add the Lotus Song to their mindfulness toolbox. He says, "it's of great value to hear the Lotus Song sung by others, and to hear some of the different styles in which it's performed. Part of the practice of mantra toning is discovering, over time and by experimentation, what version of resonation serves to best quicken your own path to wisdom and compassion. Start by tuning in to how others venerate it, then discover for yourself your own sonorous path."

Read more in the book Mindfulness On the Move.  Get your copy here!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Loving In the Moment

"If you love a flower, don't pick it up.
Because if you pick it up it dies, and it ceases to be what you love.
So if you love a flower, let it be. 
Love is not about possession.
Love is about appreciation."

I have been wrestling with myself over this post for weeks now.  Since it's close to Valentine's Day, I thought maybe this is the right time to tell a grand love story.

Most people who know me are aware that I was in a relationship for nearly 16 years with a wonderful man.  That relationship ended almost two years ago as a result of me using my mindfulness practices to make better choices for myself.  While I would describe that relationship as a loving partnership for the majority of our time together, it did lose its hold on me as I came to know myself better through my journey of self-discovery.  The more I became in tune with myself and my place in the Universe, the further apart we grew.  I became weary of being mocked for following my heart's path to yoga and meditation.  To the outside world, we looked like the perfect match: we didn't fight, we had shared interests, we gave each other space.  Too much space, maybe.  One day, I woke up and realized we were just two robots relying on our previous programming to complete the daily tasks we had been assigned.
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.  Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
When I finally made the choice to go out on my own for the first time in over a decade, I was terrified.  I didn't know how to be alone.  Or did I?  The truth was, I had felt alone in the relationship for most of the last 10 years.  So, I moved out of our house and into a tiny one-bedroom apartment that I adored.  For the next year, I would explore my newfound freedom as a single woman.  I was 35 years old.

Almost immediately after ending my long-term relationship, I found myself in a heated affair.  I was remaining unattached, so it was exciting and fun.  I gave myself permission to really be single.  While the affair was short-lived, it taught me that I did, in fact, have the ability to completely be myself with another person without fear of judgment, from myself.

Girl's Night
After the affair was over, I decided not to see anyone else for a while.  I had been in a relationship for so long, I had forgotten what it was like to even go on a date.  I needed time alone to get reacquainted with myself.  For the next six months, I filled my time with my work, my friends and my mindfulness practices.  During that time, I discovered I was done pretending.  I was finished pleasing everyone else.  It was time for me to find true happiness, for the sake of just being happy.

It was around this time I had made the decision to move to Tucson, AZ, and so my search for Mr. Right in Charlottesville, VA came to an end.  I figured that since I was going to be moving 2,400 miles away, there was no point in trying to find someone until I got settled in my new environment.  I focused my last two months in Charlottesville on simply having fun.  I became a tourist in my hometown, visiting as many of the local hot spots as I could.  I dove deeply into my meditation, yoga and Nia practices.

So, where is this grand love story I promised at the beginning of this post?  I had just returned to Charlottesville after visiting one of my out-of-town friends for a few days.  I was walking through an alley headed to my favorite lunch spot for a quick bite to eat.  That's when I ran into him.

He was a friend of mine I had known for about two years.  When we met, we were both in relationships, but as I later found out, we had been attracted to each other right from the moment we met.  We became friends, and for two years we kept our distance.  As I continued down the alley, I waved, and he came over to me.  He wrapped his arms around me and whispered in my ear "I'm single now."  I suddenly couldn't move or speak.  He grabbed my phone and put his number in it and instructed me to call him, and then he walked away.

I didn't call him.  I was planning to leave the state in less than a month.  It would be foolish to get involved with a man knowing that I only had a few weeks left in town, wouldn't it?  I let the possibilities float through my mind for a couple of days.  What if...

I snapped back to reality by returning to my yoga practice.  It was in a yoga class focusing on living in the moment that I suddenly became aware of the fact that I could be passing up a fantastic experience if I let it pass me by.  If mindfulness is all about being fully present in each moment, then why was I letting my thoughts and judgments get in the way?  I decided right then and there that I would call him the next day, only I didn't get the chance.

That night I took myself out, and as I was making my way down the downtown mall in Charlottesville, I ended up at one of my favorite local hangouts.  As soon as I walked in, I saw him sitting at the end of the bar waving to me.  The first thought that crossed my mind was, "Oh shit.  Here we go."

I joined him for a drink, and we talked until the bar closed.  Then we moved outside and talked for another hour.  And the rest, they say, is history.  Just kidding.  I promised a grand love story, and I will deliver one.
Holding hands in the park.
We decided to see each other over the next several weeks, knowing that I would be moving across the country.  We did not feel the need to define our arrangement or label our relationship.  We let it develop organically, moment by moment.  There was no need to attach to one another, only to enjoy our time together.  What resulted from this simple understanding was completely beautiful.

He was open to learning about mindfulness and practicing with me.  Because we were choosing to stay in the present moment, we were able to completely be ourselves.  We already knew how this was going to end, so there were no expectations, no plans, and no pressure.  This enabled us to ask and receive and enjoy each other completely and without judgment.  Because I was fully present, I can recall almost every moment I spent with him over the period of our month together in exquisite detail.  That's more than I can say for my nearly 16 year relationship, in which mindfulness was not practiced actively.

Quiet time in the park.
Early in our relationship, we spent a weekend in the mountains.  It was refreshing to be unplugged from the world with no agenda and no electronics.  We spent time reading, cooking, and naming the constellations on top of the mountain in the middle of the night.  We were bundled up in a blanket, eating popcorn, and staring up into the big night sky. We spent time in silence together, just being.

It was then that I knew I wanted him to make the trip across the country with me.  I was nervous about asking him, because we had only been seeing each other for two weeks.  We talked it over, and the next day I received a text: "Let's go to Tucson!"

Only once in your life you find someone who can completely turn your world around. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you.  Bob Marley

We only had a few weeks left together, and I was beginning to get used to being treated like a princess with all the home cooked meals, weekends in the country,  playing on swing sets, reading to each other, and snuggling by the fireplace.  I felt like I was in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

The Sunset Rose
But the story doesn't end there.  Driving across the country with him was one of the best experiences I've ever had.  One of my favorite memories from the trip was when we were chasing the sunset in Middle-of-Nowhere, Kansas.  We were both in awe of how beautiful the sky was, but we were not in a place where we could stop to admire it.  Eventually, we stopped for gas, and I was presented with a beautiful rose the color of the sunset – orange, yellow, red, and pink.

During our brief stay in Kansas City, MO, we got caught in a thunderstorm with some of the most amazing lightning I have ever seen.  We decided to seize the moment and dance in the rain. We danced on the sidewalk outside a club, and at one point I looked up, and the people inside were actually clapping for us.

In St. Louis, we stopped to frolic near the Gateway Arch.  We played in the grass and took the time to really appreciate the serene beauty of the park near the Arch.  I felt like a kid again as we ran barefoot through the grass.

At the Grand Canyon
One of my favorite memories of the road trip was at the Grand Canyon.  He had never been there before, and I was excited to share this special place with him.  We made it there just before sunset.  The Grand Canyon is the one place on this planet that completely stops me in my tracks. All the thoughts in my mind melt away, and I can hear the stillness there. I am so grateful to have shared that moment with him.  We walked along the edge of the Grand Canyon holding hands, stopping every so often to admire the wondrous beauty.  As the sun went down, we sat and watched the canyon change colors. He held me close and leaned over and kissed me. I asked him what that was for, and he said that it just felt right. And it did. 

So, how does the story end?  Just like we knew it would all along.  We have made the conscious decision to remain friends.  There were many beautiful moments along that journey, and I believe that my mindfulness practices have enabled me to recall them in such detail.  I have never been so completely present with another person in my life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.  Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

This experience has taught me to be patient and to recognize when I was slipping into my old patterns of attachment.  I had been accustomed to giving more of myself in past relationships, but this one taught me to give and receive equally.  It allowed me to let my guard down and be vulnerable.  I am truly grateful to have connected with another person in such a profound way.  Sometimes just being, while being next to someone else who is also just being, is one of the best things in life.

I am grateful to not only have permission to tell this story, but a blessing.  Thank you.So.Much.  xo

Read more in the book Mindfulness On the Move.  Get your copy here!