On Being Present

My mind has a habit of drifting, wandering, and I find myself carried away. Either into a warm, nostalgic memory, or some vision of the idealized distant future. I love teaching and practicing mindfulness with my clients, but I have to ask myself, how often am I utilizing this technique for my own self-care? During a short visit to the Carolinas this past week, I had an insightful conversation with my grandmother. She asked me a simple question: “are you satisfied with your life?”. A question that I’ve been hesitant to ask myself lately. Living so far away from my birthplace, I was infatuated with this brief homecoming, basking in past memories, taking in the golden, feathery sunsets and lush greenery, gazing up at the massive old trees, comparing it all to the scenery of my new home. As if I were trying to decide which landscape I prefer, which one feels more authentic, which one reflects where I need to “end up”, or “settle down”. Which is why this question seemed so daunting. Am I satisfied? Expending energy hazy with nostalgia or hyper-focused on future plans, will I ever be? Life never turns out quite the way we plan or imagine (although sometimes, it’s even better), and obsessing over that can be self-destructive. In my graduate program, we often discussed a phenomenon called Destination Addiction. It’s the unattainable idea that whenever a certain goal is reached, happiness will automatically follow. We also discussed the theory that we remember events in a better light than when we actually experienced the event. These cognitions are what can keep us disillusioned and distant from the present moment, from current, ongoing happiness. Practicing mindfulness (being present and nonjudgmental in the moment), appreciating the little things that make us feel at home, and focusing on the amazing aspects of everyday life, these are a few basic essentials for self-care and feeling satisfied. Sunsets are beautiful anywhere, but we have to be present in order to appreciate them.

How do you stay present?

San Diego

Well, I fell in love again… with San Diego. An incredible little getaway with breathtaking scenery, perfect weather, and amaaaazing food. Luke and I made an impromptu trip to the west coast for a long weekend. It’s the farthest west we’d ever ventured, and we got to experience it together. We splashed around in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, enjoyed a picnic of street tacos and ice cream on the shore, rode bikes along Mission Beach, snorkeled with wild sea lions at La Jolla Cove, stared in envy at the thriving succulents and lemon trees, and explored the city, as well as some isolated islands and beaches. Soaking up as much sun, sand, and saltwater as we possibly could. We were completely in awe of our surroundings. We didn’t want to leave, but we ended our trip with a perfect dinner date in Little Italy. If you’re planning on visiting, here are some tips on venturing around:

Beaches

We were able to visit Mission and Pacific Beach, Shelter Island, and Point Loma. Shelter Island and Point Loma are smaller and more private, while Mission and Pacific are great for surfing, swimming, and soaking up sun. MB and PB also have restaurants, shops, arcades, etc. It can get pretty crowded, but you can rent a bike for about $10 a day and enjoy a ride along the beach until you find a less populated area.

La Jolla

Rooftop cafes with incredible views, cave swimming, wild sea lions… need I say more? La Jolla Cove was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and it felt so surreal to interact with the sea lions. I sat on a rock about 30 feet from one for a long time, just watching him sleep… with one eye open, on me. You can swim and snorkel with these babies, but don’t get too close. They’re protected, and will definitely bark and defend themselves if their space is invaded.

Nosh

The food in SD. Just. Wow.

We’re always on the lookout for vegan and vegetarian places, especially when we travel, and San Diego is full of them. Donut Bar offers vegan donuts, Civico 1845 offers a full vegan menu, and pretty much anywhere we went had some amazing vegetarian or vegan options.

San Diego is incredible, just beyond words, and I’m so thankful that we were able to go on this adventure.

Travel is necessary. Adventure is vital.

Happy Place

Self-care is really about finding your happy place. A state of mind that helps you unwind, destress, and connect with your inner peace. There are countless self-care methods and daily practices out there, some to practice alone, and some to practice and share with others. Traveling and unplugging are huge for my personal self-care. I’ve traveled alone, which is a beautiful experience, but there’s something about sharing an adventure with someone I love that is infinitely valuable. My happy place. I found myself right in the middle of my happy place when we decided to pack up for the weekend and camp out near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The weekend started out with a pink, glowing sky, bringing us intentions of love and energy. The sand dunes were breathtaking, but since Molly is getting older and can be somewhat of a timid pup, Luke and I weren’t sure how she would react to the mountainous, rolling dunes. I now believe it’s her new favorite place on Earth. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen her quite so happy, rolling around in the sand and splashing in the stream that runs through the dunes. We were brimming with laughter to see Molly so excited. It was unforgettable. Ever since we moved to Colorado, I’ve been eager to get out and explore, to see more of the state and to venture further west. My list of destinations keeps growing. I was reminded this weekend that the real adventure is right here beside me, and that exploration is so much better with these unplanned shared experiences. We didn’t have an exact plan when we left the house that afternoon, and I never would have guessed that we would get to see Molly acting like a puppy, spot three baby moose, or stumble upon six bighorn sheep during our unpredictable trip, our unforgettable adventure, our happy place.

Photo Credit: Luke Cord

What is your happy place?

Getaway

In the midst of self-inflicted chaos, we decided to take a break. Preparing for a move across the country is a big undertaking. (We’re moving from North Carolina to Colorado this month). We set the boxes aside, pulled out the suitcases, and headed to the Eastern Caribbean for a change of scenery. We swam with wild sea turtles, drank raw coconut water on the beach, and soaked up just the right amount of sun and saltwater.

As important as it is to take breaks from stress and working, when we try to escape, reality often follows, begging to be acknowledged. Although nothing is ever perfect (even on vacation), you definitely get glimpses of perfection in places like this. It’s really about holding onto those glimpses, appreciating each other, and soaking in the moment. You begin to realize that it’s okay to let go of monotony every now and then in order to find adventure.

Where will you take your next adventure?