GIVING THANKS

Grand Canyon at sunrise

Grand Canyon at sunrise

By Sylvia Maldonado, breathe bar

As Thanksgiving approaches (it is tomorrow already, where has this year gone?), I'm so thankful for breathe bar and the experiences it has provided to me.  The inspiration for breathe bar was born at a retreat at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Colorado in the Fall of 2015.  The retreat was a transformative experience, not only because it allowed me to go deeper in my meditation practice, and for providing the seeds for breathe bar, but also because I met a fellow meditator who would become a dear friend, Trish.  We would chat meditation, movies and everything in between before and after our sitting practice.  At the end of the retreat, I gave her my scarf as my ode to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (corny, I know, but it worked), with the plan that we'd meet up for future travels.

The scarf has served us well.  Trish came to Chicago for breathe bar's launch, and we just attended the Real Love retreat with Sharon Salzberg at Upaya, a Buddhist meditation center in Santa Fe, NM.  If you're not familiar with Sharon's newest book, Real Love:  The Art of Mindful Connection, I highly recommend it (Real Love and Faith are my favorite Sharon books).  She presents practical and helpful tools for taming our inner critic to cultivate love for oneself which I have found invaluable.  Sharon's co-presenter was Joan Halifax, an accomplished author in her own right who shares a 40-year friendship with Sharon.  Seeing the chemistry and deep bond between them was the best example of real love in practice that I have witnessed in a long, long time.  It was wonderful to see.  Trish and I met two other meditators on the retreat - a couple of longtime friends, Andrea and Carol, from New York.  They are a warm, fun, funny and wonderful pair I'm grateful to have met.  The Sisterhood is expanding!  Funny how meditation brings people into your life whom you're supposed to meet - like-minded souls who are with you on the path.

While driving from Santa Fe to Sedona, I mentioned in passing to Trish that going to the national parks are on my bucket list.  Trish asked, "Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?"  When I said no, she said, "Let's go!" so we made a spontaneous side trip to the Grand Canyon.  Pretty cool to say the least.

Its majestic beauty is awe-inspiring and breathtaking.  We arrived at sunrise.  To see the sun highlighting the beautiful colors of the canyon is a memory that I will never forget.  We followed the photographers to try to get the best vantage points.  They were fearless hanging over the cliffs to get the best shot.  Heading back to our car, we saw a herd of darling deer ambling along the path back to El Tovar (eat there to enjoy scenic views of the Canyon).  Then as we were heading out of the park, I saw an elk that was so still and majestic, I thought it was a statue.  Trish assured me it was the real deal.  I couldn't imagine a better visit to the Grand Canyon. Thank you, Trish, for being an amazing tour guide and even a better friend!

We capped our trip with a visit to Sarah McLean in Sedona, AZ.  Sarah's McLean Meditation Center is in the heart of town and is a reflection of Sarah's warm energy and dynamic spirit.  After months of emailing, it was a pleasure to meet her face-to-face.  I have been impressed with graduates of her Meditation Teacher Academy, which is her 200-hour meditation and mindfulness teacher training program. Sarah is also in the throes of developing her Mindfulness@Work Teacher Training Program. It is for those who are already certified meditation teachers and who want to specialize in the workplace wellness track.  Thank you, Sarah, for making the world a kinder place!

As I write this, I am with family enjoying a warm and sunny day in Dallas, TX.  I am so thankful for dear family and friends, and for you, my breathe bar family, this holiday season.  I wish you many blessings this holiday season and always!

Sylvia Maldonado