16 years ago on this day, I woke up and drove through the Saguaro Desert to Tucson’s nicest resort Loews Ventana Canyon. It was my golden birthday 22 on the 22 and my mom gave me this special gift for my birthday. A whole day at the spa! Facial, Massage, Yoga and a healthy lunch. This was all very new to me. My first real spa experience. I was told to show up wearing loose-fitting clothes, so I showed up wearing a t-shirt with my high schools logo and a long pair of leggings. Having no clue that this experience would open up a new direction for me. One I had longed to discover for the majority of my life.
As I drove up the canyon and through the desert, I longed for a shift in my life. I had been dealing with a lot of pain and suffering in my life for the past 2 years. My dad had suddenly died 2 years prior and I had recently stopped taking an anti-depressant, which had only temporarily masked my pain and suffering. Stopping the medication was very difficult. I had spent a couple of weeks prior to this day dealing with pain in my brain from coming off the drug. The pain was so intense. It felt like there were bullets poking at my skull 24/7. My body felt so yucky and disconnected. My soul longed for something deeper. Something that would shift my entire perception of myself and the world.
When I arrived at Lowes Ventana Canyon, I was directed to a beautiful studio space with glossy wood floors and a big window overlooking the Saguaro Desert. There was relaxing music playing in the background and the teacher, a young, fit beautiful brunette handed me a blue rubber sticky mat. I rolled the mat out onto the floor and stood on it with my bare feet. I had never been barefoot in a setting other than dance, so it felt a little foreign to me. As I sat down and listened to the teachers directions, I was lead into a subtle state of relaxation. We moved through a series of yoga postures, also known as asanas and my body started to feel open in areas I had not felt in years. In fact, the feelings were almost as foreign to me as the Sanskrit names that the teacher was calling out in reference to the poses. Throughout the class I wondered, ‘what is this? this feels so good? you mean stretching can open my heart?’ My 22 yr old self temporarily dismissed its plans to go out and get drunk with college friends. In that hour I was able to breathe, feel and experience the truth of myself that had once seemed so lost.
I had begun my yoga journey. I had begun to discover everything that I searched to find in the years leading up to this. I had fallen in love with my spirituality and I had learned to start loving myself again.
After yoga, I sat outside on a terrace overlooking the desert and ate an avocado salad. Tears began to drip down my face as I thought of my father. Another tear dripped down my face as a sense of peace washed over me and inside I said to myself “Thank you God for listening.”
I am so thankful for that birthday and my Moms generosity. She gave me the best birthday present ever. One that I could give back to others through my heart-felt sense of peace. One that someday would lead me down a path of helping others find that same sense of peace and compassion on their own rubber sticky mat.