The mindful bloom of San Diego

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week in San Diego.  I went down to celebrate the eight month mark of my mindfulness journey, and also to hang out with my buddy, Gurinder, his brother and cousin, in his last days of bachelorhood before he gets married to his fiancee Lisa next month.

I remember my family vacationed in San Diego when I was a very small child (Disneyland was on the itinerary), so I did not remember anything really about the city or surrounding areas to visit.  I learned that San Diego is the Spanish translation of the Catholic saint, St. James. This evidently is the same St. James after whom the well-travelled pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago in Europe is named (a topic that I have recently posted about on this blog).

Throughout the week, I was able to continue my mindful meditation and yoga practice. I found a time slot in the morning and before bed, for example, to “drop in” on myself. As it turns out, these were not the only times I was able to take my seat at meditation or yoga.

San Diego and its surrounding areas offer endless opportunities for mindful awareness and engagement everywhere.

I’ve put together a few annotated photos below that show where I was able to experience many splendid moments of mindful awareness engaging each of the five senses.


Day 2:  La Jolla Beach and La Jolla Cove

Gurinder and I explored the La Jolla (Spanish for the “jewel”) area of San Diego, knowing very little of what to expect.  It did not disappoint.  We arrived early in the afternoon (relying on our trusty GPS to get there from our resort in Escondido) were immediately drawn to the dozens of sea lions and baby seals that were lounging in the picturesque Cove.  I don’ t think I’ve ever come as close to one of these mammals before in my life.  The sea lions were unphased by the presence of us human beings.  They were even hamming it up at times for the camera. It was a very neat experience.  I can feel and taste the mist of the ocean breeze when I reflect on these photos.

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Day 3: San Diego Safari Park

After getting up close with the sea lions at La Jolla Cove, I was pretty excited for our visit the next day to the San Diego Safari Park (this should not be confused with the San Diego Zoo which is within San Diego city limits). The Safari Park was only a 25 minute drive from our resort which allowed us to avoid downtown San Diego traffic.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  The Park is absolutely massive (it is 730 hectares) and contains a rich and diverse abundance of plant and wildlife.  Here are just some of the photos I took while spending a brilliant day at the Park.  Some of the highlights of the Park for me included the rainbow-colored desert garden and the Japanese-inspired Zen garden.  The peacefulness of the Zen garden resonated with me in particular as I engaged in a mindful walk-through of the grounds. 

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Day 4: Balboa Park

After enjoying a full day of sights and sounds at the Safari Park, we headed out to Balboa Park.  I did not know until I spoke to a local that Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the U.S.  I can see why after spending only just a few hours there!  I was impressed (and very intrigued) by the Spanish influence that was preserved in many of the historic buildings in the Park.  As you can see below, these buildings have an iconic and timeless elegance to them.  They radiate stillness, beauty, light, and serenity.  One highlight of the Park for me was the Museum of Man.  If you want to spend a little extra money, I would recommend that you purchase the general admission pass AND the tower pass.  This will allow you to gain access to the top of the tower (which has only been recently re-opened to the public after extensive renovations to the tower to bring it up to Code).  The staircase to the top of the Tower is stunning; and the views of San Diego proper from the top are breathtaking.  Although not pictured here, I would also recommend the Museum of Natural History (which currently offers a wonderful special photographic exhibition on the World of Birds).

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Day 5 and 6: Hotel del Coronado, Pacific Beach and Ponte Winery (Temecula)

On our fifth day, we headed over the San Diego bay bridge to visit the famous Hotel del Coronado.  This pristine hotel is one of only two original Victorian hotel wooden structures that remain in the U.S. today.  It was opened in 1888.  Evidently, countless Hollywood celebrities and American presidents have stayed at this Victorian beachfront resort throughout various eras of its storied history.  The views from the beachfront were stunning.  We came across a beautiful sand castle whose sculptor was unknown but the words “Coronado California 2015” were etched onto the front of the structure.  One of the unexpected highlights from the Hotel was the delightful aroma that came from a fresh backyard herb garden that I can only surmise is maintained by the chefs at the Hotel.  It was a neat sight to see on the grounds. We finished off this day at Pacific Beach, tossing around a frisbee and soaking in the sunshine before driving back to the resort.

On our second last day, we travelled out to Temecula to visit the Ponte Winery.  It was recommended to me by a trusted colleague.  It was well worth the 40 minute drive over from Escondido. We enjoyed walking around the beautiful and lush grounds (there were hardly any people there!), and indulging in a delicious tasting in the main Tasting Room. After blasting through the first of six wines, I recall our server admonishing me with the words: “Remember, it’s not a race. Take your time”.  Indeed, when applied to a life lived mindfully, how appropriate and timely those words truly are.

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Overall, this past week in San Diego marks a significant milestone in my mindfulness journey. In the last eight months, I have been able to tap into a rich and intimate sector of my spiritual, physical, and emotional life – all of which have helped me to appreciate and celebrate that I am who I have always  been. I have learned through mindfulness that I must aspire to live each day with an acute awareness in the here and now, riding the “waves” of life as they come – with a deep sense of compassion (for oneself and for others), non-judgment and intention – wherever I am, whenever I am.  Some might argue the hard work of mindfulness will continue in the weeks and months ahead, but that really is besides the point, isn’t it? The future is now. The hard work of mindfulness starts at precisely this moment, and at each moment that follows this one.  Let us all enjoy the fullness of the bloom of these precious and fleeting moments as though they were our last.

I wish you all love, happiness and hope, always.

Namaste,

Alex

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