Facing the War Within

The experience of growing up in war-torn El Salvador weighed heavily, and for most of my life I had a deep feeling that no matter how well things were going, something was bound to happen that would disrupt and destroy whatever happiness I was experiencing. And it only intensified when I became a mother. It’s quite ironic, considering I had followed my passion for psychology and clinical social work, getting educated at a world-class university and really succeeding. But I couldn’t see it—or feel it.

Then, realizing I was responsible for one, and then two, beautiful girls, I suddenly awakened to the challenges of that troubled world I had buried inside, as well as the state of our fragile planet Earth and what it would mean for these two little human beings. Even as a young mother, I could find no lasting solutions, though I was no stranger to the many paths and techniques available to help people like me overcome this kind of anxiety—that is, until I began to practice mindfulness meditation.

Through practice, I not only discovered the feeling of being alive and more at peace with my awareness of what was happening both in my inner and outer world, but I was also able to see the futility in constant worrying, learned to accept the present as the only thing that truly exists.

Practicing mindfulness also became a catalyst for expansion, leading me to the University of California Los Angeles, Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) Intensive Practice Program and later to the yearlong Training in Mindfulness Facilitation. It was there where I met exceptional, compassionate teachers, particularly Diana Winston and Marvin Belzer, who helped me find a way to be less reactive, more compassionate with myself and others, and more courageous to pursue—and celebrate—my accomplishments, even those I had once thought impossible!

Suddenly, my love for the arts, music, and storytelling forcefully emerged. I returned to painting, singing, and writing. I finally gave myself permission to take time to write and illustrate a children’s book about mindfulness and care for the Earth. I must admit, what surprised me most was the support I received from people like Diana and countless others who believed in my dreams and encouraged me to complete The Magical Mindful Day, which had been in the works for seven years. Along the way, I continued deepening my study of mindfulness meditation and compassion-based practices, which I would eventually incorporate into the book.