My boyfriend Paul and I moved to San Diego, California in the fall of 2006. Paul had secured a job position as an electronic engineer at an engineering company. It was a temporary position for about one year. I was working at the time as a counselor with the State of Colorado. I decided that I wanted to go with him, as it was just a great opportunity to live in sunny California near the Pacific Ocean.

We moved into a small condo in San Diego that was about ten minutes from the beach. I must say that the weather in San Diego is pretty remarkable. It is almost always sunny with an average temperature of sixty-five to seventy degrees. Everywhere you look there are many gorgeous plants and flowers. I found it amazing just to see such a wide variety of beautiful flowers, plants and trees blooming all year long. The beaches in San Diego are also wonderful! There are several to choose from. San Diego has the upper scale beach of La Jolla with its nice parks and public beaches. Within walking distance from the beach is the city of La Jolla with its many fashion stores and restaurants. I particularly liked the famous “Black Beach” where the nude sunbathers go. The beach has huge cliffs along the shoreline that you have to traverse down to get to the shoreline. It is quite worth the hike, as you can walk for miles with very few people around. I really enjoyed watching the wind gliders who would jump off the cliffs and ride the air currents above the beach for hours. Ocean Beach in San Diego is a nice place to go and watch the surfers ride the waves. It is also great for people watching and sunbathing. My favorite beach in San Diego is Mission Beach. Mission Beach goes for several miles and interweaves along the coast with little islands and canals. I also liked Mission Beach Park that has beautiful walkways that pretty much span several miles from La Jolla to Ocean Beach.

Although I enjoy sunbathing and people watching, my favorite pastime is to walk for miles along the beach. It is my way of enjoying the elements and nature. I also practice walking meditation; paying attention to my breathing and keeping my awareness on the present moment. When Paul would go to work, I would go to the beach! It was one of the few times in my life that I did not have to work, so I took the time to enjoy it. I practiced yoga meditation in the morning and then I would spend every day walking for a few miles along one of the beaches or parks. My daily strolls reminded me of my walks along Lake Michigan back in Chicago. It is amazing what you see when you take the time to slow down and really look at things. As I walked along Mission Beach, it was almost poetry in motion. The way the waves lap against the shoreline in uniform fashion, the wind rustling the leaves against the azure blue sky. I watched the squirrels as they hip pity hop in the green grass to find that treasured nut, and the various people moving about on their daily rituals; like the new mom pushing her baby in the stroller, the energetic kids flying kites in the park, or the poor man sifting through the garbage receptacles on the beach. Everyone is out and about in this dance of life. I take all these things in as I walk along the beach.

After about three months, my sunny disposition in San Diego began to darken. At first, I began having difficulty sleeping. I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. I was filled with these feelings of dread and anxiety. Then my daily meditations became infused with all these fearful thoughts that led to panic attacks. I had no idea why I was having these experiences, but it made my life in sunny San Diego really miserable. I finally had the chance to live in paradise and I couldn’t enjoy it! I tried to tough it out, but after several weeks of walking on eggshells, I finally saw a psychotherapist. Although I had little money, I needed to find out what was happening to me. The weekly sessions at least helped me to explore my troubled feelings. I decided to see this as an opportunity to work through my feelings of fear and anxiety. So, I approached it head on and started focusing on my experiences instead of avoiding them. Unfortunately this just intensified everything. It was like throwing gas on the fire! Not only were my nights filled with dread and anxiety, but my days became nerve wracking also. I became a complete wreck! I tried talking to Paul and my friends about my condition, but they really couldn’t understand what I was going through. My psychotherapist also gave me some techniques for dealing with my anxiety and they just were not helping. I was sinking deeper into despair and felt like I was barely hanging on.

It was another beautiful sunny morning when I went for a long walk along Mission Beach. Although it was gorgeous out, I was feeling anxious, depressed and distraught. What a far cry from my first day in San Diego! As I walked, I questioned why all this stuff was happening to me. I was becoming more despondent and helpless. I began praying to God, asking for help and guidance. I felt that God had abandoned me, leaving me in this hole of psychological despair. I really prayed with all my soul to God, asking for help and not to forget me on this earth plane. As I continued my walk along the park at Mission Beach, I noticed these benches here and there along the walkway. I had not really paid attention to them before. I felt I needed to sit down and compose myself; I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with all my troubles. I walked over to this one particular green and gold park bench. As I approached closer, I saw that there was a gold sign imprinted into the concrete base of the bench. I wondered what it said? I looked more closely and I could scarcely believe my eyes. The sign said, “To Jill, with Love”. I was completely blown away! I felt God was letting me know that everything would be fine, and that he loved and cared for me. I just could not believe of all the benches, I would choose to sit on; this bench had this sign on it, addressed to me. It was wholly remarkable and such an omen. I stayed there for the afternoon. My heart opened up and I just sat there, and cried tears of joy!

From that day, things began to look up. I no longer felt alone in my struggles, but that God was there with me. I spent my afternoons in the local library researching books on psychology and spirituality that addressed many of the problems I had been experiencing. I let my intuition guide me to the right book that I needed to help me. I was led to a book called the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I felt God was speaking to me through this book. Eckhart Tolle is a very interesting individual who after a long period of depression found enlightenment. It is one of those rare books that you can feel the power of the spirit, speaking right through the book. Anyway, Tolle’s book helped me to understand many of the things I was going through, in a different light. I found his method extremely helpful in dealing with my crisis. It was uniquely simple, but very effective. Previously, I had been trying to tackle my fear and anxiety head on. This helps in some situations, but it wasn’t working for me. I had been trying several yoga mantras and positive affirmations, but my symptoms remained. I also pretended to ignore my feelings and that certainly did not work. Tolle’s way of dealing with crisis is one of complete present awareness and acceptance. It is similar to the Buddhist spirituality of “mindfulness”. I had been practicing mindfulness in my daily life, though not on my psychological problems. Mindfulness is being fully aware of where you are and what you are doing in the present moment. This is much easier said than done as most of us are everywhere, but right here and now. For example, I may be driving my car, but I am a thinking of how I am going to tackle some problem at work or about some piece of news on the radio. Mindfulness consists of being fully engaged in the present moment with complete acceptance. By using mindfulness, I was able to come to terms with my crisis. It was very difficult at first, as it is very hard to accept something that you would rather not accept. I mean, that is why people take valiums, as they do not want to accept anxiety or stress. So I practiced awareness and acceptance of my anxiety. I became an observer and watched it without judgment or expectation. I did not try to do anything, which is what I had been doing. I just became fully aware of the present moment and observed my emotions without judgment. If a scary thought floated through my mind, I just let it be and continued to observe with complete acceptance.

I found it helpful to watch my breathing as a way to become fully aware of the present moment. Sometimes, looking at things very closely will also pull you into the present moment. For instance, watching a leaf rustling in the wind or a wind chime softly clinking in the gentle breeze may pull you into the present moment. It is really a matter of just paying close attention to what is happening around you. As I began to accept and observe my fears/anxieties without judgment, they began to dissipate. I must say it took a bit of practice and persistence, but my depression lifted, and my fears subsided. I no longer became afraid of them and was able to get on with my life.

I find it very interesting that many people on the spiritual path go through similar struggles of dealing with problems, fears, anxieties, disease, etc. Sometimes, it seems we are left to our own resources for dealing with the many issues we have to face. And maybe that is what also helps us to grow as spiritual beings. We have to learn to use our intuition and spiritual teachings; we have been given to resolve our own problems. I know the Spirit or God is always present to guide us, but we have to make the effort and develop our spiritual muscles, so to speak. This is what Arjuna had to do with Krishna’s guidance in the Bhagavad-Gita, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Each of us has to wrestle (like Jacob and the angel) with our demons, problems or karma on this physical plane toward Self-Realization.

This article is from my recent book, To Jill with Love, Memoirs of a Modern Day Mystic. See my website:

Author's Bio: 

Jill Lowy was born near Chicago, Illinois. She received her BA Degree from Wisconsin University, MA Degree in Psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology and a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School. She was initiated into the Spiritual and Esoteric Arts at Lotus Temple. She was also initiated into Kriya Yoga under the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda. She has been practicing and teaching Yoga and Spirituality for many years. She has given many lectures and workshops. Her recent book, "To Jill with Love, Memoirs of a Modern Day Mystic" contains stories of spiritual inspiration after being initiated into the mystical arts. Her first book "Yoga and the Art of Astral Projection" is about how the discipline of Yoga can help one to experience astral projection and expand one’s consciousness towards self- realization Jill currently resides near Denver, Colorado with her boyfriend, Paul in the Rocky Mountains. She works as a Counselor and her hobbies include: hiking, motorcycle riding, traveling, skiing, swimming, scuba-diving, and Tai Chi.