I signed up for Sand Syme’s “Journey Home” class at Anchor Meditation—then a pop-up meditation space housed in a design studio in Nob Hill—not knowing what to expect.

I’d simply been drawn to the title of the class, and the notion of what it might ultimately mean and feel like to ‘journey home.’ When I walked in, my inner design-lover felt instantly captivated by the space: more of a carefully-composed living room than a meditation sanctuary. It made something in me let down at once. I felt at ease.

I spotted Sand in the center of the room, setting up an altar in the middle of the floor, cushioned by a plush ombre rug in shades of blue resembling the ocean. Delicately, she positioned a glass bowl of water, a series of stones, feathers and other sacred items. The scent of eucalyptus essential oil filled the air.

Sand wore flowing clothes in a colourful, patterned fabric. Her warmth gave me immediate reassurance—she had a physical presence that felt deeply rooted, yet also ‘skywardly‘ expansive.

Make contact with every person

Sand greeted every person who entered the space with a brimming smile and a gentle Irish accent: “Hello, darling,” or “Welcome home, sweetheart.” She opened her arms to each of them in a powerful embrace. Each encounter seemed to spark joy in her, and in turn, a heartfelt welcome; her words seemed shaped and uttered as if each individual was an old, beloved friend.

It struck me then that I hadn’t felt awe for a stranger since I could remember—that I hadn’t, until then, met an older woman I actually wanted to emulate. Somehow, though I had only just met her, I found myself wanting to be her: the loving, wise woman standing calmly before me. I longed to embody her gift—an apparent, unconditional love for everyone she encountered.

The reality of my own identity felt, at that time, so distant from her own radiant example. This woman seemed to genuinely make contact—at some deep, ineffable level—with every person who crossed her path, whereas I often distanced myself from strangers by default, creating a chasm between us.

“Thank you for being here,” Sand told us, as the dimming lights coincided with an increasingly powerful beat of the music reverberating through the room. “You could choose to be anywhere in the Bay Area right now—and you choose to be here.” She beamed at us like a proud mother.

We began by expressing aloud, one by one, our intention for being there: Why, exactly, had we chosen to show up for this class? I hadn’t considered what brought me there, and only later did I entertain the possibility that meeting Sand might have, for itself alone, been the reason—conscious or otherwise.

Letting the familiar mundane world fall away, our bodies sank deeper into the soft cushions as Sand guided us gently into the meditation. “Go deeper. Let it go.” Gracefully, she seemed to dance slowly around each of us, feathers in hand, making uncanny musical sounds and “shooing” noises—seemingly diffusing energy away from us.

Her nearness felt calming, cleansing.

After this period of stillness and inward clearing, Sand spoke quietly to each of us.

“What I saw in you, dear one, is all the creativity bursting out of you. But you think it comes from your head, when really it comes from your womb—your life force,” she told me.

“Wake up every morning and breathe in and say a prayer of gratitude for your life force,” she added. “Then let that creativity flow through you. That’s your job right now.”

Live life as your true self

When I returned home that evening, I immediately searched for Sand’s website. There, I found her self-description: a “truth seeker.” Find and live life as your true and authentic self. I read the tagline on her website and I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her again.

A few weeks later, I visited her office in Marin County. Her simple, poignant advice surprised me.

“Change your home life,” she said. “It’s taking a lot of energy from you.”

At that point, I felt uncertain of her advice, although I knew exactly what she was referring to: I needed to find a new housemate. Distressed by the time and energy that might require, I resisted her recommendation.

After a few short months, though, I began to grasp the poignancy of her insight and the accuracy of her advice. I confronted my housemate and quietly explained that the living situation was not working for me.

When I’d finally made that transition, and had actually spoken aloud the truth of my discomfort, I felt a tremendous surge of energy to focus on other important projects I had set aside. I was surprised by how what seemed like a minor change seemed to shift my entire perspective, namely reclaiming my space, and by extension, a large part of my life.

I signed up for Sand’s spiritual mentorship program. During these two-hour monthly phone calls, I absorbed her every word as I talked with her about various life dilemmas and relationship challenges. Her wisdom, in the form of simple advice, always felt encouraging and aligned with the general idea of ‘speaking my truth’ from my own innate knowledge.

“Nobody will be offended if you speak your truth. Your words will land with them if you speak honestly,” she observed.

A centre of authenticity

Thinking over what a wealth of relief and clarity she’d provided me during our work together, I thought it might be appropriate to arrange for my closest friends to know and experience Sand’s wisdom. I phoned her, excited by this vision. “Let’s do an evening event at my place focusing on women’s wisdom, and tapping into the divine feminine,” I told her.

“Tell me about the idea,” she answered. “Why do you want to do this?”

Only later did I understand that she wanted me to clarify for myself what had generated the idea, and exactly what my inmost wish for it might be. Had it emerged from my mind alone, or from some collective, deeper space?

I wanted to help other women find a similar space within themselves, a centre of authenticity—a feeling of truthful self-possession and self-expression.

I gave it careful thought, and finally told her I wanted to help other women find a similar space within themselves, a centre of authenticity—a feeling of truthful self-possession and self-expression, exactly as she had demonstrated to me during the past few months.

A month later, 15 women convened in my living room one evening. This time, I created a small altar comprised of sacred items in the middle of my apartment, items that had meaning and symbolism for me, pushing back all my living room furniture so we could sit in a circle on the floor.

Sand came through, creating a loving, warm space with her energy, and the gathering became what I’d hoped for: part guided meditation, part discussion group. Each woman had an opportunity to describe her personal ‘medicine,’ what Sand described as each individual’s unique gift, and beyond that, to explore aloud what she felt might be holding her back from sharing that medicine with others.

When, afterward, Sand and I talked over the effectiveness of the event, she asked me to think back on the circle and talk about my responses towards each participant—not in a catty, gossipy way, but rather as a way of assessing the energy and ‘tracking’ the room (monitoring how energy had changed and even transformed the space it inhabited). I considered what people had said, what I thought they really meant by what they’d said, and any discomfort I’d noticed that arose.

After I made these comments, Sand asked, “Do you know why you see those things in all of the women?”

I didn’t. I thought I was just being observant.

“It’s because everything you see in others is also in you. Both the shadow and the light. So you need to reflect on that.”

Fully present in the moment

Several weeks later, I found myself at another weekend meditation retreat in the East Bay, where I was once again surrounded by beautiful souls.

On the second day, a petite woman with a beautiful, bright face arrived to join us. We began talking as we both waited in line for the bathroom.

“Have you ever been on this retreat before?” she asked, her wide-brimming eyes shining.

“No, this is my first time,” I responded. “And you?”

“I’ve done this many times before,” she said confidently.

I suddenly knew myself for what I was: a novice. In that moment, I saw again what I’d hoped for in terms of spiritual development. I longed to be further advanced on the path, more dedicated—like the woman before me.

Throughout the day, whenever I glimpsed her, she appeared so deeply present in the moment. She sat quietly on her meditation cushion, eyes closed, focused breath rising through her, fully immersed in her own world: What was happening around her seemed to have fallen away. I admired her for her centredness.

During that weekend, I found that my mind often drifted, fretting over my to-do list and the tasks and obstacles expected during the week ahead. I imagined all that I could be getting done: grocery shopping, emails, cleaning out my storage unit. I wished I could be more like the woman I had just encountered: fully present at the retreat and, it seemed, in her life.

After the group meditation, as each of us talked about our experience, the woman I had met declined to speak for the first time. I’d fully expected her to offer some profound insight or wisdom that would prove illuminating. Anxiously, I’d waited to hear her reflections.

When she finally did speak, tears began gently streaming down her face. I realized then that I had been quite wrong. That this woman, whom I’d so powerfully admired for her centredness, had actually felt quite differently. She, too, had felt disconnected from the present moment and from her current life. Like me, she longed to be fully present with the light within her.

From my outsider’s perspective, I thought she’d been a true example of a beacon: someone from whom the light steadily shone.

Later, when the two of us crossed paths, I made a point to convey these thoughts to her, suggesting she might indeed already be the person she hoped she’d become.

“Really? You see that?” she asked hesitantly, grabbing my hand.

“Yes,” I answered. I recounted my impressions of her: this glowing, light-filled beauty who was fully centred in her world.

“Thank you for seeing me,” she responded. “Thank you for seeing my light.”

You will be your own guide

Over subsequent weeks, mulling over the cumulative effect of these events, I grasped the truth and beauty of what Sand had expressed about each person reflecting the world inside us. So often, we are not able to see into ourselves—both the good and the bad.

I grasped the truth and beauty of what Sand had expressed about each person reflecting the world inside us. So often, we are not able to see into ourselves—both the good and the bad.

“I won’t always be a teacher to you,” Sand reminded me. “We are all each other’s teachers. Think of me more as a guide for now, helping you to navigate your expanding spirituality. One day, you will be your own guide. One day, you will do this work on your own.”

And I knew that she was right: One day I would be able to serve as my own guide—just as I could now more clearly discern the truth and beauty of the woman I had met at the retreat.

One day, I will get there. I will be the beauty I see in others, I will feel all of that within myself. But at the same time, where I am now—becoming, developing, in process—is still a wonderful place to be and a lovely journey to undertake.

I knew then that if I could recognize Sand’s wisdom, then I carry a seedling of that same wisdom within myself. I finally understood that the only real journey home is within.

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