The first time I met Justine Ruszczyk Damond I was in the process of falling madly in love with meditation and uncovering the magic in this 3D human life.
It was the summer of 2013, and I was attending my first Dr. Joe Dispenza advanced meditation workshop in Englewood, Colorado. I was new to the practice and completely starry-eyed about being at the retreat. It had only been weeks since I attended my first introductory workshop, but meditation had come naturally and easily to me using Joe's methods, and I felt like my life was healing at warp speed.
During the event, Joe invited my husband and I onstage in front of a few hundred people to tell of the meditation miracles we had experienced since beginning our practice just weeks before, namely the healing of our daughter Chloe from food sensitivities and allergies she had been struggling with for months. Afterwards we were swarmed with people offering love and gratitude for sharing our story.
At some point that weekend Justine approached me as well. In her sincere, effervescent way, she told me how much our story had inspired her. I remember feeling awash with emotion. She was a part of Dr. Joe's "Trainer Program," and I looked at the trainers like freshmen in high school look at seniors. Here was this magical, powerful woman telling me she was inspired by me.
Over the years we saw each other again and again at other workshops. We became friends, sometimes meditating on the floor alongside one another, sharing laughs and those syrupy, sweet post-meditation hugs that burn in your heart and mind forever.
Here's the thing about these workshops. You're in a room from 6am to 6pm everyday with hundreds of other people laying bare your soul in each meditation. You're conjuring emotions of love and gratitude and joy, and you're sitting side-by-side overcoming your old, limited self and creating a future worthy of the love that you are. You're moving energetic mountains, and anyone who has been there can tell you that it's absolutely euphoric. You leave completely changed, and you know that the only people who could ever really get it were the ones sitting in that room with you.
Justine was part of that club for me.
And when I found out about her death it hit me in that deep, guttural place that is true and vulnerable and that is supposed to be safe from the harsh "realities" of this world. She wasn't someone who was in my everyday life or who I even spoke to outside of retreats, but in a single moment, her death left a gaping hole in a place in me that was supposed to be shielded from injustice and pain like this.
You see, what Justine and I have both learned in that room again and again - what we've lived and taught in our own ways - is that we have a say in how our lives unfold. That with the power of our minds and the sincere intention of our hearts, we can truly affect how matter organizes in our lives. That with an elevated emotion and a clear intention, we can change our brains, our bodies, our moods...our entire lives.
So why in the name of all that is good and holy and true did she have to leave this planet in the way she did on that night of July 15?
If the energetic principles that we both believed are true, if all we've each experienced as evidence in our lives is spot on, if our thoughts do indeed create our reality and our energy calls it in, why was someone so beloved, so spiritually-centered, so light-filled lying dead on the pavement in her pajamas at the prime of her life?
It's the question that's been on repeat in my heart and mind for the past week.
Why? Why?! WHY?!!
A single thought. A single pervasive, powerful thought. With an energetic charge and a clear intention.
It's the same formula we've been taught for creating good in our lives. It's the same lesson we both learned in lecture after lecture, meditation after meditation. And yet it works both ways.
That single thought shifted me from the truth of what I hold dear and turned my world upside down in a matter of moments. And instead of creating for good, it tore me down.
In the past week of thinking this powerful, emotionally-charged thought, I watched my entire physiology change. In the seven days since I first heard that horrible news, I have felt overwhelmed with sadness. My energy has been low and slow. And I've been a whirling dervish of fear, anger and confusion. I have been obsessively googling her name in an attempt to stay abreast of developments in the story of her death, and I've been more outwardly than inwardly-focused than I have been in a long, long time.
With every obsessive thought, every enraged sentiment, I was willingly and knowingly thrusting myself into the deep end of the pool of stress, and each time I bobbed up for air, I was plunking myself back underwater for a little more self-induced torture.
And I did all of this by thought alone.
It's the living proof of what Justine taught. What I believe.
You see, we are that powerful.
And with a simple, albeit highly disturbing thought about someone I loved and respected, I changed the trajectory of my entire week. Instead of celebrating life (as my friend would have wanted), instead of seeking solace in what I know is Truth (as my friend would have wanted), instead of running arms wide open toward the light of love (as my friend would have wanted), I allowed myself to be sucked right into the limited emotions of blame, anger, fear and despair. I marched right in line with what the world expects, and it felt really, really shitty.
What I'm remembering in the wake of all this is that we always have a choice. And no matter the situation, no matter the injustice, no matter the heartache - love is always a choice. It's definitely not always the easiest to choose. Especially when logic defies you. Especially when someone you care about is gone. And especially when everything in the outside world points to heaping piles of injustice and wrongdoing.
But it is still a choice.
I'm not blaming myself for grieving. I'm not saying that it's not okay to feel deeply and powerfully impacted by what feels like such a profound tragedy. And I'm definitely not saying that we shouldn't stand up with our voices raised and our intentions clear when we see something so deeply wrong in our world.
What I am saying is that how we see any situation is always a choice.
I don't know why Justine had to leave this planet. I wish I did. But what I do know is that her being in it for the time that she was made it all the sweeter. And I'm going to focus on that.
I don't know how Don and the rest of her family will move forward with their lives. I wish I did. But I do know that with my powerful intention and my huge, love-filled heart I can send them light. And I've been doing just that.
I don't know what will happen with the systemic dysfunction in this country. I wish I did. But I do know that I can sit in meditation everyday and dimensionalize a world where peace reigns over fear. And I'm committed to that.
I realized today that in my grief I had been looking to the outside world to tell me why. I'd been reading article after article from news outlets and combing the multitude of Facebook posts of mutual friends. When in fact the answer to that question can only ever be found within.
For me, I don't believe there is a blanket "why" this happened that we can possibly comprehend. Any reason will always fall short of the gaping hole the many people who loved Justine feel in her absence.
There is only the "why" that we choose to honor in our lives. And perhaps it's less of a "why" and more of a "what next." If Justine's death means someone is kinder to animals, if it means a police officer uses more discretion in his job, if it means someone is brought to the freedom of meditation and self-empowerment because of her work, then that is the "why" for each of us...the "what next" to this painful moment.
We get to choose.
Why did Justine have to die? I don't know. And tears stream down my cheeks even now as I think about the beautiful life she was building everyday just by being in this world.
But I know that on my hike this morning I appreciated the blue sky even more because of her. When I got home I hugged my daughter a little longer because of her. I decided to make myself vulnerable and share these words because of her.
Because it feels honoring to this life we get to live. It feels honoring to Justine and to me. And because I get to choose how to process all this pain.
I choose love. I choose hope. I choose conscious creation in honor of radiant Justine.