Relational Mindfulness: The Garden of Eden

By Steven Libowitz   |   October 31, 2019
Deborah Eden Tull’s Relational Mindfulness workshop takes place Saturday and Sunday, November 2-3, in Carpinteria

Taking a mindful pause is one of the most important tenets of Relational Mindfulness, according to Deborah Eden Tull, the veteran meditation and mindfulness teacher who wrote a 2018 book of the same name. Even so, it was almost surprising when it took a moment for the words to emerge in response to a question about Eden ’s own practice, as she exhibited employing the tenet in the moment.

“All of my life is my practice. Nothing is separate,” she said, after a brief pause. “Sitting meditation is the training, but all of life is the practice.”

Eden’s book is subtitled “A Handbook for Deepening Our Connection with Ourselves, Each Other, and the Planet,” and her mission these days is to embody and teach not only personal transformation through mindfulness, but to help heal the world through the process. That’s what connected AHA! – the highly-regarded Santa Barbara nonprofit that has provided social-emotional education to more 20,000 teens, educators, parents, youth care providers and therapists over the course of 20 years, inspiring communities to feel safe, seen, celebrated and emotionally connected – to connect with Eden in the first place about two years ago.

AHA! founder Jennifer Freed brought five staff members to one of Eden’s retreats at Esalen Institute, and then booked her to bring the work to Santa Barbara for the first time last year, mostly for other staff members. This weekend’s follow-up workshop in Carpinteria, which is limited to 15, is open to the public.

“Even though it was [previously] offered as a specific way for AHA! to explore the intersection between presence and Relational Mindfulness and being a leader, we’re all being called to that exploration because it’s a time of such change,” Eden explained. “In the past, people went away to a monastery to do a training, as I did. (Eden spent seven years in a silent Zen Monastery in addition to several other spiritual trainings and years of inquiry). But in today’s world, when people are interacting all day long and further away from the land-based culture we all came from, we need more guidance, a bridge, in how to use the relational field for remembering who we really are at a deeper level.”

Accordingly, the other eight principles of Relational Mindfulness include Intention, Deep Listening, Mindful Inquiry and Clear Seeing, Turning Toward (pain and discomfort) Rather Than Away, Not Taking (things) Personally, Transparency, and Compassionate Action. If that sounds like a whole lot of work, the truth is exactly the opposite, Eden said.

“These pieces are so deep, and yet so simple in a world that’s become so obsessed with complexity and making things complicated. The work is so accessible… but our culture is steeped in doing rather than being… Even if people say they crave connection, love, and intimacy, the human ego is terrified of it, and can block experiencing [those things] through choosing to be busy.”

Which is why, Eden said, waking up is easier than we think. 

“When we become more present, we understand that our awareness is already awake, and that we don’t need to try hard to do something to get enlightened. We’re already awake; we’ve just turned our attention to the mind of separation. The practice is so simple, because it’s just returning to who we actually are.” 

But it’s also one that, for most of us, might be woefully out of shape, Eden said. 

“Meditation is not sitting still and finding a place of peace we can hold onto. It’s the intention to bring compassionate awareness to everything that arises in our lives from moment to moment. It’s building a muscle that is actually the strongest part of all of us, but most of us have turned away, so we have to practice to develop it.” 

The concept is as each of us “awakens,” the communities around us – from personal connections to the global network – also benefit. 

“Mindfulness is not just personal, but interpersonal, transpersonal, and societal, social, and global,” Eden said. “The impact of presence is truly dynamic.”

Deborah Eden Tull’s Relational Mindfulness workshop takes place Saturday and Sunday, November 2-3, in Carpinteria. Admission is $250. RSVP via emailing or or visit Eden’s website,, for more information on Relational Mindfulness.

Montecito Meditation

Yogacharya Amit Chatterjee, advanced disciple of Kriya Yoga Master Paramahamsa Prajnanananda, the current spiritual leader of the Kriya Yoga Institute, is coming to town for the annual Kriya Initiation Program. Kriya, an ancient method of living and meditation that cultivates body, mind, intellect and awareness of the soul using powerful meditation and yogic disciplines, helps people to experience the “three divine qualities of light, vibration, and sound” by using techniques of concentration, posture, and breathing. Chatterjee – who has a masters in computer engineering and worked for Microsoft for 30 years until just this past January, including serving as managing director for its India Development Center in Hyderaba, began to guide meditations in 2014 and to teach Kriya Yoga in 2018. He will give a free inspirational public lecture about “Creating Balance in a Changing World” at 7 pm on Friday, November 1, at the Montecito Library. The spiritual discourse serves as a preview to a weekend workshop held at an alternate site on Saturday and Sunday with instruction, techniques classes and practice of Kriya Yoga meditation. For more information, email Lucy O’Brien at, call (805) 895-0966, or visit 

Navigating the Mayes of Relationships

Phil and Maude Mayes’ cleverly-titled 2016 book, How Two Have a Successful Relationship, is a 100-page primer based on principles of acceptance, individuality, presence, and processing drawn from the Santa Barbara couple’s own relationship and interviews with local friends and colleagues. Next up in the couple’s mission to “spread peace one relationship at a time” is a workshop called Transform Your Relationship, slated for 2-4 pm on Saturday, November 2, at Unity of Santa Barbara (227 East Arrellaga Street), which offers a simple step-by-step process for creating conflict-free and loving relationships employing real life-examples for creating harmony and deep satisfaction. The interactive gathering is open to both couples and singles and covers such areas as how to find mutual solutions to decision-making and problem-solving, how to break the vicious cycle of anger and recrimination, how to avoid the pitfalls that create separation and estrangement, and how to keep and nurture the original loving connection to one’s partner. Tickets cost $25 for singles and $40 for couples in advance, $30 & $45 at the door. Visit 

Marine Mammals and Man at Yoga Soup

Joshua Miller, the founder of Embodied Sounds and a certified sound healer and multi-instrumentalist experienced with multiple modalities of vibrational healing and group facilitation, brings a special “Sounds of the Ocean” sound bath on Saturday, November 2, from 8-9:30 pm. The aural journey features recordings of whales, dolphins, and seals from deep water by Monterey Bay Canyon combined with live instruments representing the element of water to create a soundscape that represents a collaboration between marine and human life through artistic expression. The immersive sound experience is meant to connect people to nature and support environmental organizations in the wake of dramatically increasing noise pollution in our oceans caused by commercial shipping, oil and gas exploration, and recreational boating. Admission is $30 in advance, $35 day of. 

Touch of Gratitude Imparts Elements of Esalen

Esalen Massage is a type of Swedish massage taught and trademarked by the famed Esalen Institute in Big Sur that combines with energy work to treat the mind, body, and soul simultaneously. The goal is to support and promote the internal wisdom and healer, resulting in a sense of psychological harmony and balance.

Santa Barbara resident Lori Lewis, who is certified by the Esalen Massage and Bodywork Association as a 500-hour massage practitioner and teacher, leads a four-hour afternoon workshop on Sunday, November 3, to offer basic massage skills for participants that can be shared with friends, family members, and the greater community and families in the coming Thanksgiving season as a gift of gratitude. Space is limited to 20 students for the 1-5 pm workshop that costs $30.

Cups of Soup

November’s First Friday ecstatic dance at Yoga Soup on November 1, begins with a contact improv warm-up from 7-7:30 pm followed by the two hour dance until 9:30 pm that loosely follow a 5Rhythms-style ecstatic dance “wave” with slow and mellow music building to chaotic intensity and then returning to stillness at the end. Admission is $15… FireTenders Men’s Group, led by founder Timothy Tillman plus Jordan Santoni and Damian Gallagher, continues its “Open Tending” circles – which are open to all men on a drop-in basis to build community, connection, self awareness and emotional skills – from 3:30-5 pm on Sundays through November 17. Admission is $10. 

Supermind-fulness Over Matter 

It’s been an eventful 22 months for Santa Barbara-based Buddhist meditation teacher Radhule Weininger, MD, Ph.D., and, often, her husband, palliative care physician Michael Kearney, MD. That was when the Montecito debris flows cut a wide swath through the scenic hillside retreat center known as La Casa de Maria, destroying a number of important buildings and structures, although largely sparing the Center for Spiritual Renewal where Weininger was the resident teacher of mindfulness practice for 17 years. In the time since, Weininger, a clinical psychologist and the guiding teacher of the One Dharma Sangha, and Kearney, who works at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Serenity House where he emphasizes a spiritual model of self-care based on mindfulness and connection to nature, have each published their first books. The couple also founded the nonprofit Mindful Heart Program which teaches mindfulness at area high schools and holds mindfulness facilitator training programs in the community. They’ve expanded the nearly three-year old monthly Solidarity and Compassion Project gathering, a sort of spiritual town hall initiative featuring guest speakers drawn from leading faith traditions as well as visionaries and activists to discuss ways of community healing during difficult times to help people deal with uncertainty, anxiety, and fear during a challenging time in our country. And they’ve co-led a series of retreats at Mt. Cavalry and elsewhere to teach mindfulness and compassion and enrich the community.

This week, they’ll finally make an appearance at the longstanding Santa Barbara spiritual and self-help series known as Mind & Supermind, the periodic offering from what used to be SBCC’s Adult Ed program now known as the School for Extended Learning. “Awakening the Heart: Self Care and Resilience in Uncertain Times,” which takes place 7:30-9:30 pm on Monday, November 4, at the Schott Campus Tannahill Auditorium, addresses the popular question of how to stay awake and present to the situations in the world without feeling overwhelmed or becoming burnt out.

Weininger and Kearney will discuss a model of self-care and resilience based on mindfulness, self-compassion and nature connection that they have presented to health care workers, university and high school students, educators, firefighters, and elderly individuals living in skilled nursing facilities. They will also report on Solidarity and Compassion Project which has been countering uncertain times without panic or apathy, instead offering deep connection and finding ways for compassionate action.
And, we’re told, the evening includes some interactive practice with the audience. Admission is $20. Register at or get tickets at the door. 

Radhule & Recovery

In mid-November, Dr. Weininger also teams with Peter F. McGoey M.A. LMFT, who has worked in the recovery field for nearly years including as a case manager in Cottage’s Residential and COPE Outpatient Programs and as a teacher in the first offender DUI program in Ventura County, for the “Mindfulness Meditation and Prayer in Recovery Weekend Retreat” at Mt. Calvary Monastery Guest House. Geared toward people in recovery and recovery support systems – which also includes AA, NA, Al-Anon, ACA, and their friends – the weekend will investigate mindfulness meditation and contemplative prayer from many perspectives, employing surrender, love, and compassion to find refuge in a spiritual practice in order to live a healthy, connected, and inspired life. The retreat, appropriate for both new and experienced meditators, includes silent meditation sits, guided meditations, walking meditations, individual coaching, dharma talks, Q&A, and group discussions. Visit for details, registration, and information on scholarships for the November 15-17 retreat.


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