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Meet Monica Garcia of The Love Yourself Foundation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monica Garcia.

Monica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My story begins at the young age of eight when I read a book called the Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. In this story, the author guides you through a story of a man that is about to cut down this majestic tree. The man ends up falling asleep next to the tree, giving an opportunity for all the creatures that live in this tree to tell him why he should not cut it down. At the end of the story, the man wakes up and does not cut it down. The author did an incredible thing in her book, she wrote a story to all her readers empowering them that they can be the change in the world. After reading this book, my activist spirit was ignited, this was the official day I became an environmentalist.

As I grew up, I always knew that I would study environmental science in college. I attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas and became an Environmental Studies major immediately. As life would have it, I met an environmental sociology professor (also Sociology Dept. Chair), Dr. Robert Futrell, who showed me a whole other side to environmental issues from a human perspective. After taking his Sociology 101 course that truly broadened my mind, I double majored in Sociology. As a junior, I landed the opportunity to start a campaign at UNLV called Take Back the Tap. This campaign is spearheaded through the non-profit organization Food & Water Watch. This campaign aims to reduce the use of single-use bottled water at the university level. I founded the campaign at UNLV in 2011, at that time there were only three refilling stations on campus. Today the campus has over 100 and the campaign continues.

After I graduated from college, I served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with a non-profit called Green Our Planet. This organization helps bring school gardens to school, in addition to introducing STEAM curriculum that incorporates the use of the garden for lessons. In 2015, I returned to work at UNLV as a Sustainability Coordinator working alongside one of my long-time mentors, Tara Pike, UNLV Recycling & Sustainability Coordinator. This position allowed me to broaden what I was doing as a student but expanding my knowledge and skill set more at the university level. While in this role, I started the UNLV Sustainability Council, the UNLV Student Sustainability Council, a proposal for an Office of Sustainability and the creation of a new Sustainability Minor. Though I was extremely grateful of the opportunities and work I got to be a part of, something started to change in my inner world.

At the end of 2016, depression started to sneak its way into my awareness. At this point in my life, I did not have a daily self-care practice to help cope with these emotions. Luckily, I started to see counselors that helped me navigate through all my internal changes. In 2017, the depression lingered but at this point, I had introduced yoga and meditation to help me through these changes. Then later this year, I started to experience anxiety and panic attacks, something I had no experience coping with. That summer, I got to visit my family in Spain and had to reach some very important decisions. While in Spain, I begin to heal at a much quicker rate and I decided that I needed to stay for a longer period of time in my motherland. I ended up quitting my job and for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a plan, something that those closest to me know isn’t a common thing for me. For the first time in my life, I felt liberated and I truly felt like I was gifted a new beginning from the universe.

Thankfully, immediately after deciding to stay in Spain, I landed a job teaching English in Bilbao, Spain. I met the right folks and I knew that was exactly where I needed to be. Through the support of family and new friends in Spain, I felt incredibly welcomed into this new chapter. Through the depression, anxiety and panic attacks I experienced, it made me reflect and bring a new perspective to the environmental issues humanity is facing today. It made me wonder, “What if the state of the environment is a direct reflection of humanity?” With depression, anxiety and suicide on the rise in the world, something seems to not be working. Then it really hit me, the change we want to see in the world truly starts within. If we want to SEE a more beautiful world, we must first see the beauty within ourselves. Through loving ourselves, we have the capacity to love others more and build a more conscious and loving relationship with Mother Earth.

Through deep soul searching and reflection, I was able to find a new mission and purpose. Through my own struggle of overcoming some of the darkest moments of my life, I was able to find myself and a new way to serve this planet. The journey of learning how to love myself saved my life and I knew that I needed to help others on this path too. Therefore, I received inspiration to start my own organization called the Love Yourself Foundation (LYF). My struggles and overcoming them inspired me to start this organization to help others and I am so grateful. LYF launched online in summer of 2018 and in December of 2018, we did our very first event in Las Vegas, NV. To date, this has been the most fulfilling work I have been a part of and I am incredibly grateful to be leading this organization.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As mentioned previously, overcoming and learning to love myself through depression, anxiety and panic attacks have served as the biggest lessons. The journey of loving myself (and for all) is a never-ending journey, but it is a beautiful one that helps you get closer to yourself each and every day.

Please tell us about The Love Yourself Foundation.
The Love Yourself Foundation (LYF) promotes self-love practices to help those searching for personal enhancement through art, science, creativity and more. Through personal enrichment, LYF believes that the overall sustainability of humanity creates a more harmonious relationship with planet Earth.

LYF believes that through empowering people, humanity can create a more sustainable world. The health of the planet is a direct reflection of the state of humanity. LYF strives to be a lighthouse for those that wish to start their journey of self-love and uncover ways you can love yourself, love others and love the planet.

At LYF, we publish blog posts, podcast episodes, send newsletters, organize transformational events, create soul-enriching workshops, work with CCSD schools and other like-minded organizations. We collaborate with massage therapists, yoga teachers, and other insightful facilitators to help folks on their journey of self-healing. Apart from leading meaningful activities, we join forces with local artists and musicians that care about spreading love and uplifting others.

Currently, we are most known for the Love Your Self Expression event that we do 9-10 months out of the year, thus far. This event incorporates a workshop, guided meditation, open mic, and features local artists. At this event, we always have massage therapists to offer donation-based and discounted massages for folks. The intention of this event is to bring healing to the community and make these concepts approachable/fun!

I am incredibly proud that in just one year of being active in the community, we have brought a beautiful and uplifting event to the community, we have collaborated with incredible folks and organizations, we have been sponsored to collaborate on an event at University of California, Santa Barbara, the organization is part of the founding team of two new festivals in Las Vegas (Farside Wonderfest & We Are All One), we have had the opportunity to do workshops in schools… the list can go on! A huge accomplishment has been to create a team of volunteers that truly believe in the mission. We currently have 18 dedicated volunteers that truly co-create all this magic with me. I am forever grateful to have such wonderful people to work alongside with to carry the mission of this organization forward. THANK YOU!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
One of the things that always keeps me going is remembering that nothing stays the same forever. The only constant in life changes. Compassion heals all wounds and remembering to have compassion for myself first, helps me to always keep going. I believe in perseverance and incorporate it into my life always.

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Image Credit:

Photos for the People (Sonia Barcelona); Jahnn Villaraza

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