From her Salt Lake City home, she handles communications for Omaha-based Gravity Center for Contemplative Activism. Its husband-wife team, Chris and Phileena Heuretz, lead workshops and retreats and author books. Rosales met them at the 2012 Urbana student missions conference in St. Louis. She took their contemplative activism workshop and participated in retreats at the Benedictine Center in Schuyler, Nebraska. The experiences enhanced her spiritual quest.
"I remember writing in my journal, 'I love their message and mission and I would really love to do the work these people do.' And now – here I am," Rosales said.
Meditation came into her life at a crucial juncture.
"I was in a season where the idea of resting in the presence of God was all that I longed for."
A few years earlier she'd left her east Texas family to chart a new path.
"I am a first-generation high school and college graduate. I'm carving my own path, but for the better – by doing things a little bit differently. In that way, I definitely see myself as a trailblazer for family to come."
She grew up an Evangelical Christian and attended a small private Christian college in Michigan, where she studied literature, rhetoric and storytelling.
"The idea of telling a story and telling it well and of being careful in the articulation of the story really began to come alive for me. I began to pursue avenues of self-expression in terms of word choice and dialect."
As a child enamored with words, the tales told by her charismatic grandmother made an impression.
"I was heavily influenced by my grandmother. She captivated an audience with her storytelling. I was raised on stories of her childhood coming out of Mexico. It was very much instilled in me. I see it as a huge gift in my life."
But Rosales didn't always see it that way.
"Growing up, it was like, 'Here goes grandma again in Spanish. Okay, grandma, we're in America' – shutting her down. When she passed away, reconciling those prejudices became a huge part of my journey. I moved to Mexico for that very purpose and spent time living with my distant relatives, mostly in Monterey, to truly embrace what it means to be this beautiful, powerful, sensual Latina and honor that part of who I am.
"Part of creating a safe place for others to show up as who they are is feeling safe in my own skin and appreciating the richness of my Hispanic heritage."
Self-awareness led her to find a niche for her passion.
"It started with me being really honest about telling my story with all of the hurts and traumas. I could then invite in light and life, healing and redemption."
Her work today involves assisting folks "sift through the overarching stories of their life and to reframe those narratives in ways more conducive to personal well-being." She added, "It's moving from victim mentalities into stances of empowerment through how different life experiences are articulated. I developed my own practice to help people journey through that."
She calls her practice Holistic Narrative Therapy. It marries well with meditation and yoga. She's learned the value of "silence, solitude and stillness" through meditation and centering prayer.
"In silence you take time to sit and listen to find the still small voice within, the rhyme and reason in all the chaos and loud noise. In stillness you learn to sit through discomfort. In solitude you learn to remove yourself from the influences of culture, society, family and expectation and to be comfortable with who you show up as when no one else is watching. Those are the roots and fruits of the contemplative life."
Doing yoga, she believes, "is the embodied expression of dance with the divine." After attending a yoga resort-health spa in Costa Rica, the owners hired her to conduct Holistic Narrative Therapy sessions. She said everything about the setting invited restoration – "the lush jungles, the pristine beaches, the blue waters, the food that grows there, the music, the vibe."
After that idyll. she roughed it by working as a wilderness therapy guide in Utah with youth struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation.
"Being one with the elements provides a lot of space for growth. I was just naturally attracted to that. That was a great experience."
En route to starting that job she was driving through Zion National Park when she took her eyes off the road and her SUV tumbled down a cliff. She escaped unharmed but chastened. This heady, strong, independent woman needed bringing down a notch.
"I was falling into a trap of playing God in my own life. You don't want to take rolling over a cliff to learn a lesson, but I guess I needed to be knocked off my center to re-land on something fortified and true."
She now works for a Salt Lake youth therapy program.
"My dream is to open a community center for people to come and experience restoration and what it means to be fully alive, fully human."
She rarely makes it back to Neb., but she did come for Gravity's March Deepening Retreat in Schuyler.
"I am a firm believer we can only extend the love to the world we have for ourselves. That's truly what these retreats are for me – to fill my own tank so that I can go out and serve the world to the best of my abilities."
Read more of Leo Adam Biga's work at leoadambiga.com.