As we all dive deeper into the self-care movement—come through, Black girl joy!—we’re learning that taking good care of ourselves means prioritizing our mental, physical and emotional health. In other words, nurturing our relationships is just as important as taking care of our bodies. But when was the last time you spent real, unplugged quality time with the person you love? Nine years into our marriage, my husband, Gibran, and I are still intentional about date nights, but to be honest, we’re usually more like a party of four—us and our two cell phones.

Charli Penn and her husband, Gibran, relax together at the Mohonk Mountain House.

Despite our busy lives, we must still carve out time to concentrate on connecting with our partners in deeper ways. “Care of the couple is also care of the self, because if you’re not feeling resilient and healthy and whole, it’s very hard to be part of a couple and feel that way,” says Nina Smiley, Ph.D., director of mindfulness programming at Mohonk Mountain House, a wellness and spa resort nestled inside a Victorian castle in New Paltz, New York.

Unlike on a typical romantic getaway, we learned and practiced mindfulness.”

My hubby and I visited this spot in search of new ways to focus on us. We chose Mohonk because planning a restful weekend shouldn’t be stressful. Just a 90-minute drive from home, the resort offered an idyllic location and a variety of activities for us to enjoy together, from nature walks to a selection of luxurious spa treatments.

Our first night there, we spent a phone-and TV-free evening by the fire in our room. It was so relaxing that we were asleep in minutes. On day two, we hit the saunas and the spa and tried beginner yoga and meditation classes. It didn’t matter that our poses might still need a little work, because unlike a typical romantic getaway, this was one on which to learn and practice mindfulness—which Smiley defines as “simply being present in the moment in a gentle, nonjudgmental way.”

As we hone our loving awareness of each other, Smiley adds, we begin to make this practice a habit. “Anytime you do anything repeatedly, your brain changes,” she explains. “The neurons in your brain connect in a new way as you lie there without your phones—looking at each other and feeling relaxed. You begin to create a neural path for this new, positive behavior. Like, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to relax together.’ And you bring that home with you as a new opportunity.” Hubby and I did leave feeling more in sync than we’d been in months. Now we’re excited to plan for more us time, because when it comes to self-care, togetherness matters.

Editor’s Note: This vacation occurred before the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic. Please travel with safety in mind and lookup local travel restrictions and warnings where you’re headed before you plan a visit. Stay safe.

Love & Mindfulness

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