“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.”
— Jon Kabat-Zinn
I’ll never forget where I was the first time I learned about the meditation app called Calm. Last November, I returned to the U.S. from Uruguay for my brother’s wedding in Kansas. After the festivities were over, I spent a week house-sitting and dog-sitting for dear friends in Pacifica, California, whose beautiful home overlooks the ocean their city’s name evokes. And it was while I was in Pacifica that my sister told me she’d spent her own flight back from the wedding listening to “Sleep Stories” on the Calm app.
“You should check Calm out,” she said over the phone. “I think you’d like it.”
Before downloading Calm, I’d never made a serious practice of meditation — usually, I tried to pursue greater presence and mindfulness through sketching. But I was intrigued by the sound of Calm and decided to check it out. Immediately, I loved how simple it was; that in addition to an ever-growing collection of Sleep Stories, there’s also a new 10-minute “Daily Calm” guided meditation every day. For me, it made the idea of a regular meditation ritual much more real and accessible.
I still remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of my friends’ home in Pacifica as I listened to my first Daily Calm. While my friends’ curious dog Ender sniffed and poked around me, trying desperately to figure out why I was sitting motionless in the middle of the living room and not playing with him, I kept my gaze fixed on the ocean rolling beyond the wide windows.
I felt my breath rise and fall, I listened to the slowing rhythm of my heart — and I wondered why it had taken me this long to give meditation a try.
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In the months that followed my time in Pacifica and my return to Uruguay, Calm slowly became a part of my beloved daily rhythms — rituals like reading, journaling, starting the day with a cup of tea or coffee, and now, listening to the Daily Calm.
I just wanted to share all of that as context for what I’m excited to share with you next today: Because about six months after I started using Calm, I was amazed to see an email arrive in my inbox one night with the subject line, “Calm.com.”
The sender? One of the two co-founders and co-CEOs of Calm himself, Michael Acton Smith.
As it turned out, Michael had read a story of mine in the latest Lonely Planet travel anthology (which, perfectly enough enough, I remember sharing with you in another giveaway post during that same homestay in Pacifica last November). Furthermore, he was reaching out to see if I’d be interested in writing for Calm. As you might imagine, my heart did the very opposite of what it usually does when I’m meditating — it raced, as my head spun with the serendipity and connection of it all.
“Candace,” my boyfriend José said to me with a smile, after I finished reading Michael’s email, “I think you need to go use Calm now to calm down.”
In particular, Michael was asking if I’d be interested in writing Sleep Stories — a part of Calm that features soothing, evocative tales designed to help people drift off to sleep…just like the bedtime stories from our childhood, but for grown-ups. Every Sleep Story features beautiful, descriptive language; a hushed, gentle rhythm in its narration style; and, most importantly, no tension or gripping plot that’ll keep listeners hanging on to hear the ending, instead of letting go and falling asleep.
There are both fiction and non-fiction Sleep Stories, but Michael thought I might like to write travel-inspired non-fiction tales for Calm, as well as illustrate the image that would be featured with the story in the app. It also just so happened that the very next morning after his email arrived, I had a flight booked to Chile. While I spent the next few days sketching Valparaíso and getting to know the country, I also spent time drawing up a list of potential story ideas for Calm.
Right when I least expected it, a fascinating new project had presented itself, for a company I already felt personally invested in. I truly couldn’t believe it.
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As you might have seen me share on social media over the past few weeks, I spent much of July working on a set of three Sleep Stories for Calm — about journeys I’ve taken to French Polynesia, Japan, and Peru. I’m honored and thrilled to have had the opportunity to not only write the stories and illustrate the featured images that will be used in the app, but I even got to hit the recording studio and narrate two of the stories myself…the first of which is now officially live in the app!
The story is called “The Black Pearls of Tahiti,” and is about the three weeks I once spent as a volunteer on a black pearl farm in the South Pacific. Although more than seven years have passed since my time there, the experience has always stayed with me.
Getting to write about the pearl farm for Calm was more than just a huge honor — it was a chance to return to one of my very favorite places in the world.
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How you can listen to “The Black Pearls of Tahiti”
While I was in San Francisco earlier this month, I loved having a chance to visit Calm’s headquarters in the city, meet some of the Calm team, and finally connect with Michael himself, after months of working together via email. Our conversation that morning was a wonderfully wide-ranging one, but at one point during our chat, I asked him if it would be possible to extend a special offer to all of you once my first story was live — and gratefully, Michael confirmed it was indeed a possibility.
If you visit www.calm.com/momentcatchers, you’ll be able to sign up and receive a free month-long trial for a premium Calm membership — which will give you access to their full library of Sleep Stories, including stories from yours truly 🙂
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And now…for a giveaway!
I’m thrilled and grateful to be able to offer everyone in our Moment Catchers family a free trial for Calm, but I didn’t want to stop there — today, I’m also excited to be giving away a year-long premium Calm membership to one winner at random.
If you would like to enter the giveaway, all you need to do is:
1. Leave a comment below, sharing one of your own daily rhythms that helps you feel more mindful — or if you’d like to start.
2. I’ll choose one winner at random tomorrow, August 29th, at 12noon EST.
3. If you’re reading this from outside the U.S., please don’t hesitate to enter. Digital products make for easy global delivery 🙂