In the world of social media, it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of it all. But taking a quick scroll through Sandra Gal’s Instagram account is like escaping to an oasis in the desert. Inspirational quotes are framed by photos of Gal and beautiful snaps from around the world, which are often captioned with positive words and phrases. “Infinitely blessed,” she posted alongside the photograph of an ocean at sunset. Tranquility oozes from the screen.
But Gal wasn’t always so at peace.
This week, Gal begins her 12th season on the LPGA Tour, and the lifestyle she has now is much different than the one she had when she started her career. In 2010, Gal was two years in to her career on the LPGA Tour. She was busy traveling the world, grinding from Tour stop to Tour stop. She wasn’t quite sure where her priorities lie. And she felt like something was missing. She knew she should be enjoying each and every moment of living her dream of playing on Tour, but she was losing the joy of the experience as she got caught up in the slog of life on the road.
“There’s got to be a different way of living your life,” Gal recalled saying to herself.
For Gal, that life-changing realization meant learning to slow down. She took up yoga and started meditating daily.
“Being present in what you’re doing and learning to do it with care and love,” Gal said during a phone call from her adopted home in Sarasota, Fla. “I think that’s the one thing that changed my life a few years ago.”
It’s been more than a few years now, in fact it’s been almost nearly a decade since that pivotal moment in Gal’s life. Since then, mindfulness has been a central practice in her life. Having experienced the benefits first hand, she’s now helping others find that similar peace in their own life.
In August, the Sandra Gal Children’s Center, in partnership with Volunteers of America, will open in Miami, Fla. The Center will be located inside what was a former food bank at the organization’s headquarters in Miami. Gal hopes to target underprivileged children in the community, to teach them mindfulness through art, music and sports.
Gal has enlisted the help of friend JG Larochette, the man behind the Insight Timer meditation and sleep app and The Mindful Life Project, to spearhead the educational program. In California, Larochette and his team have implemented The Mindful Life Project at schools in high poverty areas to help children with emotional and behavioral issues. Gal hopes to replicate their success at her center in Miami.
“I always felt like kids are the ones who are shaping our future, so I thought naturally I would like to help them,” Gal said about helping underprivileged children. “They don’t have any role models or know what possibilities there are. I wanted to give them that opportunity.”
Gal first came up with the idea for the Center about a year ago and ran it past her team in just the last six months. She is amazed at the ease in which her dream has come to life. She’s been given a blank canvas from which to work and the facility is being designed with her vision in mind. The Center will feature a library, art supplies, a yoga room, a meditation space and a small putting green. Gal, who is not only a winner on the LPGA Tour, is also a talented artist. She’s auctioned off her artwork to raise money for the center and plans to decorate the interior by painting a mural on one of the walls.
“It’s kind of unreal and very special,” Gal said about the opportunity to open the facility in her name. “The fact that we’re professional athletes gives us a lot of privilege and opportunity for things like this to happen.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2019 with an anticipated opening in August 2019. It’s one of several exciting developments this season for Gal, who is launching the Sandra Gal Foundation, which will also raise funds to operate the Center.
“It’s really about the kids,” Gal said. “I just hopefully can change some lives and make people smile more and have these kids find some joy in what they’re doing.”
It wasn’t long ago Gal was trying to regain the joy in her own life, now she’s helping others find theirs. While she’ll be doing it in a more formal setting beginning in August, she’s already been doing it for years. Just take one look at her Instagram.