This post originally appeared on the Heartbeat at Lead With Love, a non-profit based out of Aspen, Colordao.


Historically, this is one of the most incredible months of the year to be in Aspen. The Food & Wine Festival usually occurs in mid-June and draws throngs of people back to our tiny town and signals the kick-off of the summer social season. The Aspen Ideas Festival at the Institute quickly follows with the arrival of global thought leaders speaking on interesting panels and presentations. The locals vie for all the various complimentary passes to these pricey events. If one lives in Aspen long enough, you realize there are infinite ways to experience its rarefied offerings for free or very cheap should you know the right person. And in a place this small, we do seem to all know one another.

Finally, the kickoff of the Aspen Music Festival at the very end of June brings locals, tourists and 2nd/3rd homeowners together on their picnic blankets to enjoy libations and the sounds of the music school’s alumni as well as world-renowned musicians performing classical masterpieces. This gathering will not require any finagling for tickets as it is affordable and beloved by all. This year it is still quite different. Dates have been moved and rescheduled and the Ideas Fest is pared back. Yet Aspen is now teeming with people and laughter, and one can once again walk through town and stop to chat with old friends on the cobblestone malls to hear how they fared throughout the pandemic.

And after the past many months of disruption and isolation, we are all, in our own ways and communities, welcoming a return to our social lives. For the more introverted, this may present as an intimate dinner with a close friend or family member for the first time in a year and a half. For others, this is the time to join thousands of kindred spirits at Red Rocks amphitheatre to absorb and pulse with the energy of the crowd singing along to the Dirty Heads live and in person. For me, it is finally marking the calendar to gather with my closest girlfriends for a proper catch-up on a sunny afternoon or the long brunch I recently enjoyed with an old friend. It was flying home to TN two weeks ago and taking my daughter and nephews to the beach and enjoying walking each morning with my sister.

Social wellbeing is valued by those who measure such things as having and maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family, and feeling connected to other people. Some go so far as to say it means to feel that one is contributing to the social good. No matter how you define it, humans (even the introverts) crave connection — to see others and to feel seen themselves. We were not designed to be alone.

Here’s hoping that you find yourself enjoying a slow conversation or deep belly laugh with someone that sees you and loves you, just as you are. And do feel free to share your own stories with us at Lead With Love; we so appreciate hearing them!

Social Wellbeing


Celebrating Jayne’s birthday

It was a bit tongue in cheek but I asked how he would recommend measuring my social wellbeing over a period of time, what metric? He suggested the number of new friends (real friends) that I might make or the number of new places I would visit with a close friend or loved one. I thought that sounded perfect! And it made me want to share with all of you the time I met one of my closest friends. These days, I find that I crave time with people with whom I share a deep and meaningful connection. Most people will tell you that as they age, it is not volume of friends but the quality of the relationships that truly matters.

I feel very grateful for the lovely friends that I have made these many years in Aspen and I can trace almost all of them back to one, singular, and extremely important first connection. If you know me well, then you will have heard this tale before. It is a story of my arrival in a new place, knowing not a soul in the valley, and how one person, one connection, changed the course of my life. This is my personal reflection on the value of social connection and friendship.

Eight years ago, driven only by a desire to live in the mountains, my small family and I pulled up roots in Tennessee and drove 2 days to Colorado to make the biggest move of our lives. My husband knew exactly one person, an old friend from high school, and I knew no one. We had vacationed in the Roaring Fork Valley many times and longed for its climate and promise of months of skiing and snowboarding. I had convinced my largest consulting client to keep me on remotely and my husband had landed a job at said friend’s business. We sold most of the things we owned and moved the remaining items in a rented Uhaul towing my car behind it. I drove my husband’s truck accompanied by my then 7 year old daughter and my mother-in-law who was ostensibly along to help us unpack once we arrived. It was a stressful journey that culminated in finding out the ADU I’d rented from an online ad was exactly half the size it had been advertised. My MIL stayed about 2 days longer than we or she would have liked and as she set off back for TN, I found myself puzzling how on earth we’d manage in this tiny space and with a literal back ache that wouldn’t allow me to sleep or really walk.

Trooper (the magical dog) & Jayne
Trooper (the magical dog) & Jayne

Our new, temporary home was in old town Basalt and I found a local chiropractor who worked magic on my spine. After a couple days recovering, we took to our bikes to explore our new town. I was delighted to spot a yoga studio in town and even happier to meet a sweet, black lab who seemed to belong to the studio. She reminded me of my recently departed dog, Zelda, and seemed a good omen for our new life. I noticed a smiling blonde woman with a curly head of hair unloading cases of bottled water into the studio, accompanied by a handsome man with a terrific smile. From a distance, I heard her call “Come here Trooper!” and watched as my new canine friend trotted off. I made a note to take a class at the studio as soon as my back would allow me.

Jess & Jayne at the original Shakti Shala
Jess & Jayne at the original Shakti Shala

A week later, I was back on my mat, enjoying a fabulous class taught by a gorgeous and strong Australian woman named Harriet. I was still getting my footing and Zoe had started her first day of school. I looked forward to picking her up that afternoon and hearing all about her new teachers and friends. Harriet stopped me as I was leaving the studio and asked me if I taught yoga. I said I did. She said she needed a substitute for an upcoming trip she was taking out of town and that I’d have to meet Jayne, the studio owner, before I could teach. I hadn’t actually planned on teaching yoga in our new locale. I’d done some cursory research online about the yoga scene in the Aspen valley and had been immediately intimidated by the sheer number of teachers — and the fact that I’d heard of several of them through Yoga Journal and other media. I just assumed I’d be a student again. However, Harriet was not so much asking me to meet with Jayne as directing me to do it, and I was honestly afraid to say no. Her beauty was matched by her dominant presence.

Jayne and I met for coffee the following day at Saxby’s, the next door coffee shop. We dove into conversation and it was as magical as any first date two people have ever had. We laughed and listened and spoke over each other and finished one another’s sentences and time stood still, truly. I think we both felt the magnitude of our connection and were equally open and interested to see where it would lead. I’m not sure how common it is to meet your best friend in your late 30’s but I knew then that Jayne was my other half and would be for the rest of my life. 

Everything is a celebration with this woman!
Everything is a celebration with this woman!

I could write a book about our misadventures and all the memories, trouble, heartache, wonder and joy. And I may just do that one day. For now, I will say that you never can predict when your life’s trajectory may take a startling and fabulous change in direction. So, keep your eyes and heart open for that opportunity. Through Jayne I met so many people — Tyler, Emily, River, our well-loved and deeply missed Heather, and my soul sister, Gina Murdock. And through Gina I met countless others like Mel, Tillie, Megan, Gina S. and Skippy. Jayne and I met Gretchen together. Through Gretchen we came to know Chris, Maja and Ben. Ben led to Erica, my partner in loving crime here at Lead With Love. Gautham also came to me through Jayne. He brought into my life my other business partners, Billy and David. And these branches of friends, the people that I love, stretch outwards from the root of my connection to Jayne.

We’ve been forced to spend a little time apart due to the pandemic and all the changes it has wrought. But now, with the weather warm and the patios open for a late afternoon glass of Prosecco, Jayne and I start to find our way back to each other. There is not a nook of my soul that I haven’t shared with her nor she with I. I hope for all of you that you have at least one person (as one is all you really need) that sees you and loves you unconditionally. If not, keep looking and accept the invitation when it arrives — even in the form of a bossy, statuesque Australian who needs a favor.


in gratitude and service,


Jess Ewart has been teaching yoga and meditation for 15 years. She completed her 500AWC at Kerala Ayurveda Academy in 2011 and she’s been a proud member of the Lead With Love family for 6 years.