Like many who are drawn to the Bay Area, Chanda Williams Möllers, a yoga teacher and engineer, was looking for change. Within weeks of her arrival from New York in 2007, she made her way to a San Francisco meditation group affiliated with Spirit Rock. She also started a master’s program that in time led to her recent position as wellness manager at PG&E.
Life was going swimmingly. No boyfriend, but she had developed dating criteria. A potential partner would have a spiritual practice, a supportive family and work he enjoyed. An added bonus would be if he was from a different country. “Americans are too often consumed with consuming,” she explains.
And right there at the meditation group, she met a foreigner: Jurgen Möllers. From Germany, Jurgen had come for a postdoc fellowship at UC Berkeley and stayed on, becoming a personal historian. He’d launched his own company, Storyzon, which produces books on family and corporate histories.
The two were “sangha buddies” for quite some time before Jurgen hatched an idea. Jurgen taught meditation classes at the San Bruno jail. He asked the “joyful” Chanda to team-teach, joining their yoga and…
During the month of planning, the two found more than a professional relationship taking hold: They went to the opera, the beach and the symphony. Chanda came to understand that Jurgen was looking for more than a colleague.
So, as it turned out, was she.
At Orr Hot Springs in 2008, Chanda, in a gesture of mindfulness, asked her beau if anything she could do would bring him more happiness. Jurgen had been secretly carrying a ring for weeks. “Yes,” he replied, pulling a woven ring box from his pocket. “Will you marry me?”
A flummoxed Chanda
stood up, sat down and basically did a dance of confusion before accepting – though at first she hesitated to look at the ring. “It was so unexpected, I wondered if maybe it was a joke,” she says. The supportive Orr community caught the drift and gathered in celebration.
Later that year, the two traveled to northern Germany to visit Jurgen’s family in the small, conservative town in which he’d been raised. Despite their different backgrounds – Chanda is from Flint, Mich. – it was increasingly evident that both their values and families were incredibly similar. Flint, says Chanda, is as far from California woo-woo culture as is rural Germany. “But we are not so different,” says the soft-spoken Jurgen.
In 2009, they married in Jurgen’s village, the first interracial couple to have done so. True to their values, their honeymoon was spent volunteering at Clouds of Hope, a South African orphanage. Chanda taught yoga, while Jurgen worked on writing the history of the remarkable woman who started the organization.
“We get along really well,” Chanda adds. “And we don’t fight.”
“That doesn’t make for a great story,” adds the personal historian, “but it’s the truth.”
On their meditation practice:
Chanda: “Being mindful of our actions is the foundation of our relationship.”
Jurgen: “And the mindfulness extends also to each other.”