Thursday, November 23, 2006
Zen and the art of total serenity
Searching for serenity -- whether it's for your mind, body and/or soul -- is not easy. Not that I want to start off on a negative note, but do you ever feel like being still is the most difficult thing to do? Ever feel like your mind just can't be still? When they say in yoga classes, "Just free your mind of all thoughts," and "focus on your breath" or "be in the moment," it works for a couple of seconds and then my mind moves a million miles a minute.

A few months ago I was at a point where I needed to find serenity. We've all been there: that feeling where you just want to stop listening, stop doing and just stop thinking. Well, I was there. I decided to bite the bullet and enrol in a gym, even after stating: "I don't do gyms." My problem with gyms was I couldn't see myself working out on those terrifying machines and being coordinated (physically, not fashionably.)

Anyway, it got to the point where I felt I needed a release after working such early hours every morning. I went looking for yoga classes that would fit in with my morning schedule and I found it at a gym. Now I take Pilates, yoga and Body Balance classes three to four times a week -- and I feel great. For that one hour I feel like I'm just focusing on me. I learn to control my breath, to stretch and to really listen to my body.

The environment we live in makes it difficult to make the time and effort to do something that's just for us. I guess it comes down to realizing that work shouldn't be the be all and end all. We need other interests -- things we love that aren't part of our professional lives. We need to make the time to see friends because they make us laugh and give us things to think about other than work. Bottom line: we need a life that includes workouts, spa treatments, friends, hobbies, etc.

It was only in the past few months I realized a well-rounded life was what I needed. Like a lot of young professionals I was consumed with my job. Don't get me wrong; there is a time when you really need to focus on your career so that you can build something for yourself. I was no different. And while my career is a priority in my life, it isn't my only priority. Maybe it has something to do with hitting my 30s and realizing I want more.

I love my job and the people I work with. It's stressful, challenging, time-consuming, there's sleep deprivation, jet lag, but it's what makes the job interesting. Now, though, I also love having a life outside of work. I make workouts my priority. I make those close to me a priority. It all helps me feel more balanced. And that feeling isn't always easy to achieve.

To be honest, I was never really a fan of spa treatments. I didn't have the patience to be pampered that way. I've since discovered -- like my Pilates and yoga classes -- the time you take for yourself is really invaluable.

I decided to try a spa treatment at the ESPA retreat at the Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland. I was there to interview ESPA founder Susan Harmsworth and just being in Scotland (my favorite place) made me feel calmer. Susan is a strong, funny, lively woman and I learned a lot from her. She's interesting not just because of her drive for success but the reasons behind it. She wants to make people feel better about themselves by helping them release the negativity in their lives and allowing them to feel good. While any good businessperson is concerned about the bottom line, her main goal is to spread that positive philosophy by educating her therapists in the art of treating a person's physical well being.

It's the same philosophy Technogym founder Nerio Allesandri lives by. While he creates machines to sculpt the body, he says that's just the beginning. His idea of wellness is what makes a person feel better and live longer. His company's philosophy is that the wellness lifestyle "is found in small daily gestures, giving the right pace to life, managing your energies better..." Wellness encompasses how you treat your body, mind, and soul -- whether it's through daily exercise, what you eat, and how you think.

When you take time to treat your body well, it makes you a better person -- not just for yourself but also for the people you deal with every day. Your mind is relaxed and balanced. Your soul is calm and happy. Though it's important to do it for you, at the end of the day, nobody likes to be around an emotionally unbalanced, irritable and negative person no matter how much they love you. Trust me, I know.
Posted By Leetlegirl: Thursday, November 23, 2006
A month ago, I did find some real serenity -- becoming a (Zen) Buddhist. I couldn't believe it. I was an out-of-work, workaholic, alcoholic, with no wife, kids, friends, social life. I still have much of that turmoil. But it no longer affects me. I haven't had a drink in 24 days & I feel GREAT :-)
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Phoenix, AZ : 9:02 PM, November 23, 2006
A great read indeed, and I'm glad Scotland is your favorite place, as that is where I live. I wish I had known you were coming, then I could have tried to get an autograph from you. You are one of my favorite presenters on CNN-- your presenting is just fantastic.
Posted By Anonymous Farah, Glasgow, Scotland : 9:58 PM, November 23, 2006
Monita: For a while I wondered where you had gone as I had seen you on City Pulse 24 here in Toronto. I am amazed that you have recognised the elements of success before hitting the solid 30 years. Indeed, one's job or career is very minute part of living. You have figured this out in your still youthful years... Bravo!
Posted By Anonymous Bibi Hack, Toronto, Canada : 3:31 AM, November 24, 2006
It's good to have a healthy routine -- jogging, doing sit-ups, skipping and also weightlifting are my preferred forms of exercise.It pays to keep one's physique intact.
Posted By Anonymous new york palamo : 9:01 AM, November 24, 2006
Some of us have realized a bit later in life than Monita that work is not be all and end all of life! I wish her all the very best at CNN as she is a great reporter.
Posted By Anonymous Rajiv, London, UK : 9:04 AM, November 24, 2006
What you say is true. Every person requires balance in life and not just focusing on exclusively one single thing. This can be done -- as you said -- by adding exercise etc. However, there is more to it that.

In order to have a physical balance it is a must to have balanced mind, this is where things get harder. There is a Bible text which I found very interesting that is Matthew 5:3, which says "Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need." So I had to think a lot about it before understanding what it meant.

But I finally understood. A man has the need to satisfy his very basic existantial needs, by searching, finding and understanding aswers to existential questions. Once these basics are satisfied, then it is easy to find proper objectives which make a person live happily.

Then of course -- as you said -- it is necessary to have completeness in life: work, sports, friends. But it is also important to understand in life which priorities should be the most important. One a human being has understoon these very basics, then he is already a step ahead of the majority in finding what it means to find true happiness.
Posted By Anonymous Derek : 10:39 AM, November 24, 2006
Monita: I am so happy to see you are covering these topics in your show. I am from the U.S. but living in Tanzania, working as a yoga teacher at a safari lodge. More and more, I see our clients coming here to get back to nature and find a silence they do not get in their daily life. I think more of the masses are exploring ways to better their life and recognizing a need for change.
Thank you!
Posted By Anonymous stacia Ngare Sero Lodge Tanzania : 1:43 PM, November 25, 2006
Salut Monita,
Merci bcp pour ton reportage!! I've just seen it.
En esperant te voir sur Paris ou Montreal pour un autographe.
Posted By Anonymous Mel, Paris, France : 7:16 PM, November 25, 2006
I think working out and engaging in fitness programs are absolutely imperative. I used to be among people who thought feeding and sleeping well alone helps maintain good mental and physical health. However, I only had to try out a gym once to get my perspectives sorted out. And I thoroughly enjoyed this edition on TV.
Posted By Anonymous Adeyemi Adeniran, Lagos, Nigeria : 7:52 PM, November 26, 2006
I saw a bit of the show yesterday and have to say, was disappointed. Spas and relaxation are interesting topics but surely the program would have served for more illuminating viewing if you had visited more than one spa brand in rural Scotland.
Posted By Anonymous Adam Bell, Croatia : 11:58 AM, November 27, 2006
The November show was great.

Yoga, in my opinion, is the most effective and affordable way to mental and physical health. After all, what matters at the end of the day is happiness... not money and fame.

Thank you, Monita for the wonderful show.
Posted By Anonymous Raaj, Bombay - India : 7:00 AM, November 28, 2006
Hi Monita,

The presentation of Art of Life was really nice. When can we expect you to cover our region for airing such stories on CNN? You must be knowing that South India has so much to offer to art of life.
Tamil Nadu
South India
Posted By Anonymous Ram, Coimbatore, India : 10:58 AM, November 28, 2006
I love reading articles which are of benefit to the body as well as the mind, as I also practice yoga on a regular basis. The breathing exercises which are part of the yoga routines are what truly calm the mind, and allow for such a rewarding sense of well being. Keep up the great work!
Posted By Anonymous Eric Richard, Canada : 9:30 AM, November 30, 2006
Hi Monita! I've been following your travels since you began this series, enjoying my virtual trips out of Vermont to indulge in the best the world has to offer. Then it dawned on me ... you must come to Vermont, home to some of the world's finest spas, ski resorts, wedding settings, cuisine -- and most notably the world's best environmentally friendly luxury furniture. Custom-crafted by artisans from all over the world, who have come to call the Green Mountains home. I hope you will stop by and visit us one day soon.
Warm regards,
Peggy Farabaugh
Posted By Anonymous Peggy Farabaugh, Vernon, Vermont : 6:56 PM, November 30, 2006
Hey Monita,
As I read through your blog, I've no doubt about your ability as a very thoughtful writer. If ever you get bored of your present occupation, I think you can safely switch over to writing, as a columnist or author books! Now, if that gives you some food for thought, you'll owe me a royalty when you do switch over professions!

Of all your articles, the one that touched me most was your thoughts on the need for serenity. Life, to me, is fun, duty and challenge. Fun is all that I love to do, Duty is all that I am obliged to do for my people and the society at large, and Challenge is all that I am confronted with, in my life.

Difficulty, Crisis, Fate, Luck, Destiny are words that I keep myself away from. The individual alone is responsible for his/her success or failure. I firmly believe in the theory that human mind is the fundamental resource. Be the master of your mind and emotions and you will see that nothing can ever shake or tire you. Now, isn't that simple? I stick to these basics and don't feel the need to follow spiritual gurus or any cult/religion in particular.

A well-rounded life is practically possible if -- and only if -- your mind and emotions are firmly in your control. It's all in the mind, Monita. Keep it free of prejudice and you will see good qualities even in the worst of people. You will find something to be happy about, every moment of your life. I look forward to more of your writings, with great interest.
Keep Smiling, Best Wishes,
Danny, India
Posted By Anonymous Danny - India : 7:51 AM, December 05, 2006
Nice Blog- agree with all!. Being a well rounded, healthy, person can only help you & your work.
You should come out to California some time & try surfing. It would fit in with your new lifestyle/philosophy!
Love you, Love your show!
Posted By Anonymous Shanna, San Diego, CA : 2:55 PM, December 06, 2006
Kudos, MONITA!
I just love watching you as anchor of CNN. You're a breath of fresh air. I doubly love your show Art of Life -- very informative and entertaining. Can't wait to see episode after episode. Keep up the good work.
Posted By Anonymous ruth terania, manila, philippines : 2:33 AM, December 09, 2006
Reading through your blog I'm glad you've found that 'place', the nameless, hard to describe place where one overcome by life's challenges, stereotypes, and pressures manages to retreat into a self concentrated state. It's a hard place to find, and to free yourself of guilt, stress and self titled obligations. Glad you listened to your body and mind.
Posted By Anonymous Babie Nagra, Toronto : 5:40 PM, December 13, 2006
"We need a life that includes workouts, spa treatments,...." I totally agree with you. As a young professional too, it was only recently that I really realized the value of working out as well as the pleasure of going to spa. Life shouldn't just be all work. Health and wellness must be part of it. After working hard to build one's career, one should also reward himself with all possible perks that he/she can afford. Wishfully, however, going to the gym and spa will one day be activities that even the poorest of the poor can afford to do...again, for the sake of health and wellness for ALL.
Posted By Anonymous Nino Sandil, Manila - Philippines : 8:13 AM, December 19, 2006
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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