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.