“Isn’t there something else?”
I was in my mid-20s, living in Shanghai and moving up in the PR agency world. Everything looked great on paper, but that question kept popping into my mind. A part of me genuinely enjoyed the work I was doing, but it also felt a bit empty and less fulfilling as time went on. Yes, it sounds a bit cliché, but when you’re in it, you’re all-consumed by it. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was feeling the beginning of my Saturn return. In astrology, the planet Saturn is the taskmaster, making sure you’re following your purpose and living in alignment. Note: This is why so many people have career changes in their late 20s to early 30s. So, I left the agency world, moved back to America and became a full-time entrepreneur.
I used to think self-care meant working out every day, eating well and getting massages. While it definitely encompasses these things, that’s far from what it actually means.
True self-care means listening to your heart and intuition when it goes against everything you think you know. I started letting go of expectations and not caring what others thought of me so I could live my truth. For the first time in my life, I had to confront the idea that the reality I had created for myself was heavily influenced by external values.
Wait, external values aren’t my own? Then what do I believe? What is right for me? I felt like I was in 10th grade English class again learning about existentialism. Shouldn’t I have things figured out? Nah, we never have things 100% figured out.
I started to understand there were other areas of well-being I had largely ignored like emotional health, spiritual connection and mental health. I began to really understand what it meant to address your health holistically, and like everything else in life worth having, it wasn’t easy. It’s not just saying affirmations, thinking positively and seeing a therapist once a week. You have to practice self-care/wellness/whatever you want to call it every day.
You have to check in with yourself more often than you think and start showing up for yourself. You actually need to feel your emotions instead of distracting yourself with a busy social schedule, Netflix, vices or something else. If you don’t, it piles up inside you. You know those people who scream at servers or demand to see the manager because the store can’t accept a return from five years ago? That’s what happens when emotions build up like a pressure cooker and something mundane causes a meltdown.
“In order to tap into that infinite and abundant well of truth, it is critical that we silence the noise that comes from outside,” says Adriana Mendoza, COO of D.C. collective and retail space Femme Fatale. “I have learned my self-care practice nourishes my truth.”
She continues, “Mindfulness is a concept that came into my vocabulary only three years ago. Before then, I was living a life purely in either the past or future. Practicing mindfulness is an ongoing daily practice. The mind is powerful and will try and pull you out of the present moment. Art is what brings me back to the present moment.”
In America, so much of our self-worth and identify is tied to our career and professional “success.” We don’t know who we are without it. Our world revolves around it. When you start thinking, “Hey, I don’t think this is for me anymore,” it’s a scary realization because you’re shifting your reality. What you think is true changes. The life you thought you’d be living falls out from beneath you – for your benefit, though. It’s easy to be on autopilot. It’s uncomfortable at first to chart your own course, but once you discover your own path, you light up and act as a beacon for others to do the same.
Did I think five years ago I was going to be hosting workshops and programs helping people discover their purpose, and explaining how to cultivate energy and which crystals to use for each energy center? No f–king way. I thought everything in this space was fake and all marketing (like, WTF is a yoni egg?) But when I unwrapped the BS and experienced holistic wellness for myself, things changed. I practiced yoga, developed a meditation practice and learned astrology. I inadvertently started the process of coming home to myself.
I realized everything I was learning, mostly from white teachers and guides, were things in my culture that had been erased or shunned because of westernization. I began to reclaim my Chinese heritage and the ancient practices of mindfulness and using food as medicine. I reconnected with my body, developed my intuition, and began to live authentically for myself and no one else Self-care became a movement and thus, commercialized. The true meaning of self-care is healing yourself.
Karina Carlson of D.C.-based wellness community Well Read believes, “Self-care is about what you put on your body, but it’s also what you let in – and I don’t mean just food. It’s the energy you cultivate, the thoughts you let lead you and the relationships you surround yourself with.”
Self-care is doing the difficult work to uncover your limiting beliefs, trauma, shadow self – anything icky you’ve been avoiding. It’s important to understand the “dark side” of you so it doesn’t have a hold on you anymore. Once you embrace it, you’re no longer in fear of it. You take your power back. You have to figure out the parts of your life that have been on autopilot and become an active participant again. Be the producer, director and star of your life.
What’s really helped me with this process? A daily mindfulness practice that includes meditation, movement, self-reflection, and reading something nourishing and inspirational. In the beginning, sound baths were helpful to quiet the mind, which is why I still facilitate them. I use journaling to help me answer questions, make decisions and process what’s happening in my life. Systems like astrology, Human Design and Enneagram have allowed me to accept who I am and be comfortable with doing things differently from others.
When practicing mindfulness, Maya Oren of D.C.-based creative studio MOJALVO says, “I allow myself to be aware of my surroundings most of the day. Staying mindful in this way is such a potent exercise for mindfulness.”
She notes, “Spirituality, and for me specifically, meditation and movement, have taught me that it is crucial to take time for myself every single day. That routine/structure is a vital component for my overall well-being.”
Carlson notices when she misses a meditation.
“When I feel into my body/mind through meditation, I have a deeper awareness of the space I take up physically and energetically.”
Through my own journey, I’ve embraced my need to be an entrepreneur after more than 10 years of fighting it. I’ve released the, “What will others think if I start this business?” I now have an amazing community in the DMV and beyond who I help reconnect to their truth through mindfulness, chakras and manifestation, to name a few of my favorite methods. By connecting with my purpose, the gift I’m meant to share with others, I feel more alive and at peace knowing I spend my days helping others live more fully.
Alice Hu is the founder of Woo Woo Company, a guide to all things woo, spiritual and holistic health. She’s a local DMV expert on mindfulness who has also been featured in Washingtonian and Washington City Paper. Connect with her via 202-918-3414 to join in on abundance meditation challenges, listen to her “Into the Woo” podcast, or shoot her a note at [email protected] Hu regularly hosts virtual workshops and works with clients 1:1 to help them discover their truth and purpose.
For more on Adriana Mendoza and Femme Fatale, visit www.femmefataledc.com and follow @femmefataledc on Instagram. For more on Karina Carlson and Well Read, visit www.thisiswellread.com and follow @thisiswellread on Instagram. For more on Maya Oren and MOJALVO, visit www.mojalvo.com and follow @mojalvo on Instagram.
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