Zen and the Art of Life

By Monita Rajpal

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 brain is in constant motion? 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, feeling you just want to stop listening, stop doing and just stop thinking. So I decided to bite the bullet and enroll in a gym, even after stating: “I don’t do gyms.” My problem was I couldn’t see myself working out on those seemingly unfriendly machines and being seemingly coordinated (physically, not fashionably). But I needed a release of some sort after working such early hours every morning (I’m up at 2am to be ready for my morning show that begins at 5am Monday to Friday). I found it in pilates, yoga, and body balance classes which I now do three times a week. I learn to breathe, to stretch and to really listen to my body. For that one hour I just focus on me.

My search for serenity also came in the most unlikely place: work. While on a shoot for CNN’s Art of Life, I decided to try a spa treatment at the ESPA retreat at the Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland. That’s where I met ESPA founder Susan Harmsworth, who turned out to be this strong, funny and lively woman. At 62, two divorces and two grown sons, she certainly has had reasons to search for serenity. But you wouldn’t know it. For her, of utmost importance is one’s ability to take life’s blows and turn them into empowering stepping stones towards happiness. The focal point of her business is to make people feel better about themselves through her spa therapists who have been trained in the art of treating a person’s physical wellbeing.

Getting to that positive place is also how Technogym founder Nerio Allesandri earns his living. Art of Life met up with him while he was taking a much-needed break with his family in Capri. While he creates machines to sculpt the body, he says the wellness lifestyle encompasses how you treat your body, mind and soul – whether it’s through daily exercise, what you eat and how you think. With a turnover of US$360 million in 2005, his philosophy is one that appears to be gaining momentum, even by hardcore fitness fanatics.

Exercise alone though wasn’t and isn’t enough for me. It was during my search for serenity that I realized a well-rounded life was what I really 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 and I was no different. While my career is still 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, there’s sleep deprivation, but that’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. I make time to get spa treatments when before I wouldn’t have bothered, thinking it would take up too much time. All of this helps me feel more balanced.

This may all sound elementary but the reality is a lot of us don’t consciously live by it. I know I didn’t. I didn’t think I needed it. When it finally hit me, I learned that when I take the time to treat my body well, it makes me a better person. Through yoga and pilates, I am more relaxed. My soul feels calmer. Though it’s important to do this for you, the truth of the matter is, nobody likes being around an emotionally unbalanced, irritable and negative person – no matter how much they love you. Trust me, I know.

Monita Rajpal is a CNN news and business anchor for the European breakfast show CNN Today.  She is also host of Art of Life and is based in London.

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