About Kate Hanley
Having a mind/body practice has helped me through four major shit storms in my life (and counting)…
Shit storm #1
The location: San Francisco
The time: 1995
The set-up: I’m 25 years old. I’ve lived in San Francisco for three years. I moved here after college graduation with a boyfriend with the goal of becoming an editor.
The boyfriend and I broke up two years ago and my dating life since has been pretty pathetic. I am working for a small (now defunct) book publisher, where I first answered phones and made coffee for $7/hour and have now worked my way up to editor. That sounds like a good thing, but now that I’m working in my “dream” job, I’m thinking, “If this is a good as my work life gets, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.”
Then I loan my car to a friend while I go on vacation. He is rear-ended by an airport shuttle van. The car is totaled. (No one is hurt.) I get a settlement check for $11,000 and decide to quit my job while I plot my next move. With large expanses of time to fill, I go to my first yoga class in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. Riding my bike home after that first class, I remember seeing the individual leaves on the trees that the day before had only appeared as one big green blob. I also felt exhilarated by the range of possibilities before me instead of paralyzed. I kept going to class. (And ultimately decided to take a deep breath and move to Manhattan.)
Shit storm # 2
The location: New York City
The time: 2002
The set-up: I’m 32. Over the last 6 years, I’ve worked my way up from copywriter to executive producer at iVillage.com. During that heady time I kept practicing yoga — sneaking out to class during lunch, committing to a particular style of yoga at a particular studio, and eventually teaching friends and colleagues informally. When the tech bubble began to burst in 2001, I volunteered to be laid off from iVillage and enrolled in a yearlong teacher training program at OM yoga center. I also sublet my apartment and moved to suburban New Jersey with my boyfriend of two years. Two weeks after the moving trucks pull away, my boyfriend dumps me for a woman a decade younger than me. Except he doesn’t tell me that’s why he’s leaving—a mutual friend does. I’m living in a town where I know no one, in the midst of a radical career change, and find myself back to square one on the dating front when I had thought I was one step away from marriage. I regularly cry on the shoulders of strangers who happen to sit next to me on the commuter train and naively ask, “How’s it going?”
Thankfully, the teacher training requires that I do boatloads of yoga and get very disciplined about meditating. That year, I healed from that relationship, developed the confidence to pursue writing, made lifelong friends, and learned that even when it feels like everything is falling away you’re still getting exactly what you need. Just as the training was ending, I met my now-husband at a party. A prom party. (He was wearing a hideous 70s tux; his orange bow tie was it for me.)
That training and all that practice also gave me the confidence to do what I had always secretly wanted to do—write. Not for an employer, but for myself, as a freelancer. Inspired by this practice that had given me so much, I decide to specialize in covering wellness.
Focusing on one topic I was passionate about helps me get traction as a freelancer—I became a contributing writing at Whole Living (formerly known as body + soul), and contributed frequently to Yoga Journal, Natural Health, Natural Solutions and Delicious Living. I coached more than 20,000 women in the iVillage Mind-Body Community Challenge and contributed regular stress relief content to GoodHousekeeping.com, LHJ.com, and RealBeauty.com. It also led me to start MsMindbody.com in 2004 as a forum to share the “nuggets” I had been taught in my teacher training program to build a yoga class around — either a particular pose or philosophical idea that would elevate the class from more than just a sequence of moves.
Shit storm #3
The location: Brooklyn
The time: 2007
The set-up: Scott and I are married. Now 37, I am in labor with our first child, Lillian. Although regular contractions start on Saturday night, and my water breaks on Monday morning, by Tuesday morning there is still no baby. She isn’t born until Tuesday night, a whopping 72 hours after labor first started. I believe two things finally kicked things in to high gear and helped me avoid a c-section: a homeopathic remedy administered by my midwife, and an impromptu dialogue I had with my uterus while meditating in the delivery room.
I thought everything would be bliss once Lillian arrived. But turns out, newborn babies stress me way the heck out. (I have an essay on the whole experience in the Winter 2012 issue of Yoga International if you’d like to read more on this.) Every time she cried, I sweated blood. If she had a crap nap, I wanted to throw myself out the window. I just could not relax during those early months. But I stuck with a home yoga practice, which helped me find glimpses of relaxation and gave me perspective on the little problems that seemed so very big at the time.
Nine months after Lil was born, I had another baby: my book, The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide. I love this book. It is so jam-packed with juicy information and inspiration that can help you vaporize the boulder that always seems to be seconds away from laying you flat. It’s timeless information that will never stale, delivered with humor and a full understanding of the unique perils of our modern world.
And then came Shit storm #4: the addition of our son, Teddy. Everyone told me that going from one to two kids was an even bigger adjustment than going from no kids to one. How I scoffed at them!
Let me be clear: Teddy is an angel. He smiled when he was only days old, and still (he’s now almost 2) will laugh when you so much as look at him and say ‘boo.’ And yet, his arrival threw me under the bus. It didn’t help that it was still The Great Recession, and all the projects I had lined up for my return to maternity leave fell through. I was utterly aimless on the work front—something I’d never experienced before. I started taking whatever assignments I could get my hands on just to bring in some money. It was not pretty. It was not me. I knew something had to change.
The first thing to shift was our location. After 15 years as a New Yorker, my husband, Scott, (who is a gifted woodworker, deft digital designer, and overall hilarious, loving, and creative genius) and I chose to downsize our life and move to Providence, RI. The move, as all moves are, was epic. On top of that, my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My Mom suffered a mysterious GI ailment that caused her to lose way too much weight and be in pain whenever she ate. My grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. And both kids went through a weeks-long cycle where they were up for the day at 5. It was exhausting on every level, and yet the experience put me intimately in touch with what most modern, working moms face every day—worry for their families, seemingly impossible logistics, every excuse to ignore their aching bodies and upset souls, a feeling of triumph for simply making it through the day, and an inner sense that things could be better but no ideas or energy for making it happen.
I had to get creative and tenacious to keep my MsMindbody practices going through this crazy time when I needed them most and life seemed to be conspiring to keep me too busy to do them. I meditated while I nursed Teddy to sleep, did gentle yoga stretches on the floor of Lillian’s room when she insisted I stay with her until she finally passed out, and rolled out a yoga mat on the floor of my closet so I’d be compelled to do at least a downward dog each time I changed clothes.
The next chapter
Of course, the universe works in mysterious ways. Shit storm #4 helped me truly see — and experience — the enormous need for working moms have for simple ways to replenish themselves, for the sake of their health, their families, and the world at large.
Everything available on this website comes from deep in my soul, and weaves in wisdom and practices that have been passed down from person to person for thousands of years. We all have all the tools we need to make our lives and our world better. All we need is information, inspiration, and intention. I can provide the information and the inspiration. You have to provide the intention.
Are you ready to stop stressing and start shining?