Gwyneth Paltrow makes it look so easy – serenity, centering, energy work, healing, lotions, potions, clean eats, and scandalously scented candles that, well, let’s just say, metaphorically light the way – all suggest the promise of omnipresent inner peace and perpetual balance of mind, body, and spirit. But in a world where the hustle is real, overscheduled is an understatement, the news is a potpourri of heartbreak, global unrest, and rising geopolitical tensions, and your Apple watch will literally send you a notification reminding you to breathe (read this with the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” in your head for peak accuracy), it seems harder than ever to find a sense of calm.
The good news is, it’s there, perhaps buried underneath the Google calendar or lost in the gridlock of the Route 6/10 Connector, but calmness is attainable, and there are a number of Rhode Island professionals who can help us recalibrate, realign, and reawaken our inner Gwyneth.
“Movement is a beautiful way to find your calm because it gets your mind onto your body and out of your head all the time,” says Laura Nave, a classically trained and certified Pilates instructor with more than a decade of experience in the professional health and fitness fields. Ten years ago, Nave opened Rare Form Pilates, a group fitness studio in Providence’s Jewelry District. Here, clients of all ages, fitness levels, and experience use Pilates apparatus to do flow-based, core-centered exercises focused on building strength. “The workout is built on the principle of centering and control, and breathwork and flow,” explains Nave. “The intention of the work is to keep your body functioning, well, and free of pain, and that ideology never gets old. My eldest client here right now is 90.”
Inner calm, explains Nave, is part and parcel to the practice of Pilates. “If you come in and you have to focus on different movement patterns and you give yourself the space to focus on your body for an hour, trust me, you walk out of the room much calmer than you walk in.” Pilates is meeting your body exactly where it is, adds Nave, which means anyone can get started at any time. “Spoiler alert: there is no perfect way to come to the body. You just have to do it,” she says, adding that many people get caught up in the pressures of perfection when it comes to wellness and fitness. Sometimes just a 30-minute walk can reframe your perspective, she says.
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” she advises. “Do what you can, when you can. We live in such a hilariously rigidly structured life that people think if they’re not doing something at 8am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, every single week, 52 weeks a year, that they’re failing. You’re not. It’s just a false premise.” That’s why the Pilates method is typically called a “practice,” much like yoga, as one practices and, ideally, improves.
Ellen Blomgren also finds inner calm in her practice, but it’s a practice of a different kind. The professional ceramic sculptor and artist educator founded Mudstone Studios at Cutler Mill in Warren 16 years ago so that she not only had a place to create, but could also teach others how to make breathtaking artistic expressions. Last year, she opened a second studio in Pawtucket at Lorraine Mills. “Any medium takes years to hone. Sculpting just came more naturally to me and I have been evolving over all these years, stretching further with every new project,” says Blomgren. Born out of a desire to support artists across the South Coast and now, around the Capital City and Blackstone Valley, Mudstone Studios serves as a communal workspace for artists and novices working in ceramics. She’s committed to creating an affordable and nurturing environment for all levels, for both adults and mature teens.
The craft is one that lets her detach from life’s demands. “Sculpting takes me to a meditative space where I lose all track of time and the busy stuff that makes up the rest of my life,” she says. “The work lets me express how I see the world, and how I hope others can see it. It’s almost a vacation from the real world.”
Blomgren’s inspiration is the natural world, and she often sculpts animals and wildlife in engaging poses, which also gives her a sense of calm. “I love the outdoors and how sunshine feels, even on the coldest days,” she says. Whether in her yard or out in the woods, walking the East Bay Bike Path, wandering down to the beach with her dogs, or exploring the Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium in Bristol, Blomgren finds a serenity in the outdoors that translates seamlessly into her work. “I’m so lucky to live so close to all of this natural space.”
In a society that thrives on digital connectivity and social sharing, Blomgren prefers to let her actions do all the talking instead. “I’ve never been very good with words, but sculpting allows me to tell an entire story with no words at all,” she explains. “I have this ability to see the piece that I want to create in my mind as I sculpt and it just builds itself into the space before me.”
But that doesn’t have to be the methodology for everyone – especially beginners. Blomgren makes clay sculpture approachable, and encourages all to discover the joy, satisfaction, and calm that comes with creating. “With the right teachers, anyone can do this. It doesn’t matter how much experience you start with; you’ll still end up with something that will make you smile – and the process is so much fun, that just practicing gives you joy and the desire to do more.”
For others, finding a true sense of calm involves very little activity at all. Spa visits are often considered the pinnacle of indulgent luxury and frou-frou pampering, and while not entirely untrue, treatments can legitimately help soothe both mind and body. Inspire Medical Spa and Wellness Center in Narragansett offers BroadBand Light (BBL™) technology, which uses intense pulsed light therapy to treat different skin conditions. “BBL is a photothermal energy that will reduce the amount of fine vessels and unwanted melanin that produces pigmented lesions and redness,” explains Pamela Lutes, Inspire’s owner. “What’s really cool about that is that the device that we have here, they used in a 12-year Stanford University study, and it proved actual RNA and DNA change. So when you change the gene expression of the skin to that of younger skin, your skin doesn’t just look younger, it is younger. It is protective, it goes down deep, and it eradicates damage before it can turn into anything.”
More than just beauty-driven, Lutes says the spa has doubled in size over the past year to accommodate growing demand and expand wellness services. IV therapy, for example, is an increasingly popular wellness trend that Inspire offers in which a high dose of minerals and vitamins are administered directly into a client’s bloodstream. “You can choose your cocktail of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids. We’re looking to strengthen immunity, and people feel more energetic. You can recover from a workout – or a night out – rehydrating, replenishing your body… People always tell me they just feel so much better after that,” says Lutes. She adds that the spa is seeing more appointments by men than ever before. “They’re just as stressed; it’s just different kinds of stressors,” Lutes explains.
Facials, massage, and multiple treatments are designed to reduce stress, optimize relaxation and quiet mind and body. “One of the big things that I was learning when I went back to nurse practitioner school is how much stress influences every system in our bodies,” notes Lutes. And many spa treatments can be extended with self-care at home, whether that’s aromatherapy, sheet masks that moisturize, detoxify, hydrate or apply retinol or vitamin C, or, if you’re brave enough, cold plunges in the tub, which are said to potentially decrease inflammation, increase circulation, and boost endorphins.
Finding your calm in a harried world isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the pursuit.
Artists’ Exchange, Cranston
Blackstone River Glass Center,
Gather Glass, Providence
Get Poppin Art, Westerly
Providence Perfume Co.,
Charlestown & Kingston
Island Heron Yoga, Jamestown
Linx Golf, North Kingstown
SoCo Cycle, Narragansett
& North Kingstown
The Beauty Studio, Portsmouth
Dynamic Men’s Grooming,
Hair Crew, South Kingstown
Hair Garden, Cranston
Maura’s Hair Salon, Narragansett
Skip’s Barber Shop, Providence
Bodhi Spa, Newport & Providence
Breathe Massage, Westerly
Island Rose Spa, North Kingstown
Pure Eco Spa, Westerly
Skyla Rain Day Spa, Peace Dale
Spa at Castle Hill Inn, Newport
Spa Inspire, Narragansett
Sun Star Healing & Myofascial Release, South Kingstown
Less can be more when it comes to communication and information
By Elyse Major
Spending time mindlessly scrolling feeds and watching videos can seem relaxing until it isn’t. Suddenly hours have disappeared, or perhaps a post makes you feel left out, upset, or disturbed. As poet William Wordsworth wrote in 1802 in response to society veering toward materialism during the First Industrial Revolution, “The World Is Too Much with Us.” What would ol’ Willy say about iPhones? Here are some tactics to detach IRL.
1. Disable notifications, either by turning them off or using a “do not disturb” focus setting.
2. Do an activity that requires both hands, like knitting, beading, or painting.
3. Put down the e-reader and leaf through books and print magazines like this one.
4. Communicate with friends and family by writing letters and sending postcards.
5. Aim to store the phone away in a drawer for one day a week. Let others know on this day, you can’t be reached via app.
It is important to be informed, but for the sake of mental health, consider taking a pause now and then. “Doom-scrolling” is an actual thing where checking news can become compulsive and upsetting.
Most of us are familiar with professional organizer Marie Kondo’s famous question: “Does this spark joy?” But the act of actually posing this query to each site of clutter in your home isn’t so simple. Discarding things you don’t need can serve the dual purpose of freeing up mental bandwidth to focus on what’s important. Here are some services to help you take the first steps toward calmer spaces that spark joy, and once you’ve sorted “keep” from “discard,” donate lightly used garments and goods to nonprofits like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Rhode Island (BIGSRI.org).
Lil Mess Perfect, LilMessPerfect.com
Little Boxes, LittleBoxesDownsizing.com
NEAT Method Providence, NEATMethod.com
The Nest’s Decluttering Sessions,
Organized Abode, OrganizedAbodeRI.com
Belmont Market: The Wellness section of the Wakefield market’s website includes features like “What’s in Season,” a glossary of terms, tips, and recipes, and an “Eating By Color” tool. Browse by health issue, special diets, and featured collections. BelmontMarket.com/wellness
Dave’s Fresh Marketplace: In addition to having multiple locations, Dave’s posts weekly specials in store and online. Save money by planning menus around what’s on sale, which includes everything from lean proteins to produce and more. DavesMarketplace.com
Urban Greens Co-Op Market: You don’t need to be a member to shop, but if you are, perks include buying food by the case for discounts, special request items, and more. 3 Cranston Street, Providence, UrbanGreens.com
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