Thea quoted in Bride Magazine


MINDFULNESS IS THE LATEST WELLNESS BUZZWORD TO GO MAINSTREAM. KARI MOLVAR EXPLAINS HOW STAYING IN THE MOMENT CAN KEEP YOU RELAXED AND HAPPY WHILE PLANNING, ON THE BIG DAY—AND IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Paula Mallis clearly remembers her wedding day: The Los Angeles–based doula planned it in six months, dealt with intense opinions from family members (including a mother-in-law “with big feelings,” she says), and then, on the day itself, watched as the skies opened and it poured on her cli side gathering in Big Sur. “The umbrellas went to shit,” she says. “We ended up in one room with everyone sitting on the oor, soaking wet.” There in the room, Mallis broke out in tears—not the sad, why-me? kind but the happy-smiling-love kind. “Every- one was laughing, and everything was how my husband and I wanted it,” she says. Despite the downpour, they still had the amazing, crazy, fun day they’d wanted. Not everyone would laugh in the face of such stress, but Mallis had prepared herself. Her secret power? Being mindful, setting intentions, and upping her meditation practice during her engagement. “Weddings involve so much pres- sure and anxiety,” she says. Mindfulness helped her stay “calm, centered, and present.” To say mindfulness has caught on is an under- statement. At its most basic, “mindfulness is the act of bringing your full attention to the present moment,” says Ellie Burrows, founder of MNDFL, a meditation studio in New York. Granted, this isn’t exactly new: Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist practices that PHOTOGRAPHS BY COREY TOWERS BRIDES.COM date back thousands of years. Burrows says it’s about quieting your brain so it’s not constantly pinging with thoughts of the past or worries about the future. “If, for example, you’re talking with your ancé, then you are engaged in listen- ing.” That means putting the mute button on interruptions “about your to-do list, the next thing on your calendar, or checking your phone.” By not being at the mercy of a roving brain— or the incessant alerts from your phone, feeds, and followings—you’ll make better decisions, have more control over emotions and reactions, and forge stronger bonds with loved ones. If that sounds radically simple, it is. “Mindful- ness isn’t new; it’s just more talked about now,” says Khajak Keledjian, the founder of InScape meditation studio in New York City. The rise is tied to our recent obsession with various self- care practices—from crystal healing to sound baths—that have gone from mystical to main- stream. We’re craving what Suze Yalof Schwartz calls “solstice,” a kind of primal balance. Schwartz, founder of the UnPlug Meditation studio in L.A., says, “Our culture is plugged in 24/7. But we need silence and self-connection so we can be more creative, happier, and healthier,” she says. “Just as we recharge our phones, we need to recharge ourselves.” A mounting stack of research backs up the ben- e ts: Meditating can decrease anxiety-related CALLIGRAPHY BY HANDMADE LETTERS OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 247 MANTRA COURTESY OF CHRISTINE D’ERCOLE

cortisol levels, increase emotional intelligence, and sharpen mental focus. In fact, according to the National Business Group on Health, 22 per- cent of U.S. companies (like Apple and Nike) now o er mindfulness perks to employees. As Burrows says, “It’s no longer just monks in robes telling you that mindfulness is good. It’s your doctor, boss, or friends. Our lives can be quite chaotic, and mindfulness can help anchor us.” And there’s nothing like planning a wedding to throw your life into chaos. “The money, the relatives, the expectations—both personal and external—all contribute to serious stress,” says Schwartz. “I wish I’d meditated on my own wedding day. I was not really present.” Taking a beat to breathe helps you “build resilience in your brain so that you’re able to stop stress as it comes your way,” says Schwartz. It also lets you absorb all the happiness around you— so the day doesn’t speed by in a blur. A mindfulness practice can take many forms, says Mallis, who launched WMN Space, an all- woman wellness hub in L.A.—and can help you MINDFULNESS IS THE ENEMY OF MULTITASKING— THE DEFAULT MODE FOR SO MANY BRIDES-TO-BE. tap into your inner power as you navigate through the planning to the happily-ever-after part. First, take a breath—and read on. PLAN WITH PURPOSE Meditation is often the easiest gateway to mind- fulness, but if you’re new to it, start small. “Try meditating in the morning for 15 minutes. This way, you start your day centered, calm, and clear,” says Keledjian, who also recommends nding a consistent spot where you’re used to the sounds and sensory factors. “Fewer distrac- tions makes it easier to stay focused and present.” Meditation is simply a form of contemplation. InScape’s weekly Focus33 guided meditation class is just 33 minutes, takes place in a cocoon- like space lit with purple tones, and is popular with brides-to-be like writer Kate Erickson. A teacher leads the class through a series of breathing exercises. “I kind of felt like I was nodding o , and when it was over I really felt as if I had been transported—like when you’re get- ting a facial and dozing but really loving it,” Erickson says. Her goal was to “calm my thoughts for a bit. I expected to love wedding planning, but I nd it completely overwhelming.” What she’s picked up in class serves her well beyond the con nes of the purple cocoon: When presented with sorting out hundreds of reception-related details, “taking a moment to focus on my breath has saved me from many planning-related freak- outs.” (If you can’t make it to a class, apps like Headspace and Insight Timer o er guided medi- tations of varying durations.) Mindfulness is the enemy of multitasking, the default mode for so many brides-to-be. “Multitasking often means you’re doing many things at once in a shallow sense,” says Keled- jian. If you concentrate on one project at time, he says, “you’ll actually be more e cient. It’s about focusing your attention narrow and deep versus wide and shallow.” Chances are, you’ll immediately notice a mental shift: “What would it feel like if I talked to my wedding planner and wasn’t looking at a screen or driving or walking anywhere?” Burrows asks. “I would be more present for that conversation and make more thoughtful responses.” If you still nd yourself getting anxious while planning (and taking it out on everyone), Bur- rows recommends “intention setting,” which is when you purposefully try to cultivate a quality, like patience or openheartedness. Find a quiet spot and write down your goal—literally, “I want to be more patient.” (Think of it as a to-do list for your soul...and mood). Then start recogniz- ing opportunities to ex that emotional muscle. For brides who need a little extra coaching in the calm-yourself department, Padma Shankar Coram, a wellness coach at the Grace Belgravia spa in London (where Pippa Middleton is rumored to be a client), recommends EFT—or emotional freedom techniques. The alternative therapy is part of the spa’s wellness boot camp for brides and involves tapping on the body’s meridian points to release negative energy. This, coupled with visual-guided meditation (in which you imagine your desired outcome actually happening), “helps remove jitters regarding the big day,” Coram says. To nd an EFT class or practitioner in your area, check out the directory at Your bridesmaids can get in on the mindful vibes too, says Mallis, who hosts “blessing circles” over bachelorette weekends. “I led one where everyone wrote their wishes for the bride’s mar- riage. They wished for things like understanding, communication, and great sex,” says Mallis, who was surprised by how open the group was to what many consider a hippie-dippie activity. “This group was full-on partying; I didn’t expect them to be down. But they laughed and cried and said it was the weekend’s most magical moment.” STAY PRESENT, SAY “I DO” You have something borrowed, something blue. Now you need something...balanced. “Have a mantra for the day,” suggests motivational speaker Christine D’Ercole. “It helps you see the big picture and not stress over little stu . I like to use these eight words to begin a mantra: I am. I can. I will. I do. Then complete the phrase with words that capture the ideas you want to carry into the marriage.” Repeating the mantra keeps you from “getting caught up in the fuss over place settings or desserts. It’s critical to the success of the event you’re celebrating.” You’ll also be in a much happier mental place if you do a quick gratitude list. “Take up to 15 minutes before the ceremony to get centered,” says Keledjian. “Breathe deeply and take in the excitement and the love surrounding you. It’s a great time to remind yourself of what brought you to that moment.” During the day, pick two moments when you can steal away to connect with your partner. “Express your gratitude for the love that you feel, even if it’s just for ve minutes,” say Bur- rows, who suggests ducking out right after the ceremony and then again after dinner. Should a crisis pop up and you start to “wander o into bridezilla land—thinking, I hate my hair!— place your hands on your heart, close your eyes, and slow your breath,” Schwartz says. Inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and exhale through your mouth for four seconds. “Give thanks for the celebration, then think of three things you’re grateful for about your spouse and three things you’re grateful for about yourself. Then open your eyes. This will shift your mood,” says Schwartz. “Nothing is prettier than happiness, so do this before going down the aisle.” If you can remember to do only one thing? Turn on your senses. “Smell your bouquet, feel the texture of your wedding dress, really listen, and take in what people are saying during the toast,” says Thea Harvey, a meditation teacher in L.A. “When you do this, you’re in the present.” Then stay there by eliminating distractions. Give your phone to a bridesmaid. Hands free, heart open! BALANCED MARRIAGE Mindfulness skills can help your relationship too. “Meditation is the best thing you can do for your marriage,” Schwartz says. “Petty things won’t bother you as much. The toothpaste cap left o ? Dishes in the sink? No problem.” You can strengthen your bond simply by being an active listener. “In my relationship, we try to put away our phones when we connect after a long day apart and be mindful of our time together,” says Burrows. Such pauses can make you less fraz- zled. “I have a lot more space between my reaction and the trigger,” she says. “I’m a better partner.” Still, your partner might not jump into all your rituals right away. “I grew up with a much more spiritual outlook than my husband did,” Mallis says. But after 11 years together, he recently picked up on self-care habits to “remain centered and present.” Mallis says, “I’m like, ‘Good bae!’ I think he’s just getting it.” 248 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 BRIDES.COM BRIDES.COM OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 249