Goddess Rising: Caitlin Nowland from Wabi-Sabi Well

The Goddess Rising series is our opportunity to connect with amazing women from around the world who are part of the wellness, health and personal development community. This week, we are so happy to have Caitlin from Wabi-Sabi Well!

Caitlin Nowland is co-creator of Wabi-Sabi Well and lives in Byron Bay, Australia with her husband Loren and their two little wildlings, Oliver and Isla. Wabi-Sabi Well is, in essence, holistic feel good fitness. It's cross-training like you’ve never seen before- a one-stop-shop to cover all of your mind + body bases. The Wabi-Sabi Well method is a comprehensive, holistic formula fusing metabolism-boosting movement, mindfulness, bioenergetic techniques and deep relaxation. The method integrates not just the physical, but also the emotional and spiritual elements to help you reconnect and return to a healthy state of balance, harmony and well being. It’s the antidote to perfection-seeking, bikini bootcamps and will leave you feeling liberated, motivated, and wildly free. 

Passion Yoga School: How do you use your work as a spiritual tool?

Caitlin: Wabi-Sabi well was essentially born out of necessity- and it has continued to grow and evolve that way too- Brieann [Caitlin's co-creator at Wabi-Sabi Well] and I are sort of like spiritual gangster guinea pigs! The work we create is directly born out of our own learnings, experimentations and explorations into what really works for us. So our process of creating and sharing Wabi-Sabi Well is inextricably linked to our spiritual growth and learning. It's a constant evolution.

A bit of a backstory: Brieann originally began offering personal training sessions with her holistic approach- a mashup of "what works"- a mix of metabolism boosting movement (cardio, core, strength, toning and conditioning), mindful movement (yoga, stretching, flexibility, myofacial release and postural realignment) and deep relaxation techniques (think guided meditation, sound healing and powerful bioenergetic techniques.)

When I first met Brieann and experienced her method of training it literally knocked my socks off. I’ve tried pretty much every fitness fad there is. Not out of desperation or necessity, but because I just like trying new things. I’m one of those people who is always looking for A Better Way. And I found it.

When I met Brieann and got a taste of her method, it hit home in a way that no other workout ever had. And I knew it would hit home for SO many people. I just wanted to help Brieann share it with the world. Spread the Wabi-Sabi gospel and create a fitness and wellness revolution. I initially planned to be backstage, hopefully making a little magic behind the scenes, but Brieann had other plans. She grabbed the cane and pulled me onto the stage beside her. And I’m glad she did. It has forced me to be brave. It forced me to fully commit to my dreams. It brought to the surface just how passionate I am about sharing this work.

As we've continued to refine the Wabi-Sabi Well method and to grow and expand our offerings (including recipes, meditations and spiritual practices) it's all rooted in our personal experimentation and research. So this work is very personal to both of us- a curated tool kit that evolves along with us! 

PYS: The cracks are how the light gets in. Tell us how your core wounds have inspired your work.

Caitlin: Like so many girls, later in my teenage years I struggled with an eating disorder and depression. Binging, purging, calculus level calorie counting, obsessively exercising, yep, yep, yep. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Midway through my freshman year in college, my GPA was picture-perfect, my diet was calculated down to the square root of sweet f all and my body (and personality) had all but faded away. My family intervened and I withdrew from classes to seek help. Psychologists and psychiatrists and prescriptions helped bridge the gap, but one day I woke up and couldn’t tell how I felt. Through the fog of anti-depressants and mood regulators, I just couldn’t feel… anything.

I realised that in my case (and I GET that this isn’t the case for everyone) that I had to decide to be happy. I had to wake up and fight for it every day by making decisions and choices that contributed to happiness. I didn’t know how to do this, I didn’t have the tools. At all. But I decided I’d just figure it out. Unwinding negative patterns and obsessive behaviour? It ain’t easy, sister. I’m sure many of you know that all too well.

Simultaneously, in the space of 4 years I contracted mononucleosis, Epstein Barr virus, Dengue Fever and finally, Lyme Disease. These diseases literally brought me to my knees and changed my life forever. For the better. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.

So here I was, battered, bruised, broken and depleted on pretty much every level possible. I had some serious healing to do. As I slowly rebuilt my immune system over the next 10 years I happily committed to whatever it took – antibiotics, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, vitamin injections, IVs, hot baths, ginger tea and wet socks, GI tests, Vitamin C flushes, elimination diets, you name it, I did it. Fully. Committed.

But what I struggled with was slowing down (and here’s where the whole “being happy” thing comes back around). I derived my sense of happiness and self worth through what I could control and what I could achieve. Throwing myself into work, smashing sales targets, never turning off, having my iPhone permanently attached to my hand, multitasking like my life depended on it, hair always perfectly coiffed, cultivating Barbi feet by wearing high heels (always), networking, hosting fundraisers, overdoing the whole social butterfly thing… (sound familiar?) It’s an attitude and a canon of behaviour that our society champions. Dream, believe… but mostly, bust your butt and achieve. Because you’re simply not enough just as you are. So despite all my healthy eating, supplements, treatments, et al., the Lyme Disease resurfaced. Something was missing from my heal-thyself strategy.

Ironically, the last piece of the puzzle wasn’t to do with my physical body in a direct sense. The last piece of the puzzle was a major mental shift. Getting out of the Type-A, achievement addicted, adrenal state. Transitioning from always DOING – always feeding my need to achieve (and temporarily soothing my sense of “I am not enough”) – to just BEING. Simply slowing down sealed the deal for my body and mind to realign and get back on track. Which has in turn, allowed me to manifest a truly fulfilling life.

Now, I say simply, but it was anything but. It’s an ongoing commitment, an ongoing learning curve. Like all chronic over-achievers, I still have to be super conscious of staying in the slow lane on a day to day basis. (Daily conversation with self: Put ya blinker on, girl, and get out of the passing lane. Go on now.)

So here's the thing- I’m not special in any of this. My story is a carbon copy of a thousand other stories. I’d venture to say that more people feel overwhelmed, depleted and addicted to achievement than not. And most would be able to recognise that something isn’t right. But it’s hard to know where to start. How to do it differently. How to break through these super staunch beliefs about The Way Things Are Done… and about ourselves.

So that’s what inspires me. I want it to be easy. I want Wabi-Sabi Well to be a resource for people to tap into. A one-stop-shop for What Works. For breaking free of what’s holding you down or holding you back or keeping you stuck in a space of “I am not enough.” All your need-to-knows for living life fully. Minus the trial and error.

PYS: What is your worst habit and what are you doing to improve it?

Caitlin: I'm an achievement addict! To do lists, ticking boxes, productivity are my kryptonite. I am co-owner of three different businesses and have two young kids so with a full plate and lots of balls to juggle, I can get stuck in a cycle of prioritising productivity at the expense of lightness, fun, adventure, pleasure and freedom. Two things help. ONE- setting clear boundaries. At the end of the day I write down the 3-4 most important things that must get done the next day, and then a second list of bonus tasks. When I sit down to work the next day I'm already clear on what needs to be done. That gives me clarity, a sense of direction and purpose and also a little momentum. I'm not sitting at my desk fretting, I'm already in flow getting things done. Using a pomodoro timer to give myself an exact time in which to get tasks done is also really helpful (and satisfying). Not constantly checking email and social media is also essential. The aim is to check in twice a day- of course that doesn't always happen, but it's an intention. TWO- When faced with a choice (like clearing my inbox versus going to the beach with my family) I take Gretchen Rubin's advice and "choose the bigger life". Such a powerful phrase and when posed as a question, (as in, "which option feels like I'd be living a bigger life") it makes things crystal clear. 

PYS: What advice would you offer to other goddesses working to actualize their potential?

Caitlin: Meditate. Introduce as much ritual and reverence into your life as you can. Smudge everythang. Journal. Dance. Chant. Drink Reishi mushroom hot cacao. Anoint yourself with rose oil. Desire Map (Danielle LaPorte's system). Be intentional. Read, write, think. Share. Smile. Make friends that uplift and enliven you. Trust yourself. Trust your body. Trust your journey. Give yourself over to presence. But most of all, let desire and delight lead the way. 

PYS: What does your daily spiritual practice look like?

Caitlin: I meditate every morning- I rotate between vipassana meditation (sidenote: I love Tara Brach's guided vipassana stye meditations!) and Kundalini meditations which I really jam on- lots of mantra and mudras. I let my intuition guide me in terms of what type of meditation to do. I feel like vipassana meditation is beautiful maintenance meditation and I tend to gravitate to Kundalini meditations when I feel I need to shift energy, shake things up or reset my vibe.

I'm a big fan of Danielle LaPorte's work and use her Desire Map system for setting intentions for my year and each day I check in with my intentions by writing down my Core Desired Feelings. My spiritual practice really bleeds into the practical aspects of my life- I let my CDFs guide and shape my to do list for the day. It's a really profound way to stay in touch with your inner guidance and stay on course with what you really desire to manifest in your life.

And of course, GRATITUDE. I write down what I'm grateful for every day. I love Shawn Achor's approach to gratitude- he suggests to write down three things you're grateful for from the last 24 hours. I think this is so powerful for a few reasons. First, it can be really easy to slip into a gratitude rut- repeating the same "big" things every day (my health, my family, etc., etc.,) and using Achor's approach keeps your gratitude fresh, relevant, and calls your attention to the little bijous in your day- the tiny gems that you might otherwise not notice. You start celebrating the small things that you deeply grateful for. You keep your eyes peeled, so to speak, for all the the many blessings in your life. And this attitude of gratitude expands and sets you up to receive even more to be grateful for. As Dr. Habib Sadhegi says, "Feeling is the language of the universe," so feeling grateful and recognising all that you have to be grateful for invites more of the good stuff into your life. 

PYS: What secrets (past or present) have kept you from living in your truth?

Caitlin: I'd say that in general I haven't hidden from things that some people would be ashamed of...and if I did hide, it was very temporary. I've tended to use the challenges and shadows in my life as the impetus for change. From depression and eating disorders to lyme disease and type-A adrenaline and achievement addiction...all of it became a learning, a catalyst, a call to return to my soul self. I faced each struggle head on and grew through it. My feeling has always been that you can't get around the shadows, you have to walk THROUGH them to really experience cathartic change. Life is contraction and expansion. If we don't fully experience the contraction and find the courage to move through it, we can't burst forth into bloom.

PYS: Who inspires you?

Caitlin: Oh wow, so many women inspire me! I am a huge, huge fan of the work that these ladies bring into the world: Tara Brach, Danielle LaPorte, Fiji McAlpine, Meagan Currie, Elizabeth Gilbert, Marianne Williamson, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Natalie from Style+Spirit, my kundalini yoga teacher, HarJiwan/Jacinta Csutoros, Reine DuBois, my amazing integrative naturopath, my amazing kinesiologist Tara Shields, the ladies from Shemana Elixers, Madgi from Bahgsu Jewels...and the list goes on!