lisa hedley is the embodiment of the modern healer. she is as quick to reference fiction by junot diaz as she is specific ayurvedic healing elements. a former lawyer, social worker and filmmaker, she takes her inspiration from the energy of new york, her four children, and a long standing relationship with yogic principles. she is also known as the founder of the spa at the mayflower inn and above all, she values clarity and kindness.
savvy, practical and serene, lisa seems quite at home in her role of translating ancient healing techniques for the motivated clients who seek her assistance. her healing practice incorporates ayurvedic medicine, yoga, nutritional consultation and the development of daily rituals for balance and wellness. when we met, i was struck by her passion for exploration and simplicity of purpose.
red flower: tell me about the difference between complementary and alternative medicine.
lisa: in my view, alternative medicines are things that i try and stay away from. i try to stick with the concept of complementary practices because there are so many good things to choose from. from a variety of traditional medicines -- such as chinese medicine and ayurveda (which is most nearest and dearest to my heart). there are a lot of others, and some are very out there, like shamanistic practices, but there are even things from those practices that are useful and helpful primarily in the herbology department. conceptually it's about choosing the best thing for the individual or the situation. "alternative" implies that there are alternatives -- you have to choose whether you are in the western camp or in the alternative camp, and i'm not comfortable with that. i'm much more comfortable with being integrative -- another word that's used a lot, but is meaningful because it's the process of integrating what you think are the best practices.
red flower: how did you make the transition from practicing law and social work to the world of holistic health and healing?
lisa: i had always been involved in yoga. it was called different things when i first started, which was like 30 years ago, but at the time people really didn't do yoga. so it was understood to be something quite different than it is now. it was a much more straightforward hatha practice (which almost doesn't exist now), and more personal and spiritual pursuit in its way. so i got more and more involved with it as a avocation on the side, and as i muddled along with my careers and enjoyed certain aspects about them -- i never felt like i was at home with what i was doing in the world. i kept going with those practices and i lived in london for a time and there was no yoga teacher i liked so i went to the chinese side and i practiced chi-gong. i did my own personal survey over the years and then life just sort of blew me sideways at one point into the spa business. then while i was there, i had both the luxury of time and the necessity to go deeper into the knowledge underlying yoga coinciding with the fact our culture had suddenly decided that yoga was "the thing" and was taking it on and turning it into what it wanted to. so it just came to me as an opportunity to really combine my avocation and vocation.
red flower: what is your relationship to new york, what brought you to the city?
lisa: i am a new yorker, i was born and raised in new york city. i am entrained to all the crazy energy of new york, but then i lived in california, which is how i got into yoga. when i was a young lawyer, i got married lived with my husband in los angeles and that was where yoga really started to blossom and come into being in many respects. there was some crazy ashram stuff going on here, but that was where yoga was starting to become something that people did as a practice. then i had numerous children and moved back to the east coast. so the answer is: i'll always have a home base in new york, always a heart in new york and always the entrainment of this energy and the sense that while there are a lot of things going on at once -- we have to balance and sort them out to be able to proceed sanely in the world.
red flower: describe the creative process of developing the spa program at the mayflower inn and what was the guiding philosophy of the spa.
lisa: my work at the mayflower inn & spa was very exciting in terms of my own personal growth and terms of what i was doing with my life and what i wanted to be doing. i was brought on to help create a spa since there was no spa and it was my parents who owned the actual inn. they said, "well you've been doing that stuff all your life, maybe you could help us do this?" i was actually on bed rest with my fourth child, so i was like a captive audience. once i got up from the bed rest and had a healthy, beautiful child i went on to create the spa with my mother. the mandate was to create something extremely special. i started keeping notebooks of which elements to include and broke it up into the six senses -- i figured i had to create an experience that people would experience both viscerally and intellectually. so from the beginning that's the way i built the spa program. that's the way we decided on the decor, every decision was based on how we addressed these six senses. intuition is the sixth sense and in many ways the most important. it was an incredibly good challenge -- layering different concepts, lots of research, and translating things for a western audience but also keeping things simple. i always think clarity is the most important thing.
red flower: what is the role of music in your life and wellness?
lisa: well again, to me there are six senses and the aural sense is among the most important. there are studies that show all kinds of intimate, sentimental connections that have an impact on how we feel. more important to me, is the concept that we are all made of vibrational energy. the theory of quantum physics and beyond (in western terms) and because it's important to make sure the vibrational environment is soothing and makes sense in terms of what program your putting together. when i teach yoga classes and when i create programs i never take a hard stance -- "there can be no music in my yoga class!" or "we should have every hip hop song and reggae song and make it as exciting as possible for everybody." i think there's room for both points of view, but it's important to be mindful that it matters and make a real decision about it.
red flower: how did you start working with red flower?
lisa: my introduction to red flower was through a friend of mine, who knew i was putting together all these elements and sent me the red flower japan kit . that beautiful case that you open up and there was this sort of magical set -- again engaging every sense -- and i thought "whoever's doing this is doing exactly what i want to do. i love the colors, i love the innovation." it was just beautiful. so i contacted them and somebody came from the office and after five minutes they said, "you have to meet yael [alkalay - red flower founder], the two of you are sisters from another planet." so yael and i met and indeed, we actually complement each other quite well. we work quite differently, but she inspires me and i like to think i inspire her. we did develop a lot of programming at the spa together which was the most fun part of the development. so much so that my mother still asks me, "what's happened to yael?" we're no longer in that particular spa business, but she still remembers the dynamism of that relationship and the creative energy from it.
red flower: do you use red flower products in your practice?
lisa: i use red flower products in my own personal practice (meaning what I do for myself everyday) and i also recommend it to my clients. i find red flower offers a really good variety of products that i can work with that i know and i understand. i can find a way to make it right for many clients. my clients, they're not going with the western medical approach which is "ok, here is your pill." my approach is: "look at these herbs and maybe using these products and incorporating these rituals." i keep coming back to red flower because i know what's gone into them. i know the thought, the process and the care. i would never recommend something that wasn't organic and made with mindfulness but i really am not sure i can say that there are many products out there that have this level of integrity as well as the clarity.
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red flower: how do you find balance in your life?
lisa: for me, personally, i have distilled down my way of creating balance into a morning practice. i have a series of practices that i do for myself in the morning, and it required waking up earlier then i would have done. which at first i thought i could never do, but i find that that just creates a balance immediately. it sets me up everyday when i wake up with a sense of -- how i'm going to approach the world, how i'm going to work in the world and not let the world take over my sense of being. if i let the world do that, it's not pretty, as we all know. whether you live in a small quiet town or a busy city; stuff just comes at you, and if you haven't set yourself up to receive it in a frame that's acceptable to you, you're in for it. so that's my answer both for myself and almost all of my clients.
lisa: hmm, yes obviously there's a very powerful lesson in personal narrative and i think that in our culture right now there may be a little too much personal narrative. i feel like everyone's trying to tell me more then i need to know about them. so my relationship to telling stories has changed recently. i feel like there's something to be said for holding back and making sure you're creating stories and revealing things that are a little more restrained. so as far as being a filmmaker, i think that i treat every endeavor in my life from practicing law to running a spa to my clients to filmmaking the same. there are raw elements involved in each and i try to bring them all together. i keep calling it a soup or like a big pot, and figure out how to present it. so in the case of a film, you know you mush it around and then try and figure out what's the best way to portray the different elements that you viscerally know need to be portrayed. in the case of clients and working with people, i have to listen to what they're telling me and help them see how to organize the elements in their lives and bring them into some balance. that is what i do as a practitioner, and that's what i do as a filmmaker. so to me they're all the same thing. it's a creative process but it's a practical process.
red flower: are there any guilty pleasures that you allow yourself?
lisa: oh all the time. i don't believe in classifying them as guilty pleasures. in fact. i think everything is fine in moderation. that is what i preach and that is what i practice. the real trick to that is to know that if you go out and indulge in two glasses of fabulous red wine, you're not going to feel so good the next morning (especially the cleaner living you are the more that impacts you). then the antidote is certainly not hair of the dog, the antidote is clean living for a couple of days. just know that you have to balance it . yes indulge in that wine. yes, have that fabulous piece of tiramisu, and know that you've just overindulged in sugar and you need to dial it back and give your liver a second to breathe and clear out. it's just being aware and mindful, that's the bottom line.
red flower: what's the last great book you read?
lisa: i really love juno diaz's most recent stories. i love them because he's so rich in his dialect. he let's you understand the visceral aspects of his characters and the practical applications of what they're doing and the repercussions. so to me, that's just beautiful. it's beautifully rendered and it's got all the pieces that i love.
red flower: as you've gotten older, are there any recurring themes or bits of wisdom that seem to be emerging from your experience?
lisa: the thing i notice personally about getting older is: i guess they call it, "the kindness factor." i'm more forgiving and i'm less judgmental and i think a lot of that is a result of the practices i do. it's that's the natural by-product when you remove yourself from being reactive. you develop a softer focus, a kinder way of perceiving the world and the ways other people act in the world. you know as a mature person that it's not all about you. i would say that's the sort of recurring thing for my life. i primarily work with clients who are in that transitional age. from forty years old to about sixty five -- that sort of the sweet spot. i think that what a lot of people are really asking for is a way to transform the uneasiness and the edginess of their existences into something softer, more forgiving and more accepting of themselves and others. i think that for me, that is the recurring thing and it also helps people feel more balance. i keep using that word, but it's a sense of calm, a sense of peace and knowing that things are the way they're supposed to be.