I recently heard someone say, “You can’t give what you don’t have. You have to allow your cup to be filled so that you can fill the cup of others. If you have nothing left, you can’t give anything away.”  While I’m sure I’ve heard that said before, it actually hit home this time. I realized that for months, I had very little to give, less joy than usual, less energy, less sociability, less interest, less money, less of everything. I realized that I was going through a period of grief, healing, and recuperating from a job loss. And not just a regular old layoff. This was a career, a calling, a dream that I helped bring to fruition, and I had to watch it pass away.

I was the Director of Yoga and Wellness and helped to open a first-of-its-kind “urban oasis” in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles.  The business included a cutting-edge vegan restaurant, a wellness center, and a yoga studio in a modernly refurbished 14,000 square foot warehouse with intentional street art throughout the space.  We offered fresh juice, gourmet cuisine, free meditation, sound-baths, art events, live music, colonics, and signature bodywork. While we all (founders, investors, managers, staff, and patrons) had great hopes and expectations for the space, even with thousands of successes along the way, we found ourselves in four years of an uphill battle.  We were financially going downhill.

When the owners had to make the heartbreaking decision in September 2017 to close the business, they informed us, the leadership team, one hour before they broke the news to our staff of about 80 people.  And just like that, each of us became jobless, and our urban oasis disappeared like a little mirage in the LA desert.

This is where the grief and loss did a little dance for me. Yes, I was sad that we were closing, and yet, as a manager watching the numbers and the climate of the business, it wasn’t a complete surprise. Our aims were ambitious, and rent/expenses aren’t cheap in the city.

I initially felt a relief and delirious happiness to finally have a break from long hours of managing my departments.  I was excited to sleep in and not have to be on my phone/laptop 20 hours a day. I was starving for some self-care.

And then the reality set in that I no longer had a paycheck, that I would humbly apply for unemployment, and that I would sadly have to scour Craigslist, LinkedIn, and Indeed for the first time in years.  And it hit me that wow, job hunting is pretty sad when there are no jobs or companies that inspire me.

Then the reality set in that I no longer had my yoga, meditation, and vegetarian community. People I got to breathe, sweat, eat, pray, and love with everyday. People I got to process life and philosophical questions with. People who cared about their health, serving others, saving the planet, and making the world a better place. That might have been when the sadness cut the deepest for me. And the fact that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye or that I’m sorry we had to close.

I spent the winter committing to taking my time to process my emotions and celebrate the holidays with my family in Hawaii. When January 1st came around, I made a vow to myself. That this year 2018 was the Year of Me, the year of radical self-care, calling in ease, bliss, laughter, and the path of least resistance.  Not forcing myself to just take a job or open my own studio or continue living in LA or Hawaii when it felt like time to go. Somehow, the path led me to become a volunteer at Ratna Ling.

This place has been a wish-fulfilling gem. Ratna ling means “jewel place”. It’s given me everything I needed to sew my heart and mind back together: elder redwood trees, organic vegetarian cuisine, a warm wooden cabin, beautifully landscaped grounds, a vibrant, conscious community, and easy access to life-changing classes, books, and teachings of the dharma.  It’s a place of virtue and compassion. What Ratna Ling has made me realize is that I was almost empty when I arrived here, full of loneliness and sadness. But within weeks of being here, I was overflowing again, inspired and happy, the way I prefer to be. A few months ago, I couldn’t give what I didn’t have. I didn’t have enthusiasm or emotional freedom. I couldn’t feel love and support because I was still at a loss.  I had to make the executive decision of giving myself long-awaited care and attention. First by surrounding myself with loved ones in beautiful land like Hawaii, then getting quiet, listening deeply to what my heart and soul needed. And finally following that path to the place where I knew I could thrive again.

I’m now back to joyfully serving again in ways I love and know how, managing hospitality, coordinating retreats, and teaching yoga in the gorgeous land of Ratna Ling. In honor of my 2018 commitments, I’m offering a self-care retreat on May 25-28 as a gift for those who are weary, or for those who are committed to regular self-care and filling up their soul’s gas tanks.  This weekend is designed for all of us to charge our batteries, even if our batteries seem full. Self-care gives us surplus energy to share.

How do you know you need self-care? Here are a few signs.

  1. You’re always tired.
  2. You’re physically sick.
  3. Your body aches.
  4. You feel angry, stressed, or depressed.
  5. You feel lonely.
  6. You can’t remember the last time you laughed terribly hard.
  7. You feel bored or stagnant.
  8. You’ve been constantly concerned or consumed with someone else (your children, your spouse, your ex, your coworkers, your crush).
  9. You feel stuck, lost, or confused.
  10. You don’t feel like you’re your best self.

I am so grateful to my teachers who have given me the healing tools of yoga, meditation, nature, essential oils, music, sound-baths, massage, and art.  Some people have no idea that balance and joy are so available. These tools have given me peace, faith, and resilience in the most challenging of times, and it’s my pleasure to keep sharing them with others.

By Gloria Baraquio