Our core belief at Didi & Dhai is that compassion is a lifestyle. Having love and empathy for yourself goes hand in hand with having a compassionate practice towards others. We had the pleasure of speaking with Catherine Foley, founder of holistic wellness store Help Your Self, who inspires us to incorporate well-being and healing into our everyday so that we can nurture ourselves, and therefore, maintain a caring outlook.
Her gorgeous store in Greenpoint offers a wonderful curation of self care products - it is full of magical, healing items, and you can now buy Didi & Dhai's Pokhara Pendant at Help Your Self!
Help Your Self's mission is to provide the best and most authentic selection of handcrafted, small batch healing goods made in the United States, including herbal remedies, botanical perfumes, flower essences, incense, essential oil candles and much more. Help Your Self also offers healing services like Acupuncture and Reiki, and a full calendar of workshops for personal transformation and well-being.
Read our special interview with Catherine below and learn about her thoughts on travel, self care, and compassion.
You have had a really interesting and varied professional path. How did your prior work experience ultimately lead you to opening your holistic wellness store, Help Your Self?
What I really wanted more than anything when I was coming of age was to be a published poet, and share healing with others through the earth. Family and social pressures massaged those dreams a bit and in the interest of practicality and financial stability, I felt it was within my integrity to work as a journalist with the goal of eventually covering war crimes and international human rights violations. After working for Gannett newspapers covering small towns in northern Westchester County, and the crime beat in Rockland County, I took a leap and moved to Romania, then Hungary, where I blogged, reported and edited for local English news outlets. Living overseas gave me the blessing of perspective, and the call to write creatively became ever louder. After a brief stint in Egypt, I moved to LA to write a novel. It was here I realized I was a pretty decent manager and business person, basically by accident. I was bartending on the side at an artisanal beer and wine bar in Echo Park, and after the manager’s unexpected departure, I was asked to run the show. I fell in love with operations and running a business smartly and efficiently. I took these skills back to New York and had the great opportunity to work for Brooklyn restauranteur Andrew Tarlow, whose passion for natural wine, whole animal butchery, farm direct relationships and building a strongly bonded family of employees and regular guests helped me remember my dream of being in service of the community and the land. Healing, well-being and connection to nature had remained integral pieces of my personal path, and Help Your Self emerged as my new dream, and really, my original dream. I never finished my novel, but I imagine writing will weave its way back into my life one way or another. I see my professional path as a reflection of the unfolding of my true nature and self wisdom. Each step has brought me closer to who I am and has been a more integrated and authentic expression of my heart and spirit.
Help Your Self is all about self care and healing. How do you find that having compassion for yourself gives space for more compassionate relationships with others?
When you begin to be comfortable in a space of self compassion, your whole body expands into a greater sense of ease and spaciousness. In self compassion, you learn to allow yourself your experience as it unfolds in the moment, and through soft and gentle observing and witnessing, you attune yourself to the intricacies of your experience, giving yourself the attention and space to process life as it flows through you. Living in this way tends to create a dominant energy of love and acceptance that emanates through you, and acts as a signal to others that they, too, can let their guard down, and relax into a state of ease, love and graciousness toward oneself. I do believe that is our natural state and our birthright.
You have traveled a great deal throughout your life. How have your travel experiences benefited your business?
Traveling, in many ways, is so much about perspective. As the journey unfolds, and the landscapes shift, so does our sense of perspective as we observe and revel in the different ways the world is reflected to us. Through this process we gain new insight about ourselves and how we contribute to the harmony of the world. There are many pathways through this life, and travel allows us to perceive that on a universal scale. Business, too, relies on perspective. As a business owner, I am constantly cultivating fresh awareness of my surroundings, and developing an innate sense of how my business contributes to the unfolding landscape. I am using my senses, and shifting and tuning my approach to best serve the ecosystem I inhabit and share and care for. I try to embody a traveler’s state of mind as I navigate the daily life of my business. Each day is such a gift of new learning and exploration.
You are also one of the best solo travelers we know. What is your favorite aspect of traveling alone?
Traveling alone is like a walking meditation. You really become aware of yourself, your patterns and habits, the sound of your breathing, what aggravates you, what lights you up, how often you make mistakes; and you have to make peace with all of those things. You are alone, so what else are you going to do? The more we fight and attack ourselves, the less we are able to see the overwhelming beauty and grace of our pure beingness, in each and every unfolding moment. The beauty of solo travel is finding rhythm with yourself, and by way of that, true peace.
What has been your favorite trip to date and why?
Camping on Drymades Beach on the Ionian Sea in Albania was pretty epic. I have no idea if it’s since been developed, but when I was there in 2006, it was a wild stretch of white pebble stones beneath a noble mountain ridge, where fruit trees were plenty, as were goats and goat herders, and concrete Communist bunkers. My travel partner and I lived there for a few days subsisting off the land and a few potatoes I had in my backpack. While we were snorkeling off shore, we heard enormous underwater booms, and soon realized that was how the locals fished. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time in the water after that. In the evening, we would build a fire and watch the Milky Way reflected star by star in the glassine sea. I will never forget the visceral feeling of that place – the smoothness of the driftwood, the quality and fragrance of the air, the sweetness of the figs. Travel like that is burned into you forever.
You have also lived abroad several times. How has living in another country and fully immersing yourself in other cultures changed you?
There is a special poetry to being a stranger in a strange land. When you live abroad, you live out of context. This gives you the luxury of perceiving and experiencing the atmosphere of a culture in a way someone completely identified with it couldn’t. It’s a special vantage point that creates a quality of reflectiveness in your daily life. You begin to see life in broader strokes. I think each landscape we become a part of through life broadens our sense of existence. A piece of us will always occupy that landscape and inform us in different ways over time. By living overseas, I came to appreciate the vastness of my existence and the vastness of all beings.
What advice do you give to other women to empower them?
Ask for a raise every six months. Don’t apologize for yourself unecessarily. Speak up loudly. Help yourself. Do something to help women and girls. Hold onto your power above all. Honor your rhythms and tune in to the rhythms of the earth. Be brave as hell, even when you’re scared. Know your strength and intelligence. Forgive yourself.
What is your favorite way to help you lead a more compassionate lifestyle?
I think a very powerful tool for practicing compassion starts at home. We all want to be more compassionate, but can we embody compassion for those we love the most and who may provoke us the most? When I approach my family with compassion, it sends a powerful message to the universe and can move mountains in terms of ancestral healing. When I fall out of compassion with my family, and learn to recognize when I do, that, too, is just as transformational. Families are powerful forces, and compassion helps us experience family in its most healing and loving form. A compassion practice at home reverberates so much love across your entire life.