Too often have we felt the need to declutter and simplify our hectic lives but our good intentions are thrown out the window as quickly as the next email arrives in our inbox. Creative consultant, lifestyle expert and now author of her new book, A Beauty Collected, Rachel Garahan is our spirit animal when it comes to zeroing in on the important things in life, and truly discovering how to live a life of purpose and meaning. As a self-described, modern-day gypsy, Rachel thrives on finding beauty in the every day and has a knack for coming up with tips for living a more balanced life. Her global adventures have inspired her to share her way of seeing the world through an un-fussy lens, and embracing the art of conscious living.
Rachel, congratulations on your new book, A Beauty Collected, it is simply stunning! Can you tell us about it and how it all got started?
Thank you! It all comes back to a quote I have in the front of the book, “If you can’t name things, how can you know them?”. Vocabulary expands appreciation of our surroundings, and in turn, our language shapes our behavior. You know how when you learn a new word or hear about something for the first time, it starts to pop up everywhere around you? I wanted to create that same experience for nature, to help people notice and connect to the world around them. Especially kids- little ones are already so enthralled with nature, let’s encourage that curiosity! I started working on this book long before I was a mom, but always knew I’d want to teach my baby about the beauty of nature.
We love the idea of embracing a life of whole living. What inspired you to slow down and look at your own life this way?
My dad died when he was 53 (I was 19). It was a huge shock. But from it, I learned to live the life I want now and not put things off for a time that may never come. In both my work and personal life, I’m always looking at things holistically, taking the 10,000 ft view to see how all the parts affect one another, and where current actions might lead in the future. Everything is connected. From that perspective, it makes sense to consume, work, spend, let down, etc in ways that support a common goal.
“My dad died when he was 53 (I was 19). It was a huge shock. But from it, I learned to live the life I want now and not put things off for a time that may never come.”
Given that technology is so integral in our daily lives, what are 4 tips we can implement right now that will help us to embrace a more balanced lifestyle?
- Technology can be used to fuel us or drain us. The first thing is to notice which is happening for you. Before you hop on the internet, take a moment to consider your intention. Is there a specific purpose you’re looking to fulfill or are you just bored? Afterwards, note how you feel as well. Inspired? Anxious? Better or worse than before? This quick check-in can help to break tech habits that leave us feeling depleted. (On this same note, I’ve found that keeping my phone on silent/ vibrate and turning off all notifications really helps to make sure that I’m only looking at my phone when I really want to.)
- Don’t go online until after breakfast. Whether it’s the news, social media, emails or texts, they all color our day. Why not give ourselves an hour or so to just BE, without the clutter of external influences? Journaling, meditation or pulling tarot cards are ways I like to tap into inner energy instead.
- Don’t feel like you need a presence on every social media outlet. Between Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest and others I don’t even know about, we can spend our whole day updating and staying updated. Instead, pick the 1 or 2 you enjoy most and delete the rest.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Despite the above, sometimes I still catch myself reaching for my phone every 30 seconds, and that’s when I know it is time to stick it in a drawer. I’ll leave it there for a few hours, if not the rest of the day/night. I did a 5-day tech break earlier this year and it was life changing. Try it if you haven’t yet (even just 1 day) and see what happens! For a daily detox, I find it’s helpful to charge it in the living room overnight, making suggestion #2 that much easier.
You are an avid traveler and, dare we say, a thrill-seeker? What is the craziest thing you’ve done and how do you balance this “wild side” with your inner zen?
Thrill-seeker used to be my middle name! I’ve gone skydiving multiple times, bungee jumping, jumped off an 80 ft cliff, hopped in a car or on the back of a bike with many strangers in many countries… the list goes on. I was in my early twenties when I decided I’d tested my luck enough and didn’t want to take those kinds of risks anymore. Getting engaged still posed as a final confrontation to my inner gypsy. In order to be at peace with settling down, I needed my husband to be okay with the fact that if I wanted to go on a crazy adventure at any point down the road, I still could. Of course as soon as we came to that agreement, I’ve never wanted to travel alone again.
“Living without self-awareness is like going through life blind, not knowing why we feel a certain way at certain times or why things happen ‘to us’. To live consciously requires a certain amount of attention and accountability but I believe that leads to a more ‘curated’, and therefore fulfilled life.”
How has your life changed after marriage and starting a family?
We’ve been married for 2.5 years, and have a 1.5 year old. Sure our daily life is scheduled and child-friendly, but amidst that, we regularly question our status quo. How far can we reach outside our comfort zone? How deep can we get with each other? How can we best support each other to grow and learn? We’re constantly supporting each other to be our best selves, and continue to dream big and take risks. Last January, when our son was 5 months old, my husband took leave from work and we moved down to Nicaragua (2 dogs included) to live on the beach for 2 months for no reason other than to simply be with each other. Ultimately that trip inspired us to move out of the city altogether, and in September we moved to a tiny town where we knew no one and had no house until a week before arriving. It’s that kind of risk that excites me now- following my intuition and seeing where it leads.
We love that you follow your heart and follow your desire to live a spontaneous life! What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while on the road?
I’ve learned that everyone has something to teach you. Being a Taurus, I can be a serious homebody as I’m very happy in the comfort of my own home. Even as a teenager backpacking through Australia, I’d often want to curl up in my sleeping bag and just read a good book instead of going out with new friends. But every time I said yes to an invitation, I returned with something unexpected. A wild adventure, hearing someone’s cool life story, a nugget of advice, a helpful connection, a lifelong friendship. There’s always a takeaway if we’re open to it.
You are a big believer in the concept of conscious living. What is this exactly?
“Curated” is such a buzzword right now, but to me it means all the right stuff (whatever that is for you) and nothing more. In this way, conscious living is about knowing yourself. Knowing your strengths, your style, your shadow side. Knowing how foods affect you, saying ‘yes’ when you feel the pull, and ‘no’ when something doesn’t feel right. As Jung said, “that which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.” Living without self-awareness is like going through life purposefully blind, not knowing why we feel a certain way at certain times or why things happen ’to us’. To live consciously requires a certain amount of attention and accountability but I believe that leads to a more ‘curated’, and therefore fulfilled life.
How has becoming a mother changed your view of what conscious living means to you and how can others take time to embrace the chaos?
Oh goodness. Becoming a mother turned my life upside down! Mostly because it made me realize how little control I have. I was under the false impression that if I did everything just right, there was the possibility of things happening the way I wanted them to. I can apply this to everything from childbirth to simply getting out the door on time. We call Ben “Jefecito”, our small boss. Surrender has been huge. And sheer lack of minutes in the day has pushed me to prioritize and let go of my perfectionist qualities. I’m not perfect. Not everyone is going to like me. I can’t do it all. Not everything is going to happen the way I like it, but all outcomes are good and serve a purpose. Acknowledging those things has been a huge weight off my shoulders. We’re all just doing the best we can- there is no better than our best.
“I was under the false impression that if I did everything just right, there was the possibility of things happening the way I wanted them to.”
We love the idea of stripping away outside stimulus and taking a moment to truly observe and soak in your surroundings. I think we often forget it doesn’t take much to entertain our children and something as simple as paper and crayons can inspire endless conversation starters with our little ones. Do you have any favorite activities to do with kids?
My favorite thing to do with kids is to simply let them take the lead. For example, my 1 year old is not that into art yet, but I want him to be exposed to it, and see it’s something I value. So every day we spend some time with markers- I’ll doodle while he practices taking the lids on and off, or putting the markers in and out of the box. That’s what is fun for him! With older kids, I’m always interested to see which colors they select while drawing– do they choose the natural ones (like a green and brown tree) or something different? How come? The answers are always so insightful. For coloring fun with your little ones, attached are some downloads I created to help kids name things in nature. You can use them as a scavenger hunt, kids can cut them out to decorate their doors/windows, use them to create banners or mobiles with found objects like twigs and string. Whatever the activity is, remember it’s all an opportunity for conversation, to discover what’s in their mind, and let them take the creative lead.
Who are your mama inspirations?
My older sister has a son who is 9 months older than mine so she’s been an incredible wealth of inspiration and advice (not to mention hand me downs!) I’m also so grateful for my mama friends who aren’t afraid to be real. These ladies keep me sane and make the long days fun! I’d love to be mama friends with Selma Blair. Her Instagram is the best. And of course, my own Mom. She has the gift of knowing how to make anything feel special and fun.
Words you live by or quotes you love?
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, Simplify.” – Thoreau
“We must be still and still moving.” – T.S. Eliot
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard
We think that we have a technology cleanse in our future, thanks to Rachel. It’s so easy to get caught up in the demands of our daily life but as Rachel points out, it’s within our control to make a change and something as simple as taking a deep breath and really taking in your surroundings, slowing down to the beauty of nature (the colors, the smells, the sounds) can make the biggest impact.
Looking for some easy things to share with your little one or keep them out of trouble while you shoot off that last email? Rachel has designed these gorgeous downloadables exclusively for heymama. Simply color, cut and create!