Beautiful Voices is our ongoing blog series that highlights inspiring, empowering women. Our most recent Beautiful Voice is Kaia Roman. See what she says when Annmarie asks her some questions about her own personal beauty.
Kaia Roman is the author of the new book, The Joy Plan (Sourcebooks, July 2017). She teaches Mindfulness to elementary school students in Santa Cruz, California and is a blogger for mindbodygreen and other sites. She writes about how she went from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic so she can remember how she did it if she forgets. For everyday joy and mindfulness tips, sign up for Kaia’s newsletter at TheJoyPlan.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Who do you feel you are today?
I’m a human being doing my best to be a good person. I’m a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I’m incredibly blessed to teach Mindfulness to elementary school children and work as a freelance writer, doing work that inspires me every day. I’m also an author—my first book, The Joy Plan, came out on July 11. But mostly, I’m just a person trying figure out this crazy journey called life, one day at a time.
What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I’ve faced hard times in my life for sure—I grew up poor, experienced terrible bullying and lots of instability as a child, went through a painful breakup before I met my husband, and I have an autoimmune disease and a collagen disorder—but my biggest challenge was figuring out how to manage the connection between my thoughts and my experience of reality.
When I discovered how to train myself away from being anxious and negative and instead to be positive, optimistic, and joyful, I was flabbergasted! I wrote it all down and turned it into a book that I could put on my nightstand and pick up whenever I forgot how I did it. However, my life isn’t perfect and it never will be. I know now that my experience of life isn’t about the problems or triumphs I’m experiencing on the outside, it’s about the interpretation of it all that I’m experiencing on the inside.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I faced a devastating setback not too long ago, my best friend Niko suggested an idea that sounded crazy to me at the time. Make joy your top priority for 30 days, she told me, and it will transform your life. And crazy as it seemed, she was right.
Today I have a career that I love. I got a publishing deal. I teach mindfulness to kids at an amazing school. I have a beautiful family. I have the ability to work and live in multiple countries. I’ve come a long way since I first decided to dedicate 30 days to joy as a last resort before I slipped completely into the abyss of depression and anxiety. It’s not all rosy though. Some days, the bed still bed pulls me like a magnet and the world feels like a scary place to me. But I know how to catch myself now, and how to turn my thoughts, words, and actions in the other direction. All thanks to that piece of crazy advice from Niko.
Where and when do you feel most at peace?
My favorite place on Earth is a magical redwood forest outside of Santa Cruz called The Land of the Medicine Buddha. The air is sweeter in that forest than anything I’ve ever smelled, and when I’m there, I feel peace permeate every cell in my body.
When I can’t visit in person, however, I go there in my mind. In Mindfulness class, I teach my elementary school students to imagine their own personal happy bubble they can go inside any time they like. I lead them through a visualization where they decorate their happy bubble however they want inside. I’ve heard some pretty creative descriptions: a bubble filled with cats (and jello), a bubble where it’s always Christmas, and a bubble that’s a library in the sky.
We all need happy places, real and imagined, that we can visit whenever we want.
What does beauty mean to you? And what are your words of wisdom to other beauties out there?
I love Anne Lammot’s quote “Joy is the best makeup.”
Just like exercise, eating vegetables, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water, joy is important for our mental and physical health. It’s a habit that we must prioritize and practice every day.
If money were no object, what would you be doing?
Not long ago, I would have had a very different answer to this question. But thankfully, today, I can honestly say that if money were no object there is not much that I would change. I mean, I would certainly be able to give a lot more money away—and I would love that—but my life, what I spend my time doing and who I spend it with—wouldn’t change much. It took me over 40 years to truly be able to say this, but I love my life!
What makes you feel beautiful?
I’ve had psoriasis since I was four years old. It varies in severity, but sometimes covers up to 90% of my body. When my husband looks at me and says, “I don’t see your spots, I just see you, and you are beautiful to me,” I melt from the warmth of his love. But when I can have enough compassion and self-love to look in the mirror and say the same thing to myself, that’s when I feel truly beautiful.
What do you do when you want to pamper yourself?
When I'm overwhelmed, anxious, confused, or frustrated, it all seems to melt away if I take a bath—at least for a little while. There's something about hot water, especially infused with Annmarie essential oils—it activates my creative mind while shutting down my worries, and helps me see a clearer path, a new way forward, a perspective I couldn't see before.
I write my best blog posts in the bath (always keep a notepad handy) and have been known to stop and take a bath in the middle of my workday if I'm struggling with a project. After a quick soak, my thoughts are clear again and everything is easier. I used to think that taking baths was lazy, a waste of water, and a luxury I didn't deserve.
I gave up on baths for years, even though I love them. But now I realize—anything that gives me greater clarity and eases my anxiety is the opposite of lazy! It makes me more productive (and more pleasant to be around) in the end. And the water? One or two more family members, some of them furry and four-legged, will enjoy this bath after me. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure this out, and give myself permission to relax and let go, but I’m so glad I finally did.
Isn’t she beautiful?
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