A Little Chat with Caitlin Cady
Declared a "wellness whiz" by the Australian Yoga Journal, Caitlin Cady is an American-born, Byron Bay-based hope dealer, meditation junkie, and gangster of love. Her mission is to share how meditating can connect you to your highest self.
Through meditation, Caitlin healed from depression, an eating disorder, and chronic Lyme Disease. She believes that meditation is medicine; that it can lead you a path toward holistic wellness and lasting happiness, a harmonious relationship with yourself and others, and the calm, confidence, and clarity to live to your fullest potential.
This month, we caught up with Caitlin to learn more about her journey with meditation and mindfulness and what she has learned about herself. In our Little Chat, Caitlin takes us through her self-care rituals, her morning skincare routine, and she shares how she finds balance in the busy everyday.
Tell us about your initial journey to meditation. Was there a defining moment that led you to explore mindfulness?
By the time I was 21 years old, I was broken and depleted on pretty much every level. I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease after already struggling with Dengue Fever, mono, and EBV, not to mention an eating disorder and depression. It’s fair to say that my body and mind had been through the wringer. I had some serious healing to do, both inside and out. As I slowly rebuilt my physical health in an attempt to heal from Lyme Disease , I committed to whatever it took— Chinese medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, vitamin injections, IVs, acupuncture, blood work, GI tests, Vitamin C flushes, elimination diets—you name it, I did it. But despite all the healthy eating, supplements, and treatments, the Lyme disease kept resurfacing. It was clear that something was missing from my heal-thyself strategy.
I was deflated. And frustrated. I’d tried everything. Or I thought I had. But it turned out that the last piece of the wellness puzzle wasn’t about my physical body in a direct sense. The last piece of the puzzle was a major mental shift.
Up to that point, I’d derived my sense of happiness and self-worth through two things: what I could control and what I could achieve. It’s an attitude and a canon of behaviour that our society champions. Dream, believe… but mostly, bust your butt and achieve. Because you’re simply not enough just as you are.
I convinced myself that my stressed out state of overdrive was essential to my survival as a human being and a contributing member of society. In fact, I believed that over-achieving and perfectionism were not only the way I was wired, but that they were actually strengths (I had hustle, yo). In reality, that way of
living was making me sick.
My immune system couldn’t reset itself when adrenal fatigue, off-the-charts-cortisol levels, and an avalanche of anxiety was my daily reality. So I had a choice to make. Keep going, keep doing, and stay sick. Or slow down and be, well.
How does an over-achieving perfectionist learn to slow down and just be? As I found through a lot of trial and error, the very best way to learn to be is to meditate.
Once I finally got my tush on the cush’, meditation helped me slow my roll and calm down. And that opened the space for my body and mind to realign and get back on track. I said sayonara to the spin-cycles of stress and anxiety. I parted ways with perfectionism and that persistent, paralysing fear of failure. My nervous system found a way to reboot, and my immune system reset itself. Want some
concrete evidence? There’s not a trace of Lyme disease in my blood.
It’s not an overstatement when I say meditation changed my life.
What has meditation taught you about yourself?
Oh wow. What hasn’t it taught me? Impossible to sum up in a paragraph, but if I had to boil it down, I’d say that meditation has this incredible duality to it. Through the lens of equanimity you can unveil the negative patterning and shadows and begin to unwind them. Through a regular practice, I’ve been able to really witness the parts of me that are reactive, fearful and overly vigilant and just by noticing those things, they begin to lose their charge. But also, meditation
opens the channel to the very best parts of you — your full potential as a human being. Meditation has allowed compassion, calm, creativity, resilience and stability to become my new normal. Which beats the hell out of living in a constant state of stress and anxiety!
What do you keep on your bathroom shelf?
I don’t have much shelf space, but Sodashi Calming Rose Mist gets pride of place! It’s so dry here in Winter so I’m in there misting my face multiple times a day!
Take us through your morning skincare ritual.
I don’t wash my face in the morning until after I workout. So first thing, I normally mist my face with the Sodashi Calming Rose Mist (heavenly!) and then apply an oil-based serum and cream. I love Sodashi’s Calm range, as well as Living Libations Rose Serum and Day Creme. If I have a little extra time, I’ll get my gua sha on while applying the serum. Feels amazing!
What do you do before bed to feel grounded and restful?
I love to use breathing and meditation as a way to transition from doing into resting. The breath is the fastest way to influence the nervous system, so simply spending 2-3 minutes breathing in a specific way can actually calm your nervous system which makes falling asleep much easier.
Two of my favourite bedtime breathing techniques:
Box Breathing: Inhale, hold, exhale, hold for even counts. For example, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts.
Emphasise The Exhale: Emphasise the exhale by breathing in a 1:2 ratio. For example, inhale to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 8.
These breathing techniques can be used on their own or as a lead in into meditation.
I also wear blue-light blocking glasses after sunset which help (blue light interferes with our circadian rhythms and melatonin production, among other things) and unplug wifi and bluetooth devices as these wireless signals can also interfere with melatonin production and cause anxiety. Not helpful for sleep!
Can you share with us any other rituals of self-care?
Oh heck yes. How much time do we have?!
For me meditation is the ultimate act of self-care. So I do that on the daily (and ideally, twice a day because I love it so much).
Yoga is a huge part of my life, the style I practice (and study for my certification) is ParaYoga. It’s incredible - powerful yet subtle, with a clear lineage to some of the ancient Yogic greats, but still incredibly powerful and relevant in modern life.
Foam-rolling and rebounding on a fitness trampoline are such awesome ways to open up the body, get the lymph moving and create circulation in the body and mind. I like to jump for a few minutes every day, ideally in the morning.
I dry brush with essential oils before I hop in the shower everyday and that feels amazing and helps wake up my whole system.
I’m BFFs with my bathtub. A hot bath with magnesium flakes or dead sea salts and essential oils are my jam. I do make sure to filter the bathwater, you can get an inexpensive bath filter made by Sprite that removes most of the chlorine and chloramine from your water which is not only beneficial for the skin, but also for overall health.
I love going to Nimbus Co. for an infrared sauna once a week. Incredibly effective for detoxification, and so relaxing. I love to meditate or listen to something inspiring if I’m on my own. It’s also a favourite spot for catch up - I sometimes make it a date with my husband or a girlfriend.
Being Winter, I'm also enjoying Ayurvedic self-massage with warm sesame oil. I must admit it’s not my favourite thing to smell like, but it’s such a nourishing, grounding oil to use.
Yoga nidra is another self-care secret weapon of mine. Yoga nidra (known as yogic sleep or enlightened sleep) is an ancient technique that has got the goods for our modern life. The simplest way to describe Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation, but it’s so much more than that. Suffice it to say, it’s incredibly nourishing for the nervous system and the word on the street is that 20 minutes of yoga nidra is said to be equivalent to 3 hours of sleep. It’s a supercharged yogic nap that will give you wings. It’s amazing how good you’ll feel if you actually just lay down and recharge in the afternoon when your energy slumps! My teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker has an app called Sanctuary with a variety of yoga nidra tracks you can listen to (they are filed under Enlightened Sleep). Pop on a track and lay down for 20 minutes in the afternoon to support your energy.
On a day when you are considering your health and have time to prepare your meals, what do you make for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
I like to eat seasonally and Ayurveda is a big influence on the way I eat. In these cooler Winter months I’m eating a lot of Ayurvedic oats prepared with ghee, warming spices and almond milk for breakfast. I do mix it up and sometimes have organic scrambled eggs on top of kale sautéed in coconut oil, sea salt and shredded coconut, with a side of kraut or kimchee. So delicious.
Midmorning I will often have a matcha latte on coconut milk or a hot chocolate tonic laced with ania/shativari, medicinal mushrooms and collagen powder. So delicious and nourishing for the brain, nervous system and immune system. (recipe here if you want it!)
Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner, but in a pinch I’ll have a piece of gluten free toast with avo, goat cheese and beetroot kraut or a schmear of this incredible local smoked fish dip.
For dinner I love nourishing soups, dahls and slow cooked meals. I am really digging on Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook The Clean Plate. It’s full of dinner inspo, which every mama needs an injection of from time to time!
Self-care is a process of discovery, a learning by trial and error of what works for you. Can you share a valuable lesson you have learned so far?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that self-care can’t serve it’s highest aims if we aren’t letting ourselves have it. I really believe that joy, pleasure and restoration (all qualities I’m looking for in a self-care ritual) can only be experienced when we are fully present. If you think about the times in life when you felt joy, pleasure or deep rest and nourishment, you were fully IN IT. You shunned distractions and immersed yourself in the moment.
To that end, self-care isn’t just about the act of dry-brushing or taking a bath or having a sauna. Self-care can’t just be another thing on your to-do list. It’s not a task. It’s not an exercise in productivity. It’s not a chance to catch up on your emails.
What I mean is that it’s pointless to take a nice hot bath and light a candle if you’re going to busy yourself on social media. It’s a wasted opportunity. You won’t get nearly as much out of it. You won’t feel nourished or rejuvenated or joyful. On the other hand, if you leave your devices at the door and give yourself the gift of 30 minutes of tub time, staring into space or listening to music or reading a book, you are letting yourself really have that moment. It’s about making
pleasure the priority (not productivity.) It’s really about carving out space in your life and creating an intentional pause.
Interestingly, not only will you experience a deeper sense of physical and emotional nourishment and joy, but you might also be surprised by the lightening bolts of inspiration that come when you aren’t jamming the moment full of distractions. It’s why people get such great ideas in the shower or in meditation. Because there is space for inspiration to come through.
Self-care is a sacred pause. And if you treat it as such, you will be deeply rewarded.
How do you achieve balance in the everyday?
Oh boy. I have to say - I think balance is bullshit. Such a tricky one, especially for working mothers! The fabricated and fictitious “work/life balance.” The mythical “motherhood/career woman” balance. I found myself trying to achieve some kind of fixed state of equilibrium that just didn’t exist. So I’ve given up on the pursuit of everyday balance.
Just as nature ebbs and flows, so do we. And when we take a broader approach to honouring our natural, inborn rhythms (especially as women) I think we can live with less push and more flow, and a deeper sense of wholeness in our lives.
What I mean by that is our appetites, energy, creativity (and workloads) are always in flux. When we can embrace the changing tides of our lives, everything feels more natural. Every day won’t look exactly the same, but when you can ride the currents of your energy and circumstances, you generate better results with less stress. So rather than looking for balance in the every day, I look for overall rhythmic wholeness (think: cycles, tides, seasons). I pay attention to my energy, my instincts and my rhythms. Knowing when I’m on fire and trusting when I need rest. Riding the wave of outward expression and then honouring my instincts when I’m feeling like it’s time to withdraw. Feeling great when I’ve prepared a beautiful home-cooked meal on a slow day and also being at peace with putting my feet up and having takeaway when it’s been a big work week. Integration is really about instincts and trust, not striving and perfectionism. I think it’s a more satisfying way to live.
I wrote a blog post about this very topic if you’re interested in diving a little deeper into the topic. Read here