"I always go to class," said Donna Karan in that rich warm voice that evokes melted chocolate and the smoke of a wood fire outdoors. She was talking about yoga — a practice she credits with saving her life.
At 62, Donna Karan knows style — of course she does. She's been an influential fashion designer for more than 25 years.
Those years in fashion have also taught her to fashion a philosophy that sustains her through chaotic times (which seems like all the time lately, doesn't it?). Which is why the panel she spearheaded at this year's WIE Symposium was called "Creating Calm in the Chaos."
As a host of WIE – Women: Inspiration & Enterprise — along with Arianna Huffington and Sarah Brown (which we told you about last year), she was present throughout the symposium schedule, but it was clear that this panel was dear to her heart.
She packed it with powerful women who embody true beauty – the luminosity that emanates from within: Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute, a place Karan highly recommends everyone go.
Kris Carr, whom Karan calls her "little child", motivated her life, she said, through her story, Crazy Sexy Cancer.
Lisa Oz - wife of doctor Dr. Mehmet Oz, of whom Karan said "behind every great man stands as great a woman – involved with everything that Mehmet does, but has a course of her own" balancing motherhood and all the other things we as women take on.
Agapi Stassinopoulus, Arianna Huffington's sister of whom Karan said: "She's about a goddess, she's about a smile … it's that balance of woman to woman." I thought her article on breaking the myth of Sisyphus – that guy who keeps trying to roll the rock uphill — especially qualified her for this panel.
And Colleen Saidman Yee. Karan said, "Colleen saved me," and helped her "take yoga to a whole other dimension… She helps me find calm in my chaos …" If nothing else, one look at her — she's in her 50s — will get you on the yoga/mediation track tout suite.
Colleen lead us all in mediation. "I have on striped Marimekko socks" she said when Karan suggested we take off our shoes, which to me underscored the fact that fashion is an integral part of our lives. "My shoes are too cool to leave off," Colleen laughed when the meditation was over.
When was the last time you meditated at a conference? Or at home?
We know that stress ages you. And crumples up your face. As does being too busy to eat right, and worrying about bills and parents and children....
Donna Karan founded Urban Zen, a holistic center focusing on well-being through alternative therapies, to help bring more balance into her life and the lives of others. It of course includes yoga — another reason why she emphasized going to a class to help restore her calm.
A home practice is great, but it's more than just the poses (Colleen added, it's not about being flexible, either, it's just about watching the breath). Karan said,
There's something about that community, and coming into the class, and being together."
Because the healing comes from all these things together — a focus on yourself, centering, feeling your body, letting yourself breathe, and sharing that with others trying to do the same. Donna Karan's dream: "To have meditation in every school."
Agapi asked us if we thought meditation easy or hard, and stressed that we can all practice daily in a "simple, easy, graceful way."
I committed to daily mediation a few years ago and definitely saw a change in my life. But lately, chaos has trumped calm, and there's attendant guilt about that. I needed to recommit.
So, the Rx for true beauty? Daily meditation! And yoga. And community – being together in a supportive environment. And paying attention to your breathing.
Deepak Chopra took the stage a bit later to discuss the classic feminine archetypes; when he got to Aphrodite, he stopped and chuckled, saying,
We have a lot of Aphrodite in this environment … and especially with Donna Karan around… every expression of her represents Aphrodite."
It's time to invoke these powerful energies of the feminine, said Chopra — Beauty, intuition, nurturing, tenderness, insight, affection, inspiration, choice, and creativity – in our collective culture.
Breathe. Are you ready to cultivate your true beauty?
More on getting inspired and staying that way:
Women: Inspiration and Enterprise
How Do you get inspired?
Are You Sage Material?
Mean Girls No More
Now Women are EPIC
May Day Celebrates Power, Feminine Style