As the founder, CEO, and Chief Wellness Officer of Namaste New York, author Julie Wald has dedicated her life to helping people live healthier, happier lives. With 25 years’ experience and various modalities under her belt, including as a clinical social worker, a yoga and meditation teacher and reiki master, Julie has identified four pillars of wellness.
In her new book, Inner Wealth. Julie explains what these pillars are, why they’re so important and how we can bring various practices into our lives to combat burnout and generate health, wealth, and freedom from the inside out.
Nikki Van Noy: Julie, thank you so much for joining us to talk about your new book Inner Wealth.
Julie Wald: Thank you for having me.
Nikki Van Noy: Let’s start off by explaining to listeners what inner wealth is.
Julie Wald: The idea of inner wealth is about how we cultivate an experience of inner abundance. Often times, in our society, we’re so focused on what we can cultivate and create externally in terms of resources but we don’t pay a lot of attention necessarily to our internal resources and when that happens, we feel the opposite of inner wealth, we feel quite poor inside.
Really, inner wealth is about cultivating health and wellbeing from the inside out.
Nikki Van Noy: With that in mind, you’ve written a book about inner wealth and are also the founder and CEO of Namaste New York, which has a mission to help people live healthier happier lives. Obviously, this is an issue of great importance to you. I’d love to hear why that is?
Julie Wald: Well, you know, I started my career as a clinical social worker and I worked with some of the most disenfranchised human beings in New York City, in the whole country. While I was doing that work, I realized that I really needed to figure out how to take care of my own mind and body so I could optimize that as a tool to support other people.
I dove deeply into the work of yoga and meditation and all different kinds of eastern practices and eastern wisdom. I really cultivated my own toolkit and started to moonlight as a yoga and meditation teacher to people in New York City who were really ultra-successful. High performers, people who had achieved a tremendous amount in their career, and I found myself in this really funny interesting scenario whereby I would spend most of my day working up in the Bronx with clients who were struggling mentally and sometimes physically.
I would bookend my days in the early morning and in the evenings with my yoga and meditation clients who were really primarily these high net worth and ultra-high net worth people living very different lifestyles than the people in the Bronx.
One of my biggest takeaways was that these two demographics were actually in many ways, aside from sort of extenuating or extreme situations, you know, dealing with similar levels of happiness and misery, right? It was dressed up in different outfits, but they all had similar struggles in terms of worrying about children or aging parents or their health, or substance abuse or relationships.
Really, it was about having and cultivating internal resources that were universal for both of these groups of people. I just became deeply fascinated with understanding the ingredients to cultivate this experience of health and happiness and wellbeing. My laboratory for many years became these ultra-successful people. Primarily because they were very bleeding edge, this goes back to 2003 or before that actually. They were bleeding edge in their thinking, and they had the resources to really experiment with a lot of mind/body practices to figure out what was most supportive.
With them, you know, we and I, learned a tremendous amount and then quite frankly, have had the ability to bring that to all different kinds of populations.
Nikki Van Noy: What a fascinating experience to be able to see two worlds so close together that are really grappling with the same human thing despite a pretty big difference in circumstances it sounds like.
Julie Wald: Totally, absolutely. That’s not to minimize some of the issues and struggles that are related to lack of education and lack of resources and all of those baseline social and socio-economic issues, that are really creating huge challenges for the population of people that have less.
However, if you were to just spend an hour with these two different populations side by side, in terms of how they showed up at the door, their mood, their affect, their sense of strength or competency or fulfillment, it was actually a lot of similarities.
Nikki Van Noy: So interesting. Along with all of this, one of the specific audiences that you’re gearing this book toward, which I believe is pretty much all of us at this point, is people who are feeling burnt out and sort of disconnected because of that.
I’d love you to speak to what you see in terms of burnout these days, and how it’s impacting people?
Julie Wald: Yes, people come to Namaste all the time saying to us like, “Where did I lose the plot here? How did I end up in this situation where I’m not okay. I have a great education, I have a wonderful family, a great support system. I have a good job but yet I’m overwhelmed with stress, with anxiety, with sort of a feeling of disconnection from myself and what brings me joy and fulfillment. I’m not quite sure how to break what feels like very debilitating cycle and situation.”
So, very outwardly successful people often are struggling with a real disconnect between the vitality and abundance that they feel on the inside, compared to their big fancy house and all of their external riches, so to speak.
Nikki Van Noy: Burnout, for all of us, regardless of socio-economic class, is so dangerous on so many levels, which you can speak to more than anybody. But, it strikes me as particularly debilitating within these populations where people have put in all of this work to achieve their dreams, whatever that looks like to them, and even with all that work and all of that human investment are still not able to be present to enjoy it.
Julie Wald: That’s it, you just hit the nail on the head. I think, sometimes, it’s people who are maybe approaching their life from a more balanced perspective and less achievement-oriented that find themselves in the situation in a little less extreme way.
Sometimes, it’s the people that are so focused on high achievement that end up realizing that they’ve put all their eggs in one basket and haven’t taken the time to cultivate other areas of their life that may prove to be deeply fulfilling, whether that’s investing in community or spiritual life or friendships or relationships, that bring them a lot of joy and sustenance or their most intimate relationships.
They could turn around, 10, 20, 30 years later and say, “I forgot to have meaningful conversations with my children or my parents, or I was so busy doing, doing, doing, that somehow I’m left feeling a sense of emptiness.”
Nikki Van Noy: Which is pretty tragic.
Julie Wald: Yeah, absolutely, and again, this doesn’t mean that stress and burnout isn’t an issue for everyone. I happen to have had a lot of experience with this specific demographic. Actually, I’ve had a lot of experiences with the extreme demographics you would say, but I do see and experience it in my own life personally, how these 24/7 digital lives that we’re all living have created a sense of total sensory overload, mental overload. It’s really that people almost have no choice but to figure out how to tune out at a certain point because of overstimulation.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, it’s interesting, you know? I found myself rewinding to this oddly specific scenario that I used to go through every day where I would walk to work, this was about 2005, and I’d have my Discman and I remember carefully selecting the CD I was going to listen to every day because I knew that I was stuck with it for the entire walk to work and back home again.
It had to be a good one and it would get frustrating to me sometimes being with that one CD, but now, I think about it and I’m like, “Man, that would never happen now,” just like in that simple example of music. We have every song we could ever want at our fingertips at all times. Little things like that, I mean, it’s just incredible.
Julie Wald: Yeah, and our ability to sit with discomfort has become really nonexistent because we have this constant instant gratification. I was in a restaurant waiting for a friend and the friend was running late, she was running like 15, 20 minutes late, she wasn’t showing up and she sent me a message and she said, “I’m stuck in traffic, I’m going to be really late.”
“No problem,” I’m just sitting there, kind of banging out emails, getting so much done. I really and truly could have cared less that she was late, I had so much to do. I was getting stuff done, she was going to show up, we would have lunch, maybe a little bit of a shorter lunch than I had originally hoped, but the waiter walked by and he looked at me and he said, “When you have your phone, you’re never alone.”
I had this moment of just realizing that backup, rewind to before I was sitting there with my phone and I don’t even know what year that was at this point or even, you know, without a smartphone, that I literally would have had to sit there in the restaurant, with all of the emotions of thinking, is my friend going to show up or not going to show up? I would have been angry, and I would have been worried, and I would have been wondering whether I was in the wrong place or I got confused and was this the right day? I would have literally had to sit with and figure out how to navigate just a whole host of emotions at that moment, within my own little being, but I didn’t have to do that.
You have to think that as a society, as a culture, our ability to sit with and be with and navigate the simplest frustrations like this isn’t the song that I want to listen to because I want a different CD to much larger more painful sort of situations that we find ourselves in. Our muscle for that is pretty weak I think at this point.
Nikki Van Noy: Absolutely. What a great example because you’re absolutely right, we all do that and it’s getting really difficult to imagine what we did before. How did we used to sit in the restaurant quietly, what would that look like?
With that in mind, let’s talk about the four pillars of wellness that you’re including in your book.
Julie Wald: Totally. You know, the interesting thing is that–well, I’ll get to that in a minute because I want to get back to what you, just said….
Nikki Van Noy: Please do.
Julie Wald: But just like, it doesn’t actually go right now, it goes later on, but I don’t want to forget, which I probably will forget. But this concept of, what would we have been doing otherwise, because I think that one of the reasons why we have to be so intentional about wellness and about self-care and about these four pillars is because they’re actually not built into our life naturally anymore.
When I started off on this ‘wellness journey,’ it was back in like 1992 or something like that, and the people that were taking the classes and doing the things and learning what I was learning were really seekers, they were really spiritual people, they were really sort of out of the box, not mainstream.
But today, as evidenced in my book, all of these practices and the four pillars and how we’re talking about them is really geared towards everyone, towards a very mainstream population. Part of the reason is because the behaviors and the aspects of life that used to just be normal, natural aspects of life that would cultivate a sense of mental health and wellbeing are really not there anymore.
Now we have to have pillars and structures and frameworks for them because they’re just not naturally occurring. The four pillars are movement, stillness, touch and connection, and nourishment.
Movement is obviously exercise but it’s also all kinds of movement. It’s taking a walk, it’s really just incorporating a sense of embodiment into your day so that you’re not just a talking head all the time. Movement can be really planned movement such–plan isn’t quite the right word. It’s really more like a longer workout session, larger movement practices, and movement can also be integrative.
Small things, like, “I am going take the stairs instead of the elevator or I am going to walk over to the water cooler, or I am going to get up and go have a conversation with somebody instead of sending them a message.”
Stillness is sleep, it’s meditation, it is relaxation, it’s all different kinds of restorative practices. It is really the other half of movement. It is the balance to movement. It’s what we would have been practicing in the restaurant in an integrative way had I not had my phone. I would have actually just sat there in my breath, in my mind, in the state of stillness, and that is what people do when they meditate. So, because we don’t have those types of moments anymore, we need to formalize them even if we are not a seeker or are not on a spiritual path.
It is really about mental health and wellbeing as I said. So, stillness can be larger meditation practices, highly intentional, and it can also just be really about taking a moment to take a deep breath throughout the course of our day, to stop for a moment. So again, it could be very planned, very integrative.
The third is touch and connection and that’s about physical touch, but it is also just about human connection. It is about relationship. A formal example of that would be something like getting a massage once a week, which is obviously a touch practice. If it is therapeutic touch, it is super supportive mentally and physically to our body. An integrative example of that would be holding our partner’s hand when we are walking down the street, for example, instead of holding our phone maybe.
The last pillar is nourishment, which is food. It’s nutrition but it is also art and music and community and all of the things that nourish us as human beings. The things that fill us up mentally and physically.
That is a quick overview of the four pillars and at the end of the day, these are the ingredients that enable a newborn baby to thrive. They need movement, they need stillness, they need touch and connection, and they need nourishment.
If all of those ingredients are in place, unless there is some extraneous variable, this baby, this young child will thrive. As we get older, these variables kind of go out the window. In this day and age even for children, these variables go out the window because of the lifestyle that we’re living. So, often people come, and they say, “I don’t know why I am not okay. You know I work out. I go to spin class seven days a week.”
Then you find out that, maybe they have the movement box checked, but all of these other variables are sort of grossly out of alignment and then once you start to play with these different variables in a really conscious way, the human being, just like a baby, starts to feel more in balance, like they might have the opportunity to thrive.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, that’s interesting on so many levels. I mean first of all, in terms of framing these as our innate needs, which you are absolutely right about, and also specifically with movement, I think a lot of us have fallen into this where it becomes just another item on our to-do list. So, we are really not getting so many of the other benefits that we should be getting out of it because you are still going full bore sometimes when you are moving regardless of what that looks like.
Julie Wald: Absolutely. In fact, we had a client not that long ago who we were doing a wellness plan for because a lot of people come to us really looking for support and coaching around how to implement practices that are really best for them, because it is important that you feel that the things that you’re doing resonate with you. It is not about force-feeding people practices that aren’t authentic feeling.
She came and movement was such a chore. She had so many classes and so many things going on and I said to her, I said, “You know, you need to take a walk with a friend in the park. You don’t need to sign up for anything. You don’t need to even break a sweat if that is not what happens. You just need to take a walk with a friend in the park and that’s going to help to begin to balance the situation out,” because you are absolutely right, it becomes just another thing on the to-do list, which is not necessarily the solution to the problem.
Nikki Van Noy: Right. So, let’s talk about what listeners can expect to find in this book and basically how you hope that readers interact with it.
Julie Wald: In the book is a much more in-depth description of each one of these pillars as well as stories of many of the successful, engaging, really quite wonderful clients that we’ve had the opportunity to work with since 2003, and their journeys towards cultivating greater health and wellbeing.
I think even though these people are quite elevated in their career paths in different areas of their life, at the end of the day, they’re just people. Therefore, I think the stories are actually quite relatable and universal and through those stories, we learn how these practices can be so powerful mentally and physically if they are integrated into our lives in a really natural, authentic, and organic way. But, all that said, it definitely has to be intentional at this stage of the game to make it happen, and we have to figure out how to cultivate an environment in our lives that is conducive to the four pillars in a way that is more natural and less forced feeling. So, the book talks a lot about ways to do that. It also gives a lot of tips and examples and actual practices that you can integrate into your life.
The hope is that people would really walk away quite inspired about the power of simple practices, that while behavior change is hard, very hard, I don’t want to underestimate or undermine of how challenging it can be to change behavior, the other side of that is that small things can make a really big difference.
Nikki Van Noy: I love that. Tell me one of your favorite stories. So, in the years you’ve been doing this, is there any particular transformation that really stands out to you?
Julie Wald: Gosh, there are so many stories. That is a great question. You know, one of the things that we have really begun to do more of and just have done for many, many years and are doing more and more of most recently, is supporting people who are navigating a stage of life that can feel scary and overwhelming, whether it is because of a chronic disease or something more acute. Again, these are high performers, just like we talk about in the book but as I mention, people are people.
Everybody’s got a whole host of things on their plate and recently we have been working with an older population. That has been really incredible because I think an older population of people is often very invisible to the health and wellness world. People don’t think that huge transformation or change can take place in somebody’s 70’s or 80’s.
Because we’ve been in business since 2003, we’ve had the opportunity to work with people through the prime of their career and then navigating getting older and some of what comes along with that. We have one incredible client who is an older gentleman and he is an academic. He is an intellectual and he works for a major medical institution. He is somebody who’s been just a hyper-cerebral human being his whole life and really not incorporated much fitness or exercise ever. He started to feel pretty unsteady on his feet and actually then took a fall and this became really stressful for him and for his wife.
They were very, very concerned about, as you probably know, once you hit a certain age and you start falling, this can be the beginning of a very dangerous downward spiral. This is an esteemed prestigious gentleman who really was not done working, is sharp as a tack, the task was how do we support him in, number one, managing the stressors of embarking on this chapter of his life through the aging process.
Then the other was how do we support him in staying physically strong and improving his balance, so that he felt more empowered by his ability to have control over this situation. So, he started working with a trainer, a really incredible female trainer who is this salt of the earth sort of very much in her body, not super cerebral, although incredibly smart, woman who would come work with him on a really consistent basis in terms of building strength and working on balance.
And in between sessions, he did a lot of work on his own and then she also started to weave in some breathing and some mindfulness work to support his ability to be totally present, which very much helps with balance and avoiding falls. To watch the way that he transformed at his stage in life–his wife used to call us when this happened, which is not that long ago and really just she couldn’t believe it. It was his whole mood, his whole outlook on this chapter in his 70’s and 80’s and this stage of life that he was in, flipped on its head.
He went from feeling incredibly overwhelmed and depressed to feeling totally strong and empowered and his falls completely stopped happening. The people that he worked with really couldn’t believe how his mood and his overall presentation and his level of vitality changed, he started taking walks at lunchtime, which he had never ever done before. He was kind of head down working all day long, would barely move and something so simple just changed his entire mental and physical experience.
Nikki Van Noy: I love that and it’s such a testament to our ability to change at any point by just making that decision and being intentional. Okay, so I am sure that like me, many listeners at this point are thinking about how they can begin to turn their lives in this direction. So, keeping in mind that this is a practice, is there anything that you would advise people to do as a first step?
Julie Wald: Everybody is different. Wellness is a personal thing, and it is a personal issue. There is no one size fits all for everybody or one secret cure for everybody. We all need something a little bit different. So, I would encourage people to think about the four pillars, movement, stillness, touch and connection, and nourishment and think about what areas they feel really connected to and really strong in and where they might feel a little wobbly.
They can identify which pillar they need to start cultivating one small habit in. For example, if stillness is your issue, if you don’t sleep well, that’s a great place to start because before we do anything, we need to get you sleeping. So, if you think, “Oh, stillness, sleep, that’s not something I’ve got under control at all,” then let’s think about starting off with a bedtime or putting your phone in the kitchen at a certain point. Plugging it in and really giving yourself some downtime so that you can begin to get some rest.
So, it is really dependent on the person, what that one thing is. For some people it’s take a walk every day, for other people it’s drink more water, for other people it might be take a day or two and try not eating any sugar. Or figure out what happens if you leave the house without your phone and you are with your partner and you can just spend a day together without your phones, with somebody that you love and care about.
So, depending on where each person feels they need a little strength will determine what makes the most sense for them.
Nikki Van Noy: I love of simplicity of every single thing that you just cited there, with the exemption of a day without sugar, not to let my personal bias creep in there, but that really speaks to what you have been saying that this is getting back to basics and our innate needs.
Julie Wald: Totally, a hundred percent.
Nikki Van Noy: All right Julie, thank you so much for joining us. The book again is Inner Wealth: How Wellness Heals, Nurtures, and Optimizes Ultra-Successful People. Julie, outside of this book where else can listeners find you?
Julie Wald: They can find us on our website, which is namasteny.com. We are also actually known as namastewellness.com because we do a lot of work outside of New York City. We have an amazing blog where we provide a ton of evidence-based wellness information. So, we call on research and we figure out what is really worth people’s time and how we can make sure that the advice that we are giving people is based on scientific findings.
Our blog is a wealth of information where you can find a lot of empowering ideas and tips and tools. For some people seeing that research is what really helps motivate them.
Nikki Van Noy: Beautiful. Julie, thank you so much for joining us today.
Julie Wald: Thank you so much for having me.