We instantly start our conversation on a familiar note. One of the very first things that Holistic Wellness Counsellor, Ashley Neese tells me over Skype is, “it’s lunchtime here, I’ve got to put my squash in the oven, it’s so good”. Based in Silver Lake, LA, over the two years she’s been in business as part wellness counsellor, yoga teacher and energy healer, she’s worked hard to integrate all aspects of health in a package that is accessible to her clients and meaningful to her. And what could be a more intimate insight into how she approaches her own well-being by telling me what she’s planning on eating for lunch?
Faced with her own health challenges, the time on an artist in residence programme in Berlin, 2010, provided her with an opportunity to explore what she needed to rejuvenate.
One of my strongest beliefs about health is that if our body is in a constant state of stress we can’t heal, it’s just not going to happen.
Ashley realised very early on that adopting a single approach wasn’t working for her own health – “having been an artist my whole life, there’s been a tendency to try to separate everything, but that’s not really how people live. Things naturally overlap.” As she scoured local farmers markets and developed a daily yoga practice, she became more conscious of her health. And by throwing a lot of dinner parties, she found herself being asked for advice. Without realising it she had created a touchingly human approach by integrating several different aspects of wellness into her life.
Ashley works compassionately with her clients and explains that, “from the beginning I always say that the space we create is non-judgemental as there’s so much emotional stuff that comes up around health that it can be really scary for people.” Firmly believing that “everyone is their own healer”, she empowers her clients to connect the dots between nutrition and lifestyle. “Lifestyle changes are really hard to make. If you’ve been doing something in a certain way for years, you can’t change overnight, it’s just too much. There is a belief that we should be able to make changes quickly. Often new clients ask me to give them loads of suggestions in our first session. Whenever I make more than three recommendations very little gets accomplished.” By simplifying the process and recommending that her clients start with something as small as making one recipe a week, they are able to make lasting change.
Building awareness is central to Ashley’s process, “people aren’t really aware of how they’re living most of the time. Sometimes, people will tell me that they’re ‘trying to lose weight and don’t really eat’ but by session three they’re like, ‘ah, well I’m eating a pint of ice cream every night’ and then suddenly the lightbulb goes off”. Removing the guilt that can be associated with some lifestyle patterns is fundamental, “it’s not because anyone’s a bad person, we’re just not conscious of our habits. It can take a while to figure out what is really going on for people and what their triggers are.”
Ashley now runs seasonal sugar cleanses online to support her clients with the confusion that surrounds the subject of refined sugar and ease themselves away from its addictive qualities, “just because it’s not white or brown sugar doesn’t mean that it’s not refined. I think it’s important to educate ourselves about what that stuff is.” The community-driven programme provides a supportive framework to gently cleanse the body without any guilt, “there’s nothing wrong with having some honey in this or maple syrup on that. Being mindful with what you’re consuming is the most important thing next to being honest about it.” Ashley explains that, “we don’t all have the resources to go away on a juice retreat. I’ve designed a cleanse that you can do in the comfort of your own home and get a real feeling for how you can integrate what you’re learning into your everyday life.”
With her passion for sharing moments on instagram, Ashley has clients contacting her for online or in-person consultations from cities from all around the world, including LA, Berlin, Melbourne, Sydney, Stockholm and Zurich. These days, she’s never surprised by how clients find her or by their wide variety of needs, “in the beginning I worked with a lot of people who were trying to lose weight and people with autoimmune disorders. These days I’m working with many women who are struggling with fertility or who are pregnant and want to eat well to nourish their baby and themselves.”
By keeping an open-door policy, Ashley’s made sure that she doesn’t become focused on one aspect that could shut a lot of people out, “I want to have a practice that is inclusive. Many of the tools that I offer can be applied to all kinds of different situations. Diet is not one-size-fits-all. I work with clients and create custom lifestyle and nutrition programmes, however, many lifestyle changes are universal. For instance, we all need to slow down, stay hydrated and get a good night’s sleep!”
Focus on practicing the art of being grateful for what you have