Take time to yourself if it’s for mediation, or creative outlets! We can’t expect our emotional field to be balanced if we aren’t doing things that deeply nourish us and allow us to live in the chemical state of well-being. Emotions are literally chemical states that pass through the body and can leave imprints in our memories. Therefore, we need to take responsibility for our own happiness and set the context for creating that feeling of love, happiness, well-being and thriving as much as we possibly can. This is tremendously important in a society that often encourages us to work till burnout, and place productivity over the healing states of well-being and being in the flow.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sue Hunt.
Sue Hunt is a radical Buddhist and has been sharing public teachings on spirituality, living ethics, and the intersectionality of being human, for the past 15 years, all over the US and overseas. With her life partner Dan, she is a co-founder of Live Lightly and Live Lightly Supplements. She is also co-author of The Sister Body Oracle Deck. She lives in Taos, New Mexico. Find her at www.suehunt.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Yes, I would love to! I spent most of my childhood in the woods of Appalachia, in Virginia. A very outspoken and inquisitive child. Traveling to the beat of my own drum, and it was here that my love of earth and nature really sprouted within me. I found Yoga, Meditation and Buddhism around age 11. Seriously beginning to practice about 13 years old due to a severe back injury from years of elite level gymnastics. This dramatically changed the course of my life at a young age. I kept practicing and looking for yoga everywhere that I could find it in the mid-90’s and early 2000’s. It wasn’t as commercialized as it is now.
I went on to study Hinduism and Buddhism in college and worked from some amazing non-profit integrative health organizations right out of college. I spent months in closed contemplative retreat deep in the woods during these early years. I have lived and taught yoga, meditation and integrative modalities all over the world by the time I was 25. As a Cancer, Pisces, family, freedom and creativity are very important to me. And are always a large part of my own exploratory path, as well as my teaching and role as a spiritual mentor.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I actually dedicated my first book to my parents.
“Elle, a psychologist, artist, intuitive and empath
Turner, a dreamer, serial entrepreneur, a master
of action and expansive thinker
Both healers within their intergenerational inherence and the dissolvers of generational karma. Parenting with radical love, and inclusivity. These pages originate from the seeds of change they planted in their own lives and mine.”
They really gave me the inspiration to walk my own path and follow my passion. However, no one in my ancestral lineage was into yoga or spirituality. So, I followed and found that route all on my own and pursued it with vigor. Other cultures also inspired me to live a creative, contemplative life and I spent months on end living overseas. My time in Trinidad & Tobago, India and Haiti really opened my eyes to my authentic self and to the ways of the rest of the world outside of the United States. This was extremely inspirational to me at a young age when I was really beginning to consciously craft my future.
My long-term teachers have been extremely pivotal in my growth and exploration. There is a part of the traditional yoga path that values humility, and every teacher has a teacher. Their examples gave me space and vision to pursue my own path, personally and professionally.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I love this question, and it’s so important to acknowledge the support systems, communities, values and individuals that opened doors for us along the way.
I have a previous boss that I like to call my “Yoga Fairy Godmother”. If it wasn’t for her taking a chance on me and bringing me into work for a prolific organization with open arms, I wouldn’t have met some of my most profound teachers to date.
I was 22, with a buzzed head always wearing monk-like clothing. I returned from two months in silence and eight months abroad in a closed meditative retreat to New York City. The place I called home before I left for this meditative intensive. I came back a totally different person, and many of my friends and even my ex-boyfriend at the time barely recognized me.
I was hardly qualified on paper to work for such a prolific non-profit in the integrative health space. But I was persistent, I knocked on their side production door in the west village several times a week, asking for the head of the program. I knocked enough times, giving my email to anyone who would answer the door, and finally got a meeting!
They hired me on a work-trade trade, and I took it immediately! I worked late night retail in the meatpacking district around the corner to make the unpaid job work! Definitely a funny time in my life playing many roles. Several brands actually hired me with my buzzed head which I did for meditative purposes because I had a gender-neutral presence, and I was “on brand” for them. Truly remarkable when I look back on it, because I would be in the integrative health space by day, where I loved to be. Then walk around the corner, put on my designer leather jacket and work the men’s dressing rooms often until 2am after closing was said and done.
My yoga fairy godmother definitely took a chance on me, giving me tasks and work on some deeply inspiring projects. A time in my life I will never forget, many eye-opening experiences as well as refining my writing skills happened because she trusted and believed in me.
I also met one of my longest standing mentors because of this job, and my yoga fairy god mother’s support.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Oh wow, the path of spiritual entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship is filled with mistakes. You literally hear NO way more than you hear YES. There isn’t much outside encouragement along the way, and you have to dig deep to stay committed.
I was so nervous when I first started teaching, a shaky voice, and pounding heart. But that wasn’t a sign for me to walk away. It actually was intel for me proving I really cared about this trajectory, and I was committed to sharpening my craft.
I made so many mistakes along the way, mostly in regard to my lack of boundaries.
When putting a creative work out into the world, you have to get so good at hearing “NO” and responding graciously. Picking yourself up and staying committed to the day to days that make the dream come into manifest form. On the flip side you have to be honest with yourself about if something actually isn’t working, and not allow it to be this massively devastating ego hit.
There are so many private pep talks along the way. I traveled and taught solo for years, and I actually address this in Transitory Nature in great detail. How the mindscape actually looks and sounds, when you need to deeply trust yourself and keep walking the creative, unseen path.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
So many truly made a life changing impact on me. I am a writer by nature, so I love exploring the author’s point of view and the way in which they express that vision.
One I quote in my own book in the final chapter is:
Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
By: Steven Johnson
And another one of my most read books,
The Only Revolution
By J. Krishnamurti
These two writers helped me to make my own connection between modern day contemporary language around mindfulness and neuroscience. I love Krishnamurti. I have read a great deal of his work in many forms. I even visited his memorial center and library of teachings in Chennai, India. He is so spot on, and straight forward when it comes to cutting through spiritual materialism. That bluntness really speaks to me as a reader. I am a non-fiction reader, I love diving into psychologically challenging work, it’s one of the reason’s I read and write.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“An Entire Woman’s Life is a Ceremony.” — Paramatma Siri Sadhana
This is one of my favorites more recently from one of my main mentors. We can get so caught up in the misaligned hustle, or the mental push to accomplish things and be prodivitive that we forget the sweet rhythm of our own lives.
The use of the word ceremony reminds me to bring, honor, love, appreciation, gratitude to the entire flow of my day. Up-leveling my understanding of how, when and with who I share my energy, allowing the entire design of my auric field to be intentional and spacious.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I just published my first book and it’s a dream come true! Transitory Nature: Breaking Binaries for Integrated Being
With TRANSITORY NATURE, radical Buddhist and spiritual guide Sue Hunt walks readers through a nine-month Consciousness Design Process to dismantle Binary Worldview and challenge existing hierarchies of power. From our interactions with our inner selves, to how we interface with both the public sphere and our own intergenerational inheritance and cultural programming, Hunt shows how liberation lies in stepping into the contemplative vision of self and surrounding reality which she terms “non-binary worldview.”
Binary Worldview — the thinking that everything we encounter is either “this” or “that” — is the root cause of so much suffering, oppression, and inner and outer conflict in our world. Often, the polarization we see in the wider social structure is a projection of the same binaried schisms that live within each of us. Now, combining elements of Buddhist and yogic philosophy with a step-by-step constructive method, Hunt invites us to fully embody both/and mentality that is the foundation of a more ethical life.
In this ultra-progressive moment, we are all being tasked with finding new ways of being and living together. This is evident in changes to how we communicate, in our relationships, and in shifting ideas about community wellness. In tandem with the rising chorus of voices challenging the status quo, and with rigorous attention and loving care, TRANSITORY NATURE offers up a new non-binary vernacular to describe where we are headed — as conscious individuals who are walking this path together.
When writing my first book, I was on a mission to codify a Consciousness Design Process.
Our communal language definitions are often built on binaries. We process the world in a rigid way, pitting what appears to be two opposites against each other, in an either/or way of seeing. In the years that led to me completing this project, I kept hearing and seeing suffering arise from this either/or language, and how it shapes thought, identity, and the evolution of consciousness in divisive and limiting ways. This book helps to open a path to clearly examine our own suffering and rewrite that patterning within self and community.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness.
Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Sometimes simplicity is the most potent when it comes to restructuring our inner worlds and building habits that support our thriving. Here are three daily non-negotiables that I live by.
- Daily Silent seated meditation. I am a huge fan of silent seated zen meditation for myself and my own life flow. Seeing as I have been teaching and practicing for many years, silence is my stairway to personal clarity. However, it is not that accessible right out of the gate for many. I teach and write about 100’s of different meditation techniques that range from 3 minutes to 30 minutes daily that are guided, include sound, movement and embodiment practices. These can be easier doorways to clarity for the beginner.
- Diet, Supplementation, BioHacking, all of these habits and rituals can certainly fall under your daily self-care routines. Clean food, and intermittent fasting depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle are foundational for me. I lean more towards plant-based and supplement with bone broths and amino acids that are good for gut microbiome, bone health and cardiovascular health. I love biohacking with certain micronutrients and hormonal precursors to keep my endocrine system functioning optimally. Hormone balance as I age seems to be a key component to feeling good and maintaining my outdoor activities with zest and energy. Lastly, our Live Lightly Supplement line for common micronutrients we lack even our organic produce, soils and cultivation processes nowadays. I supplement with Magnesium, Maca, Spirulina, Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes. Then I cycle through other supplementation on rotation schedules for cleansing purposes and organ function.
- 60 minutes a day in nature is a strong non-negotiable for me. Even when I lived in cities, being outside or in parks for 60 minutes a day was so important for my mental and emotional health. Now I live in a small mountain town so I exceed 60 minutes a day. Rock climbing, trail running, skiing, hiking with my wolf pup happens multiple times a week for hours on end. With so much of the water element in my natal chart and as an introvert, time in nature to clear my field, recollect, refocus and get motivated is definitely at the top of my list when it comes to optimal wellness and life balance.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Meditation and my own personal practice were really the entire bridge for me into my professional life. I wanted to build an entire life flow around meditation and sharing its expansive effects with others.
In Transitory Nature: Breaking Binaries For Integrated Beingand its 9 chapters contain multiple meditative exercises and practices per chapter. We have to be honest with ourselves about where we are along the path and pick a practice that we can really stick too. Meditation has cumulative effects in the body/mind system and it’s best to stick with the same practice for 30+ days so it’s true integrative effects can really sink in and begin to change our methods of perception.
My personal practice is much more focused on meditation, mantra and contemplation. Of course, I love asana (yoga postures) because they are fun and amazing for postural health and alignment. I often do about 60-minute asana practices 2 times a week to keep my spine healthy for all of the other movements, and outdoor activities I engage in daily.
Rocky climbing is certainly another form of moving meditation for me. Focus and creative problem solving at its best. As well as keeping your fear levels and emotions in check given the risk involved in climbing, a very meditative process.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
This is a super fun question to answer, because training, physical strength gains and progression in climbing and skiing are so fun for me. They are also a huge part of my marriage seeing as we met in the climbing gym and have been climbing partners with one another ever since. We live in a ski town and 100+ days a year is very possible for us. We also moved to Taos, New Mexico because of the microclimates and the diverse topography for skiing and climbing.
In my mid 30’s I can feel a bit of a hormone change from my early 20’s of course. I have found that shorter, more frequency high intensity workouts are so beneficial to keep my baseline fitness up for climbing and skiing. I love asana, free weights and the complex movements of HIIT. When I am feeling low energy and tired, I lean toward longer more sustained cardio, biking, walking, easy jogging, even jump roping sometimes to move lymph.
My husband always jokes with me that Sue is happiest, and most emotionally stable when she maintains 5k fitness. So nothing grueling or time consuming, just throw on my running shoes, pop in a podcast or some music. Run out the front door for a quick 3 miles. This clears my head and cross body action increases cognitive abilities. I can really feel these effects when I am working 1:1 with clients and students and writing for long periods of time.
Lastly, nothing beats being active outside with friends that you love! We dedicate at least 2 days a week to rock climbing all year round outside. Community and that support really get you out of your own way and makes “working out” super fun and engaging. I also love the trust aspect of rock climbing.
Physical Wellness is intrinsically linked to emotional balance and mental stamina, all of which I gain from rock climbing, meditative practice and extended time in nature. Lastly, a practical habit that supports high levels of physical activity is sleep schedules, and these long days skiing or climbing require early bedtimes and deep sleep. This keeps the body/mind in a productive and healthful schedule to be honoring these patterns and deep sleep cycles so you can get the most of your days away from work.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
This is an awesome question, and I am going to answer it from the most real and transparent place possible. I come from an eating disordered past, and it was widely accepted in my younger years while an elite gymnast. Healthy eating, emotionally balanced eating and healing my issues around control and body image have been the most informative journey for me. At this point in my life, I have many little personal habits that keep me on track considering my traumatic past with food.
We live in a culture that over-consumes and has an addictive underbelly. It also doesn’t help that our American diet is saturated with highly addictive foods that are very corrosive to our long-term health physically, emotionally and mentally.
At this point in my life, I ask so much of my body with rock climbing, skiing and writing; and so much of my mind with long workdays that are filled with teaching, mindfulness and helping students with their suffering. I know that healthy eating is a must for me, but the knife’s edge was to not make things too strict, so it felt like punishment. Supplementation is key for me, I am not a huge cook, luckily my husband is. But when he is not around, I need to stabilize my blood sugar to continue to make good choices throughout the day in an easy way. Supplements are so proactive for me when keeping my blood sugar balanced.
I use some will-power to stay away from sugar and carbs in the morning, again so that my insulin sensitivity is working in my favor, and my mind isn’t bouncing all over the place. I also let myself break my own rules! I think that is just as healthy as using your willpower to stick to a routine. On certain high activity dates, I eat lots of carbs and bioavailable foods during the workout period, and don’t feel guilty about it one bit!
Lastly, I DON’T FOLLOW ANY TREND or FAD DIETS. These can really get in our heads, and actually separate us from our own unique dietary needs. Also coming from an disordered eating past, calorie restriction and YoYo dieting has seriously detrimental effects on cognition and body composition. I could go on and on about this question, it is such an important one.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
This sound simple on paper but can certainly be complex when honoring them in your lived actions.
Suggestions for Emotional Wellness:
- Tell the truth, always. Self-Honesty and Self-Transparency are foundational components to emotional health. We need to be able to see our own triumphs and our own shortcomings clearly. If we happen to be in the wrong, or on the violent end of the power dynamic we need to tell ourselves the truth and have enough humility to communicate that with others. Oftentimes we self-sabotage in the privacy of our own mind’s and we make choices based on the demands of others, or the system itself. These little moments of untruth to the self add up and erode our capacity for self-trust and following what lights us up. Next step is non-violently communicating that personal truth to those around you in a relationship. This takes practices, but it teaches us and others how to set a boundary.
- Take time to yourself if it’s for mediation, or creative outlets! We can’t expect our emotional field to be balanced if we aren’t doing things that deeply nourish us and allow us to live in the chemical state of well-being. Emotions are literally chemical states that pass through the body and can leave imprints in our memories. Therefore, we need to take responsibility for our own happiness and set the context for creating that feeling of love, happiness, well-being and thriving as much as we possibly can. This is tremendously important in a society that often encourages us to work till burnout, and place productivity over the healing states of well-being and being in the flow.
- Get clear on your own passions and skill sets, and don’t compromise them for anyone! I would say the number one contributor to emotional health, is seeing yourself. And that means living up to what you deem your fullest potential and taking risks to make that possible in your life. Exploring many options to find your deeply seeded passions is a part of the path of seeing yourself fully. There is no wasted time here, so keep exploring and I often say to myself “Sue, when in doubt, follow the PSYCH”, not the money, or what other people think is valuable or “cool”. Keep following the PSYCH and your value set, and boundaries to keep that alive will fall into place. Directly affecting your emotional health and better yet you’re flourishing.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Smiling is certainly known to release neuropeptides and a natural way to increase endorphins! Several meditation techniques offer smiling for prolonged periods of time as a practice within itself. Also, many depictions of the Buddha in image and murti, picture the mouth slightly turned up in the corners. Frowning also has the tendency to pull the jaw forward, and the head neck relationship is key to physical wellness and posture with direct correlations to feel good thoughts and emotional wellness.
From a yoga anatomy perspective, the facial muscles are the most reactive muscles in the body and help each of us tune into our actual internal state. Allowing us to be conscious of our snap reactions. Of course, the more that you smile with ease, this affects the facial muscles, posture, head neck relationship and quality of your thoughts.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Spiritual Wellness is certainly the byproduct of mindful living. I often tell my students to observe the energy lines of their lives, how much they outsource their own precious energy and physically observing self-care routines creates an optional balance that leads to Spiritual Wellness. From creating this fertile context within your own body/mind creativity, devotion, curiosity and love arise.
Suggestions for Spiritual Wellness:
- Work with a Mentor — We all need help getting out of our own way sometimes, and a mentor that is further along on the path than us is a catalyst for personal transformation. The coaching industry has blown up overnight, and there are many places the student/teacher relationship has suffered and actually become watered down due to this rapid growth. Really vet the people you want to work with 1:1 and make sure they are living what they preach. Authenticity is a cornerstone to Spiritual Wellness.
- Explore Your Personal Purpose in this lifetime — I am an Astrologer and use the Natal chart in my 1:1 sessions, and chapter 8 of my book also goes into great detail about learning, exploring and putting into action your unique purpose. There is a huge sense of expansion and commitment that happens when we feel connected to our deepest skill set in a purposeful way. The Natal Chart is a direct line into our inner subconscious and how to manifest our skills out in the world. Humans are built to create, and we want to consciously create opportunities for ourselves to shine and be of service simultaneously.
- Curiously study many lineages, cultures and practices — Explore linages, cultures and practices that deeply resonate with you. Honor their roots, and the social and political context around your wellness, yogic and self-care practices. It helps to connect to all the texts and teachers that came before us. It is extremely transformative to look through the eyes of another or walk in another’s shoes even if it’s just in a thought-provoking exercise. This widens our scope of living mindfully, and the many cross-cultural influences that developed this wisdom over thousands of years. This contextualization of practice, texts, meditation and mindfulness also helps us to decenter ourselves at times and this has profound effects with our ability to share compassion and empathy with the world. Sharing authentic compassion and empathy is the path to optimal Spiritual Wellness.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Absolutely, I definitely see a connection between the growth of extractive capitalism, our lack of appreciation of nature and our modern culture’s existential spiritual crisis. Many of us are so removed from our ancestral roots, and the appreciation of culture that came before us. We often don’t possess the sensitivity to understand how the surrounding ecosystem affects our inner ecosystem.
I really began exploring place identity after I was nomadic, living in a school bus and a van for almost four years with my partner. We had the privilege to live, visit and exist within so many ecosystems, climates and learn to appreciate the unique energy of place. It’s been 7 years since we left the city life behind. Before we lived in Taos, NM. We lived in an even more remote town, deep in the woods of Kentucky.
I am finding my heart and mind is way more connected to land, and the vibration of PLACE. With less stimulus, my central nervous system is way more relaxed and sensitive. My astro-signature is ALL water, then fire, and some wind in key communication placements. Hence the passion for words and creating worlds with words. Only have two earth placements, one that governs my work ethic, steady and intense. Another that governs, my dream state. The dream moves into manifest form within waking life reality connected to presence and relevance.
I have always had a love affair with earth. Never wanting to be inside as a kid, always playing with the plants, building forts, and hours of make believe in the woods of Appalachia. I feel the relationship over the last several years shifting into a deeper state of connection. I am truly affected by the vibration of a PLACE. My psyche recognizes the inherent value and symbiosis of identifying with place. Place identity evokes respect and devotion deepening our connection to nature and expanding our scope of Spiritual Wellness.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My vision to codify and bring about a way to embody Non-Binary worldview, a both/and self-identity is certainly what I have dedicated the last several years of my life and creative force too!
My next creative project and vision that contains a social mission is in the realm of mental health as well, and giving more diverse populations access to plant medicine, and protocols that accompany that inner transformative journey.
I am a true believer in artistic expression and putting raw emotion out into the world, it allows others to step into their most exalted versions of self as well. I have so many visions for the future that create more organic supportive community wellness spaces that acknowledge and work with the complexity of the human paradox.
Protecting and protesting for environmental remediation and preservation is also so very near and dear to my heart. Addressing our global over consumption of resources and cultural patterns that are stealing from earth is another movement I will continue to be involved with.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Wendell Berry, my favorite Poet of all time! Or Tracy Chapman a mesmerizing voice and soulful song writer.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
IG Handle: @suehunt_