When I met Leslie Carrington, Ditmas Park native and owner of HolistiCitiLyfe, at Cafe Madeline, she pulled out a stainless steel thermos and plopped it on the table next to my coffee cup.
“I make this amazing mixture, it’s my baby,” said Carrington with a giant grin. “You can probably smell it from here — cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and a garcinia spice blend. It heats you up,” she said, chatting about the recipe she brought back from an Ayurvedic wellness retreat in Sri Lanka.
“At Santani, there’s paleo, vegan, vegetarian,” she said, describing the latest retreat she’s planning. “One thing I love about the Buddhist culture is that they believe that all life is worthy and valuable, but they eat everything! There’s no deprivation.”
HolistiCitiLyfe, Carrington’s business, builds holistic wellness retreats, workshops, and other opportunities to promote healthy living. “Our motto is that we want you to connect with your best self. We want to present our best selves to the world, but not if it’s a hollow shell,” she said. And Carrington’s energetic, friendly, and down-to-earth personality seems to be integral to her brand.
Carrington started her holistic business three years ago, after a sudden departure from a 15-year career as a psychotherapist. “I was burned out,” she said. “[It was] a lot of vicarious trauma, hearing horrific stories every day.” With a bundle of stress and anxiety, Carrington sought alternative outlets like spiritual coaching and meditation.
Taking time for stillness really sticks out to Carrington as the most important tool for wellbeing, both in business and in her personal life. “As women, we’re constantly giving. But where are we taking time for ourselves? I’m not talking about stress relievers like working out, but how much stillness are you incorporating into that regiment. How much alone time?” she said.
Through these practices, she learned to fill her cup first before giving to others, but she still faces challenges. But there’s a running theme through both her old career and her new business: “I felt called to do this work,” she said. “I know that I’m here on earth to help people.”
Carrington has an upcoming feature in Organic Spa magazine about women of different cultures living a holistic lifestyle. “Women of color and wellness is not widely accepted. Most of the subscribers of Organic Spa are white women,” said Carrington, noting the story’s focus on culture as a way to present women of color.
But she’s committed to making holistic wellness approachable to other black women, and anyone else who feels ostracized by cultural stereotypes. “There are so many wellness shops, yoga studios left and right but we want to make sure it’s diverse. So when a woman of color walks in, or a woman who is 250 pounds, she’s not intimidated,” she said.
Brooklyn travels to Sri Lanka, Grenada, & Costa Rica
Carrington’s international wellness retreats — sending Brooklynites to places like Sri Lanka and Costa Rica — are geared toward to curious, instead of the well-groomed health and fitness enthusiasts. “It’s for people who say ‘I’m too big to do yoga’ or ‘I don’t see any black people in my yoga classes,'” said Carrington. “They want a space where they feel safe and not judged.”
The retreats often lead to mobile support communities, helping each other incorporate their new lifestyle through skype coachings and local meetups. “We have our pitfalls and successes, and we need support,” Carrington said.
Socially conscious Earth Day comes to Brooklyn
Tomorrow, April 22, HolistiCityLyfe is hosting a holistic wellness earth day event in Crown Heights, at Happy Lucky Gallery #1. “I tried to hit it on all levels for a sustainable lifestyle,” she said, with a panel that includes a Shamanic practitioner, a fashion director talking about sustainability in design and being a conscious shopper, a holistic nutritionist, and more.
Carrington’s workshops are curtailed to Brooklyn, which is an integral part of her upbringing and her brand — “Brooklyn love, Brooklyn made.”
Carrington’s greatest reward is seeing growth and happiness in her customers, and being able to build a business to sustain herself doing it.
And her business has come a long way in three years. Carrington, though at first a bit squeamish about social media, now has a well-honed system of engaging ambassadors and broadening her reach, as she name-drops wellness celebs on instagram and twitter. “Sharing your story, being more meaningful with posts, introspection, things that resonate with people,” she said.
And for advice to women looking to start their own business? “Hone in on what you love then attach it to monetary value. Do your research. And manage expectations,” she said, remembering the very first wellness event she organized, in Manhattan.
“I think three people came. But I put my big girl panties on!” she chuckles. “I laugh now but I wasn’t laughing then. It was a process I had to go through.”