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Twenty-five years ago, from the carriage house she was renting in St. Paul, Minn., Pilar Gerasimo launched this very magazine. “There was a galley kitchen on one wall, and a desk piled with article drafts from freelancers,” Pilar recalls, “and that’s how it all began.”

I was one of those freelancers.

What a long, great trip it’s been! Experience Life has grown into one of the most visionary voices in body–mind health. Many ideas championed in these pages have gone mainstream.

And Pilar? She is back working in a carriage house. “I just liked that creative space so much,” she says, “I built a little carriage-house studio on my farm in Wisconsin!”

Pilar spent the years between workspaces figuring out how to live a healthy, happy life in a fast-changing world.

Since leaving EL in 2016, she’s launched a podcast (The Living Experiment) and written a book (The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World). She’s now leading a variety of online courses and communities through her Healthy Deviant Academy platform.

“While we’ve been encouraged to see health and happiness as the product of individual endeavors, our choices don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in the context of our communities. Our well-being depends on a whole set of inter­secting influences and circumstances.”

What circumstances does Pilar put into place in her own life nowadays? These, to name a few.

Feel-Good Community

“Even during the pandemic, my Healthy Deviant groups and I stayed connected online. Being rooted in those communities has been a source of real joy for me. It feels like a too-rare blessing to be surrounded by thoughtful, kind, health-motivated people who are openly sharing their challenges and cheering each other on.”

Learner’s Mind

“For me, continuous growth and learning is both a mindset and a daily practice. My life right now is about how much more I can learn ­— and share.”

Morning Practice

“If you can make just one change, try this: Spend the first few minutes of your day — before you reach for your phone or turn on the news — doing something you enjoy. Light a candle, meditate, breathe, set an intention. Come to waking gradually. This practice is hugely transformative.”

Evening Ablutions

“Take your normal nighttime routine — brushing your teeth, putting on moisturizer, or whatever — and just slow it way down. Make it a ritual. Dial down the lights. Put on soft music. Bring a candle to the bathroom. Treat yourself gently. Let your final experiences of the day be acts of self-kindness and calm. Seems like a tiny win, but people who try it often say: ‘I slept so much better!’”

Healthy-Deviant Mocktails

During COVID, a lot of us found ourselves drinking more, so I started coming up with mocktail alternatives. My favorite: Pour a third of a glass of kombucha over ice, add a splash of good juice, fill with bubbly water, and add a garnish, like citrus peel, bitters, or fresh mint. It marks a moment of transition, and it’s about pleasure — not self-denial.”

This article originally appeared as “Growing Edge” in the December 2021 issue of Experience Life.

Give yourself the gift of personal development and community by joining Pilar’s free Refine Your Life workshop on January 8, 2022. Learn more here.

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a James Beard Award–winning food and wine writer based in Minneapolis, where she lives with her two children and buys only local honey.

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