ZEN AND THE ART OF HAIRDRESSING by Eyliana Gibson
Originally published on Bangstyle.com 2016
The word beauty is defined as the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit…
What a choice then, to enter the beauty industry as a hairdresser. Everyday, we create beauty from behind our chairs, taking stones and polishing them into diamonds. The canvas we create on is the human hair, a raw material with chemical and physical properties important to beauty, science and biomedical research. We transform it with chemistry, heat, and our imaginations, bending and folding the fabric to reach the desired result.
Our clients receive this gift and return again and again to refill the cup. Habitual and loyal, each one is placing value on this time and the end result. So what is it that we are really doing? I feel more strongly each day that not only are we providing a cosmetic, surface healing, but a deeper, more powerful healing. Through touch, listening and physical transformation, we are able to bring light to dark places, infuse positivity, and radiate love.
A mentor of mine, John Stellato, calls it the servants heart. What we bring to this industry as hairdressers and for myself, as an educator, is truly that. I’ve learned to come from a different place, one with less expectations and more intuition. In order to serve, one must let go of those expectations of instant gratification and instead listen. Be flexible. Be open. Be compassionate, not only to others, but oneself.
How many times have you come in early, skipped lunch, stayed late and realized as you drag yourself out of the salon that you never drank any water or stopped to breathe? If the answer is more than once, I feel you!
What changed for me was the realization that I could not serve properly if I was tired, hungry, or carrying burdens not my own.
I refer to appointments with my clients as “hairapy”. They come to me for sanctuary, a place to be safe, heard, and made to feel beautiful. Sometimes that involves letting go of stresses or concerns and we are often in the know when there is a disturbance in the force. I’ve heard everything. I used to find it difficult to let go of that energy and not because I wanted to hold it. I found one day tumbling into the next and without a pause, a rest, a decompression time from that heavy work, I was drowning.
It started with managing my schedule and placing value on myself, my time, my talents and my dreams. What has unfolded since then is a new perspective on the beauty industry, a stronger connection to my craft and a deeper desire to serve through beautification rituals.
I first noticed a shift two years ago.
They say change doesn’t come when you want it, but when you need it and boy, did I need it. I owned a studio salon, was working behind the chair 4-5 days a week and on the road teaching for Redken 2-3 days a week. I was also in a toxic space in my personal life, ready to break free from the gilded cage, but continuing to waste my precious energy.
Do the math. There was no time. No space. I kept this pace for almost three years. My health suffered, my yoga practice became a chore, and my creativity withered. I had no time to paint, write or work on photoshoots, three activities where I find peace and creative expression. When we stifle our souls desire to create, physically or emotionally, we are closing doors to the best parts of ourselves.
I began by cutting my salon schedule to 3 days a week and teaching classes 1-2 days a week. If I needed to travel out of state, I would take an extra day to reset before jumping back into the salon. I also started double booking clients as a normal practice, something I couldn’t do efficiently before because I wasn’t rested or fed. I felt I was frantic and had avoided giving poor service over learning to manage my time…in hindsight, I was cheating myself and my clients. Now, I take 6-8 clients a day, my books are full and I don’t work with an assistant! The time I spend with a client is theirs, even if I am double booked. I am present and able to serve them in the way I intend, with care and patience.
Once my schedule was flowing more smoothly, I saw where my diet and exercise habits had evolved to sustain a human on the run, but not a lifetime of health and longevity. I returned to cooking at home, shopping at the farmers market, and daily yoga practice. Meditation has also been a source of grounding as the world continues to pick up speed and intensity.
Many of you may have noticed a bit of negativity surfacing in the last 6 months. If social media is any indication, people have strong opinions and want to be heard! From Twitter to Snapchat and beyond, there is constant drive to express oneself. The salon is like social media in a strange way. It’s a place where you can be any version of yourself and there is anonymity and safety built in.
I open my space for that freedom, but I’ve shifted the tone in my chair. Instead of being an unloading zone, a dumping ground, I invite clients to speak their minds but do not engage in problem oriented conversations. I offer solutions if asked, but otherwise simply provide an ear. Without absorbing the emotion, I am able to give space and empathy while maintaining my sanity. Sex, politics and religion are no longer topics to avoid, simply opportunity to connect. Remember, everyone you meet is fighting a battle (or two) you know nothing about. Can we offer beauty to those hard times? Can we offer patience and empathy?
We are healers….
With our hands and creative spirits, we relieve the pressure of the world on our clients for an hour or two. What are we sending them back into the world with? How can we set a stronger intention for our professional practice? Lead by example.
Aside from beautiful hair of course…my intention is now to infuse positivity and light and love. In order to do that, I had to find the light in myself and turn that baby up! It takes time and patience and the willingness to give yourself space.
Everyday is an opportunity to begin wherever you are…. these words are offered as an inspiration for anyone seeking more out of their days behind the chair. It can be challenging to fill the cups of others if our own cups are running dry so I challenge you to find what fills your cup and get creative! It is neither lazy or selfish to care for yourself….Give time and space each day to reset and recharge. Nourish your mind and body with good food and exercise. Listen to your heart.
There you will find beauty.
With love and gratitude,