Cristin Smith, the spiritual director of Saffron & Sage, shares her personal journey of moving from dis-ease to a life of holistic health. Learn from her experience of finding medicine from the earth and a life that can keep us healthy and abundant.
What is your soul+work?
I live for creating spaces that provoke depth--spiritually and emotionally--and inspire transformation.
At Saffron & Sage we create multi-sensory spaces where you can grow and heal emotionally, spiritually, and physically in both one-on-one and small group settings. I serve as a Spiritual Director where I hold space for clients to reflect on their sacred journeys and what the Spirit is inviting them into.
Why do you do what you do?
Right out of high school, I had a successful career. I reached a lot of big financial goals early in my life, and while I enjoyed what I did, I longed for something more meaningful. My energies were shifted into working with non-profits; helping organizations identify their strengths and develop their identities. My time was spent working two careers, as I found deep meaning in the connectivity between my business and community work. When the financial crash of 2008 happened, I, like so many others, was greatly impacted. I weathered the storm, but it took a toll. Things began to shift, though in hindsight, my life had already been shifting.
"Then people began noticing and asking about this new lifestyle. First it was, 'What’s in that green drink you’re always carrying around?' and “Why do you always smell like flowers?' As I regained my strength and color, and my tumors had stopped growing, the question shifted to, 'What can I do for me?' "
I had been drawn to this idea of an emotionally-healthy spirituality. This idea was how I longed to live my life. Through doing personal work with a Spiritual Director and my Therapist, I was starting to make room for a lifestyle of contemplation, reflection, and one that challenged my constant need to be active and productive. I was feeling exhausted and run-down and needed a reprieve. I decided on a six-month sabbatical to Tijuana, Baja California in January of 2012.
I had been to Tijuana many times--facilitating educational retreats that explored the complexity of poverty, from material to spiritual, and how we respond to the discomfort and pain of our own suffering and our neighbor; across the street or across the border. But this time, I wasn’t teaching. I was listening. Listening to my own deep internal rumblings.
Very soon I felt my own discomfort. Those thoughts and fears that keep ringing in your ears can’t be easily pushed to the side when suddenly there’s not a meeting to run off to. I had nowhere else I had to be. I was often reminded of something one of the leaders I worked with used to say, “Everywhere you go, there you are.” And now here I was; unable to escape myself. I had never experienced this space before. I was immersed in a state of solitude. I had no destination. I was just here. I had let go of that which defined me and had nothing else for my ego to hold on to.
As I began to adjust to the discomfort and instability of it all, I found out that my grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and that I had 4 tumors in my neck and thyroid. Before the end of the year, my grandfather had passed away and I was deep in my search for answers for my own health issues. Steeped in grief for my grandfather, in conjunction with the fear I felt for my own health, I felt a new determination to find a path for my own healing and answers to our society’s epidemic of cancer and chronic disease.
My search led me through the desert that is our current “healthcare” system, and I emerged instead with a team of Practitioners ranging from my Medical Doctor in LA trained in Chinese Herbology, to my Naturopath in San Diego, to my Homeopath in Tijuana, in addition to a Colon Hydrotherapist, Spiritual Director, Nutritionist, and the list goes on. All of these practitioners came to the same conclusion about my health. The emergence of these tumors had very little to do with my thyroid, and everything to do with my thoughts, prior trauma, and toxicity. The masses in my throat were physical manifestations of emotional--and spiritual--issues.
"My search led me through the desert that is our current “healthcare” system, and I emerged instead with a team of Practitioners ranging from my Medical Doctor in LA trained in Chinese Herbology, to my Naturopath in San Diego, to my Homeopath in Tijuana, in addition to a Colon Hydrotherapist, Spiritual Director, Nutritionist, and the list goes on."
Together, with my team of practitioners, I began incorporating new rhythms and rituals into my life. I altered my diet and began using herbal remedies: tinctures, essential oils, herbal teas and capsules. I was cleansing my nose, mouth, skin, colon, and liver in ways I had never imagined. I started utilizing a nettie pot, oil pulling, dry brushing, colon hydrotherapy, coffee enemas, and castor oil packs. I started practicing yoga and dedicated more time to prayer, contemplation, and journaling. I was on a journey to heal not just my body, but my heart... my soul.
Through all of this I had been so focused on myself. Then people began noticing and asking about this new lifestyle. First it was, “What’s in that green drink you’re always carrying around?” and “Why do you always smell like flowers?” As I regained my strength and color, and my tumors had stopped growing, the question shifted to, “What can I do for me?” So many people were coming to me battling issues with weight, hormones, anxiety, infertility, diabetes, high blood pressure, and I had no idea. I was just doing all of this for my specific situation. I started referring people to the practitioners I was seeing, the products I was using, and the practices I had ingrained into my life.
Before I knew it, this was my full-time job. I was still in recovery myself, but I was taking phone calls and answering emails every day. I came up with a more efficient way to help people. I started creating classes where all of these people (primarily women of all ages) could come together and learn about all of these resources that I had acquired and was incorporating. Saffron & Sage was born.
More about Saffron & Sage please :)
Today, Saffron & Sage is the convergence of my ever-evolving journey, my strengths, and my experiences. We work to connect communities to various wellness resources: practitioners, places, practices, and products. We create therapeutic educational spaces, from our daily social media contributions to our weekly blog offerings. We also host events in Southern and Baja California, and offer holistic healthcare services in San Diego where we will be opening our first Urban Retreat & Spa.
Saffron & Sage is a lifestyle brand that dreams of seeing humanity live therapeutically and sustainably. Our mission is to create healing spaces for those who, like me, are looking for another way. A path that brings together community, hospitality, and vulnerability. A path that invites us to journey inward and move beyond cultural norms and wellness trends. Saffron & Sage wants to meet each person where they are on their journey. We want to companion them towards wellness--towards wholeness.
What do you perceive to be one of the biggest issues in our world and how can we address it to make the world a better place?
I believe the root of the biggest issues we face is self-awareness. When I look back to when I graduated high school and started my career, all I wanted was to be self-sufficient. I wanted to be able to provide for myself, have my own space, my own home. I thought that would bring me peace. But even once I had my house, I didn’t feel that peace. I worked even harder, made even more money, but I still couldn’t capture the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow: that inner peace that I had been searching for.
I think this is how we are as a society; we look to the material world to provide us with the sense of peace, love, safety. We constantly consume meaningless stuff--the new iphones, restaurants, exotic travel destinations, even dysfunctional relationships--when oftentimes these roads leave us worse off than where we started. These individual pursuits are what contribute to the larger issues we face as a global society.
I believe that the braver route is to spend some quality time with ourselves. We need to get in touch with who we really are and what we really want--not simply a Christmas list of things that can be bought, but the things that are going to truly satisfy our souls. We need to spend time with those uncomfortable thoughts and emotions that we keep locked away; let them emerge without judgment or fear. When I reflect on Ghandi’s wisdom, “Be the change you want to see in the world” I’m reminded that we cannot create or manifest something outside of ourselves that we don’t first internally possess. We must learn how to be gentle and kind to ourselves so we can then offer that same kindness and graciousness to our neighbor. We must journey inward in order to see change reflected outward.
Tell us about your travels!
I travel weekly across the Tijuana-San Diego border, and make efforts to travel a lot within La Republica. I have lived in Mexico for nearly 5 years, and I want to see as much of its natural beauty as possible. I love learning about the history here, and the rich cultural heritage. For my Spring Retreat I spent 10 days exploring Central Mexico: Aguascalientes, Jalisco and Nayarit.
Outside of my travels in Mexico, I am preparing for two big international trips. In November I am traveling to China for 10 days to continue my studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Feng Shui. Next Fall I will be walking the Camino de Santiago; also known as The Way of St. James. I will be beginning my pilgrimage in France, at the monastic community Taize, and making my way into Spain which will be a month-long journey.
I try to leave work at home during my travels--but when I am working in Tijuana I can be found at Gazzo Cafe or at Restaurante El Turco, my favorite Turkish restaurant in town. When I am in San Diego you can find me in Little Italy at Cafe Gratitude or Influx.
How do you do things differently than the norm? What are your daily practices for mindful business and your daily practices for soulful living?
For me, running a mindful business begins with a mindful life. Each morning I enjoy a cup of herbal tea; usually ginger or a blend with ginger in it. Right now I’m in love with the Strength blend from Neakita. I add a few drops of Lemon essential oil and slowly start my day. I open up my windows and doors to let the fresh air in and sit with Harper (my English Shepherd and Puppy Practitioner for Saffron & Sage) and Juniper (my Calico kitty) and we look out at the Pacific Ocean, downtown Tijuana, and San Diego.
Morning meditation is often listening to an OnBeing podcast or some Gregorian chants. Then Harper and I will take a walk on the beach at Playas de Tijuana, and I’ll start to transition into my day.
"For me, running a mindful business begins with a mindful life. Each morning I enjoy a cup of herbal tea; usually ginger or a blend with ginger in it. Right now I’m in love with the Strength blend from Neakita."
As my computer boosts up I review my vision boards. I have these large post-it boards (that I can’t live without) that have Saffron & Sage’s annual, seasonal and monthly goals. I am constantly asking myself: what do I need to do today to achieve our monthly goals? What do I need to do this month to achieve our seasonal goals? And, of course, what do I need to do this season to accomplish our annual goals?
These goals come from annual strategic planning sessions, in addition to our quarterly and monthly gatherings. We identify where we need to focus our efforts both as a team and as individual leaders.
My mid-day rituals always involve lunch, and if I am working from home, usually a Ted Talk.
As I wrap up my day, I move into preparing dinner and transition into my evening rituals. Since we’re into the Autumn season now, I love preparing soups and stews, and enjoying them with fresh bread and a glass of red wine. After dinner I usually start preparing my coffee enema, do my oil pulling and dry brushing, then hop in the shower.
What helps you be a soul+worker?
The only podcast I listen to - On Being.
Anything written by Alain de Botton, Wilkie Au, or Joan Chittister.
What’s one thing you’ve learned recently?
As an entrepreneur you are a visionary: you have an insight into the future that others do not have. It’s not about being better than others; it’s just different. It is because of this distinction that our life and work can become lonely. There is an element to this journey in Entrepreneurship that you must go alone. Because of this experience I believe we are invited to do two things:
1. To surround ourselves with the right people. You need a team that is committed to your vision and brings both passion and experience. Look for mentors who can provide guidance and wisdom which you may not yet possess.
2. To develop an inner capacity to sustain ourselves: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
When I started my first business, I thought that pouring an excess amount of energy and time into my projects would expedite my success. I skipped meals, worked long hours, forwent vacations... but in the end I didn’t achieve my goals any faster. In fact, those decisions lead to exhaustion and fatigue, and years later that contributed to my need for an extended season of rest.
We must respect our own unique rhythms; designing our work days around the hours in which we are most productive. If you are a morning person, focus your efforts in the morning. This way you can schedule time for cooking, exercising, and self-care during times that best support you.
Lastly, I think it’s important to balance your day with activities that counterbalance your work. For example, I use a lot of mental energy at work. My eyes get strained from looking at a computer screen all day, my hands are tired from typing, and my body is sore from sitting or driving back and forth to meetings. So, when I’m home I take conscious breaks throughout my day to work in the garden. Getting my hands into the soil allows me to connect with the Earth. A couple evenings a week I practice yoga--which allows me to connect with my body. I walk my dog along the beach to give my mind a rest. As I connect to the sounds of the waves, I am free from figuring everything out.
As an entrepreneur we must remember that if you aren’t ok--your business won’t be ok.
Words to live by?
It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. -Alain de Botton
Cristin Smith began her career in the financial and insurance services industry right out of high school. After having excelled as a top producer, manager, and the V.P. of Sales & Marketing for other firms, Cristin and her business partner started their own agency. Throughout this time Cristin remained an active leader in the community where she brought her skills and passions for growth and transformation to a handful of non-profits. It wasn't long before these two very different worlds began to converge. In 2013, Cristin embarked on her journey to become a Spiritual Director with Loyola Marymount University, the same time in which she founded Saffron & Sage. Through Cristin's work as a Spiritual Director and Entrepreneur she continues to find fulfillment in seeing herself and those around her heal, grow, and transform themselves and their communities.