We had the good fortune of connecting with Allison Riegel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Allison, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I have to admit I’ve always been kind of obsessed with maintaining some sense of work-life balance. One of the reasons I worked in the restaurant industry for so long was that it gave me incredible flexibility to do all the other things I wanted to spend time doing in my life. I’ve never been willing to give up too much of my personal time because it’s too valuable to me. In the same vein, this is why alignment with my work is so essential. I strive for a feeling of integrated living—of work that feels nourishing to my soul on some level, of a sense of spaciousness to be creative in other ways, to spend time with family and friends and nature, to be able to cook nourishing meals at home, and to just Be. Our culture is way too obsessed with work! We only have one unique version of this life—I want to live in a way that allows me to devote my time to all of the areas that bring me fulfillment. Money-making work is only one of these areas. It comes down to values and priorities—we can’t get the time back!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The primary offering of Body Ceremony at the moment is mindfulness-based, soul-centered, somatic psychotherapy. I hold space for others to engage with their inner worlds—inviting deep inquiry, healing, and transformation. When we take time to pay attention to what is alive inside of us, reconnecting with our sense of being and innate wisdom, we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We learn to soften, to shift, to see things from a new perspective. We find ourselves. This personal work—starting with oneself—affects how we show up as humans in our communities and the world-at-large.
Body Ceremony’s offerings have evolved as my personal interests have fluctuated over the years. I considered choosing a new name for my more recent psychotherapy business, but I realized that my psychotherapy practice is also Body Ceremony. Body Ceremony is all-encompassing. For me, it’s a name that expresses the fullness and complexity of who I am, what I’m interested in, where I focus my energy, and what I offer to the world. I also love making things with my hands—fiber arts, nourishing food, painting, collage, jewelry, etc. Both of my parents are visual artists, and the act of creating in a tactile way has always been part of my life. Though I don’t sell things I make right now, I consider my creations another expression of Body Ceremony. I actually just had some cotton Body Ceremony labels made to stitch into pieces that I sew or knit. I like the idea of my brand itself being energetically holistic—that is, including the wholeness of me, the intrinsic multiplicity of being. There’s something in all this about the idea of integration, which tends to go against our culture’s leaning toward separation and celebration of specialization.
Before starting Body Ceremony, I had worked for twelve years in the restaurant industry and in an unexpected turn of events, I was fired from a serving job. It felt like the universe was pushing me to create meaningful work for myself and drastically shift my focus and daily rhythms from late nights to a more holistic, balanced way of life. I started by diving into one-off personal chef gigs and subbing yoga classes (I had just completed a yoga teacher training). This work was the beginnings of Body Ceremony. It sort of emerged out of necessity, but quickly became an expression of work I felt passionate about. I continued on to study and practice yoga therapy, and eventually decided to go to grad school for counseling psychology. When I created Body Ceremony and moved into self-employment it was a reinvention of myself. I moved towards work that feels more in alignment with my true self. It requires deep trust, humility, and the knowing that regardless of what happens, I’ve got myself on the other side.
The contents of Body Ceremony continue to evolve over the years. I see it as a fluid, changeable business/creative endeavor. I keep going until I feel an inner discomfort that is usually a nudge toward reflection. Sometimes things feel out of balance and I need to sit with the question of why this might be. This is related to the idea of authenticity—how is what I am doing right now still feeling in alignment, or how is it actually veering away from my truth? We are dynamic, ever-changing beings, so it is normal and necessary to pause and look at how our output is related to our unfolding selves. The question becomes, how might I taper my focus/my offerings to be an honest expression of who I am becoming? Or, is it time to let this version of my work die, in order to birth something entirely new? It’s about allowing myself the opportunity to be in a space of inquiry and contemplation, in order to make room for how my life/work is wanting to grow. I don’t know what the future of my brand will be, and this excites me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We’d go to Nil natural wine bar and sip something delicious and austere. We’d grab a couple of bottles from the adjoining Ardor natural wine shop, to accompany meals I’d cook at home for us later in the week. We’d take a long leisurely stroll through Forest Park. We’d have a slice of cake and share a variety of sweet and savory brunchy dishes at Sweedeedee. After brunch, we’d pop into the iconic Mississippi Records. Another morning I’d scoop some sourdough cardamom morning buns up from Tabor Bread and we’d take them with us on a walk to Laurelhurst Park. We’d go to Providore Fine Foods and pick up the most delectable array of ingredients with which to make food at my home. If it’s summer, I’d take them to a cozy beach nook on the Sandy River, and we’d lounge in the dappled sunlight eating cheese and ripe stonefruit and swim in the cold mountain water. On our way home, we’d grab tacos at Porque No. We’d pop into Una for some gorgeous ceramics and Japanese incense. One evening would include the irresistible ramen or sushi at Afuri. I’d take them to Olo for wonderful locally-made fragrances. Nationale for the art exhibitions and Tone Poem’s niche vinyl collection. An afternoon stop at Cloudforest for an exquisite hot chocolate. Shop Boswell and Deep Lake Consignment for the most well-curated, quality clothes in town. A hike through the windy trails up Mt. Tabor. And while on the mountain, a cookie and coffee from Coquine. No visit would be complete without dinner at sourdough pizza + homemade ice cream gem Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my dear friend Rachel Corry. Rachel and I lived together in Portland back in 2015, when I was going through a big transition in my work life. Before I had fully decided to work for myself instead of finding another restaurant job, Rachel was cheerleading me into the life of self-employment. She was such a believer in me and my creative skills. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make ends meet, but she somehow knew I could make it happen. It was like she had a window into my future success, and because of her conviction, I believed her. Her encouragement and seemingly fluid manner of running her own creative business (Rachel Sees Snail Shoes) was enough to boost my confidence. She also helped find me personal referrals for personal chef and yoga teaching gigs at the very beginning. When I hadn’t taught a yoga class before, she was my willing practice student. She even employed me to help fabricate many pairs of handmade shoes in our shared basement workspace. Rachel has been incredibly supportive to me and my work over the years, and I’m so grateful for her.
Jesse Carsten Anne Parker Nick Holmes