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Spa beauty guru Judith: 'I found new happiness, and so can you in 2016'

Judith Mulgrew, from Belfast, tells Una Brankin how she went on a journey of enlightenment

Published 31/12/2015

Soothing treatment: Judith Mulgrew, a beauty therapist at Skin Medi Spa
Soothing treatment: Judith Mulgrew, a beauty therapist at Skin Medi Spa
Soothing treatment: Judith Mulgrew, a beauty therapist at Skin Medi Spa
Happy client: Ashleigh Baird

She readily admits to enhancing her stunning looks with her expert semi-permanent make-up technique and her high-tech anti-ageing treatments. But Judith Mulgrew's beauty goes way beyond her expertly defined eyebrows and perfect skin.

No needles or collagen boosters can account for the glow of warmth from her face or the empathy in her gaze as she greets her clients - famous and "civilian", as Elizabeth Hurley refers to the rest of us. To Judith (33), no one is ordinary.

"The first thing I do when someone comes into the clinic is to get them comfortable on the treatment-bed and ask them to take three deep breaths," she says. "A lot of the time, we're holding our breath in, while we're rushing around or working at our desks, stressed out. That's not good for our minds or our lines. You'd be amazed at the difference breathing properly makes."

We're in one of SkinMediSpa's raspberry-walled treatment rooms, a low-lit cocoon scented by herbal incense. Soothing plinky-plonky music plays quietly in the background and a plush throw covers the inviting day-bed, which is gently heated - absolute heaven when there's an angry wind surging outside on Belfast's bustling Lisburn Road.

If it were possible to come in and simply lie down for an hour in lunch-break, I'm convinced beauty clinics could make a tidy sum from city sloggers and harried housewives and anxious grannies - or anyone with days marked by stress and annoyance.

They'd emerge renewed, without an injection or laser having been anywhere near their face. A Downpatrick building contractor's daughter, Judith began to suss this inner-peace-equals-outer-beauty secret seven years ago, when her partner - a publicity-shy patent lawyer called John - introduced her to ethical tracts by soul-searching thinkers such as Deepak Chopra and Ekhart Tolle (The Power of Now). She went on to study philosophy in her spare time.

"I just didn't get all this stuff before," admits Judith, a former Virgin Airlines massage therapist. "John was way ahead of me but the more I read and thought about it, the penny finally dropped. You can't find peace and contentment if you go looking for it in the materialistic outside world but you can find it within yourself."

But how Judith? I can hear you cry, reader. Where do you have to go?

The fact is, the truly enlightened don't have to go anywhere but deep within themselves, with the help of meditation, and a dollop of deep breathing and a good splash of mindfulness, the modern term for keeping your head screwed on. But 10 days not speaking and eating super-foods in a sunny forest could help.

Judith did just that, this summer, at the Monte Sahaja silent retreat in south west Portugal, run by Mooji, a spiritual teacher and author originally from Jamaica. (His brother Peter Moo-Young is an international table tennis player for Jamaica; his sister Dorothy 'Cherry' Groce was accidentally shot by the police in 1985, which triggered the Brixton riot.)

Mooji emigrated to England and taught himself to become an artist, working with stained glass, ceramics and sculpture. He taught art at a college in Brixton before meeting Papaji, a famous Indian guru of "self-enquiry" and later embarking on a series of "satsangs", silent inner-truth seeking gatherings all over the world, which have become increasingly popular on YouTube.

Judith agrees it all sounds a bit navel-gazing and hippie but the teaching is simple: find the time to keep quiet and avoid the mind's influence, and "abide in the Self, which is the witness of all phenomenal existence and therefore before any 'thing', including thoughts and all that is perceived with the five senses". "I never experienced anything like it - it was profound," says Judith of the silent retreat. "You start off listening to recordings of some great thinkers, like the Dalai Llama, and there's a question and answer session. After that, you sign to speak.

"You're in a cocoon for 10 days. There's a library of all these wonderful philosophical books, and there's all this delicious vegetarian food. There's no alcohol and you don't miss it.

"It's getting back to a very simple, slower way of life and being in the now, in a beautiful calm environment. I found it revelatory."

Retreaters could get up at 6.30am in the morning for yoga but Judith preferred forest walks.

"I had the best sleeps ever on that retreats, with amazing dreams," she recalls, her dark eyes widening. "I had the most vivid one about granny; it was more like a vision - she was right there. She died when I was 14 and I really missed her, but I hadn't thought about her for a long time.

"I know it sounds strange, but think I was reconnecting with her in some way, as a result of being in such a beautiful, spiritual environment."

Judith's journey to enlightenment started with a four day silent retreat in Co Cork last October, followed by a 10-day satsang in London earlier this year.

"These experiences have opened me up to living life in the present, from the heart," she adds. "We are too much in the noisy traffic of our heads.

"I truly believe we need to take a step back from it and I believe negative emotions are released through sickness and illnesses. Even great scientists, like Einstein, thought so. Some people can find inner peace through religion but I find organised religions very controlling, especially the Catholic Church. They teach you to look for God outside of you, when He is inside us. It's so important to look inward for a sense of wellbeing."

Amongst the many I've met who refer to Judith's metaphorical "healing hands", is Ashleigh Baird (26), a food scientist from east Belfast, who had surgery to remove a huge life-threatening ovarian cyst after Judith found unusual pelvic bloating while giving her an Arvigo Maya massage, a technique used to promote fertility and digestive health.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year, Ashleigh credits Judith with helping to save her life.

Some clients, too shy to go on the record, believe Judith's Arvigo Maya massage has helped them conceive. Others, also interviewed here, have said she has given them back their confidence - and their eyebrows - after stress disorders and chemotherapy made their hair fall out.

But for all her Zen-like qualities, surely this busy girl must get stressed running a business full-time while caring for her six-year-old son Ethan?

"I do get stressed but I do my best to rise above it," she concludes.

"Stress is a projection of what you attract into your life.

"Sometimes I go and sit beside a tree in the park to ground myself. But the best thing, for everybody, is to take deep breaths from the tummy, like a baby breathes.

"Do it every time you take a drink of water or tea or coffee, or every time go to the loo. You'll feel much better."

I'm sold.

  • www.skinmedispa.co.uk. Surrey Street, Lisburn Road, Belfast. Tel. 028 9068 1066

Judith's top 10 tips for inner and outer beauty

1. Show more gratitude 

We don't always show gratitude as often as we should. Therefore, being more thankful about what we have as opposed to what we should have can help make people happier and more resilient, help strengthen relationships, improve health and reduce stress.

2. Learn to love and accept yourself

I feel we need to love and accept ourselves first and foremost before we can learn to love and accept others. When you start to think kindly and positively about yourself, the love you have for yourself just grows. Reframe your mind with positive affirmations. For instance, say this to yourself "I love and accept myself completely and unconditionally." The more you say this, then the more you start to believe in yourself. A happier person in the inside reflects a happier person on the outside.

3. Do one good deed a day

We should all do one good deed a day to help one another, as after all, we are all here on a journey and why not try to help make it a good one for others. A good deed can be anything from offering another motorist your parking space to giving money to a homeless person in the street. I believe that if everyone acted out one good deed a day, then the world would be a better place.

4. Drink hot water and lemon

Water and lemon can have a tremendous impact on the body and skin. Not only does the refreshing taste wake me up in the morning, it helps to kick start digestion and finalizes my body's natural detoxification processes as lemons are packed with vitamin C, B, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, enzymes, antioxidants, and fibers. As a result it can leave the skin looking radiant.

5. Make every day matter

Life is short and nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. I am a great believer in living in the present moment, as the past is in the past and the future hasn't happened yet. I know that life can be fast moving but we should try as much as possible to live in the current moment and enjoy it as much as possible.

6. Smile More

Every time we smile, we trigger movements in muscles in our face which are interpreted by our brain and in turn our brain releases chemicals otherwise known as endorphins. The more we stimulate our brain to release this chemical the more often we feel happier and relaxed.

7. Treat yourself

Treat yourself now and again to either a product, item of clothing or a massage. I try to make a point of having a massage at least once a month, as I feel that it not only gives me something to look forward to but it also helps to release trapped tension in my upper back. Within minutes of having a massage, I feel much healthier and even more relaxed.

8. Wear an SPF

Sunshine plays a role in our everyday lives. Whether you're spending time outdoors during the summer or skiing down a mountain in the middle of the winter, you're bound to be affected by the sun's powerful rays. Therefore we should all wear an SPF every day to protect our skin when considering it is our largest organ and our face is always exposed.

9. Exercise more

Exercise has many benefits that we need to be aware of. Apart from the most obvious one being used as a method of controlling our weight there are many other factors that it can be used for. Exercise can combat health conditions and disease, improve mood and boost energy. You don't have to go to the gym to say that you are doing exercise. In fact, as a form of exercise, yoga has many benefits to offer. The biggest is helping you increase your flexibility and decrease your stress. The more flexible you are and the more mobile you will be then the more relaxed and happier you become.

10. Be mindful

Mindfulness helps us to focus on our awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, and thoughts. By being fully present in this way - not forcing things or hiding from them, but actually being with them, we create space to respond in new ways to situations and make wise choices. This process also helps us to control our level of anxiety.

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