By Betsy Rothstein - 09/26/06 12:00 AM EDT
Former Lieberman aide opens holistic business on Capitol Hill
Kelly Moore knew she was in trouble the morning she woke up and had nothing to wear but a pair of army-green sweatpants.
This was beyond a bad-clothes day. After working as Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) press secretary for roughly 18 months, the stress had taken its toll. Moore had gained weight, and couldn’t fit into anything but the sweats.
She stayed home and washed clothes so she could go to work the following day. The moment was an epiphany. She knew something had to change and it wasn’t just her weight. She knew that a complete life change was needed.
In January 2002, Moore quit her job with Lieberman and went to work as a counterterrorism specialist for the State Department. The stress didn’t get much better, but she was working for a cause she believed in.
This summer she finally left her old life behind as she and Al Colley, her boyfriend and business partner, opened Harmonia Health on Capitol Hill. It is a holistic wellness center that tends to people’s emotional and physical well-being. Services include yoga, Quantum-Touch (a form of energy work that involves the breath) and Reiki (another form of energy healing). The cost is $110 per session, with discounts if you buy several sessions.
Moore is a registered naturopath, yoga instructor and certified Quantum-Touch practitioner. Colley is a Reiki master and certified Quantum-Touch practitioner. Clients seek help on everything from chronic pain and depression to garden-variety stress.
Harmony’s office, set up in a private home, is all about relaxation. Seven candles blaze in the living room, and in the air is a Thai incense called Queen of the Night; on the floor is a fluffy white rug that could make you want to sleep for days. There are Buddha masks, elephants, and other Asian tchochkes, including coral that washed up on the beach in Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands, which provided the setting for the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
I am offered Cambodian-lemongrass iced tea and a pair of slippers. (I take the tea and pass on the slippers. The idea of conducting an interview in slippers is way too weird.)
Moore stresses that the coral wasn’t living when she took it. It had washed up onto the beach. “This is important,” Moore says, “because we weren’t actually going around upsetting the coral. We just thought it had really good energy.”
A guided tour upstairs leads me through a hallway to the treatment room. On a bookshelf is a shrine to Moore’s former life with Lieberman and the stress of her high-pressure job on Capitol Hill. There are books on Connecticut, including Lieberman’s “In Praise of Public Life,” and books about Sept. 11 and terrorist travel — apparently a last glimpse of harsh reality before the treatment begins.
In the treatment room, the table is exquisitely dressed in silk bedding from Thailand. There are more candles burning, and bottles and bottles of essential oils that promise to cure almost anything that ails you, and a complete chakra aromatherapy kit to balance the seven energy centers of your body.
“Usually what smells good is what you need,” says Colley, explaining the oils.
“We would like to help people heal themselves, achieve and attain a general state of wellness and balance.”
She estimates that 80 percent of all illness has some component of stress. “If you don’t find a way to manage your stress it will make you sick,” she says. “Stress wreaks havoc. Dragging yourself through the day is an indication that your body is out of balance.”
So, has Lieberman stopped by for a little stress relief? He is, after all, in the race of his life against newcomer Ned Lamont, who beat him in the Democratic primary.
“No,” says Moore. “We just opened a couple of months ago.”
At this point a mosquito flies in and Moore kills it. “Although I don’t normally kill living things,” she says, “I make an exception for mosquitoes.”
Moore remembers her days in Lieberman’s office with a mixture of pride and stress. The week before she began her job as press secretary was the week Al Gore chose Lieberman to be his running mate. “I was a stress eater. It was not the stress of working for someone who was running for vice president. I was re-entering the culture.”
At the time, Colley was working in counterterrorism operations at the State Department. Like Moore, Colley had left a high-stress life as an Air Force fighter pilot for a still-stressful post at the State Department. The couple met there when both were counter-terrorism specialists. Moore worked for the 9/11 Commission as a specialist on terrorism travel; Colley was a national security consultant.
Moore’s desire to work in holistic health sprouted from a job as spokeswoman for the United Nations from 1995 to 1999 that required her to live in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Croatia, Mostar, Bosnia, Pristina and Kosovo. She had no heat, no water, no electricity. If she ordered a salad she’d get pickles, pickled cabbage and occasionally lettuce. “You couldn’t exercise; there were no gyms,” she recalls. “It was too dangerous. You were stressed out, working seven days a week and dealing with very difficult issues.
“I just felt terrible. You were going on adrenalin all the time. You eventually start to crash; you’re very tired.”
After living on coffee and chocolate, in 1996 Moore bought a vegetarian cookbook and shipped 200 pounds of food from the states. “I began learning to cook in, of all places, Bosnia,” she says.
When the war ended and she could exercise, Moore felt better, but she caught a cold that held on to her for six weeks. This sparked her interest in remedies. She took zinc and Echinacea and began to look into holistic therapies.
When she returned to the states in late 1999, she contemplated cooking school in Switzerland. She had also sent her r�sum� to Lieberman’s office, not expecting to get a call back.
But the job was soon hers, and she quickly realized how stressful life could be even when outside a war zone. “I felt like I was on another planet,” she says. Everything stressed her out, from parking to shopping to getting gasoline. In Bosnia, life was simple; she could park on a sidewalk or wherever the car would fit. “I come here and I felt like I needed an attorney to tell me where to park,” she says.
And then there was Congress: “I didn’t always see the interests of the American people coming first. You saw personal political gain taking precedence.”
For Moore and Colley, the new business is a labor of love, a testament to their pasts. “It’s not like trying to sell clothes over the Internet,” says Colley. “This one has to come from within. People have to recognize the stress and want to deal with it.”
Moore warns, “It’s deal with it now or deal with it later. You don’t want a heart attack to get your attention.”
For more information, visit www.HarmoniaHealth.com.