My story of meditation, yoga, spiritual inquiry, and healthy eating, begins before I was born. My parents lived in a yoga ashram, a spiritual community of practitioners following the teachings of the guru, Sri Swami Satchadananda (who named me!) My mother and father both taught yoga there. My mom also worked in the kitchen, cooking vegetarian food. It was there that I spent my first years.
I remember the first time I asked my father if I could meditate with him when I was two years old. It looked so mysterious and magical with the lit candles. I was horribly bored and disappointed! And for better or for worse it took me another couple of decades to acquire a taste for it, although I tried periodically over the years.
We moved out of the ashram to Cambridge, MA where my parents thought the public schools would be better, and over the years our lives became more and more mainstream with the introduction of meat into our diets, and the lack of spiritual community. But the influence remained. Normal playtime activity for my sister and I would be to practice full splits, head stands, and back bends. My mom would still make her famous miso vegetable stew, which we loved. Topics of Karma and reincarnation were regularly discussed. And at the age of eight after some questions to my mom about God, she pointed me to a section in our encyclopedia set and I decided I was Buddhist. By thirteen I decided to be strict vegetarian again.
Vegan – My first attempt at being vegan was when I was sixteen. Embarrassing to admit, but I think it was mostly because of my crush on the actor River Phoenix (RIP) plus my enthusiasm for nutrition and health, and natural compassion for animals. I didn’t last long, maybe two months. Just long enough to give away all my wool sweaters and leather shoes, including two brand new pairs my dad had just bought for me (sorry Dad!) If I could go back in time and talk to my sixteen-year-old self, I would tell her not to give up! That it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”. I became completely discouraged by not being able to find leather-free jazz shoes I needed for dance, and not being able to fully resist the pints of ice cream in the freezer. In my mind I was either Vegan, or I wasn’t. It didn’t occur to me to just try my best, so I totally gave up.
Between the ages of 18 and 25, I spent as much time as possible exploring the world. I studied abroad, traveled, lived and worked overseas. I spent time in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, India, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali. The shortest visit was to Mauritania for a long weekend, and the longest was to Senegal where I lived for three years. I have been on many trips since then and travel internationally for work, but I mention that influential period because during that time I made the decision to be more flexible with my food choices. I still stayed away from red meat, but since I was often living with families and didn’t have access to the food I would eat at home, I decided to eat fish and seafood regularly, and even chicken at times. For the last ten years (coinciding with when I discovered I was allergic to eggs and dairy) I have gone back and forth between periods of being fully vegan (in diet, no more giving away all my shoes!) and periods of eating vegan plus fish.
Mindfulness – My background with Mindfulness is mostly Buddhist, although as a teacher I’ve also trained in more secular methods. When I was a teenager I went frequently to the Zen Center that was near my house, I also went several times to a Tibetan Buddhist temple, and traveled as far India to spend a month in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama. But Zen and Tibetan Buddhism never felt quite right to me. There were a lot of things I disagreed with, and they didn’t seem to be the “Buddhism” I whole-heartedly agreed with when I would read about it in more general books. Finally in 1999 I discovered Theravadan Buddhism and it was like love at first sight! It felt perfect. I would listen to the talks and just nod my head in agreement, everything resonated as pure truth. I’ve been on more than 15 silent residential retreats, most about 8 days long, in the Insight or “Vipassana” tradition. I became a group leader at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center in 2007, leading a Mindfulness group for families for seven years. I trained in the Mindful Schools teaching curriculum, which has very similar teachings, but in a more secular format. I’ve also offered meditation classes at my work.
Yoga – I took a yoga series at the YMCA when I was 16, and I wasn’t impressed. I wanted to like it. I wanted to LOVE it. But I was a dancer, and I found the postures to be static, and dull. Fast forward a couple of decades. On one cold and wintery day, with a chill that seemed to have seeped into my bones making me stiff and achy, I decided to try hot yoga. And to my total surprise, I loved it. I also loved the style, vinyasa. Linking the breath to the movements and flowing from one pose to the next, while building an internal heat and releasing a purifying sweat, felt like just what my body wanted to do. After about ten years of going to the studio I decided to deepen my practice by doing the 200 hour teacher’s training. I graduated in 2015. It was a wonderful decision!