It’s that time of year again, when I will be embarking on my bi-annual Ayurvedic Kitchari (a stew made from soaked mung beans, rice, spices and ghee or coconut oil) cleanse. There are so many cleanses our world, so why do I choose this one? Well, for one, it works! I end up slowing way down; I sleep, nourish my body and senses with daily mediation and abhayanga massage (self-oil massage) and most importantly, take the time to look inward. Eating this mono-diet of kitchari as well as giving up all caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods for the next 10 days also gives my digestion a must needed rest and I will come out feeling vibrant, juicy and ready to tackle all that Fall brings in with it’s cool crisp air, longer nights and shortened days. I encourage you to join me on this wonderful ten day pilgrimage of turning inward.
Here’s what you will need:
1/2 c. organic mung beans
1/2-1 c. organic basmati rice (for those who can tolerate quinoa, it can be substituted in place of rice).
2 tbsp. of ghee or coconut oil
1/2-1 tsp. mixture of the following: ground cumin seeds, ground coriander seeds, ground pippali pepper, turmeric, ground fennel seeds, mustard seeds (unless you’re high pitta).
pinch of ground saffron threads
pinch of asafetida
pinch of black pepper
pinch of pink of Himalayan Sea salt or a blend of sea salt with kelp
a couple of pieces of kombu seaweed or dulse
4-6 c. water
A handful of chopped cilantro
squeeze of 1/2 a lime (optional)
– Soak the mung beans and rice for at least 8 hours or up to 24 – changing the water 2-4 times. – When ready to cook, rinse the beans and rice until the water runs clear, then drain water from the mixture. – Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp. of ghee or coconut oil. – When oil is hot, add 1-2 tbsp of spice mixture and wait for the mustard seeds to pop, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once you see the popping begin to slow and sense a good smell arriving, add 1 tbsp. of grated ginger and stir another minute. Next, add rice and mung beans and coat with spice and ghee mixture for a minute or two. – Add 4-6 cups of water, stir, and after it comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. – Add the ground saffron threads and feel free to add a green leafy vegetable of choice (such as collard greens, kale, dandelion, chicory, radish tops–the list goes on) in the last couple of minutes before it’s finished, and cook until soft and fragrant. – Serve in a bowl with the squeeze of a fresh lime and sprinkle cilantro on top. Offer some to your family and sit down with your warm bowls of love as you contemplate all the delicious flavors that are about to dance on your tongue.
Dear Friends, I hope all of you have had a fruitful and nourishing summer.
I was able to soak up the sun’s rays, laugh with my family and eat the delicious bounty of foods that Mother Earth served me.
I have a lot of news to share with you. 1. Beginning this September, I will be teaching yoga and Ayurveda classes at The-Well. The Well is modern membership-based wellness club designed for busy urban professionals in the heart of New York City. If any of you are interested in more information on this club and how to join, please let me know and I’ll connect you to the right person.
2. I am offering Initial Ayurveda consultations for the reduced price of $75.00 (normally $180) to the first 10 people who contact me from now until October 15. If you are struggling with health issues such as exhaustion, focus, digestion, skin issues, hormone imbalances or general malaise, now is the chance for you to understand your constitution and your current imbalance and finally get to the bottom of what is really going on.
3. I am offering 2 in-depth Ayurveda workshops this fall, each are $35.
The Shala, NYC Sunday, September 29 from 1230-3pm Techniques for finding perfect balance: menopause, hormones and yoga. In this workshop we will investigate specific yoga sequences, breathing techniques and daily diet or herbal remedies that can help us manage hormonal shifts associated with menopause and peri-menopause. SIGN UP HERE
New Vibe Yoga, NYC Oct. 5th from 1-330pm Ayurveda Strategies for reducing discomfort: In this workshop we discuss strategies to turn your monthly cycle into an enjoyable and pain free experience using Ayurvedic herbs, diet and lifestyle techniques that will help to nudge your unpleasant period symptoms into a trouble free direction. We will work on a specific yoga asana sequence that is perfect for dispelling some of the accumulated wet summer heat as we transition into the lighter and cooler autumn temperatures. SIGN UP HERE
As we move into the late summer and early fall, Pitta season transforms into Vata season so along with that comes dryer, cooler and more dispersing qualities. To counter balance some of scattered feeling of Vata season, I will turn my attention to my daily routine and begin to replace the cooling coconut oil with sesame oil for my daily self-massage. I’ll also be sure to add in some softer, sweeter and more moisturizing foods like cooked sweet potato, summer squash, rice & amaranth along with generous sprinklings of grounding and warming spices such as pippali, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Here is one of my favorite Vata season dinner-time recipes. As much as I love cooking, dishwashing is not my favorite activity (my husband will confirm). Thankfully this recipe requires only one pan!
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. 9172157710 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy your last few weeks of summer. Love to you all, karri
Thankfully, my last tension headache was a few years ago. When it hit, my son was only a few months old, and I wasn’t sleeping or practicing yoga regularly, which likely contributed to the headaches, though it is hard to be sure.
Historically, doctors suspected that muscle tightness in the jaw, neck, and scalp triggered tension headaches, but new theories suggest that they may be triggered by stress and changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In either case, yoga can be extremely beneficial, since it is recognized as an effective stress reducer, and can have a positive effect on brain chemistry. Here are three simple poses than can be helpful in easing your tension headache. Be sure to practice for at least ten minutes several times a week to prevent the headache from coming back.
1. Balasana (child’s pose). Begin on the floor with your knees apart and feet together. Stretch your arms forward, and rest your forehead on the floor as you gently push your hips back toward your heels. When you arrive at your point of resistance, stay there and breathe for ten to twenty slow, steady breaths in and out through the nose. If your forehead doesn’t reach the floor completely, stack pillows, blankets, or blocks on the floor until your forehead is supported.
2. Marjaryasana (cat pose): From child’s pose, slowly inhale and lift your head, and move forward with straight arms until your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. Exhale, round your spine, and tuck your chin in gently toward your chest as you draw your tailbone toward the ground. Carefully draw your navel up and in. Stay here and breathe for ten to twenty breaths in and out through the nose.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog). From Bitilasana, or cow pose, exhale and slowly lift your knees off the floor and your hips toward the ceiling. Try not to move your hands or feet. Keep your knees bent at first, and get your hips as high as you can. If your hamstrings are very tight, keep the knees bent. If not, begin to straighten your legs, pressing your heels toward the floor, and use your arms to press your hips up and back. Let your head and neck relax and breathe in and out through the nose for ten to twenty breaths. If you would like a bit of movement in this position, lift your head slightly and arch your back as you inhale, and as you exhale round your spine and tuck your chin in slightly. After twenty breaths, lower your knees back to the floor with a slow exhale and return to Balasana.
Repeat the series of three poses.
as seen on archetypes
I was lucky to grow up in rural Wisconsin. I was surrounded by beautiful nature, clean air, a loving family and a strong community who had a commitment to staying healthy and helping the young thrive. After a great education at Iowa-Grant High School, I was able to continue my studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I dabbled in my first yoga classes with Professor Phillip Zarrilli.
This was the beginning of my life-long-love of yoga. Apart from making me physically and mentally stronger, yoga has been my constant companion and my teacher in times of contentment or of sorrow. I’ve been lucky to be able to study with amazing teachers over the last 20 years and spend a lot of time in India with my late yoga teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
My goal as a teacher is to assist each student in developing a personal practice that they can use as a tool to relieve stress and promote health, both physically and mentally. I am pleased to share my knowledge with the community that helped me flourish as a child.
Who: All are welcome; young, old, stiff, supple, thin, fat, apathetic, energetic.
When: June 21st. from 830-10am
Last October, during breast cancer awareness month, I paid a visit to my OBGYN for a check up. This Doctor (I’ll call her DR. X) and I have a strong relationship. I have been a patient of hers since 2000, and other than her personally delivering my son in 2010, she saved my life in 2007 when she performed emergency surgery on me after my fallopian tube burst from an ectopic pregnancy. Needless to say, I trust her implicitly and value her opinion — despite our varying views on alternative medicine.
I was expecting to see her, do a routine pelvic exam and head out the door after a quick chat and a hug. Instead, after showing her photos of my 5-year-old son who she delivered, she sat me down and urged me to get a mammogram. When I asked her why there was such urgency, she replied, “Karri, you’re over 40 and I can tell you, I have seen so much more breast cancer over the last 5 years and I just don’t want you to fall through the cracks. ” I listened to her, and took what she said seriously. “But what about the new suggestions that women wait until they are 50 for a mammogram, if there is no family history?” I asked. Apparently, she and her colleagues are not on board with those new recommendations made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
I listened as she gave me all the reasons why she thought a mammogram was important for me, and then I told her about a few of my friends who had done an exam called breast thermography. I asked Dr. X if she thought I could do that instead. She replied, “honestly, I think thermography will be an important tool in the next 5 years but as of now, I don’t know anyone who could read the results properly, including myself.” I agreed that I would think about getting a mammogram, took my prescription for it on my way out, but as soon as I got home I started researching thermography and here is what I discovered:
1. There is no radiation associated with thermography.
2. After a 10 year study done in the 1970’s, Michel Gautherie, Ph.D, detailed the finding of which an abnormal breast thermography exam was a more significant indicator of a future risk for breast cancer than having a family history of it.
3. When Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D. interviewed Dr. Phillip Getson, D.O, a medical thermographer since 1982, he said it’s possible for thermography — which detects changes at a cellular level — to detect activity 8 -10 years before a mammogram could pick it up. Studies have shown that by the time a tumor has grown to a sufficient size to be recognized by a physical exam or mammography, it has likely been growing for about 7 years. According to Dr. Getson, if a breast thermography exam becomes your regular screening tool, it may be possible for a patient to still make some major lifestyle changes to transform your cells before they become cancerous.
4. Thermography is pain free.
5. Thermography is a good choice for younger breasts that tend to be denser.
After reading all of this positive information on thermography, I reached out to a couple friends of mine who had previously told me about it and they both recommended I see the same person on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
After weighing the consequences for a couple days, I decided to go ahead and do the breast thermography. I made an appointment with a no-nonsense thermographer named Sandra for the following week. I wasn’t allowed to do an upper body workout for 24 hours leading up to the exam since that could change the heat reading in my upper chest. The appointment took about 45 minutes. 15 minutes for my body to cool down to the temperature of the room, 15 minutes to take the photographs and 15 minutes to talk about what thermography is and how she would get my results to me. Fortunately my results came back normal. Unfortunately, though, thermography is not covered under insurance so it did cost me $250 and I am supposed to go back for a follow-up in about 3 months so they can have a good baseline read on my heat patterns and see how they change; after that I can go annually for a check up.
Although $250 is not insignificant to me and I’m sure many people are thinking, “I can’t afford that,” I would suggest thinking of it this way: would you rather spend $250 on an exam that is pain- and radiation- free that may give you an option of changing behavior to prevent you from getting breast cancer if some activity is discovered, or would you rather get a free mammogram screening where your breasts are flattened like a pancake between two glass plates and then shot with radiation and run the risk of false positives, false negatives, intense exposure to radiation and if something is found, your options are limited. To me the choice was clear.
Today I embarked on my annual fall purvakarma Ayurvedic cleanse. Although I didn’t plan it this way, it turns out this first day of cleansing falls on this new moon day and the first day of Navaratri ( a 10 day, 9 night Hindu festival dedicated to the Goddess Durga who represents purity and power in Hindu belief and is associated with the fertility of mother earth, which feeds us, her children), According to Dr. Robert Sbovoda, ” Over the course of those nine nights as the moon waxes in visibility, light, and juiciness the serious seeker will strive to make his or her mind do likewise.” This festival is celebrated throughout India in various ways but often they involve an fixed pot that symbolizes Devi and In this pot grains are allowed to sprout as the nights go by which symbolizes Devi’s ability generate to growth.
I love unplanned and auspiciously timed rituals. I am hopeful that this cleanse will bring me a lighter body, clearer mind, more compassion and the juiciness that Dr. Sbovoda so beautifully describes. Here are my grains that were sprouted last night and then cooked into a delicious pot of kitchari to eat for the day. I will be doing this every day till next Wenesday so if you’re feeling inspired to join me, please do. You will find the recipe and the ingredients needed here:
If you prefer to get ingredients yourself, here is what you’ll need:
*3 lbs. organic basmati white rice
* 1.5 lbs. split mung beans
* 1/2-1 cup blend of: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, sea salt and asafoetida
*8 oz. jar of organic ghee or coconut oil for those vegans.
*1-bottle triphala tablets
*16 oz. bottle organic sesame oil
* Detox tea (blend of cardamom, anise seed, fennel)
*Vegetables of choice, lemon and cilantro
follow me on twitter @karrijinkins for updates and special instructions on the recipe.
At 37, after suffering two unexplained ectopic pregnancies, weight gain and extreme exhaustion I discovered I have Hashimoto’s disease, an inflammatory auto-immune disease (AID). My family history is ripe with all kinds of AID from Parkinson’s to Type I diabetes. Although I take a daily dose of medicine in order to regulate my thyroid gland, the gland itself is not the root of my problem. Rather, my body suffers from inflammation that triggers it to attack my thyroid gland as a way of protecting itself, since my immune system thinks this gland is an invader. This declared foreigner, my poor little thyroid gland that sits in the center of my neck and forms a beautiful butterfly shape, isn’t able to do its job of creating enough thyroxine to keep my hormones balanced and my body functioning properly.
The CDC estimates 14-22 million Americans suffer from AI diseases while the American Autoimmune Disease Association puts the number closer to 50 million, with more than 75 percent of those cases occurring in women. Just to put this in perspective, according to the CDC, about 8.5 million Americans Adults suffer from cancer and 26 million from heart disease. Currently, over 80 AI diseases have been identified, including Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, Type I diabetes, MS, and lupus, to name just a few.
Doctors tell me to take my medicine daily and to reduce my stress and keep my inflammation low to help control this disease. The first time I heard this advice I smiled, shook my head enthusiastically and said, “okay.” But as I walked out of the office after my initial diagnosis, I was devastated, realizing I was on my own in dealing with this, and was unsure exactly how to proceed. After countless doctors visits, researching diligently and experimenting on myself with alternative therapies, yoga, diet and lifestyle changes, I have developed a daily program that is helping me heal. When I was diagnosed in 2009, my inflammatory antibody count was close to 1,000, and today it is under 20 thanks to this SEAMLYS approach.
1. SUPPLEMENT: Take a daily dose of desiccated pig thyroid, pro-biotic, iron, vitamin D and flax oil or fish oil, calcium/magnesium blend, selenium and triphala. Re-evaluate these supplements with my doctor every few months and changes doses depending on the season.
2. EAT: Healthy proteins including fish, nuts and legumes. Fruit, vegetables and healthy carbs like rice, oatmeal and quinoa. Fats like flax oil, coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed cows’ butter.
3. AVOID: Gluten, soy, sugar, low-fat dairy products, alcohol and caffeine, and processed foods. All of these substances aggravate my stomach and add to the inflammation in my joints and phlegm in my body. I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine or two, and I treat myself to a “bulletproof coffee” some days too.
4. MINDFULNESS: Meditate daily for 10-30 minutes. I focus on my breath and try to be still so that I can feel and hear any signals my body and mind are sending me. During this daily practice I may discover something that is upsetting me or exciting me. I try to pinpoint these feelings and bring them to the surface so that I can better identify stressors.
5. LOVE: Physical touch, hugs and playfulness and sex. This helps me feel secure and loved. It is crucial for me to connect with my husband, my child and my friends daily.
6. YOGA: This sweaty yoga practice is key at keeping my inflammation low. I do a set series of postures with focused breathing every morning. This oxygenates my blood, increases circulation to my thyroid gland, other organs and muscles tissue. Because being cold often is one of the side effects of Hashimoto’s, this yoga practice helps me regulate my temperature and I stay warmer longer.
7. SLEEP: There is never enough time in the day for me to accomplish everything I would like to. I force myself to be in my bed by 10pm and asleep by 11pm, if not before. This insures that I get at least 8 hours of sleep daily, something my body needs in order to recover from all of the tasks I ask it to accomplish each day.
As I continue to feel better I am working on decreasing the amount of medication I need. Soon I hope to be off the medication completely, and on the road to AID free!
While I pursued my acting career in the ’90s, I supplemented my income working as a bartender at Embassy, a sleek modern bar located in Tribeca. I was terrified that Angus (the tall and handsome English bar manager) and Fabian (the quirky and mysterious English bar owner) would discover I was in fact an imposter who neither knew anything about making a drink nor could tell the difference between an oaky Chardonnay and a crisp Pinot Grigio. With Angus as my teacher, I learned everything about English beer, single malts, cocktail making and how to spot a personality type based on what they drank. Apart from learning how to swirl the vermouth around a chilled glass and toss it out briskly before adding the shaken or stirred vodka or the difference between Chivas and Oban, I learned that gin drinkers were alcoholics, beer drinkers were stoners, fruity martini drinkers were thrill-seekers, and shots were for people wanting to escape — like their weight or their spouse. Jack and Coke was for drug addicts and wine was for lovers.
My boyfriend at the time, Cedric, was a real beer drinker. He would stop by with his dog Drexel and his cigarettes and chat with me. He liked to stay up late and sleep in but he seemed to be in his own world and was never able to commit to anything, including our relationship, so after a few months we split up.
A few months after Cedric and I split up I fell in love with Thierry, a young French boy who had recently moved to NYC to escape Paris from something I didn’t understand. He use to drink Jack and Coke, not many people ordered that at the bar so I assumed it was some kind of French thing. On our first date at Jean Claude in Soho, over dinner I drank a glass of red wine while he drank one after another Jacks and Coke. It was typical for him to arrive late for our dates but one night after he arrived over four hours late he told me how he had collapsed in the street on his way to my house and thought he was having a heart attack. Apparently a stranger helped him and escorted him to the emergency room at St. Vincent’s Hospital where a doctor explained that he was having a reaction to cocaine. Thierry promptly checked himself out and was astonished to learn he had a drug problem. So was I, we split up shortly after.
My first regular customer was Bob who often came in right at the 5pm opening. Bob loved gin and tonic and Johnny Walker Black. I was confused the first time I met him that after just one drink, he could barely speak. He would sit on his bar stool with his index finger in the air as if he was about to ask me for another drink but he could rarely get any words to escape from his mouth. I didn’t realize that he had been drinking all day long at any of the local bars that would still serve him. He was seemingly harmless but eventually he was banned from Embassy as well as most bars downtown.
Often, just before closing, a tall peculiar woman named Pat would come in and check out the bar as if she was looking for someone in particular. She would order something different each time; but liked shots of anything straight up. Since she always wore a different wig I didn’t always recognize her immediately. She would find someone to talk to, and wasn’t shy about asking them to buy her another round. Being naive, it took me a while to figure out she was a prostitute. I liked her honesty and jolly behavior, but one night she showed up with bright lipstick and big sunglasses. I got a kick out of her until she took her sunglasses off and I noticed her bruised and black face. After that I started buying her her second round.
As my bartending and people skills became more savvy, I got another job working in a stylish bar uptown. On Halloween night a handsome man named Hooman came in with his friend Glenn. They were different than our normal clientele; quietly confident and pensive instead of the loud-mouthed ego-strong bankers I was use to. He ordered a Vodka tonic and I made it with a lime and took note of his choice. He was tall, had a great smile and warm eyes, a lot of hair and was a little older than me. I chatted with him and Glenn until they finished their drink and had to leave. In my Marge Simpson costume I wished them Happy Halloween.
I was startled a week later when a deliver boy appeared in front of me, as I was setting up the bar for opening, with a long white box of roses. I was even more shocked when he said the box was for Karri Jinkins, since I just assumed it was for one of my co-workers. “Me, I darted?” I opened the envelope and saw it was from Hooman, the interesting man from Halloween night. It took me a week to gain the courage to call and thank him for the flowers. He seemed delighted and we set a dinner date for the following week. At a chic Italian restaurant, we laughed and talked and shared a bottle of red wine that was perfectly delicious. Not too fruity, not too dry, with just the right amount of earth. Fifteen years later we got married and had a child and we still love to share bottles of wine. In honor of spring, I think tonight we’ll have a rose. Neither of us ever drink gin.
I had just turned 13 when I met my soon-to-be high school principal, Dr. Field. He stood outside, calling me his “Almond Joy” as he greeted the JV girls’ volleyball team while we filed into the high school for our first pre-school practice.
“You’re hard on the outside and soft on the inside,” he said with a smirk. Not really understanding what he meant or knowing him well, I smiled and continued on my way. Within a few weeks, though, I was summoned to Dr. Field’s office for the first time. His secretary had quietly spoken into the loudspeaker system while I was in my typing class, saying, ” Mrs. Benson, is Karri Jinkins in your class today? “Yes,” my teacher had replied quickly, not wanting to disrupt the timing of the typing commands: a, sem, s, l, d, k, f, j. “Please send her into Dr. Field’s office,” the voice had instructed.
I apprehensively tidied my desk and walked down the hall to an office where Dr. Field stepped out of his office and said, “Karri, please come in,” with a arm stretched out and an open hand gesturing toward his office. He was short, about 60 years old, and wore Buddy Holly- style glasses along with loud, plaid Sansabelt slacks, from circa 1965. My mind raced. I assumed I was in some kind of trouble, since trouble was something that I knew quite well by then.
He asked me to sit down and then closed his door and offered me a chocolate bar. He had a selection of treats that, of course, included Almond Joys. I chose a Snickers bar, and he proceeded to ask me questions about how school was going, how was I doing and if I had any problems or concerns. I think I was polite and answered his questions, but I didn’t confide in him any of my worries. As I looked around his office, I was impressed by his full bookshelves, and I noticed many of them had the word ‘psychology’ in the title. He must know a lot about that, I thought to myself.
After about 20 minutes of chit-chat, he stood up and came over to my chair and said, “Please, let me know if you need me for anything, I’m watching out for you here.” I stood up but was startled when he grabbed my upper arms firmly and pulled me to him, giving me a big, firm hug. He walked to the door, opened it and said, “Thanks for coming in Karri.” I slowly made my way back to my typing class with a little anxiety bubbling inside. Why was he being so nice to me? Was it okay that he hugged me like that? I knew that he was friendly with my oldest sister, Laurie, who was now working towards her master’s degree and thinking about attending law school later. She respected him and I felt proud that he had chosen me to favor out of the 300 students in my school.
It didn’t take long for that first meeting to turn into more frequent ones. By the end of my freshman year, I was in his office almost weekly. I was also receiving bags full of candy in my locker each Monday morning, and occasionally small gifts, too. I kept it secret and thought of myself as special. Sometimes during our talks, he would break down and start to cry. I felt sorry for him. I didn’t understand why he was so sad, but I was sad too, and we bonded over that, or at least I thought we did. I began to open up to him and I felt that we were two lonely souls who had met and had finally found another person who understood their loneliness.
I was not a fan of the hugs that he gave me in his office. Over the year they had developed into longer, closer embraces that sometimes finished with a slippery kiss on my cheek, or even neck, since Dr. Field was shorter than me. During the lunch period I would often feel his eyes on me as he stood on the ramp that connected the auditorium to the ground floor of the 1970’s era high school. He would watch over the lunch cafeteria and give me a discreet smile if our eyes met, which also made me feel uncomfortable.
In the fall of my sophomore year, my sister Laurie drove an hour south of Madison, WI, where she was at the university, to the local Pizza Hut where she had arranged to meet me and my other sister, Julie, for lunch. As we munched on our personal pan pizzas she asked Julie and me questions about our relationship with Dr. Field. What was his relationship like with us? Did we spend any time alone with him?
I was shocked to hear Julie’s trepidation as she revealed that yes, she did spend a lot of time in his office and that he often showered her with gifts, such as even diamond necklaces and earrings, and, of course, candy. He regularly called her out of class and into his office to talk with her, gave her long hugs and sometimes kissed her on the cheek or neck, and he often cried, which made her very uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t the sole recipient of his affections. What about all those hours I had spent in his office while he went on about our “little secret” and how special and deserving I was?
I think Laurie was disappointed and saddened by our confessions. She may have felt partly responsible. Her being the eldest of siblings, had she helped pave the path for him, since we often followed in her footsteps? Why would we have questioned his behavior when he had obviously built trust with her? Laurie declared that we must stop all communication with him at once and speak to a lawyer.
She continued, detailing how he had also given her many gifts over the years and persisted his “mentorship” of her after she went away to college. She had seen him recently and he made a bold pass at her insisting she sleep with him. She declined vehemently. He had been grooming her for years for this event, and he was angry and insulted to be turned down now.
At first, I didn’t want to report him. In my mind, he had done nothing wrong: his actions were innocent and he actually only cared about me. As much as I disliked his hugs and neck kisses, I did like getting called out of class. I had grown accustomed to our weekly meetings and I enjoyed talking with Dr. Field about my problems. He made me feel important because he trusted me enough to cry in front of me and share his feelings with me. Little did I know he was just really patient, like a lion stalking its prey, waiting for the right time to pounce. It didn’t take long for my trust in him–and perhaps all adults–to collapse.
Laurie announced she would talk with our parents to ensure that they’d be on board. They were shaken when they found out: Dr. Field was older and highly respected by them. He was held in high esteem by every parent and child in the school district. I began to fret about what other teachers and my friends would say.
In the weeks that followed my sisters and I spent hours at the lawyer’s office recounting details of our relationship with the errant principal. We discovered that we all had close friends who were also having a “secret” relationship with him. The Superintendent and School Board didn’t want to embarrass him publicly, so he was forced to resign, but formal charges were never filed to my knowledge. There were some in the community who supported us and some who refused to believe Dr. Field acted in anyway inappropriate. He was married and seemingly a custodian of the community for over 20 years. (Sound familiar?) Being a Midwest farming community, most people kept their opinions to themselves; you could only feel the opinions, not hear them.
The recent article in The New Yorker, Outcast, about Baruch Lebovits, a descendant of a rabbinic dynasty, and a prominent cantor with 24 grandchildren who was accused of molesting hundreds of boys and the recent news of Bill Cosby’s alleged rapes has me reflecting a lot on this experience and my experience with trust. I hope that my 4 year old son’s experiences with trust will be healthy. I talk to him often about trust and what it is, how to build it and how one loses it. I read somewhere that repairing lost trust makes us stronger and more resilient. Unfortunately trust is one of those concepts that is best understood through experience, not theory.
I never saw Dr. Field after he resigned, but by my senior year in high school, when I heard he passed away, I was sad. My mother told me recently that I even asked her if I could go to his funeral, an event I had completely forgotten, 25 years later.
I still feel a twinge of sadness when I recall the chain of events that led to my trust and a mistrust of him. I think of how skilled he was at getting me to open up to him and how methodical he was at building trust. As Stephen Kings says, “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”
The same year the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, 1989, I had my first panic attack. It was my freshman year in college and in the midst of hip-hop, frozen yogurt and scrunchies, I was celebrating independence from my parents for the first time but struggling academically. I had never defined myself as anxious, nervous or worried. Instead I was the girl who doesn’t worry about anything. That’s how my family had always described me, and I played the part well.
As I stood in the emergency room breathing into a bag, doctors urging me to go on medication for my anxiety, I began to question my own sanity. These panic attacks left me afraid to let anything or anyone touch me for fear I might succumb to more hallucinations. Had I finally become my mother, after being determined for so many years to be her opposite?
I shared with the doctors a history thick with mental illness in my family, and I privately realized I was traveling down a similar path. My mother had attempted suicide twice before I was born and again just after my birth. Her own mother struggled with sadness and depression and her maternal grandfather had hanged himself in his basement. My mother was extremely emotional and my father would often repeat to me and my four siblings, in a precautionary way, “Don’t upset your mother, or she’ll end up in the hospital again.” When I was a child, my mother did refer to a time when she had a nervous breakdown, but she never explained what that was. For most of my childhood, I imagined there were a bunch of nerve cells in her body that simply broke, shattered like glass falling from a table to the ground. I understood it to be a static event — not a perpetual state of being.
As a young child I was very attached to my mother. I was with her daily until I began kindergarten at age 5, and I loved being cuddled and sitting in her lap. She would often comment on how alike we were and she would apologize for that. I loved it when neighbors and friends would comment on how much I looked like her — how our eyes were the same shape and our skin was the same freckled shade of pinkish-white, and how we both sunburned easily. I competed with my older siblings for her attention, but as I grew older — like a person sleeping in a dark and windowless room but senses the sun setting — I began feeling something was not quite right with my mother.
At 14 years old, I asked my eldest sister Laurie what a nervous breakdown was, and she described the night my mother put us all to bed and locked my father out of the house before she swallowed a bottle of Valium pills. Laurie also told me of previous attempts at suicide and of the shock treatments that my father believed had saved her life. I was sick to my stomach, thinking that my siblings and I came that close to being motherless. From that moment my view of my mother changed from seeing her as an emotionally fragile person to thinking of her as a crazy, mean, and selfish. I ran away from her fast, and my anger reached epic proportions that unconsciously remained locked inside me for years while I was determined to become more like my father and nothing like my mother. I got a job and submerged myself in art class, theatre as an escape. My mantra became, “l’ll never get married and I’ll never have children.” I thought that my mother’s life choices must have been the root cause of her mental illness. I was going to make different choices.
A few months after discovering the truth behind the nervous breakdown, I arrived home late after playing quarters with boys too old for me and I had an argument with my mother. I took a bottle of pills too — aspirin. I left a note, not expecting to see it in the morning, but a strong stomach meant I spent the next day in my bed throwing up. My parents debated taking me to the emergency room, but after much persuasion on my part and consultation with a family doctor, they decided to let me suffer on my own while they agonized about the whys. I could see the fear in my father’s blue eyes and the recognition in my mother’s face. I was embarrassed but recovered quickly, and I refused to acknowledge any genetic similarity to my mother’s condition.
When the panic attacks arrived that first year in college, I was obstinate about not going on medication. I began my search for alternatives. With luck on my side, my name had been picked out of a hat to a become part of the theatre department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Phillip Zarrilli taught a course named Asian discipline, and serendipitously I got a place in his class, too. He taught us Yoga, Tai-chi and an Indian martial art, Kalaripayattu. I learned about controlling by breath and my body and how these two instruments worked in conjunction with each other. Surprised, I watched the panic attacks go from daily to weekly, and eventually vanish all together. By the time I graduated, I rarely had one.
When I moved to New York directly after graduation I began to work furiously, and I rarely slept, burning the candle at both ends for years. I abandoned my yoga practice at first since I was far too busy to commit to anything so rigorous. Eventually the panic attacks started to come back, as well as major periods of debilitating depression.
Again, with a stroke of luck, I was interning at The Wooster Group in Soho, and actors Kate Valk and Willem Defoe both did yoga regularly. They inspired me to continue my own practice of it. As I slowly inched my way to a daily practice I eventually found a guru, and I ran off to India to study with him in secret hopes he might shed light on my sadness. It took me a few months to realize that he was not a magician. But yes, he was a healer, and a yogi who wasn’t afraid of his mind. He encouraged self- and ancestral-reflection. I meditated on my family history. I was the product of generations of strong but seemingly sad farmers on both sides — Norwegians, English, Scottish, and Germans who had come to America at the turn of the last century and had made many sacrifices to ensure the generations to come would have a better life. Life for me should have been much easier than for them, but why wasn’t it, at least not in my mind? The more I practiced yoga the more I sought answers until I was finally willing to admit the fact that my mother and her shadows were my shadows too, and they were scary. Not only had I been terrified that I might become my mother, I was terrified that a mother, any mother, could be capable of such behavior. I was protecting myself against my past and my future as a potential mother.
It wasn’t long after my self-discovery that I longed to come home and start living. After thousands of hours of yoga, marrying the man I thought I would never meet, and giving birth to a beautiful son, I see my life as a series of miraculous events. Each morning, often just before the sun rises, I peel myself out of my bed, I roll out my yoga mat and begin saluting the sun as it rises in the east in hopes of creating some new shadows for my son and his children.
It’s now been 20 years since I’ve had a panic attack. Although the depression continues, I work through it daily on my yoga mat — most days that works. My mother takes her daily dose of anti-depressant pills, and for the last 10 years I can’t remember seeing her so content. I love her patience and selflessness, and I strive to be like her more.
One day last summer, I was outside playing with my son and as the sun beamed down on our backs he pointed to our shadows on the pavement and said, “Mommy look, our shadows, they never leave us right? We are our shadows and our shadows are us, right?” Right.
Bob Marley said it well, “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.
Ashtanga, Iyengar, Viniyoga, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Power, Shakti, Anusara….
With so many kinds of yoga spreading around the world today it’s difficult to differentiate between what is good and what is not, what works and what doesn’t. If you ask a yoga teacher what style is the best, they will respond with whatever style it is they happen to practice. Many yoga teachers are confused on the differences between all these styles and many of us have never tried all of them, who has the time?
The important point made here by Iyengar is that all of the three main yoga’s (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Viniyoga) are simply branches of the same tree. These three styles were fed from the same bosom, they share a foundation, which is Krishnamacharya’s teachings. Many teachers get caught up in defining our styles and poo-pooing the other branches when in reality each style is working toward the same goal which is to identify the true Self and through this discovery we can begin to recognize the relationship this Self has to the outside world and hopefully begin to realize that the Self is not separate from the Universe. The Self is both the seer and the seen, the observer and the observed the subject and the object. Ideally all these forms of yoga are helping us peel the layers from our external selves in order to reveal our inner most Self so we may experience bliss. So please, pick a style and stick with it and let the yoga do it’s job.