Who am I?

“… now sitting in front of me is a Yogi, confident and calm with her insightfulness of human nature and mindfulness. What a wonderful transformation. I look forward to more surprises from her in the future!” – Qigong Master, Robert Peng

Bios are tricky. They’re important: after all, I want to tell you who I am and you want to see if you might resonate with me. At the same time, all my experiences aren’t what this is really about. It’s really about the practice, the belief that we all come from the same beautiful and sometimes broken place. It’s about how, together, we can use certain methods and techniques to blast open the heart and propel our lives into the highest possible freedom. I too am on this journey, not cooked but simmering right next to you. The work I do is about showing up, not perfection. A common question is, “does our human experiences equal who we are?”

To me, a hardy yoga practice is partly about using what society or ego might tell us to hide — such as suffering — and partly about remembering that the moments up and down the hill are just that: moments. They don’t define us; they decorate who we are. In honor of that, below I am exposing my “decorations” in hopes you will see that we are not so separate after all. Maybe you recognize yourself, maybe you don’t. Maybe something clicks with you, maybe it doesn’t. Mostly, the value I bring lies in honesty, humbleness, and “no-bullshit!”

  • Raised in a New York Italian family, the youngest of six. Being the youngest, you’d think I would’ve felt enveloped at all times. Instead, it was a very lonely experience with many people watching and pointing.
  • At a very young age, I found myself to be more interested in listening to others talk. Rather than play, I chose to sneak over to Mr. O’Neill’s, an anthropologist/archeologist who lived next door, for his grand stories of adventure.
  • My Dad: a well-known drummer and hard-ass, bred me to sing and teach. He was part guru/part angry He created a revolutionary system for drummers, many who went on to become some of the most influential drummers of our time. Our home was often filled with huge talent and Dad’s lectures to students could have doubled as lessons in spirituality. My Dad was my first human teacher. Check out this one-minute video of him talking about success: Gary Chester
  • As a kid I was un-diagnosed (later diagnosed) with mild dyslexia and learning challenges. School? Not so easy.
  • At age 17, Dad suddenly passed away. Within two weeks I was in the hospital with spinal meningitis, near death and missing out on some of my senior year in high school. I faced a lot, gained a lot, and shed a lot during this difficult time.
  • The years that followed brought more difficult times, including Mom’s suicide attempts, my drug addiction and subsequent recovery.
  • After recovery I backpacked through Europe, eventually touring the world; singing and making records. Self-inquiry followed me – often giving me time to read books such as, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” in between sound checks.
  • Married, bought a house, and then divorced a beautiful friend.
  • A nervous breakdown found me moving away, leaving everything, everybody, including my career.
  • Made Freud laugh when I met and fell in love with a drummer.
  • Then Yoga found me and I began to widen my field of study to philosophies of the world, the human mind, theology, mythology, and psychology.
  • Ram Dass appeared. I finally glanced at my heart and life began to change. His words were songs I’d never been able to write. He became my second biggest influence and teacher.
  • Dedicated myself to full-time study – logging thousands of hours attending workshops and trainings in everything I could find that fed my interests: cadaver studies, meditation, asana, mindfulness, aging-death-dying studies, just to name a few.
  • Never intended to teach…but as students appeared, I was struck to my core when I saw the light in their eyes as they applied shared teachings and showed up just as they are. Discovered that guiding other brave and amazing souls propelled my own practice and further opens my heart. It was then that I realized that what I had been searching for was inside me all along.
  • Oh – and yes. I am a certified yoga teacher, whatever that means in yoga these days.

As I said, bios are tricky. Even as I write this, I think, what does it matter? But then the reply, like all good answers, arises as though it’s been there all along just waiting for me to ask: Who am I?

All of this — our experiences, our suffering…our lives as humans — is grist for the mill. It’s what we’re given as our own personal pathway to unveil who we truly are. We can choose to use our experiences, or we can let them use us.

Roshi Joan Halifax says it well – “It’s a deep willingness to step into our own delusions and to look at ourselves so self-honestly, so vigorously, and not to turn away nor to indulge.”

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