When I was about 10 years old, I decided I would be a psychiatrist.
Not because Bob Newhart played a psychiatrist on his show–which I absolutely adored. But because I thought and thought and thought about people’s problems and I thought I would be able to make them better. I was a co-dependent in training.
At some point I realized that a psychiatrist is a doctor–which meant a lot of math and science- Out of the question. So I forgot about that idea and pointed myself in more artistic directions. Music, dance, theater, art, writing. I got my bachelors in experimental theater. In a not-so-obvious way that funneled me directly into a life in yoga.
I loved teaching yoga. I took it very seriously: I studied the philosophy almost every day, learned anatomy: meditated, breathed and did the postures often two or more hours a day: and eventually in 1999 opened my own yoga studio named “ Mama Nirvana’s New Yoga.”
From 1999 to 2020 I founded, owned, and co-owned three different studios which won “best of the Valley” nine or ten times. At some point I lost count. I taught teacher training and co-led retreats internationally.
In 2008, I had been restless for several years already. I had so much in my toolkit after those years of dedicated self-development, but the yoga world wouldn’t offer me the audience for all of it. Then, the economy took a nose-dive and I woke up to the reality that relying on yoga to support me was not entirely wise. I needed a plan B.
Feeling, like just about everyone else, somewhat freaked out about the predicted collapse of life as we knew it, I was open to guidance.
It came from a remarkable astrologer. A close friend had found him through another friend. She urged me (very strongly) to get a reading. As she is an older, practical Yankee lady, this advice was so out of character that I had to do as she told me.
This astrologer only worked this way: Go to website, fill out form, pay, and wait for recording to arrive by email within 48 hours. (Try to remember how dodgy this seemed in 2008.) I didn’t expect much from this exercise. I figured this astrologer would have a repertoire of not-very -specific narratives that he would recycle for his never-to-be seen clientele.
What I received knocked me to the floor. The scene: it’s very late at night, and I’m sitting in my office, in the dark. I’m lit by the glowing computer screen and I’m listening to the low, odd voice speaking to ME–to my soul in fact. The voice tells me everything I always knew about me but didn’t really know, until another human being is saying it all to me, in words and language rich with meaning, and so kind, so compassionate. I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my cheeks. Relief, recognition, truth.
I’d like to say I heard the words “you should be a hypnotherapist.” That would be too tidy and new-age. What I was told was: “You will never be happy trying to attract large groups of people to you… don’t expect lots of people to share your profound relationship to yoga. Over time the world will become more and more superficial. You won’t be happy in yoga much longer. Except if you find a few highly skilled people, do yoga together, and everybody gets high. You will be much happier working one-on-one. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that it’s one-on-one.” In so many words, fly under the radar, woman.
I did the thing I always do: research. I looked up “occupations” on the Department of Labor website. I scanned down the list of possible occupations: Accountant, animal trainer, arborist…manicurist, Too many noxious chemicals, requires patience with nasty people, so out. Massage therapist? Too much competition. Hard on the hands. Out.
Paralegal? House cleaner? Dog groomer? Financial planner?
I had long thought about being a meditation teacher, but that would have, at the time at least, require long stints in some asian monastery. I had yoga studios to run, an ageing parent, and a husband. Also, it would require gaining a following: another popularity contest. Definitely out.
The impulse to teach meditation had been strong. One thing I already knew was that the results I had gotten from my meditation practice had taken many years of silent retreats, study and practice. In fact, to some degree, I had organized my entire life to accommodate this. I also knew that most people do not have the time, motivation, privilege or native ability to do as I had done.
I kept looking at the list until I spotted “hypnotherapist.” Well, that was something I was willing to do. I thought I might be able to use some of my skills there. Paid pretty well. Not much competition in my area. OK, let’s do this thing.
Again, I did what I always do: more research. Most of the hypnosis certification programs I found were disturbingly brief. A weekend or two. Five days. Correspondence course. It seemed to me that the job of messing about in someone’s subconscious mind should require much more training and experience. Oh dear. I had hoped to find something credible.
There were two trainings that did require a significant commitment of time and money. One was at a resort in the Bay area of California and the other in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I chose the one in New Mexico because I would be able to camp while there, which would be economical but also because the idea of Santa Fe was even more exciting than the training itself. In June of 2009, I arrived at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in Santa Fe.
My time and experiences in the Southwest, both during and outside of training, would fill an entire book. I had expected the training to be deadly dull. What little I knew hypnosis involved repeating scripts over and over again. Nonetheless, I thought I would find a way to work my creativity in somehow later on. I was wrong of course, and I found that I was in the exact right place for me, doing the exact right thing.
After my first 250 hours of hands-on supervised training, I began my private practice. That was in July 2010. As of this writing, (March, 2021) I have received approximately 500 hours of clinical training and have passed the 10,000 hour threshold doing hypnosis with clients in my practice.