A path in the healing arts has always been there for me. My interest in nutrition and ‘what makes us tick’ started with an early awareness around the age of five and came to a head when I picked up a book on yoga in a small town hardware store during my high school years. That little book, with a front cover depicting a woman biting into an apple, showed how to do simple Sun Salutations and explained why eating ‘real foods’ leads to good health. This struck a chord in me. And I began practicing those Sun Salutations in a carpeted living room (before yoga mats) and worked to make money so that I could buy yogurt and vegetables, forgoing my mom’s heavy meat and Crisco-based dinners. This was before plant-based meals became a health trend. I also believed that we don’t have to merely accept dis-ease states. That we can do something pro-active—like consciously direct our attention to what helps. I always saw that the Universe conspires to assist us when we are open to It. Intention along with the best foods and herbs, especially during a healing crisis, can be powerful. Food is medicine and medicine is food and I’ve gotten through quite a few challenges on diet and intention alone.
My life has been one of great variety. I was born into a blue-collar, middle-class family with parents who lived through World War II and the Great Depression. They were heavy smokers who, like many parents of that time, provided scant personal guidance. They also divorced when I was a young teenager. Mom moved me and my sister from the Pittsburgh area to the rural Laurel Highlands east, not far from the West Virginia and Maryland borders. There I experienced the profound beauty inherent in nature and would often escape into the woods to witness the magic of Her flora and fauna. During this time, I also began reading Emerson, Thoreau, Ram Dass, Ouspensky, Madame Blavatsky–and as many writings from the mystics that I could get my hands on.
I left home at 17 and lived in an off the grid old Airstream, heated by a pot-belly stove with an addition built from logs that I helped chink and put together. I found the ‘old-timers’ in Appalachia engaging with their story telling. And I appreciated their simplicity. Cultivating the land around the Airstream, I grew all sorts of vegetables that I would eat, share, and preserve. Being in nature and living rurally was amazing for me, yet I also craved to become academically educated and expand my circle of friends and broaden my knowledge base. Sitting by the fire in the old Airstream, I applied for admission to college, figuring out the application process myself. And began the study of psychology and anthropology along with conceptual physics which led me to a degree in education and years in the teaching field. I didn’t mind the 45-minute drive ‘down the mountain’ in and old jalopy which I bought with my waitressing tips and often had to look under the hood to make sure that it would get me safely to school and back– I got satisfaction out of working on car engines too!
But doing well in college wasn’t enough. I also had a hankering for travel. And worked in the evenings and on weekends during school semesters, saving enough money so that I could experience adventures– like driving to Alaska, camping along the Alcan highway when it was still gravel road for over two thousand miles. Or spending a summer in the high mountains of Colorado, far away from the Appalachian hills that I so loved, where I celebrated in the woods around campfires with new friends.
After graduating with a bachelors in education, I moved to Boulder, Colorado with less than $300 cash looking for someone to teach me yoga. I initially stayed near Naropa Institute, having befriended some of the folks working and studying there. For 18 months, two to three evenings a week after teaching school all day, I took classes in eurythmy, which was part of the anthroposophic medicine developed by the holistic educator and founder of Waldorf schools, Rudolf Steiner. I incorporated those skills into my classroom as well as into my every day. And when I needed to think and find quiet stillness, I would walk far into the foothills, reveling in the magic of the Rockies. In Boulder, I met people on the spiritual path and hung out with folks who had spent years in India with Ram Das’ guru, Baba Neem Karoli.
Mid 1980’s found me back in Pennsylvania where I began graduate school and worked as a graduate assistant majoring in Literature. I also took a semester of study in Oxford, England after having the opportunity, back in the states, to study the healing effects of herbs, taking classes in iridoglogy– a way to diagnose maladies through the eyes. Though English Literature seemed a far cry from what would later be my path, I managed to relate the esoteric sciences into my studies. For example, I wrote a paper comparing American Renaissance writings to Eastern classics, like the Bhagavad Gita. And my master’s thesis incorporated tenets from Sankhya philosophy that is based in Vedic knowledge. During my time in England, I visited ancient, mystical places that related our deep connection to nature and the heavens.
After receiving my masters and graduating with honors, I moved to an ashram in Florida where, for twelve years, I started a family, taught in private and public schools and practiced meditation under the guidance of the teacher. Ma Jaya’s lineage was connected to Baba Neem Karoli, the guru who Ram Das made popular in Be Here Now—a book that I stumbled upon shortly after doing Sun Salutations on that carpet more than a decade before.
It wasn’t until I left the ashram over 20 years ago that I began an interest in ashtanga yoga and Ayurveda. Though I had already been practicing hatha yoga, I had known little about Ayurveda, its sister science. Fortunately, I found ways to deepen this path by seeking out, then studying with amazing teachers in the U.S. and abroad in the yogic and Ayurvedic sciences.
Now I am in the seventh decade of life and I am still learning just as I am reminded that it takes practice and determination to keep moving in the healthiest direction, for living the modern life of stressors and dramas and distractions can easily pull us from our centers. I understand that inspiration is gleaned from being around those on the path of consciousness. Boarding numerous airplanes, hiring drivers in foreign countries, and navigating remote territories in the U.S., I would find inspiring teachers to study with, in person. Simply by being in their company helped me to pass on these timeless teachings and traditions with authenticity.
I have immense gratitude for all who work alongside me during this incredibly complex journey. And am reminded that there is, indeed, an intricate connection between us, Nature, and Consciousness Itself. In fact, we are Nature and we are Consciousness.
To paraphrase a paragraph from my graduate thesis inspired by the pre-Shakespearean play, Endymion: By helping pull each other up, we can all attend to the greater awareness, this greater consciousness, together.
Besides having an undergraduate degree in education and a masters in Literature, Parthena keeps up her yoga certification, is a licensed body therapist, and an Ayurvedic practitioner recognized by The National Ayurvedic Medical Association.
Parthena recently moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina from the Pacific Northwest along with her husband and cat. She loves nature and travel, but really enjoys hanging out with family and friends and drinking tea whenever she gets the opportunity.
United States education: Pennsylvania State University; California University of Pennsylvania; California College of Ayurveda; The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
*Licensed Massage and Body Therapist (LMBT North Carolina License # 21576)
*Registered Yoga Teacher 200 Yoga Alliance #87074
*Certified Ayurvedic Health Practitioner recognized as a professional member by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association
*B.S. Degree Education
*M.A. Degree Literature.