Hi, this is Nikhil and Shelly coming to you from Chicago with The Shelly Story. We wrote a book and are currently working on a movie about our journeys with mental health, specifically bipolar disorder. As an offshoot of that, we’ve developed a podcast called The Shelly Story, where we speak to people from a broad variety of backgrounds about diverse issues, most notably mental health.
We’re very excited to speak to today’s guests, Mytrae Meliana. We had met her through a mutual connection Tanushree Sengupta, host of The Desi Condition, on which we had both appeared. Her story just blew me away. I mean, I saw so many common threads and what she’s gone through and what Shelly and I have been through in our journey, that we absolutely just had to have her on the show, so we’re very excited that she was willing to share some of her time. I’ll tell you a little bit about her background.
Mytrae Meliana is a holistic psychotherapist, trauma specialist, women’s empowerment and divine feminine teacher, channel award winning author, musician, sound healer, and speaker. Her mission is to help women heal from trauma, liberate themselves from patriarchy, and evolve to their divine selves. She has empowered hundreds of women individually and in workshops and programs to find their voice, truth, sole purpose and connect with the Divine Feminine. She is the author of two books, one on spiritual healing, and the other is her memoir of overcoming trauma. It’s called Brown Skin Girl: An Indian American Woman’s Magical Journey from Broken to Beautiful. And she lives in the Portland area.
So Mytrae, it’s so great to have you again, if you can maybe tell us a little bit more about yourself and your story maybe beyond what I’ve shared here.
Well, it’s really a pleasure to be with be here with both of you. Thank you for having me. Yeah, I mean, essentially, I grew up in India, and my family moved to the US when I was 16. And embarked on just the delicious freedom and opportunities of education that are available here are 22, very briefly, I fell in love with an American man. And then my family found out.
They took me back to India, saying, if I went back for three months, and I still wanted to be with Him, they would allow that. But once I was there, they essentially took everything from me my passport, wallet, green card, everything and put me under house arrest for a year. And it was a really dark time, they also took me to a swami who there’s just a lot of brainwashing and shaming of being sexual or being a woman of, of just following my own freedoms and choosing my body and my life, essentially.
So I was severely traumatized after that, and was numb. dissociation is one of the outcomes of especially long-term trauma, and I was disconnected from myself, I couldn’t feel. So once even though I was able to escape after three years, but even though it was quote, unquote, physically free, I was still emotionally and trapped. And I didn’t know how to return to the 22-year olds. And in therapy at the time I was unfamiliar with, it wasn’t part of the Indian culture.
So I didn’t really know what it was about. And it would be many years later, when I was 39, that I actually decided to leave an emotionally abusive marriage with an Indian man, and just strike out, leave the family leave the marriage leave the culture, because I felt like the culture had just really not done right by me as a woman and not given me the right support. It was so completely unfair and abusive, that I just broke from it all and decided to go to graduate school to become a therapist. I had never been in therapy at the time, I had just gone to this free 6 week group at the YWCA for women who had been sexually abused, and met with a counselor for about a month.
And that was such an eye-opening experience. Because it was then that I realized that I wasn’t bad. But that I had had that I had been abused. And it was a huge eye opener. And from then on, it’s just been this beautiful climb and journey of healing and empowerment, becoming a therapist and then you know, my work and just healing a lot of personal healing and growth from there. So that’s my story in a nutshell.
I’d like to hear a little bit more about the cultural implications or the cultural aspect of your journey because I think it’s so important. And, and as we were talking before, that really plays into the story that Shelly and I put together, which is, how much did culture impact our identity and our goals and what we really wanted out of life and what we thought of as the best versions of ourselves.
Because I would tell you that what we think about it right now is extremely different from what it was when we got married 21 years ago. So we talked about on our podcast, we’ve talked a lot about the double edged sword of Indian culture. Because obviously, as a group, I think South Asians have done very well in this country. And when you look at the top executives at the top companies, most of them are a lot of them are Indian. But then there’s also as we know, there’s pressure, there’s this impossible standard, there’s this, the dark side of the collectivist culture, which is, it’s great to have this community, it’s great to have friends, it’s great to have family who all sort of are on the same in the same community, the same team, but at the same time that leads to impossible ideals to live up to it leads to this need to suppress everything and just put on a happy face and just really live this false life. This avatar that’s really not in line with reality. So I wanted to understand a little bit more about the cultural aspect and how that played into your journey.
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with everything you said. India is a traditional patriarchy. And so we are, we are living over sort of steeped in centuries and centuries and generations and generations of patriarchal thinking. And I know you’re speaking as a man, but I think, for women, it is hugely detrimental and hugely harmful. Because there’s this sort of code, it’s not just a social code, but there’s also religious code that’s on top of that, which says a woman is supposed to be obedient. You know, a woman belongs to her family, a family and then to her husband.
So a woman really essentially never belongs to herself. Duty, the concept of duty and self sacrifice. And these are the stories we sort of get as children from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, just the women sort of dutifully bowing their heads and following on the servient subservience, yeah, never really choosing themselves. And on the other hand, we have these amazing images of the powerful goddesses like Kali and Durga, and queens who are warriors, but there’s that just such a gap. And so there isn’t that bridge between how does a woman choose herself there, I grew up not knowing I could choose myself, I just, even though I was given a lot of education by my family, it was always a marriage was the end goal in and then once I was numb, I was I couldn’t quite think out.
So outside of that, that the trauma made me believe that I couldn’t have what Western women had. I can literally was not allowed to have the opportunities to become a woman in the fullest sense. Whether it’s in my body is my voice, my power, my sexuality, and career as well. I just felt the trauma was a huge sort of dampener on everything on top of the cultural codes. And the tremendous pressure from the family, like you say, to look a certain way to be this person who’s a doctor engineer law, I mean, it’s like, it’s like, it’s so formulaic, like who you can be to be accepted by your family, and approved of, and now as children, we grow up, like our, our love for us depends on the approval and belonging to our family.
And, and so it’s a very deep conditioning that we naturally want to, to fit in, we want to belong, and it’s, it’s really hard to sort of leave to break from the group to break from the culture, because then where’s that other group do you that you join, because on top of that, there’s also looking at other cultures as the other. Right? Like, for instance, the West is can often be considered a dangerous culture, because they’re going to contaminate you with thoughts and ideas, potentially that are harmful to the Indian culture to the Indian group. So if you don’t have a community that is all friends who are also sort of on the outskirts of questioning, it’s sort of a solo journey and that was my I didn’t have many people I was journeying with.
India and Western culture is such an interesting dynamic, because with India, I mean, obviously India became a free country in the 40s. And none of us grew up under colonial rule. But it’s interesting to think that a lot of that trauma from our ancestors is almost handed down. And I think that plays into a lot of it is just that we hear the stories, or we reread the books.
And it’s almost like we feel that, that sense of other that sense of oppression in our in our DNA, and that can really shape and I think, and I’m sure you’ll talk about this a little bit, is that that probably plays a lot into the cultural distrust of psychotherapy, is that it’s a western concept, and you’ve talked about this elsewhere is that it’s this not for not for us, basically, it’s this western or thing, it’s for the elite is for people who can afford four sessions a week of sitting on someone’s couch, right?
Yeah. And you know, everybody, also in Indian society, we look to our family, for that support system, we look to them as our own therapist within our family, and we don’t look outside that realm thinking that maybe unbiased perspective, and third party can be really beneficial. So I think there’s a huge block there we’re from a family of four physicians, so highly educated family, but yet not even right now. But years ago, there was such a block and stigma with psychology and psychiatry, and tremendous amount of labeling that occurred.
And it wasn’t even something that was said outright, necessarily, it was just kind of embedded, like you guys made a reference to our ancestors and how that came across oceans, or those kinds of beliefs to Western society and growing up in this country.
Absolutely, yeah. And I think the other piece is that there’s another angle of spiritual superiority, where we were supposedly an ancient culture, so we know it all. But when I was living in India, as an adult, for seven years, and going through my life, I realized that there was really an emotional block, like a blind spot about the emotions Indians are brilliant, intellectually, and very spiritually, but in the emotional realm that’s for psychotherapy is so beautiful and powerful.
And if we could bring everything together then it’s the best of both worlds is an East meets West. And I think, yeah, I think that that’s where we’re all heading. And we just need to set aside these other othering. And like, what can we learn from each other? And bring it home to ourselves? Because what’s the point? If a child commits suicide out of what is what good is your family name or your status or Yeah, or where you went to college, if you really, exactly what’s really important is your child’s happiness important, or how you look might look as a parent and you know, the people you are looking to, to sort of give you approval? It’s so it’s a very misplace thing. And I think as generations go by, we will clear that.
And I think another component is a lot of people who are suffering, as well as their elders and loved ones are operating from a place of fear, or fear. Yeah. And so that really holds them back. Tremendous. Yeah, yeah.
And there’ll be saved my life, I will just eat his, it was extraordinarily helpful. Because to be able to speak about things that hadn’t spoken about, and to be heard, and listen and be allowed to feel my emotions and not be the usual response of don’t talk about it, or things are pushed under the rug, there’s so much denial, and we learn to repress our own feelings, because it’s not okay. But the permission to feel I mean, it’s real health, and even science has proved the relationship between emotions and physical health, that when we suppress our emotions, we don’t process them, then they live in our body and they, they turn into physical illness. So even from a scientific perspective, there’s reason to do that.
Yeah, I mean, this even comes towards human sexuality, female sexuality. I remember being raised, it was a very healthy household, but at the same time I was embarrassed by my body of the child because your body’s developing and that people are gonna I started to wear baggy clothes to try to hide myself and that’s not that’s not good because that confidence and respect for myself and self love is really lacking. So I feel like there’s such a stigma with sexuality, talking about it and being open about it. that even it’s there to this day, it’s almost along the lines the same as the mental illness.
Absolutely. It’s a huge taboo. And that’s a huge part of my work. It’s been the the key reason for my trauma, and I don’t understand why it is because sexuality is a life force. I mean, none of us would be wouldn’t be here if our parents hadn’t had sex. And so what’s its if you just put a little thought behind it, what’s wrong about it?
No. But what’s so interesting about it also an Indian religion, I don’t know, if you’ve been to a Aurangabad. You know, and see the caves in Ajanta and Ellora. It’s literally like, the Metropolitan Museum of sexuality. You know, I laugh about it. Because this is this is so funny, because when we took a tour of the caves in Aurangabad, back in 99, our tour guide was explaining to us that they don’t teach sex ed in schools in India, they just bring them to the caves and show them the different positions to come like, “okay, that’s a little bit of a different spin on it.”
But at the same time, I mean, just with the culture, you would think that it’s so embedded in the fabric of you know, who we are, that it should be more widely discussed. And, and I guess that kind of leads me into my next topic is, I mean, how has that dichotomy played out? Because in your life, because you were raised in India, you came here when you were 16? Went back for?
Was it seven years, you said, you were living Indian? There’s been an interplay, I guess, going there, and here and back. But the way I look at it is it’s interesting, because we are a we’re our culture. And our history is very rich and deep in spirituality. You know, if you read the Vedas, if you read the Upanishads. There’s so many sadhus in the Himalayas that have so much inherent wisdom, and yet at the same time here, when we come here, it’s just about push, it’s almost like we’re pushing that aside. It’s not like I wouldn’t say it’s embarrassment, necessarily, but it’s like, we have to conform to this new normal, which is very “stiff upper lip,” very individualistic don’t get too caught up in the fray. I mean, how has that played out in your life? And the reason I’m asking that is, it sounds like now you’re embracing it a lot more. But is that the spirituality is that more of a recent construct.
I think we’re all spiritual. You know, I think it’s just, we just we just are, whether it’s joy, or beauty, or play or being in nature, we connect with that. That’s just who we are as human beings. And as a child, I, for me, Mother Earth was my spirituality I just connected very deeply with trees, and rocks, and animals. And I felt just as resonance of the sacredness of all it’s just something I knew it was just normal to me. And the music when I studied music, music was my sect, my spirituality, it’s like I went into higher states.
And then sexuality to sexuality was very spiritual for me. And that takes me back to Tantra, which is really this ancient Indian science and art, not just of not just the Western Tantra, but Indian Tantra, where everything is sacred. And in that tradition, there is no dichotomy between the spiritual and the sexual. It is one, everything the universe is born of desire, and of the union of the masculine or the feminine.
And every moment, everything that exists is in this constant dance and lovemaking of desire and ecstasy. And that’s just as if you get to the very core and the essence of being that’s who we are. And that is something that that’s something that I teach, but that’s in India, but way way back, which we’ve sort of pushed underground because it’s taboo, because we’re not allowed to talk about it. But coming back to your question, yeah, I, and then I did study Vedanta for several years. When I was taken aback, I just, that was a path that was introduced to me and I thought that’s all there was. And it took me many years to realize how much that path was divorced from the body.
And from the feminine and from sexuality, because it was very much about the head is very, it’s a ascetic path. It’s about transcending the body leaving the earth. But there’s another stream of in Hinduism of which is Tantra, which is the feminine, which is everything is sacred, that nothing is not sacred and embrace it here now, and be it here now. Where there’s no separation, nothing is taboo, nothing is wrong, nothing is bad, except our own judgments of it.
So I think I’ve always been on a spiritual quest as a student, and just learning and have been fascinated by different religions. And I think you’re right. When I first came here, I was like, nobody’s talking about religion. Like in India, it was like, the in every shop, you go, there’s a little agarbatti, or flowers, and there’s prayers, and just even in the speech is like, may God be with you, and it’s just must have in your past life. It’s just such a normal conversation embedded in the conversation, right? So it had to be put aside, and it was, it was strange for me. But I think now I’ve sort of integrated it back and reclaimed it.
Yeah, and what’s interesting now, and I always laugh about the concept of appropriation, right, because this is stuff that we’ve been exposed to, basically right out of the womb, about meditation about sound, primordial sound meditation about chanting the mantras and stuff, and now it’s just become this. It’s become this fad and it’s just, I think, there was one example that was just that just blew my mind where I don’t remember which company it was, but they actually had Ganesh sandals, they literally had sandals with a picture of Ganesh on, which was like, so wrong on so many levels. But I guess if I can back up a little bit, I wanted to understand because on your website, it talks about that you practice holistic psychotherapy.
Can you take us a little bit through your journey as a psychotherapist? Because it sounds like, initially, your practice was more centered around conventional modes of psychotherapy, and it’s evolved quite a bit since then. Or have you Has it always been sort of the iteration that you’re practicing currently, like, take us through a little bit of your journey with holistic psychotherapy.
Sure, so I went to a school that was very mind body spirit, which is holistic. And that school was actually founded on Sri Aurobindo, its philosophy. So it was this perfect meeting of east west where the school was based on these principles of Mind Body Spirit. And it was called integral psychology, which is really everything again, it’s like, nothing is left out, there’s nothing that’s not sacred, it’s nothing that’s not human, and nothing that’s not to be valued.
So I started, which was important to me to have a spiritual bent to the school I went with, so I didn’t go to a traditional Western psychotherapy school. So right from the start, I, I did that. And very soon after, it seemed like my work, I was taken both personally and professionally into new areas, most of my, my clients didn’t need medication, they were more high functioning, but they needed help with, whether it’s trauma or anxiety, or depression, or relationships, or, and so on a family healing for family.
So it was therapy in a deep sense of, really, let’s get into inside you and what it wasn’t, it wasn’t CBT or surface therapy, it was more depth oriented therapy, where we, you really sort of understand what’s an underlying cause for pattern or behavior, as well as self-exploration. And that grew very quickly into incorporating some spiritual work like past life regressions, and energy healing. And, and then my work evolved into groups, so leading groups for women, women’s empowerment groups, helping women find their voice, find their power, their sole purpose, and so on.
And because of my own journey, it’s interesting how it’s sort of been this dovetail with spirituality. At the same time where I started opening up to working with spirits or rather they started working with me, I’ll say that and it was there were presences in the room where clients would say, we feel this or this is happening, kind of things which would shifts would happen very quickly.
And I don’t even have words to say, or for an explanation to say what’s happening, but what I know for certain is that there is so much available to us so much help available to us from this higher world, in the realm of healing, in every realm, actually, that if we’re open, they are able to come in and help us and work with us. So that’s developing that relationship started occurring. And so my work is now that it opened up into sound, I was guided to start using sound with the balls and voice and that was an exponential shift.
Because once people’s huge shift started happening with sound, and things people would, that would take people three or five years, within three to six months, they would move through it. So it was the work really accelerated and much more was possible. And that led me to realize this one on one work is great. But what I really began to see that the power of sound is that it is so simple and so effective. And to me, it hit that spot of I don’t want healing to be only for the elite. And that would sound I saw a way for everybody to receive healing for free. Or at least or at a very minimal rate.
But, and I was always I’m thinking India, I always have like, how do you how would I help people have grown up with who didn’t have I’ve always heard that people haven’t had access to therapy, or don’t even know what therapy is bringing women my work with, we have?
And so with sound, I found the answer, that it is a very powerful modality, which I think transcends the whole cultural and religious barriers, which is very exciting, that it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to believe anything you’re not. There’s no dogma, there’s no teaching, you just experience it. And east west, or whatever, whoever you are, you feel it and you can receive the benefits of that got me really, really excited about sound and vibrational healing in general.
Do you find that people are starting to be more open, and they’re evolving to these types of therapies, or they’re really just stuck into the traditional side of things?
I think I think it’s moving really fast. I feel like the world is just accelerating, especially with a pandemic, I think people have been confronted with maybe I don’t need to think this way. And maybe I can open up to something new. And with sound, there is no barrier. So I think it’s a lot of people are embracing alternative healing, which sound is.
So you know, when I helped Nikhil, and I helped save his life and everything, I had my own epiphany. And I realized it was the most beautiful feeling in the world, to help another human being, whether he was going to be my husband for the future or not, time will tell. But at that moment in time, I just, I felt such gratitude and such joy in his wellbeing and his ability to come back from all this with my help, as well as with his own drive.
And so I really told myself at that point I want to go into health care, and I want to help other people, I want to find a way. And it’s amazing, because when the timing is right, your universes, people just come in your path. They come in your path, and you don’t even know what’s coming, and you’re not even looking for it. And it just happens. And it sometimes happens so quickly and easily and seamlessly.
And I met the CEO of the company GIOSTAR, and we are very close, we’re like family at this point in time, I met the Chief Scientific Officer, and they’re just the most wonderful people humanitarians. And so then I started talking about launching the center in Chicago and start helping people through the use of their own stem cells with a lot of these degenerative conditions for example, with Lyme disease and things like that. And so, I’ve really kind of we’ve evolved the center and really sort of understanding and starting to embrace even other holistic approaches to healing and other modalities when it comes to mental illnesses like with in a kill situation, and bipolar disorder or depression. Also, when it comes to sort of a lot of these degenerative conditions there’s our way that and so that’s starting to come up out and people are starting to really respect that there’s psychedelics, with mental illness and mental conditions.
And so, that is kind of my evolution and I feel like sometimes he would have to endure such hardship and pain. And you’re in that moment, you’re going through everything and you don’t even, it’s very hard to look beyond the pain at the moment. And you’re always wondering, at least I was, “why is this happening to me? I played my cards, right? I did all these things. I tried to be a good person.” And you never realize it until later, that answer appears.
It’s such a powerful story. Such a powerful story. Yeah, I love what you said about, there’s no better feeling than helping people. Yeah, I mean, just you were born for this, then one of the things.
So I got Lyme, just out of the blue, I was sitting with a client and just have these horrific symptoms, just like, like a switch got turned on. And I didn’t know what it was what hit me. And I consulted with a line specialist and just changed everything my diet is doing these herbs and all kinds of, I mean, I was in the Bay Area. So everything, I threw the kitchen sink at it, homeopathy and, and I, also being a therapist, I also I’m also coming from India that knew there was always a root cause to the physical, which is not physical. So I did my emotional work around. And what I arrived at was that I wasn’t in my power as a woman, that I had always sort of been a people pleaser serving.
You know, whether it was my husband or the family, like I was sort of bowing to somebody other but I wasn’t in my power. And once I got that, it was like a light bulb went off for me. And it’s like, when I heal that, or at least if I go in the direction of healing that this will clear. I just knew it, it was crystal clear to me.
And but as part of that I went to a center in Brazil, which I’ve shared with you about it was spiritual healing center where, and in Brazil, it’s there’s a, there’s a, there’s a tradition called Spiritism, where it’s very common that doctors work with mental health people work with the mediums, the in fact, they have the three buildings of the same compound, where they all treat the same patient on different levels. And it’s fascinating.
But there I was, my symptoms went away in the worst symptoms went away in two days. And after a year, I was my Lyme doctor said don’t come back and see me. Because he said, your dog just take these herbs for a few. And my symptoms really, really went to reduce. So how
How long had you been living with Lyme disease at that point,
Three months with really intensive symptoms. It was like almost hard to function, it was really severe debilitating. So it was radical for me. And also, I received this own emotional healing. And that opened my eyes to there is another way for all of us beyond what we know of Western medicine, beyond what even I know of Indian medicine, have I only just like this, this thing with the spiritual realm was eye opening. And you know that that center people have been cured of cancer, people who couldn’t walk could walk again, people, all emotional issues, depression, alcohol, drug recovery, all different kinds of things were being cleared.
And so I went back every couple of years. And, of course, I got tremendous healing, but I was also sort of being opened to the possibilities of spiritual healing. And that was, that’s where I’m at now. And since then I have evolved to becoming a channel which is still a little hard for me to say that. But they’re these are very real things.
And I think indigenous cultures are not, they’re not alien to indigenous cultures. It was, it was really an extraordinary experience. And this is some this is this is common in Brazil, like it’s very, it’s a very known thing that you can go to a medium and they work with beings on the who have passed to helping beings coming to help or provide guidance.
And you know, it’s not always going to be like a wave of the one like it’s sort of worse for me, but it means a lifestyle change. It means you know, addressing the emotional issues it means your emotional work so whether it’s you know, really sort of taking ownership and responsibility for your for yourself for your health for your life.
Um within relationships is there, you know what needs to happen there for me, I had to sort of forgive, forgive, yeah what my experience and those, those are very key I think of those are very key links to physical health. And when we do that when we’re ready to do the work, and when we ask for support, that’s when it’s given, it’s not sort of we said it’s late sit back and say, it’s done for us, it’s never just done for us. But we have to be willing to put in work.
It’s difficult because people are not necessarily motivated to do the work. And they’re not humble enough necessarily to look at the emotional component of their disease, and how that really plays a role. Right. So I think past that barrier, and somebody’s really understanding that is probably really huge for when you see a lot of your clients, I’m sure.
Yeah, it is. And, and I’ve, and the people come to see me are also sort of Mind Body Spirit. I mean, I don’t do CBT and those kinds of things. So they’re very open.
What are some of the common ailments or conditions or situations, what is the most common type of profile of the clients you’re working with?
Well, I’ve had a lot many women come to me and men come to me for for trauma. So I use a modality called EMDR, which is a psychotherapeutic modality. And that’s, that’s been really powerful for them. I’ve also had women come for anxiety, or depression, or struggles with their families, or, and also just personal growth, people just come from personal growth. It’s not, it’s never just something’s wrong, but it’s like, I really want to grow, I want to, I want, I know that there’s a better life for me. So now my work sort of shifted a little bit more into that.
But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t healing, because I think of transformation is always a healing component as we grow. So do those just in the psychotherapy, that’s been what they’ve come for. And people have come with physical illnesses as well. And wanting to know, what is the underlying cause. So in that the comms thing, there are people who are ready to look at the emotional cause. And so then we can really dive really deep and uncover and heal those root causes. And invariably, there’s a change, there’s a shift. Because it’s all connected. It’s all connected.
And you’re right, that it’s it is hard, it takes a lot of courage and a commitment, it’s much easier to say, “oh, I wish I could just take a pill, or even exercise.” But that emotional work is harder, it is much harder, and but it’s so powerful. And once I started adding sound, then it became a very supportive experience as well, where it was, it was like sound just sort of like a wind, it would move things through faster, they didn’t have to work as hard. And so I found that to be extremely beneficial.
How is your work been received by some traditional allopathic doctors or just Western physicians? I’m just curious, because with us with stem cells, I mean, it’s a mixed bag, there are some physicians who are a little bit more progressive, more enlightened, and they’re willing to give it a second look, a lot of them just sort of turn up their noses and say, “Oh, where’s the data? Where are the clinical trials? This is all just a placebo.” In your experience, like, with psychiatrists or clinical therapists, what is the general feedback you’re getting from that community for your practice?
Well, I don’t think they quite understand it. You know, I mean, I have worked occasionally from now and then with psychiatrists for with some of my clients. But in all honesty, I don’t share when I know that somebody’s not open. That’s not the point those another people I’m trying to reach. I’m not trying to convince anyone. I’m just here for the people who are open and ready to receive what I do. So I’m here to educate if somebody’s open, but if they’re not, it’s just a waste of time and energy.
So what would you say if you could talk to your 22 year old
“Don’t get on that plane!” (laughing)
I think I would tell her specifically about that experience, I would tell her that our sexuality is one of the most beautiful things about her, and that she owns her sexuality. And no one else has a right to tell her what to do with her body, who she’s with, or her life. That to cut that she has a right to choose herself. And nobody else needs to get in the way, or should get in the way. And if they do to just walk away, run, run.
And that feeling shame doesn’t mean that she’s shameful. Difference. Big difference. Feeling guilty doesn’t mean she’s guilty. Because there’s so much of cultural you feel guilt, and I didn’t have that differentiation, then. So those two things I would, I would say, and once one’s being taken aback,
I would just say trust what you know, and love. And don’t listen to the others. Trust your intuition. trust what you want. Yeah. And don’t listen to what others try to tell you. Because your ways your own way. And only you can live your life, nobody can else even knows what your life should be like, or or you are you are the liver of your own life. And so don’t listen to others’ voices, or deadlines, and speak up, speak up, speak up.
One of your really powerful statements or advice is that you talked about the how important it is to choose yourself. Can you talk a little bit about how you’ve applied that to your life, sort of in your evolution with that phrase because obviously, this isn’t something that you’ve necessarily adhere to all your life. And a lot of that is owed to the patriarchy and subservience that we talked about, but can you talk about how you apply that? Choose Yourself philosophy to your life, and also maybe how listeners can apply this perspective to their old life.
Sure. So I grew up with parents who are very, very strict. And my mother is a narcissist. So that what that means is that everything was about her. And so I grew up thinking love was pleasing her and taking care of her and giving her what she needed, that nobody was really taking care of my work, I needed emotionally school and food and all of that, yes, but on a deeper level that was there. So I didn’t know how to choose myself.
So I sort of grew up as a people pleaser, and a caretaker that to me, I defined that is love. And so when I did get married to a 24, to an Indian man, I just, that’s the pattern I fell into. I thought love meant his ambitions were more important than mine, and three meals a day on the table, and it’s just it was sort of this formula.
Tend to according to a template, basically, right.
But when I left, left the marriage when I started questioning, because I wasn’t unhappy. And I would say to listeners, if you’re not happy, if you’re feeling stuck, if you’re feeling like something’s not quite right, or you feel on some deep level, there’s got to be more to life than what I’m living now. Then begin to question everything.
You know, question what you’ve been told, question, the beliefs you’ve been grown up with? Question, who’s been telling you what to do or what not to do? What you should do? And what would you suppose to do? You know, question all the formula that you’ve been given about what your life is to be like, and take some time to really sit with yourself and ask yourself what’s important to me?
What does my heart want? What does my body want? What makes me happy? What makes me excited? What makes me feel alive? And what did I remember love Do I love to do as a child and to get in touch with that joy, that freedom? It might be a very different path of life than where you are and life does that it kind of takes us on detours or down wrong turns and but here’s just a detour you can always get back and the answers are always within.
So if somebody is listening is a people pleaser, or caretaker: choose yourself and start with small things. You know, it might be just giving yourself 15 minutes or half an hour a day to do something you love. Like maybe it’s to paint or hike where you want to go or do something just for you.
And once you start giving to yourself, as opposed to giving to others, that’s food for yourself, it’s nourishment for yourself. And when you nourish yourself, you’re nourishing your body and nourishing your soul, you nourish your spirit. And that’s when you, that’s when you get happy.
And when you follow that, just keep following, adding to that, and start surrounding yourself with people who wants you to be happy, who wants you to succeed, who wants you to have the best life that you want for yourself, not what they think you should have.
It’s choosing especially I think, women from South Asian cultures, it’s like, we’re sort of indoctrinated with, you’re supposed to give your life for for some of the cause. But no, we are mothers, or, there’s so many ways we don’t choose ourselves, or we betray ourselves, maybe it’s a work we don’t want to do, but think we’re supposed to do, right.
I mean, I was just gonna say relationships are such a vital piece of this, because in my experience, personally, I could be on all the right medication I could have the best cognitive therapist, but if I come home, and I’m being and I’m continuing to subject myself to those toxic messages, and I’m continuing to adhere to that false narrative that my worth is defined by what is on my business card, or my worth is defined by how many trophies my kids racked up…Then all the medication and all the therapy in the world is going to be for naught. There’s just there’s really no value.
And I think there’s no if we’re to look at a pie chart, in terms of like, which piece of the pie is most important, I don’t have a magic formula. But I would say they’re all part of that same success formula, they all have to be in place, it’s just and you can’t have one without the other.
So I mean, I’m really glad that you’ve been able to find that find peace and healing in the relationships that that you’ve cultivated. And you know, you have so much wisdom, and I think it’s just so enlightening to hear you talk. And there’s just so much resonance and alignment there with what we’re all talking about.
I wanted to understand what has been helpful for you in terms of teachers that you’ve found a lot of value in terms of their in terms of their messages in terms of what wisdom they’re imparting, and maybe if you could share some books or insights that you’ve gleaned from some of the teachers and authors and other wise folk.
Well, I remember when I was in graduate school, when I was studying to become a therapist, and I was just, I was really torn up inside because I had spent so many years sort of thinking my body and sexuality were bad after being taken back to India. And I remember reading Sri Aurobindo, and he, this was the first spiritual book that talked about tantra. Because I had always heard Tantra is bad, don’t even read it.
And so it was just this taboo, it’s just an opening up to anything that sort of affirms your body, body positive, sexual positive, I think, because a woman’s power comes from her sexuality from the world, and affirming that is so important to us. So that was, that was those readings, I remember, it’s really valuable.
Of course, most of my psychotherapy, readings were just great as such. So I just drank them. And so I so soak them up. There’s one book in particular drama of the gifted child that I loved, which really helped me see that how much parents put upon children, and how much the child is not seen. But they sort of forced, whether it’s overtly or covertly in subtle ways to become who the parent wants the child to become. I think it’s Alice Miller. I am not 100% Sure, but drama of the gifted child is the title. There’s another book, finding the true self, which is, which is another book like finding who you truly are, which is a really good book.
Tell us about your book.
Yeah, I was gonna say I want to add a title to this called Brown Skin Girl you might be familiar with, so maybe you could tell us a little bit about that woman?
Well, that’s my memoir. So it’s my journey. And black and white of you know, from childhood to where I am today, and it’s a journey of trauma. Yeah, it is a journey. It’s a journey of triumph of healing. And it’s a journey of an Indian woman and What I experienced as an Indian woman the goodness of education and that privilege of that, but also the extreme shaming, and, and treatment of that. And I think what you talked about breaking free, breaking free from patriarchy from family, choosing myself. And I think that is our power when we choose ourselves, outside the conditioning, when you really listen to ourselves, uniquely, because we’re completely unique.
I think education sometimes makes us become can make us like be very formulaic, but following who we are, is is, is so choosing myself and my, my path to healing and finding love again. Yeah, so. And I think I see it now on our, on the battery, you have, like, I thought of myself as a broken woman, I just really do think of myself as that way. But I think it was reclaiming, and I don’t mean external beauty, but like feeling beautiful on the inside.
That is something every woman deserves to feel, I think I just want to say to people that the divisions that we’re often given of culture, of religion, of gender of politics that just manmade divisions, because essentially, we’re all human beings, if we were to sit down with almost any person, perhaps, and just get to know them there is so much, we’re all beautiful, and nothing and no one should keep you from knowing how beautiful you are, how powerful you are, how amazing you are.
And there’s always a way out, however dark, a space may be how challenging a space, maybe there is hope there is help. And especially in this time, where there’s so much available on the internet, and people and possibilities. There is a way and above all within yourself and your spirit. That part of you knows how to find his way out. And through.
This has just been an incredible experience talking to you and you have just tremendous amount of wisdom. And I find your whole story, your whole story, just such a beautiful, inspiring journey that I hope people read your book and can learn from you, as you have evolved and grown into this incredible person who was always there even inherit 22 year old self, but just didn’t come out quite yet.
So you know, I really hope people open their eyes and ears to what you’re doing and really appreciate everything that you’re doing for society today and how you’re making such a difference in people’s lives.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much this is beautiful to hear. And I thank you both so much for having me. And I just love what you’re doing, and the change that you’re creating and all that you’re giving people. So it’s been a delight to speak with you. Thank you,
Likewise. So I have put up here on the screen. These are the two websites that people if they’re interested, they can find out more information about you and the services you provide. Is that the best way for people to engage with you? Or is there any other view on different social media channels?
Either way, my websites and their social media information on the website. So either way they can reach out to me. Yeah.
Perfect. Perfect. And you’re in Portland, Oregon, so not right now you’re in? You’re in Hawaii and we’re all very jealous. But yeah, during most of the year you are in Portland. Okay, well, thanks so much Mytrae. It was so wonderful talking to you. And I’m sure our listeners this will really resonate with so many of our audience. So we’re really so grateful to you for joining us. Thank you.
Thank you, Nikhil. Thank you, Shelly.