Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Nadia Natali: 'This has been a lifelong journey for me on many levels not just as a writer.'

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook. 
Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.



About the Book:

Growing up as Frankie Gershwin's daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn't have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the
cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn't what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn't have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.


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Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?                      

I am a dance psychotherapist. I use the somatic, the sensation of an experience, rather than the story to help regulate my clients’ nervous system. I love to dance, cook and read. We have three dogs and four cats.

When did you start writing?             

I actually found writing a challenge until I enrolled in a Ph.D. program later in life, for somatic psychology where I had so many papers to write that it all came together for me.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?
Learning to be authentic. Learning how to put down what you really feel. This has been a lifelong journey for me on many levels not just as a writer.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?               

I would stay home. I live in the wilderness and it is so peaceful and nurturing. I have my husband and our animals all taking care of themselves but always available.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?                      

I would work on my new cookbook, and cook some yummy meals, visit some friends. I don’t really know until I have it in front of me and then something shows me where and what I need or want to do.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?               

Given the kind of work I do would have an internal setting, introspective rather than a particular place.

Back to your present book, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, how did you publish it?                   

I first self published then looked for someone to do PR. The agency turned out to have a publishing company and I asked the publisher if he would be interested in publishing with me if I put out the funds for the printing.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?         

Yes, I traveled inside since it is a memoir.

Why was writing Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, so important to you?

I felt I had an interesting story to tell others that might be of some inspiration to them.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?              

Most ideas come from more what bubbles up than from looking for an idea. A memoir requires a looking in from an open place to find what wants to be revealed. Then there are sensations that come along with the memory telling me whether I am being genuine and faithful to the story. 

Any final words?       

This writing process is a somatic one and not too different from my work with clients.

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