ellengMy earliest memories are filled with plants. My parents were both gardeners and my father is a landscape architect; at 85, he is still planting his vegetable garden this year. My mother had a deep understanding that we should be out soaking up and exploring the natural world. I first lived in the Midwest and then for a few years in the dry high plains of West Texas, an ecosystem completely opposite to the green hills, streams and rivers with which I'd become familiar.

My mother, intent on giving her brood reprieve from the dusty plains, gathered us up and drove each summer to a magical valley cared for by the Puye natives in New Mexico. My first herb walk took place during one such family vacation. Mormon tea, bearberry, juniper berries and piñon, 12 plants in all: I pressed their leaves into my first notebook walking along the cliff-dwellers' trail.

My tour through different ecosystems continued after college, when I moved to the Cascade Mountains and worked for a brief time for Dr. William Kelley, who had cured himself of pancreatic cancer. Kelley understood that different individuals were of different metabolic types, and that poor and metabolically mismatched diet was a primary contributor to disease. Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez arrived from Sloan-Kettering that year to study Dr. Kelley's controversial protocols and review his cases.

While living there, I also had the opportunity to host and spend time with Daniel Bensky and his wife, who were completing his first TCM materia medica translation. Dan provided me with more information regarding constitutional differences, and offered great encouragement to continue pursuing my interests. I began treating my own symptoms with western herbs and pored over herb books.

After four years, I accepted a job in the Midwest and then transferred to the Bay Area, working in a number of corporate positions in the telecommunications industry. For several years, on weekends, I studied with Barbara Brennan, Dr. M. Mamas and with a number of elders, shamans, mystics and poets. I also pursued extra curricula in Core Energetics, Diamond Heart, Pathwork, Hakomi, Continuum, energetic anatomy and physiology, and massage.

Over the years, I found many references to Ayurveda and felt immediate and great affinity for its holistic approach. After a class in its basics, I had the blessing to literally bump into Dr. Vasant Lad one summer at Mt. Madonna, and began my Ayurvedic education in earnest. I felt completely at home. I graduated from formal Ayurvedic programs in the U.S. and in India, a land that continues to live in my heart, where I interned in panchakarma clinics. My teachers have been enormously generous and encouraging and I have abiding gratitude for them. It has been a gift to have so many of my interests merged together in this ancient system of healing. I began an Ayurvedic and panchakarma practice in Northern California over a decade ago and it gives me great joy to share it with others.

Having referred to Michael Tierra's books for many years, I enrolled at East West in the spring of 2009 to expand the number of global herbs I feel proficient in using. The education of an herbalist is life-long, and the mutual support and sharing at East West is simply wonderful.

In addition to Ayurveda and Herbology, I also love spending time with my beloved partner Phil, hanging out with our sweet dog Pico, spending time with my family and hearing them laugh, immersing myself in poetry, travel, sustainability, being in nature, reading the works of Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi, and Ramesh Balsekar, witnessing the play of light and dark, and observing the infinite forms of beauty.

I also teach classes and write a newsletter offering Ayurvedic information and ideas. You can visit my website at http://www.vitalityandbalance.com/

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