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.
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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
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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-Can you tell us what your book is about?
One may believe genius, fame, and wealth bring happiness. That was not my experience. My mother, sister of George and Ira Gershwin, and my father who invented color film were the primary models in my childhood. Growing up with such talent as I did, I learned early on that it distorts values. That was my first lesson. I turned my life around when I met Enrico who was to become my husband and partner in life. We moved out to the wilderness and met with many obstacles while raising a family. We turned all the apparent false values of the social system inside out and then had to face the consequences.
During those years I discovered my own truth, a journey that took me inward to body sensation, an inner experience, rather than looking to authority or others for answers. Perhaps most importantly was how I found my boundaries, my authenticity and my voice, which led me to find meaning in my life and a meaningful way to help others.
-Why did you write your book?
It was an urge that had no direct path. I just knew I had a story to tell and hoped others would find it valuable. In a sense it wrote itself.
-What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?
I believe that my message might inspire and inform readers how to shift from turning to others for answers to finding one’s own truth within.
Learning that you are the utmost authority on being human was huge for me. And finding out thinking is not reality was at the bottom of it all. I had to turn inward, to the inner experience, to feel when I looked for an answer. I prefer to hear from people’s experience rather than to read a how to book and I hope my journey will provide such a context to others.
-Who influenced you to write your book?
A good friend who teaches writing at UCLA said to me, “You have such an interesting story to tell you ought to write a memoir”. Her suggestion confirmed an impulse I had been holding, which was to write how being part of such a famous and wealthy family was completely at odds with my finding a wholesome life and then the challenging journey I took to find it.
I joined my friend’s weekly writing group and found it daunting as I listened to the other professional writers read their pages. After months of feeling painfully inadequate I stopped participating and wrote the rest of the book at home. Luckily my friend was very encouraging and without all those listeners I realized I was better off working on my own.
-Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?
I first self-published my memoir and sent it out to other publishers.
I found someone who would do PR for me at a given cost. Since they were also a publishing company and liked my book, I asked if they would publish mine if I paid for the printing. It has been a mixed experience.
-Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?
There were times I felt an uncomfortable sensation in my belly as I wrote challenging parts of my story. I believe my belly was telling me that what I was writing was either not genuine or off center. My desire to be authentic pushed me to rewrite whatever was necessary to go to a deeper level that allowed both authenticity and integrity. Sometimes the sensation was there and I had no idea why but I had to rewrite until it disappeared.
-What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?
I would bake something.
-Which holiday is your favorite and why?
I like Thanksgiving because I love to cook and love good food.
-If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?
I would go to a really good but quiet Japanese restaurant
-What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy cooking and writing my cookbook. I love technology and am on the computer a lot reading the news as a break from my writing.
I also love my animals, three German Shepherds, four cats and lots of chickens.
They all roam freely on our property out in the national forest.
-Can you tell us about your family?
My family of origin was full of genius and trouble and I tried to create a new paradigm with my current family, one of wholesomeness and integrity.
The life my husband and I created in the wilderness felt like an antidote to society and its apparent pitfalls. We home schooled the kids and ran into serious trouble when they entered their teenage years. My world turned upside down. We lost one of our three children in an accident. I have spent my life trying to find my own voice and have written about it in my memoir.
-What do you like the most about being an author?
I like having to be authentic and real and that challenge is equally a part of my life.
-What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?
It took many years to write, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin. In some way I felt I had a hand at my back that pushed me through the whole process. It was very hard work but for me there was little or no resistance. You really need to want to do it; if there is any doubt I imagine the process could be agonizing.