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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Q: Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? When did you come up with the idea to write your book?
A number of years ago a good friend who teaches writing at UCLA said to me, “You ought to write a memoir you have such an interesting story to tell”. I’d been thinking of it and her suggestion confirmed my impulse to write. I joined her 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.
Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
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.
Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
Initially I self-published then I sent out the book to various agencies. The agency that took my book was also a publisher, Rare Bird Books. After our initial agreement I asked if they would publish my memoir if I helped fund the printing. They agreed and revised the whole book. They did some PR but it was not enough. They told me recently that the distributors and bookstores really like the book but no one knows about it. Few people go in asking for it. My publisher said I needed to get out and sell it to people. I have no idea how to do that. I am not good using social media and needed to find someone to help me
Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
My first book, The Blue Heron Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center, was published by North Atlantic Books. I was disappointed with what little effort they put out to publicize it.
Q: What other books are you working on and when will they be published?
I am working on anther cookbook called, Zafu Kitchen: Recipes for Better Health.I may self-publish again.
Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?
The memoir reveals how the values of our society cause deep discontent and is fundamentally contrary to our deepest hopes and needs.
Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?
Fame and money are not a good formula for happiness. I grew up in a family with great fame and with plenty of money. As a young adult I distanced myself from them in search of a more wholesome life. In my journey I learned that personal integrity, authenticity and inner authority were my means to a much more satisfactory life. I was surprised to find that the most effective way to uncover these attributes was through the somatic, the internal sensations, rather than through the thinking mind.
About the Book:
Title: STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: GROWING UP GERSHWIN
Author: Nadia Natali
Publisher: RareBird Books
Author: Nadia Natali
Publisher: RareBird Books
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.