1. What is your full name?
Clarisse Valerie Lula
2. What was your favorite activity as a child?
I liked being in the woods around my house, building forts, searching out frogs, skipping rocks on the stream with my dad. It was a whole other world for me! I also built little towns, mostly farming communities made of twigs, branches and stones, around the base of the tree next to the tennis court my father played at with his friends. And I rode horses.
3. What job did you have in high school?
Nothing really. That sounds pathetic and I wish there were jobs back then but there weren’t in my town. After high school I went back to my hometown in western Pennsylvania and worked in a small bridal shop for all of one day. I was bored to tears. Then I worked for Fed Ex for a couple months. I was covered in black and blue from loading boxes onto their trucks.
4. What is your most embarrassing memory?
5. What is the best vacation you have ever taken?
There are two significant trips I made, and many others because I got to travel around the world for the work I did. But I’ll just describe these two.
First, I followed the path of the conquering Ottoman empire from Istanbul to Romania. My parents came from Romania as a part of the diplomatic legation to the US. They became political refuges when the Communists consolidated power in Romania after Yalta. Anyway, in Romania I met my maternal grandmother and my aunt, as well as a number of cousins. This was before the fall of Communism so it was scary, mostly because I was afraid of what would happen to them for having me around. There were spies everywhere. From Bucharest in Romania I went to Budapest in Hungary and then up the Danube to Vienna. It was the first time in my life that I truly felt happy and free.
On the second trip I went trekking in Nepal for 6 weeks by myself. The last camp I slept in on the way to Everest was at 16K feet and the next day I hiked up to 19K feet. It’s the only time I took meds for altitude sickness and I wouldn’t do it again. I loved the trip because I felt empowered by it. I also spent several weeks in the Tushita Monastery above McLeod Ganj in the Indian Himalayas where the Dalí Lama lives. I was there the year he won the Nobel Peace Prize and I was perched in a small meditation hut with a balcony overlooking the town in the distance and heard all the preparations for his return including the Tibetans dancing and singing.
6. What makes you laugh out loud?
My husband is very funny and he frequently makes me laugh.
7. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I have had a significant meditation practice since the late 80’s with some great teachers and have done easily over 30 retreats of a week to a month long. Recently a colleague who is a psychiatrist asked me how I overcame some very significant difficulties in my childhood. She thought it was psychotherapy and that did help but the truth is it was my meditation practice that transformed my life.
Another accomplishment that my husband urged me to include is that in my 40s I switched careers from being an economist to become a psychotherapist. I always loved psychology and started reading it in my teens. As a social scientist my path started in understanding the outside world and then evolved to the inner world.
I’ve been a psychotherapist for 19 years now. I’ve helped many people change their lives, individuals and couples. I now practice an experiential therapy called AEDP which brings the body into play and leverages advances in neuroscience into the psychological realm. But I also have a traditional psychodynamic and relational psychoanalytic framework.
Before that I was an economist and my proudest accomplishment in that part of my career was co-founding an environmental consulting firm and leading a team of brilliant professors to design a new type of transportation and urban planning model which was selected by the FHWA and EPA over competitors from all over the world. That model I’m proud to say led to the transformation of transportation planning from an engineering to a household activities-based model.
I’m also proud of practicing yoga for over 30 years and doing it at a level where most younger people don’t realize I’m not as young as them. I’m also proud of finding a way to accommodate my injuries and still be able to practice yoga. Actually I’m delirious about this! And I feel good about accepting that I can only do what I can at this point in my life. But I am still very strong!
8. What advice would you give to your younger self?
I worried way too much. Most things in my life worked out. I’d go for what I wanted sooner that I did.
9. What would you like people to remember about you?
I’ve helped a lot of people as a psychotherapist and I’d like to be remembered for that. When I think of them they brings tears to my eyes. The compassion I’ve had with them and the ability to help them make sense of their lives has transformed people.
When I was 28 I laid out a vision for my life which had 6 things I wanted to do including research and writing, publishing, teaching, owning a business, consulting in finance, strategy and economics, and doing nothing. I have accomplished all of these things. I have one last thing I want to do that isn’t on that list but it’ll be done, too.
10. Why I practice at MPY…
There are a lot of reasons I practice a MPY. It’s very convenient in that there are a lot of classes to choose from and the cost is more than fair. The style of yoga suits me in that it’s strenuous enough and moves along, it reminds me of ashtanga which I practiced for a long time. The length of the class at an hour class adds to its convenience. The teaching philosophy really emphasizes that each of us should go at our own pace, rest if need be. Overall it doesn’t set up a competitive atmosphere for me. But the very best thing about MPY are your teachers! There are some folks that I’m really drawn to and most yogis know that it’s the teacher that keeps you coming back.
Marin Power Yoga makes me feel strong and grounded at 65. I really love the teachers I’ve connected with. And most of them have been so supportive of the injuries I’ve sustained in over 30 years of yoga practice. I never feel embarrassed that I can’t do what younger people are doing! That’s a real blessing. Thank you!