About Me

I have long been interested in the transformative power of compassion, and the links between contemplative practices (meditation, yoga) and physiological and psychological resilience.

I was in Kosovo a few years ago, part of a team conducting mental health and psychosocial epidemiology, examining prevalence of depression, anxiety, and PTSD in the doctors and nurses in the public health system. Most had been in the country through the war, and many were haunted by their memories. I taught a short CBCT (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) course (which will be the topic of another post) and realized two things: the value of the ideas in that post-conflict setting, and the limitations of teaching meditation, without other techniques or information, to individuals who were coping with difficult emotions mostly by suppressing them. I began to think about ways to integrate compassion training with education about stress and trauma, and also with yoga.

I became aware, too, that I no longer wanted to focus my time on research. For seven years I worked at Emory University and at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on research of various types, but what energizes and inspires me is helping people transform suffering into love and joy. It has been the central journey of my own life, and where I believe I can be of the most help to others.

For the past two years I have embodied my interests by working with the Garrison Institute as program manager for its Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Project, which is an integrated program of mindfulness meditation, psychosocial education, and mindful movement for humanitarian aid and human rights staff. I have been coordinating and facilitating trainings in the United States, Ireland and Rwanda.

With my Emory colleague Tad Pace I established a theoretical basis for this work, as well as a framework for further research in this field, in a white paper entitled The Human Dimensions of Resilience, which you can download here.

The CBCT program holds a special place in my heart, and I am privileged to be part of a team that teaches at Arrendale, the women’s maximum-security prison in Georgia.

In 2012 I decided that it wasn’t enough to be a dilettante yoga student, and began to practice seriously at Ashtanga Yoga Atlanta, and then took Judith Lassater’s Relax and Renew teacher training. I undertook my yoga practice partly because authenticity matters to me: It didn’t feel right to recommend the practice to others if I myself wasn’t practicing regularly. And a Tibetan physician (amchi) had insisted on it, in a consultation after surgery for cancer. “Yoga is wonderful,” he said. “Everyone should practice yoga. But you must practice yoga if you are going to remain healthy.” And so I try. It has become a valuable complement to the meditation practice that I maintain in conjunction with two decades of study and practice in Tibetan Buddhism.

In 2015 I will continue to work with the Garrison Institute’s CBR Project, to speak about the program (upcoming speaking engagements are listed on the home page), to work in the prison, and to write, Tweet and teach at the intersection of compassion and resilience. I’m doing my best to address hard truths, and to do that with both honesty and compassion.

Some specifics: I hold an MPH in global health from Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. So I approach the field of contemplative science not only as a practitioner and teacher, but also as a researcher.

 

© 2014 Teresa I. Sivilli. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “About Me”

  1. What an inspiring background! And such a coincidence. I trained as an Ashtanga teacher 7 years ago and 2 years after that, attended Judith’s Relax & Renew course and subsequently stopped Ashtanga. I went on to teach a combination of vinyasa and restorative on mission to Gaza for 2 years. When I left Gaza, I trained and practiced as a Women’s Yoga teacher (flow/yin) but I chose not to teach as I felt less connected to the community I was in (perhaps less connected to myself too in coming home after more than a decade in aid work and perhaps as I returned to a childhood martial arts practice, which consumes alot of my energy and attention). Recently, I resumed a modified Ashtanga and restorative practice (not together). It’s such a blessing to be able to draw on all these tools. I don’t think I’ll ever teach again but the philosophy and practice of yoga inspires so much of what I now do!

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    1. Ashtanga has repaired my body after a full mastectomy and two reconstructive surgeries. By 2012 I had undergone eight surgeries in seven years. I am becoming strong again, and so much healthier than I was. I’m lucky that there is a senior Ashtanga teacher in Atlanta, someone who studied with Patabhi Jois and holds a daily Mysore class, so I could learn at my own pace, which was…slow. And I love doing restorative. I teach it as a gift to others when they are going through stressful times. And yesterday I had my first-ever reiki session! Loved it. It’s wonderful to find that we heave these common threads running through our lives.

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      1. Hi Teri, I missed your response a couple of months ago as I hadn’t logged into WordPress. How wonderful that Ashtanga was able to nurture you and that you’ve had access to a beautiful space in which to get strong again. I don’t recall hearing healing stories like this from the Ashtanga community. I remember it as being a quiet and mindful community, a place to find inner and outer strength as we each found our pace in Mysore. I was never a natural Ashtangi (if there is such a thing), rather it was the only style of Yoga available to me at the time in Doha, where back then the only teacher was an Ashtanga teacher. It was the opening to release so much emotional pain and that led to a massive life change. Thank you for this lovely connection here. I hope you continue to enjoy your Reiki sessions!

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