My Story - by Leela Devi
My call to the path of leading change and feminine empowerment began at an early age. I clearly recall the mesmerizing introduction to Athena in fourth grade geography class. In Junior high school, I refused a second year of home economics while convincing several friends to join me in The World of Manufacturing, an unprecedented selection. During college, my major was dance but exuded a greater passion for stagecraft and lighting design – areas completely dominated by males.
After college, my professional theatrical career found me working as the Master Electrician at the Iroquois Amphitheatre in Louisville, Kentucky. Next, I joined the Shreveport (Louisiana) Little Theatre as a set construction carpenter, scenic artist, and lighting designer. I also worked for Shreveport IATSE Local 298, becoming the first woman ever on the men’s load in and out crews. I eventually settled in Chicago working in many of the large non-union professional theatres and dance spaces as an electrician and all-around stagehand, lighting designer, and touring production stage manager. At the time, very few women were employed on these professional crews.
Between gigs, I found work at one of the largest metaphysical stores in the country, Healing Earth Resources. The owners and co-workers became my adoptive family and we’d often gather for vegetarian meals and drum circles on Lake Michigan. As an out-growth of that connection, the women began an exploration of the Goddesses path, gathering on new moons, solstices, and equinoxes. With my expertise in theatre and dance, I became the natural leader for this group. The feeling of being a Goddess lit me up and grabbed my soul… a deep longing personified, re-awaking the connection to Athena.
I reached out to others who were likewise inspired and attended a retreat lead by Native American Elder, Ed Mc Gaal, and Feminist Zusanna Budapest. It was at this gathering that I met the sister of my soul, Sara Hollister. Sara and I were ecstatically united and soon began facilitating women’s gatherings and drum circles. At a Native American gathering, we met a pipe-carrying community Elder, Doris Anne Hayes, who became our Reiki Level 1 & 2 Instructor, and our gifts as healers were activated.
A few years past, I discovered yoga. This was exactly the way my body longed to move and I was soon studying regularly with Swami Vishnuprim at the Sivananda Yoga Center. We often chatted about vegetarian meals and healthy living. It was here I was pushed to excel and participated in all offered programs including satsang at 6 am daily. Shortly after, the new director insisted I enroll in the yoga teacher’s training course.
Five months later, I moved to California and resided in a tent at the Grass Valley Sivananda Ashram for one month while completing my TTC Certification. The following year, I enrolled in the Evergreen School of Herbal Medicine in Placerville, California studying with Candis Catin while focusing on western herbalism through the methodology of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Three years later, I was ordained as a Minister of Pastoral Counseling, allowing me to legally diagnose, make herbal medicine, and perform ceremony.
A woman in my herbal studies program introduced me to a women’s toning circle in Sacramento where I found my tribe! These women became my soul sister family and I occasionally led the circle as my path as a healer continued to deepen.
Along the way, I acquired a beautiful black cat named Shadow, creating a need for a pet communicator. Barbara Mariano entered our lives and became my Reiki Level 3 Instructor.
Seeking to deepen my meditation practice, I spent 10 days in a silent retreat at the Vipassana Center just a few miles away from Yosemite National Park. Beneath the surface, there was a longing to speak in my first language – dance – which lead to the discovery of a 5 Rhythms dance meeting. Freedom of expression, no steps, a silent meditative ritual, I became an avid student of Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythm’s WAVE practice, dancing with the tribes in Sacramento, Nevada City, and San Francisco.
Accumulated birthdays fueled a desire for more stability so I enrolled in a Master’s degree program for Education and Teacher Certification at National University. Upon completion, it was time to return to Louisiana to care for my elderly parents.
Back in Louisiana, I taught high school during the day and classes in yoga and meditation a few nights a week, then accepted an offer to teach public speaking and sociology at Career Technical College. One of my greatest joys was raising student’s awareness in societal roles which created the oppression of women and the horrid inequalities that have been acted out against women for centuries. A continuation of my quest to bring the spirit of change to women, I aspired to hold an open door to create a new world view based on women’s equality.
I soon enrolled in the Feminine Power Coaching and Facilitation Certification Program and am excited about the possibilities opening up with the universal reach of this program.
In closing, I look forward to sharing these collective skills with women, guiding them to open up to the infinite possibilities in their own soul’s purpose and manifest their deepest desires.