We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Klein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Happiness or joy has always been one of my biggest sources of personal fuel and in recent years, it’s taken on new meaning and renewed importance. Unabashed laughter truly is medicine for me and science backs that. From releasing endorphins to stress release to a bonding mechanism, laughter plays a vital role in thriving. Through graduate school, building my career and overall “adulting,” I lost my everyday connection to joy and laughter. These days I prioritize joy as much as I do the “more serious” aspects of my career, parenting responsibilities and social justice advocacy. It allows me to keep going, to keep creating and taking action toward a world re-imagined. Being fully present in the “everyday” moments bring me the most joy. From noticing the delicate flowers growing along my neighbor’s fences on my daily walks to watching the stars from my balcony to conversations with my son to evenings playing cards with friends with good music in the background… my heart brims with joy and it spills into every facet of my being. To do all I do, joy must play a central role and I joy seek daily to stay fueled.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
All the spokes of my work stem from the same hub, consciousness – raising. Between my feminist education and praxis as well as my mindfulness and meditation practices, two things that converged in the mid – 90’s, it was clear that raising consciousness and taking action from this place of newfound clarity was key. From my personal coaching and consulting work to my 17 years as a college professor to my writing and speaking to co-founding the Yoga & Body Image Coalition in 2014 as a community platform to amplify the work of individuals being overlooked by large-scale publications and other media gatekeepers, I am firmly committed to doing the deep inner work in order to become agents of sustainable change. As a sociologist, I recognize the larger social fabric that binds us together. As an intersectional feminist, I am constantly informed by the layers and nuances to our personal and collective identities and experiences. As a meditation and yoga practitioner, I know that I must not only unravel the stories in my head and the collective lies I’ve learned as a member of this society but that I must access the truth in my body. It’s not just about learning and un-learning. It’s not just about intellectualizing and understanding. It’s about being and taking action to create and re-create as needed as informed by the beliefs, values and insights we’ve gained. Welcome to your wholeness. Welcome to your full humanity as it connects with the whole of the world. This is the foundation upon which I do my work with my 1:1 clients and my students. This is the foundation upon which I continue to do my own inner work in order to serve.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love Los Angeles and I love having the opportunity to take people to some of my favorite spots. While things look different right now because of covid-19, over the course of the week, a few staple visits to eat would include:
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I love a good shout – out. It acknowledges the power of community, mentorship, powerful role modeling and collective resilience. In fact, the very reason I devoted myself to the work of individual transformation for collective liberation and conscious action toward those ends was because of my first true mentor. I knew I wanted to teach and be taught, mentor and be mentored as well as learn, grow and share in community in every facet of my personal and professional life because of the power of that experience. While there are countless people to list, including my own grandparents, parents, friends, mentors, teachers and my own students, the catalyst was my first Sociology professor, Pat Allen. I walked into her “Sociology of Women” class at Los Angeles Valley College in the fall of 1994 at one of the lowest points in my life with zero clue on who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. The powerful, whip smart and unabashed woman at the front of the room blew my mind and stirred my heart. I trusted Pat far more than I could ever trust myself at the time. What I didn’t know is that she in turn trusted me far more than I trusted myself. She gave my thoughts and words opportunities to be seen and heard; she gave them a place to land, witnessed and held… and she gave them value. She saw me as a capable and smart. She saw me as a leader. And eventually, because I trusted her, because I believed in her…. I began to trust and believe in myself. And here we are, 24 years later with immense gratitude and humility.
Photo credit: Melanie Klein heart wall by Sarit Z. Rogers All other images credit to Diana Feil.