The Story Behind Stairway to Paradise by Nadia Natali


This memoir is about my bumpy journey toward truth and authenticity with the hope that those of you who read it can glean some value.

You may believe fame and wealth bring happiness. That was not my experience.

My mother, sister of George and Ira Gershwin, and my father who invented color film were the primary models in my childhood. Growing up with such talent as I did, you learn early on that it distorts values.

I unwittingly set my brilliant father up as an authority figure, even though he was terrifying and unpredictable. And because the family dynamic was unhealthy I didn’t know whom to trust or even that trust was possible, especially in myself. Later as a young woman I turned away from my background and looked to teachers and professionals for the truth. It took some time for me to realize that their expertise could only take me so far.

After one false start and then another I found a caring partner, Enrico, whom I initially turned to, believing he could impart a way for me to find my own direction and answers, as he seemed to have found for himself. What was so radical to learn was how and where to look. What I learned was going to sensations in the body rather than the thinking mind was where the key to change and transformation lay.

We married and moved out to the wilderness where we faced floods, fire, rattle snakes, mountain lions and bears. In the years it took to build a house we lived in a teepee. We tried to create our own paradise where we raised and homeschooled three children.

Our life turned upside down when the kids became teenagers. Paradise crashed and my relationship with Enrico deteriorated. The grown children struggled to find a place in the outside world. We faced tragedy and I, cancer. This was when my hard earned ability to experience the somatic (inner experience as sensation) helped regulate me and provide me with a chance to find authenticity and authority, as well as a more mature relationship with Enrico. I was able to use this inner working as a way to help others, which I call DanceMedicine, a healing through movement.

We are still living in the wilderness and offer workshops and retreats to anyone who is interested.

About the Author

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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