Mindfulness and Yoga Teacher, Volunteer, Santa Cruz, California, USA

Beth is the woman you just want to sit near, remain quiet, listen and soak up her wisdom and calmness. But then she surprises you with something out of the left field, like the answer to question #12. I admire her multitudes and variety of interests and pursuits. Beth is inquisitive and asks questions of herself and others. She is interested in helping the elderly move properly to prevent injuries, and teaches teens in juvenile homes to help express/release frustrations through movement and mindfulness practices. She also stays at one with nature through hikes and yoga. Who do I want to be when I grow up? Beth Riley.

1. Name.

Beth Pettengill Riley.

2. Where is your hometown?

Santa Cruz, California.

3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?

Somatic Movement Activist, Continuum, Mindfulness and Yoga teacher, Workshop and Seminar leader in human transformation.

4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?

While in Yosemite Valley as a 17 year old on a school retreat we saw a film called ”Buddhism, Man and Nature” that likened the movement of life to water in a stream that takes on a thousand different forms and shapes itself according to the environment. Shortly after I started my intensive study of Yoga and transformative Continuum Movement with Baba Hari Dass and Emilie Conrad respectively.

5. What did you study in school?

English Literature for my undergraduate degree, education with a specialization in Dance for my graduate work resulting in a Masters in Education from Stanford University.

6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?

I am so much calmer!! I feel grateful for the bio intelligence of my human body to teach me every day about the magnificence of life, to which I have access to through my own feel sense of my lived body. I am doing what I love and touching people’s lives with meaning and purpose more than I could have ever imagined.

7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?

When I got divorced from my first husband and left a spiritual community I had helped to start. I felt that my life depended on me making a change and I didn’t know how to do it. After spending five years crying and rolling around on the floor, finally I felt the calling to follow what I love.

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8. Advice for other women?

Never give up. Trust your own heart and connect with other women.

9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?

We must be skillful in our use of power and compassion in equal measure. Strong voices are needed – but the ability to radically collaborate is truly the strength of women. We can do this together!

10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?

Yosemite Valley, being in the deep granite silence.

11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?

 I love to sing and play a guitar. I am moved by music, especially women’s folk, soul music. I think I must have been an Appalachian bluegrass musician in another life.

12. Who did you want to be when you were little? and What do you want to be when you grow up now? Future goals/challenges?

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a dancer, definitely a dancer! A ballet dancer actually.  Then my ballet teacher at age 17 said I was too big and would never “make-it”.  I quit for about five years and finally went back to it, received my Masters in Dance at Stanford and taught at the college level for over two decades. I continue to dance in my living room!! The other option was a singer. I had a rock n roll band for a summer and realized the lifestyle wasn’t for my cup of tea so I took up Yoga! That was 1976!!

When I grow up I want to be a poet and a writer. I love the idea of capturing the preciousness of human life through the lens of poetry which somehow drops me underneath the chronology of a story line and more fully into the experience and richness of life itself. I love the promise of a poet’s life: days spent in solitude and quiet, immersed in the sense of the moment and capturing its essence in a surprising way.

As for my goals, I am currently writing three books. My goal is to finish the first by June: A Moving Inquiry: The Art of Personal Practice. The other two are less formed in terms of a timeline: The Whole Health Handbook for Teens and the other is Somatic Faith: Living in the Body as a Sacred Process.

Challenges: finding the time to write and finding an interested publisher to encourage the process.

13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome? Fear of being “full of myself”! I want to write and put my wisdom into a form for a wider audience.

14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?

I suppose I should have saved more money but I dove into Yoga and the spiritual community life and was never interested in accruing much.

Actually, not really.

I love where I have landed as a result of all the twists and turns!

15. What inspires you?

Nature, beauty, great soulful folk and bluegrass music. Women.

16. What are you hopeful about?

What’s happening in the House of Representatives right now, in 2019, with the strong female leadership.

I am also inspired by how many young people want to live a life of meaning and have taken to Yoga, which is the start of living fully in their embodied selves.

17. What are some ingredients to a good life?

Having open time and space to walk in nature, cook, roll around on the floor, laugh with friends, practice meditation, read a good book in the afternoon before or after a nap.

Follow what has heart and meaning.

18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Don’t worry. Be yourself. Try to speak up even when you’re scared. Your perspective matters to the future of the world. Trust your intuition.

19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favorite reads?)

“The Inner Wisdom of Yoga” by Stephen Cope, “Move your DNA” by Katie Bowman, “If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging” by Sharon Blackie and “Life on Land: The Story of Continuum, the World Renowned Self-Discovery and Movement Method” by Emilie Conrad

20. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description? What would you tell them if you had an opportunity, of why you admire them?

My best friend, Bonnie Gintis, a courageous woman in the face of the unknown. After being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, she made it nine years after given only two. Bonnie, your mix of wisdom and vulnerability are astounding and opening to my little heart!

My sister Martha Gillespie, who had more than her share of health challenges. She is always there for her family, neighborhood and her animals, all while monitoring her need for selfcare.

Susan Harper, my mentor and colleague in Continuum who has given me so much inspiration and home for the past 30 years as I navigate the unseen waters of depth psyche and embodied truth.

21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?