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Mary Cattan ’60: A Mission to Write

Mary Turner Cattan ’60, a psychotherapist and spiritual director, published her first book, Pilgrimage of Awakening: The Extraordinary Lives of Murray and Mary Rogers, in June. The biography follows the lives of two missionaries and their transformation into proponents of interfaith dialogue. We asked Mary a few questions about her own journey . . .


How did you choose your career path?

Graduating from college in 1964, I was blissfully unliberated, too busy tending to my firstborn to delve into Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique (1963) or to consider I might have a career path beyond matrimony. Yet that first calling—raising four children—was challenging and deeply satisfying. By age 40, I had learned that human relationships are much more complicated (and fascinating!) than I had ever imagined. Experiences of loss and failure propelled me to wake up and to learn as much as I could about the intersection of human psychology and spirituality. It led to my second calling—chosen much more consciously—as a spiritual director and psychotherapist. Awareness and life-giving human connection—with oneself, with intimate others, and with the loving, life-giving energy of the universe (that some might call God) became my passion. It was that passion, driven by curiosity, that led to my writing Pilgrimage of Awakening.

Did you have any teachers at Walnut Hill who influenced your passion for writing?

Actually, my passion was for the story that cried out to be told. Writing, which I find incredibly hard work, was the necessary vehicle. Of all my teachers at Walnut Hill, Miss Clark challenged me the most to develop writing skills. She was a very quirky, old-fashioned teacher. She had us reading James Joyce, and her writing assignments were tough. As was her grading! No messing around in Miss Clark’s class!

What advice would you give to someone tackling a major project or writing a book?

What I needed most for my project was structure. For me, the saving grace was a doctoral program that required me to meet deadlines. Through Andover Newton Theological School, I was provided with a loving but strict advisor who said, “Just Velcro your bottom to that chair and WRITE!”

What is your favorite memory from your time at Walnut Hill?

My favorite memories involve relationships with friends. Fifty-six years later, Christie Coon, my roommate for three years at Walnut Hill, is still among my closest friends! Back then, we would gather, with three or four others, in someone’s room, door closed. Some of us were knitters, and we would talk, talk, talk about our lives and gossip. Exploits with boyfriends—actual or wished for—were of great interest. Friday evenings were special for me. At most meals in the Eliot dining room, our every move was scrutinized by a faculty member at the head of the table. But Fridays we were allowed to sit for supper without faculty supervision! There was always ice cream for dessert and no rush to go to evening study halls. Just time to connect. Very occasionally a weekend dinner would be spiced up by some guests—a busload of “boys” from a neighboring prep school. A joint glee club concert and perhaps a dance in the gym would follow. We were to “mix”—just not too much! Spotlights were turned up for the walk between Eliot and the gym to be sure the strict rule of not stepping off the sidewalk into the shadows was enforced. Since the blueberry pie we’d all enjoyed for dessert left our teeth and tongues stained purple, the temptation for stolen kisses was kept in check!

Pilgrimage of Awakening: The Extraordinary Lives of Murray and Mary Rogers is available on Amazon.

Innovators and Creators: Christine Luciano '08

With this issue of the Alumni Newsletter, we introduce “Innovators and Creators,” a new monthly feature in which we will celebrate the wonderful creative spirit of our alumni. For our first installment, Alumni Association Chair Evangeline Delgado ’11 chatted with Christine Luciano about the recent launch of her new business.

Almost a year ago, Christine Luciano decided it was time to embark on a brave new endeavor. In January of 2018, Christine stepped away from a desk job to start her own company, Align at Work, a program designed to bring wellness, movement, and awareness into office spaces through exercise and meditation.

Having danced and taught yoga for most of her life, Christine knows the value of movement and of being attuned with how our bodies respond to habits. Coming from a desk job that kept her stationary for long periods of time, she needed to find ways to bring physical awareness into her workday. She began leading her office mates in short breaks throughout the day to move and stretch, a practice that planted the idea to take this work and make it living. And she did.

Christine designed her program with the awareness that sometimes all we can afford is a short break in the day that is convenient and easy to practice regularly.  In the Align at Work model, Christine travels to offices throughout the city and guides her clients through a circuit that takes about 25 minutes. The program allows people to stay in their work clothes and exercise right there in the office.

 

Says Christine of her new program, “I asked myself, how can I make something that is doable and easy, using materials that are already in the office, and utilizing the space available? It’s a lot of promoting postural work, and with that comes stretching and strengthening. We do a lot of stretching for the upper body, working out the kinks that come throughout the day. And we do some light exercises that promote strengthening to train your brain how to use your muscles intricately to help you sit tall. . . . When I see the same companies every single week, it’s amazing to see how people start carrying themselves differently.”

It has been a year of hands-on learning as Christine builds her business, developing her negotiating skills, so much of it a trial-and-error process. She explains, “I don’t have a business degree, I’m figuring it out as I go, which is exciting and also nerve-wracking. It’s like working on new choreography, figuring out how it all fits together and how you’re supposed to make it into something. As artists we’re constantly seeking education. It’s nice to feel that I’m not doing the same thing every day.”

As Christine continues to develop her company, she brings with her adaptability, a love of learning about one’s body, and the ability to educate others regarding how to adjust and shape their bodies to better serve their life—and she is just at the beginning of this adventure. She notes, “I’d love to get into more companies here in New York. Right now it’s just me, but I’d love to build a community of teachers and make this program into a whole wellness curriculum.”

We can’t wait to see where Christine’s new career will take her! You can find out more about her work here.