Published in The San Francisco Chronicle
by Alix Madrigal Chronicle Staff Writer
A MOTHER’S MELLOW MISSION
Inspired by parenthood, Mill Valley author spreads the word on how to relax
When Pragito Dove first sat down to meditate all those years ago in London, she never dreamed she’d spend time in India, write a book called "Lunchtime Enlightenment Modern Meditations to Free the Mind and Unleash the Spirit – at Work, at Home, at Play." (Penguin 2001) or wind up on a hilltop in Mill Valley teaching meditation to the masses. She wanted, quite simply, to be a better mother.
"I was a serious, uptight Englishwoman," says Dove in the dulcet British tones that have relaxed so many of her clients. "I smoked about 20 cigarettes a day, had recurring back pain and was a realty bad driver. I thought, "I’m not really enjoying my life, I’m just trying to get through it" Pragito dove and her son Paul
The birth of her son changed everything.
"I made a commitment then," she remembers. "Blowing smoke into my baby’s face didn’t seem like the best way to raise a child. I saw the kind of awesome responsibility I had … I had the power to make his life hell, a misery. And the world didn’t need one more drug addict. So I said, ‘Pragito, let’s try and do something different’"
Except, of course, she wasn’t Pragito yet. She acquired the name – which means song in Sanskrit – in India. She smiles coyly and shakes her head when asked what her name was back then. That old name is long gone, and there’s nothing tense or uptight about the slight, attractive woman relaxing in her Mill Valley aerie.
And son Paul, she says proudly, "turned out great." At 22, he works as a researcher at NASA when he’s not studying physics al John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
"He’s also an authentic, honest communicator, he’s very articulate, and has a great sense of humor," his mother says. What’s more, "he’s not ruled by fear, as so many people are. He has a very positive, creative outlook on life."
It wasn’t long after Dove took up meditation that everything in her life changed. She was becoming more and more involved in her meditation practice, and her husband wasn’t; she wanted to go to India, and he didn’t.
"I’d always been a bit of a seeker," she says, "poking around in Zen and yoga," among other things. But nothing resonated until she discovered the active meditations – such as dancing, laughing, crying, shaking – being taught by the Indian mystic Osho.
I’m a bit of a fidget, and I can’t really sit still for very long, so those long Zen things don’t work for me," she says. "You can imagine how great it was for me to be doing all this gibberish (another Osho meditation technique) and all this laughing or crying or dancing. I realized that I can sit after I’ve been doing something energetic."
As a child, Dove studied dance, but "it was a very serious undertaking. When I started doing these meditations, it was dance for the joy of dancing, and laughing for the joy of laughing. I discovered that you can’t be freaked out and laughing at the same time."
Subjected to a traditional British upbringing, Dove learned early on that she shouldn’t be angry, or laugh too loud, or be different in any way: "It was all stiff upper lips and cups of tea."
Meditation provided her, for the first time in her life, with an outlet for her emotions.
"Life became lighter and more fun," she says. "My sense of humor was more readily available. And it certainly helped with my son. When you can laugh a lot with your kid, that’s the best thing,"
To this day, Dove and her son share their sense of humor. "It’s really something when you enjoy yourself with someone like that," she says. "It creates an incredible bond from the heart."
Infant son in tow, Dove took herself off to Osho’s commune in India, where she stayed for a year and a half. That first visit was followed by many more over the years – Then one of her teachers asked her to assist him, and the proverbial light-bulb flashed. "Oh, wait a second," she said at the time, "I could learn to teach this!"
By then, Dove had married an American "It was clear to me in my heart that my place was in California," she says. "1 know it’s where I’m supposed to live and teach."
In California, she trained as a hypnotherapist. "I didn’t really believe I could make my living from meditations. But something was missing, and I knew I had to add meditation to my business."
Her clients, though, initiated that move. "They would say, ‘You should come into my office, we could really use your meditations,’" she says.
Today she teaches both private clients and corporate ones – including The Chronicle – how to slow down and relax.
There are as many ways to meditate as you can imagine," she emphasizes. "You don’t have to meditate for hours at a time for sit in uncomfortable conditions."
The book includes meditations of all different lengths (from less than a minute to three weeks long) for people of different temperaments and preferences. Whether you’re at the office, the gym or home, there are meditative techniques you can use, ranging from doing housework or jogging to laughing, crying or simply breathing.
Dove has "learned how to make everything a meditation," something she says comes in very handy both running a business and touring with her book.
Though her interest in meditation led her to India, Dove says she doesn’t see that as much of a risk for most of her readers or students.
That was me," she says, "and that was then."
Rather than people trekking off to India in search of meditation, Dove says, it’s time now for meditation to come into the mainstream – and she wants to lead the fray.
"My work now is to teach everything I learned, to bring it into people’s lives and their workplaces," she says.