ELEVEN SIX WOMEN | ALLISON CHAWLA
Photography by Emma Tuccillo | @emma_austen
Meet Allison Chawla: an alternative therapist and life coach trained in both Western therapies and Eastern practices. Allison is dedicated to helping individuals move obstacles out of their way to meet goals and live a more fulfilled, free life. Allison’s email sign-off is a powerful and thought provoking quote: “Pain travels through family lines until someone is ready to heal it within themselves. By going through the agony of healing, you no longer pass the poison chalice onto the generations that follow. It's incredibly important and sacred work.”
We had the honor of capturing Allison at her Rhinebeck, NY home to talk: her work's calling, pandemic navigation, her podcast: Talk to Allison, and finding space for herself and her family in the Hudson Valley.
Can you share with us your path to becoming a Therapist and Life Coach?
I knew at a very young age that I was meant to be offering healing or safety for people. I can recall being in grade school, and having adults tell me that I should consider being a therapist when I grew up, because of the ways they heard me reassuring me peers. I was also incredibly perceptive and intuitive to others as far back as I can remember. I was able and am still able to feel the energy of a person when they walk into a room. I am also able to identify who I am meant to help and will connect with immediately, and in turn, also be able to feel who I should likely avoid and not pursue a relationship with. That is a big factor in offering space for safety and healing to others. You have to be able to feel things. Not just try to understand them. I was born this way I suppose, and I followed it. But, the moment that really drove me to pursue things like reiki and energy healing, was the moment I sat at the bedside of a terminally ill friend who was only 20 at the time. I was the same age and while I sat there watching her slowly transition through the illness and ultimately into death, I felt what I can only explain as a current running through me. I knew there was nothing that I could do for her, but that this was a message for me to give attention to something I had within me. Something that may be able to bring comfort and ease pain for others in the future. That is when I began to seek out a better understanding of who I was, and what gifts I had come into this world with to help others.
Allison wears the Caroline Sweater dress | SHOP
Can you speak to why you describe yourself as an alternative therapist and what approaches you take?
I am an alternative therapist because most of my training is in Eastern philosophies of healing like Reiki, Sei mi, chakra balancing, energy healing, and Meridian Tapping. I also see and read energy fields around people which the Western world doesn’t often speak of as being a valid source or helping others, but all of these techniques are ancient. I also incorporate sound at times with a healing bowl and read the Tarot. I do also have a certification in life and career coaching, a Masters degree in social work and am a licensed social worker, but that came after the rest of the training. I wanted those who maybe in fear of the more mystic sounding modalities to see that I was also a legitimate student and academic who pursued an education that allows us to understand human beings and the social environment better than I think any education does. I think basic social work should be required in all High Schools and continued education. Understanding how people become themselves, and realizing how we ALL have a history that influences us, builds such empathy and sympathy. We all need that more than ever.
During the pandemic your work and support must have been heavily called on. How did you manage this period when there were so much unknown for yourself?
It was hard. I was called upon for healing more than ever. I will not deny that I too felt burnt out after the couple of years of so much grief and suffering. I needed to practice more self care than ever. I went to bed early, I ate as well as possible, and I began waking up at 5:00am to give myself extra time to practice mediation and martial arts. My martial arts practice and my instructors really saved me through that time. I also focused on gratitude more than ever as hard as that was. I was honest with myself and others. Even clients who were laying there on the table or who were gazing at me on the screen. I would say that I was as frightened as they were, and I couldn’t tell them that things would be or feel better anytime soon, but that I was there to not only hold but share the space if only just to process the energy of fear and grief
In your professional opinion how would you describe the progression of mental health awareness in society and its importance?
I think it has always been important but because of how difficult the last few years has been globally, those who didn’t think they needed support are coming around to seek help. I think this time has opened up realms in people’s minds that weren’t able to be tapped into in the past. I have also seen those who did not believe in the work I do, become more open to it and want to try it for the first time. I think it was similar to feeling sick for so long, and finding no relief in a particular type of medication; so you then become willing to try something else, something you wouldn’t have tried before just to seek respite from your pain. It is so important to have mental health awareness for ourselves and others and to not be ashamed to mention it to someone when we need help, or to ask someone if they are okay if they seem to be suffering. The awareness saves lives. It truly saves lives.
Allison wears Tatum Stripe Sweater SHOP with her own leather pant
We love your Podcast: “Talk to Allison” and that you cover a wide range of current topics and interview interesting Hudson valley dwellers. Can you speak to why you started it and the podcast style?
First of all, thank you SO much. I am so thankful that you listen and I always enjoy your feedback. I started it because a couple of sensational people created a local radio station and asked me if I would do a show. It was offered to me at a time when I was seeking my own creative outlet to survive the hardships of the world, and these two wonderful Rhinecliff dwellers Matty and Patricia asked if I would host a show. I could not have been more honored nor excited. Nervous too, of course. But it has been a gift. I guess I would call it an interview style and focuses on prevailing through life. Everyone has a story of surviving something or just working hard for something. I try to bring those stories to light to inspire others. I have began having guests outside of the Hudson valley recently, and am eager to see what turns the show will take. Maybe one day I will even decide it is ready to rest, but at the moment I am excited about the incredible people I get to speak with. Like you, Catherine! (Listen HERE)
How long have you and your family lived in the Hudson valley and how has it impacted your lifestyle?
We were weekending up here about ten or eleven years ago. Then we moved up full-time a little over 5 years ago. I went into crisis mode to be honest! I did not want to leave the city. I had a happy stride there, enjoyed the anonymity, and most certainly did not want to part with my mostly black aesthetic... It took me time to adjust to small town life and how different it was from what I had been living. But, ultimately I saw that my children were thriving and that my own anxiety around parenting them decreased. There weren’t city streets to worry over, fast moving cars, bike messengers, the subway platform. The things that gave me worries that I wasn’t even aware of. I sometimes miss the city, but I miss what it was. Not what it is now. So, I would say it has bettered our lives in many ways to be up here and the longer we are here, the more I see how happy my family is. Overall, it has been healthy for us. I sit on the porch and watch my daughters walk to school with friends. Those moments are like a fairy tale to me. Watching them feel safe and happy while they grow.
What are three words to describe yourself and what are three words your husband would use to describe you?
My husband said his words for me are Nurturing, loyal and integrity. I would say I am deceptively capable and uncharacteristically self motivated. Even though that wasn’t exactly three words... I like to think I am hopeful and resilient.
What do you do to turn off from busy work and family life to make space for you?
I don’t have Instagram at the moment. I stay away from social media. I ONLY have an old Facebook account that I use to connect with friends but I don’t use anything else. I did use Instagram, but found it to be time consuming and wasteful for my time most days. I think social media can been quite toxic and distracting. We all should learn to unplug or disconnect. My go-to is music. I listen to music all of the time. Even if with headphones so it isn’t bothering anyone else. Music has saved me from sadness and stress through many many times in my life and I will always turn to it. I also try to exercise and go outside to connect with nature as often as possible.
Do you have anything exciting coming up in the pipeline?
One of the more exciting things I am working on currently is assisting with bringing the magic of The Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck to life. I was asked by a friend to join her in helping to begin taking over the organization of elements of that parade, so I have been spending time sitting and learning from the brilliant woman who has been organizing that parade the NYC Halloween parade for decades. I have also been nurturing a book I would like to finish. I started it before the pandemic but then set it aside for many reasons. I feel like writing more again... SO, maybe I will soon be putting some stories out there.
Allison wears the Allison Cardi | SHOP
How would you describe ELEVEN SIX and which are your favorite pieces from the Fall collection and why?
Gosh, I hope my words can do my feelings justice in describing the brand. This brings me back to talking about being able to feel energy in things. The pieces from Eleven Six tell a story. Each piece has a feeling, an essence, an energy. When I first visited the store, Catherine referred to each sweater I tried on as "she" which I found so charming. But I really discovered that whenever I choose one that I will wear here at home, I think "today I need to wear HER." There is a feeling from each piece that influences how I hold myself, and when I wear them I can feel the genuine love and ethical energy that was put into each design through Catherine or through the hands of the women who weave each design in order to bring them to life. It’s like wearing a living, loving, comforting piece that influences your own calm and confidence. My favorite is tough... obviously my namesake, The Allison Cardi is first. Not only because of the honor of it being named after me, but also because it is exactly what I hoped for when I asked Catherine if she would ever make a long cardigan. It is heaven sent and I wear it with everything. My other new favorite the is black and white Tatum Sweater. I feel super sexy, strong, powerful and yet still very feminine in that one. SHE is a blast to wear out with my black leather pants and heeled boots! I love each piece for a different reason.