Dr. Marc Halpern answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


That's a great question, Phil. I've been blessed my whole life with people doing nice things for me. And I realize that not everybody has that blessing and it's difficult for me to choose just one thing because I think who I am today is the result of the kindness of everyone that I've interacted with my whole life. I couldn't be where I am today if I wasn't elevated by kindness. And I really value that so much. I try to be kind to everybody I meet as well because I realize that I'm going to touch them the same way that others have touched me in my life. 

So when I think back on the individuals that had been kind to me, aside from my family... my family was incredibly kind to me and continues to be incredibly kind to me. My wife, my children, we have a very kind relationship with each other. I think it's a value that we hold.

In many ways, my first teacher was an unlikely teacher — just an ordinary man in Spring Valley, New York, by the name of Ernie Landi and he was a chiropractor. He saw that I was interested in chiropractic when I was about 15 years old. I was very interested in the work that he was doing; I was getting chiropractic care. So he took me with him on a road trip and we drove from New York to South Carolina to a great school of chiropractic medicine. And I met all of his friends. He introduced me to some of the luminaries in the field of chiropractic. And I got to spend a week with them just studying with them, having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them, and being inspired by the depth of their philosophy. That was the first time I ever heard of this idea of a connection between what's going on inside of us and the universe itself and our connection to the Divine.

Dr. Ernie Landi

They would use words like innate intelligence and universal intelligence. I was deeply inspired. Dr. Landi was very kind to me. He took care of that whole trip. He took me there. He took care of me while I was there. He paid for everything while I was traveling, and he and the people he introduced me to so deeply inspired me that I wanted to go into the healing arts. I said, Yeah, this is it. This is what I really want to do. I don't think that I would have started this direction in my life had I not met him.

Another person who did something so kind for me — and I'm sorry, I just can't limit it to one person — is another unlikely man by the name of Arnie Cohen. Arnie Cohen was my baseball coach in high school, and I was the captain of the varsity baseball team in high school. Arnie inspired me with his integrity; he taught me the importance of doing what you know to be true in your heart, even when you're under duress from the outside. He never yielded. He had to make all kinds of decisions running a baseball team and there's all kinds of pressure on him from the school and from parents and so forth. And maybe because I was the captain of the team, we had a lot of discussions and they were teaching moments for me. He taught me all about integrity.

And I have such gratitude for the kindness of the students that I went to college with at the University of Buffalo in New York. I was rather radical; I still am by many measures, politically. I was involved in political demonstrations in college, in the University of Buffalo in 1982. And I was arrested — falsely I'll add — for trespassing. It was a political arrest. I was leading protests and they wanted me out of the way. The students of the college got together and not only did they raise all the money for my legal fees and pay the attorneys, together they pressured the administration and they pressured the state university system of New York to back down and allow me back into the school. That wouldn't have happened without tens of thousands of students being kind and recognizing that we were all in this together. And they taught me about the power of unity and generosity because they were really generous with their heart and really generous with their spirit. I was so grateful. And like I said, I've been surrounded with kindness my whole life. Had I not been, who knows where I'd be today.

Roy Eugene Davis

I met a spiritual teacher by the name of the Reverend Roy Eugene Davis in the 1990s. And he's a beautiful, beautiful human being. He recently passed, a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda and the founder of the Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, Georgia. Meeting him was just again meeting an incredibly kind human being. Now he can be kind to a lot of people, and he is kind to everybody that I think he knows. That's the nature of who he is. I went to visit with him and he was so kind to invite me to his home. He was so kind to come where I was staying at the ashram and do a personal initiation with me, something that he didn't do very often with people. And he came to my room, we did a personal initiation. We spent several hours together and while that's a story in itself, that was a moment, the initiation itself, that spiritually transformed my own life. It was as though I died that day and was reborn the next day. It was a really, really, truly remarkable moment. 

Donna Farhi

I would also have to express incredible gratitude for the kindness of another, unlikely teacher, although there probably are some people who do consider her to be one of their great inspirations. Her name is Donna Farhi. She's a yoga teacher. Used to be the asana editor for Yoga Journal. Donna was my yoga teacher back in 1994, right about that time. And she was so kind to introduce me to the Yoga Journal, who wound up publishing my writing about Ayurveda and yoga in the middle '90s and writing about our school. And again, I don't think that the college or myself would be where we are today without her generosity and her support, her kindness, and just doing nice things. She had no reason to do that. I've been trying to think about who did nice things for me when they asked nothing in return, when they weren't going to get anything in return. It was just a random act of kindness and those individuals certainly pass that test.

And then there's the Sivananda Yoga Organization that I've been involved with for the last 20 years. That organization and the people involved in that organization have been so kind to me and so kind to the college, just really doing everything they could to support me and to support the school just through their hearts and their acts of generosity. And I have so much gratitude for all of them. 

I know that I couldn't be here without the kindness and generosity and support of others, My great hope is that through the course of my life that my own actions will inspire other people similarly.

Dr. Marc Halpern, DC, AyD (Ayurvedacharya), one of the pioneers of Ayurveda in the West, is considered to be a preeminent practitioner and teacher of Ayurveda in the United States. One of the few Westerners recognized in both the United States and in India as an authority on the subject of Ayurveda Medicine, he was awarded the All India Award for Best Ayurvedic Physician. A pillar in the development of the profession in the United States, he's the co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, for which he served as Chairman of the National Committee on Ayurvedic Education. He's also a co-founder of the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine and the National Council on Ayurvedic Education.

Dr. Halpern started his career as a Doctor of Chiropractic in 1987 when he graduated from Palmer West Chiropractic College. His journey to understand the cause of suffering and to heal himself led him to the field of Ayurvedic Medicine. In 1991 he completed a post-graduate certification program in holistic medicine through New York Chiropractic College and continued his studies with Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Subhash Ranade. Dr. Halpern has dedicated himself to the profession of Ayurveda for more than 25 years.

Dr. Halpern is the author of three important textbooks in the field of Ayurvedic Medicine as well as the popular book, Healing Your Life; Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda, and the audio recording, Yoga Nidra and Self Healing: The Art of Conscious Deep Relaxation. He's published articles in almost every major journal and magazine of yoga or Ayurveda, and in 2005 was interviewed by Mike Wallace on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Dr. Halpern’s own remarkable story of personal healing was featured in the national magazine Spirituality and Health. He's been quoted in many major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and the Miami Herald

In addition to his work with the California College of Ayurveda, Dr. Halpern is a certified yoga instructor and a regular teacher of Ayurveda at International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers worldwide.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 7: Love