Spiritual psychologist Kamakshi Hart has been a stalwart of our community since she moved to Topanga from Washington D.C., 15 years ago. She served as president of Topanga Chamber of Commerce for two years and taught yoga, as well as joined classes from belly dancing to Taekwondo. But it’s her work in helping families and healing relationships for which she is best known, running “mother and daughter” groups, and organizing transformational events to get in tune with nature.
“There’s no connection to religion,” said Hart. “It’s the natural, innate spiritual self. There’s no agenda and no need for a belief system. It’s an elevated view that there’s something greater than us, which can include being amazed by stars and planets, that we are part of something really big. To be able to step back and gain more objectivity helps us rise above our personal issues and challenges.”
The thread running through her work is to help people feel connected to themselves and their relationships. “Everything is about relationships, which includes the self.”
Hart works with people one-on-one to develop a sense of inner peace and to resolve issues. She also gives couples therapy, which can be extended to families. “I like to bring the family together for a family council, where I can help them work out their issues. With everybody in the room, it’s so fantastically effective,” she said.
She has found an affinity with teenagers. A common issue with teens is being addicted to phones and social media. “It’s challenging for parents, because most parents are also addicted to their phones. Then they freak out over the teens’ phone addiction, which has come about through no fault of their own. Our culture has mainlined it to them. Video games are even more insidious, because of the violence.”
Confiscating a teen’s phone has become the main source of consequence for parents. “They will go into scary levels of despair if their phones are taken away.” Hart finds some parents are prepared to examine their own phone use and acknowledge it. Others refuse to look at their own “stuff,” blame the child for any issue and are looking for a quick fix.
“I recommend a lot of talking,” she said. “Children absorb the unhealed material from their parents. They can’t help it. There has to be leadership. There hasn’t been enough of a boundary and connection, emphasizing the positive aspects of being together, and doing things where it’s obvious you’re not going to have a phone with you.”
There is hope. “When there’s authentic conversation, engagement in their lives and clear boundaries, kids feel better and more relaxed. If that’s in place, there’s much more of a throughway to being able to work things out so there doesn’t have to be explosions of anger and upset.”
Connecting with nature and animals is a huge part of Hart’s work and her own family life, especially horses. She recommends it for everyone. “Put down the phone and go for a walk. Go to the theater, listen to music, play sports,” she said.
“So many teenagers don’t have something that lights them up and then they are overwhelmed with this society that tells them they have to look good. The girls feel they have to look sexy and hot. The boys have these unbelievably crazy expectations of girls because of the accessibility of porn. There’s so much pressure for certain types of sexual experiences so early on. The girls are complying, as they have been completely objectified. With this culture of taking photos of absolutely everything and sharing, it gets them into situations where there is so much drama, and they are unable to concentrate on school work. There’s a loss of safety in community and the feeling that they matter is missing.”
Hart says she’s on a quest to help people live life and heal, not just listen to them spin their stories. Her own experience of sexual abuse and healing has enabled her to assist others. “I do more than talk about the issues, whether it’s loneliness or abuse. I include life coaching. I tell clients I value their time and resources to be with me, so I won’t just sit there. I want to guide people, to offer suggestions and tools to effect change. We need to love ourselves and take care of ourselves before we can take care of other people or be in relationship.”
In the mid-1990s, Hart founded and owned a successful yoga practice on Capitol Hill before moving to a residential community in Massachusetts, where she was given the name Kamakshi by the yoga guru. It means Divine Eyes. “I love it and changed my name legally. And I changed my last name. I liked the sound of Hart.” She received her master’s degree in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
In Topanga, she met Will Friday, who was raising his daughter, Sierra Rose, as a single parent. With no children of her own, Hart’s experience running mother-daughter workshops and courses was helpful in her new role as stepmother. They officially became a family last year, after five years together, when Will and Kamakshi were married; second marriages for them both.
To mark and honor changes in life, Hart recommends ceremonies or rites of passage, which she can facilitate. Like when children leave home. Or when women experience menopause. For men, it can be losing a job or starting a new one.
Kamakshi Hart is someone who says “yes” to life and learning new things. She’s joined Melanie Kareem’s ukulele group. “It’s fun. The singing is really my thing. And I love the multi-generational aspect of the class.”
She feels that a sense of community is important to our health and well-being. “The three things we need are connection, community and a whole lot of love, that feeling of belonging and that ‘I matter.’ There’s a deep ache and wound in humanity that we try to cover up with addictions and distractions. Community is one of the biggest ways we have to heal the grief from being disconnected. You have to choose to be connected and so many people in Topanga choose it. There is a rich and varied group of people here, and an energy in Topanga Canyon that isn’t found anywhere else in the Santa Monica Mountains.”