The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: I feel better instantly when Dr. Pamela Davis, aka Siri Shakti (her spiritual name), walks into a room. Yes, she's a calming presence, but she also carries a lot of wisdom rooted in not only her traditional medical school training, but also her Kundalini yoga practice. It's nice to know there is a doctor who has a hard science background, but is also spending a lot of time reflecting deeply on how to continue to evolve how medicine is practiced. Read on to learn how Siri Shakti overcame early trauma and her own health challenges to become the truly multidimensional, respected woman she is today. ~ Mary Margaret
What made you decide to go to medical school?
While at Spelman College, I studied English and Biology. I ended up doing an honors thesis in Environmental Biology looking at how bacteria are able to clean heavy metals from industrial water. At the end of my tenure I was undecided what to do next. I prayed that I would get a sign. When I was admitted to three medical schools, I felt I was being given a direction.
What did you enjoy about medical school? What was more challenging?
Working with other medical students and doctors in training was amazing. I loved getting to know patients and being academically challenged. The best thing for me was that I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing. It was definitely the right decision and I knew it was the perfect choice for me at that time.
Where I went to medical school, teaching a student by humiliating them, punishing them or verbally berating them was not uncommon. And the hours of work were very long. This was challenging. I also felt an unexpected desire to go back, quit and find a husband, become a housewife. I had to get over some childhood fantasy of what my 20's would look like and what the future would hold for me. That was the existential crisis.
Also, my mother had a severe mental break down right before I started. It made me want to work harder to help her while at the same time creating a new sense of loneliness as she was no longer available to be as emotionally supportive as she had been before that.
Can you share a little about your early life?
I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and my parents were both very young. Louisiana was warm, welcoming and at the same time full of many of the societal ills of the time. My mother is an elementary school teacher and my father is a funeral director and business owner. They broke up when I was one year old. We lived in Michigan where I learned to speak and we lived with my grandparents who were both educators. It was isolated but idyllic. I compare it to a 50's home but where everyone is Black. But it's the 70's and my Mom and her sister both left their husbands and moved home with their babies. We moved to L.A. so my Mom could find work. The schools in Michigan were very racist and would not hire her because of her race. We ended up in South Los Angeles in the 80's when street gangs started to acquire automatic weapons and crack was hitting the streets. Thankfully I had great teachers and a wonderful family to keep me safe and support me.
How did you discover Kundalini yoga?
I had a hormonal imbalance and my Western medicine made me sick. My acupuncturist gave me a health plan with a diet and herbs and Kundalini yoga. All of the PTSD from growing up with gang violence started healing and I became a different person.
For those who don’t know, can you describe the significance of taking on a spiritual name, and how you got yours? I applied for my spiritual name when I was in teacher training. The name reflects your destiny as a soul. I did not use it at first. But over time it felt more me than my birth name.
How have the teachings of Kundalini yoga impacted how you practice medicine?
The teachings have impacted my medical practice in many ways. Initially I tried teaching all the patient how to meditate and no one was interested LOL. Then I started suggesting certain patients go to class, and some do; all benefit. I have offered healing diets to patients as well and it has been extremely effective, particularly for fertility. The entire science of Humanology from Kundalini yoga has also helped me with counseling patients as well.
For me personally, it has helped me immensely to be present with my patients and avoid provider burn out. I totally credit the chanting for my level of rapport with patients. The mantras change the way you speak. The vibration frequency of the Kundalini sound current becomes embedded in your personal sound current to make it more healing and uplifting.
What frustrates you about how medicine is practiced at the moment? What makes you hopeful? My biggest concerns have to do with the medical legal impact on medical practice as well as pay for performance. Most people are probably aware that most doctors are practicing a certain amount of defensive medicine. Defensive medicine being when you make your choices completely to avoid possible law suits. Many people may not be aware that pay for performance has been a part of medicine for a few years where doctors get paid for documenting certain things about you and your care, for hitting certain goals on our lab tests and for writing certain medications and giving certain treatments. Dollar amounts are assigned for each action. It can really affect how you are being treated and the decisions that are being made pretty powerfully.
Finally, I am very concerned about the rates of mental disorders and cognitive disorders in young people and children. There is a fragility that may be rooted in systemic toxicity in both pregnant women and their children that I believe is contributing to this. If the high level of toxicity in the foods we eat and the environments we live in are not addressed, I am concerned for the future. I meet parents and children every day who are suffering with high rates of depression, anxiety, learning disorders and social dysfunction.
My hope is from the general public. As we all become more educated, we are demanding a higher standard as well as a more holistic approach. Maybe this will cause medical training to start to include more about diet, meditation and exercise. Everyone wants to be healthy but medicine is mainly about saving lives and keeping people alive. While these are worthy goals, having a goal of optimal health and complete lifestyle wellness is where everyone is focused.
As the population of educated elderly grows, the demand for physicians to be more broad in their scope of practice is growing as well. Anti-aging medicine, integrative medicine, functional medicine as well as traditional healing modalities from Ayurveda to Acupuncture are coming more to the center of what patients are looking for. Hopefully Western medicine will begin to embrace these other approaches more broadly so that we can all live longer, healthier lives.
What is the most important message you want to share with people?
To be empowered to be healthy. You can heal yourself. Most people feel that all the answers are in the mouths of Google or their doctor or their parents. Other people are very attached to preconceived ideas they have about themselves based on something they read or genetic traits they think that they have. The answers are out there but you have to be willing to reject what you hear until you find answers that really help you. They do exist. You will probably have to change a lot. Being flexible in your point of view is key. But, in the end you'll be healthy and there will be a victory in your sense of accomplishment and discovery.
Hello, I am Siri Shakti Kaur AKA Pamela Davis, M.D. of SiriShaktiWellness, a holistic physician and yoga teacher living in Los Angeles. My interest in yoga and holistic healing is rooted in a healing quest that started in my childhood when Western medicine both helped and hurt me and I found traditional Chinese medicine, American herbalism and Kundalini yoga to fill in the gaps. My current focus is on building my holistic healing practice where Western medical practice, Kundalini yoga and other alternative treatment modalities are used in harmony to provide practical solutions to problems with mental, physical and spiritual health.