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A life of seeking, a time of contentment

Shortly after coming to Claremont at age 10, Jill Zavidowsky started keeping a journal. Now, at 57, a suitcase in her Claremont home holds more than 50 journals in safekeeping, ready for moments when she feels like examining her former self. 

“Sometimes I go back and see what was really going on in my life,” she said. “I look for threads of similarities, which I do find. One thing I found is that I was always a seeker.”

Ms. Zavidowsky’s seeking has taken her down many paths, a lot of them influenced by her open-minded, philosophical, “early hippie/late bohemian” parents, she said. They gave her innumerable arts and culture experiences she cherishes to this day. A childhood dance class, she recalls, held in a Claremont home studio and led by a “beautiful, exotic, wonderful creature,” set a tone for her life.

“There was a basket of instruments and scarves, and we did free-form dance to music. There, I could let go, be free. I loved, and still love, doing things like that,” recalled Ms. Zavidowsky, a graduate of Sycamore Elementary, El Roble and Claremont High School, class of 1972.

Her father was a scholar and professor, and her mother owned and operated the long-gone Claremont Health Foods Centre on Harvard Avenue from 1969-73. There, a motley assortment of college students, unique locals, her parents’ eccentric friends and “hippie health food nuts” came and went and left their imprint on young Ms. Zavidowsky.

“I was always surrounded by adults from my parents’ lives—teachers, professors, people who traveled. I learned to respect older people, and I got the idea that you have a lot of wisdom when you’re older,” she said.

Despite the rich exposure to people and experiences (including watching her mother encounter a previous lifetime as a little Dutch boy through a psychic), Ms. Zavidowsky found that, for a teenager, life in Claremont was kind of dull.

“At the age where you can’t drive yet, it got kind of boring. On a typical Friday night, me and my friends would sit on the curb outside of the closed-down Sugar Bowl, an old restaurant with a soda fountain and stools, once run by an old, short, fairly quiet and kind of mean woman with her hair in a bun,” reminisced Ms. Zavidowsky, noting that the Sugar Bowl later became her mother’s health food store.

Seeking life and adventure outside of the small-town doldrums, she first did so by way of her father’s bookshelves, particularly attracted to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and also in the meditative state of mind. This was different than the “get me out of here” paths her friends chose.

“As a ninth grader growing up in Claremont, all my friends were dropping out, running away, eating hash brownies. I was at home, in my room, reading philosophy books and meditating. High without drugs, that was me,” she explained. 

Having started meditating at 14, it has been an enduring practice ever since, one that has made an incredible difference in her wellbeing. Since that time, she has meditated with gurus both phony and authentic, in her opinion, and experienced the opening of her “third eye,” the pathway many believe leads to realms of higher consciousness.

But before then, still a restless teen, she graduated from CHS, finally of age for the kind of seeking that took her out of Claremont. Ms. Zavidowsky then embarked on an educational labyrinth that took her to 14 junior colleges, 4-year colleges and universities: San Francisco State, USC and the University of Oregon among them. Eventually, she finished her bachelor’s degree in 1992, after marrying and becoming the mother of 2 (and now a grandmother of a 7-month-old). A slew of jobs, including advertising copywriter and artist’s model, ended in the completion of a master’s degree and credential at Claremont Graduate University and success in a 20-year teaching career.

From this career, Ms. Zavidowsky recently retired, somewhat due to health problems but mainly because the next incarnation of seeking awaited her. As she maneuvers through this next chapter, which has included opening a yoga studio in her home, she’s the happiest she’s ever been. 

“I don’t want to say I’m a little psychic, but I’m good at predicting stuff for myself, and I always predicted the best part of my life would be when I was older,” she explained. “When I was having health issues, I began to wonder if I was right, but now that it’s come to be, yes! I was right!”

Enjoying herself immensely, Ms. Zavidowsky is now running the “Living Yoga Studio” at her Claremont home. Transforming her house into a tranquil sanctuary has given her great satisfaction, and more than just a yoga studio, she envisions it as a place of community refuge.

“I have a community garden [with eggplant, tomatoes, squash and more] and chickens producing eggs. It’s a place where people could drop in whether I was home or not, harvest some vegetables, talk to the chickens. If I’m home, I’ll give them eggs,” she said. “Instead of just a 3 bedroom house with 2 retired people, I want to open it up to others.”

Ms. Zavidowsky has practiced yoga for many years and will soon finish instructor certification at Green Tara Yoga in Upland. People of all ages are welcome at Living Yoga, but her target practitioners are women 50 and above.

“I feel like women over a certain age are pretty much forgotten. American society tells them they have to do everything to stay young looking—clothes, hair—but wisdom and experience are discounted,” she explained. “I want to help older women respect and appreciate who they are. I think yoga and meditation are great ways to get to that place.”

Ms. Zavidowsky used to want to live to be 100, but is now much more interested in a life of quality than quantity. For the rest of her years, she will continue to follow her seeking nature, questing after that which brings her health and happiness.

“I want to smile when I get out of bed,” she said.

Info: 951-201-7505 or www.livingyoga studio.net.

—Brenda Bolinger

brendabolinger@claremont-courier.com

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