About Rachel & You

About Rachel: Professional Bio

Rachel is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. She received a diploma in Mind-Body Wellness from Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, where she also received her certifications in Transformational Life Coaching and Clinical Hypnotherapy. She studied Theater and Acting at Loughborough University (UK) and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She has also received shamanic training from The Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

Along with a professional life in the arts as a writer and performer, Rachel has been an adjunct professor of writing at a number of East Coast colleges including Philadelphia University, Bucks County Community College, and Emerson College. She is currently a member of the online faculty at Southwestern Institute of Healing Arts, where she teaches courses in spirituality and modern mysticism, Jungian archetypes, and ethics for healers.

Rachel is an author of both fiction and non-fiction books, all of which promote individual healing and wellness. She was also a nominee for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry and was the 1996 Poet Laureate of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Rachel has been a featured writer for elephant journal, an online magazine dedicated to the mindful life. Her column, “Let’s Get Intimate,” answers readers’ questions about human sexuality and intimacy.

Her international work has centered on the promotion of humanitarianism through the arts.

She is an ordained clergy member, holding the titles of Peace Counselor and Humanist Celebrant since 2002.

Rachel has been a human rights activist since the South African anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s. She has marched for AIDS research, gun control, LGBTQ+, and women’s rights. She has been a Palestinian-Israeli peace activist since 2003—both as a member of Women in Black in New York City (serving on their Board in 2004), and as the founder of The Astarte Project, through which she organized art events and lectured at such venues as New York City’s New School on the topic of employing the arts as a means toward conflict resolution.

In 2007, Rachel traveled to Udaipur, India to work with the Non-government Organization (NGO) Mahan Seva Sansthan, through the Foundation for Sustainable Development’s ProCorp volunteer program. During her two-month tenure, Rachel wrote a documentary film script, “Mahan Seva Sansthan: Educating for Empowerment,” about MSS’s work in rural Rajasthan. She shot video footage in villages working with vermicomposting and watershed projects, conducted interviews with plant medicine keepers, and compiled film stills to be used in the documentary.

Rachel brings to her therapy practice the vision of unity through individuality.
The stronger our foundation of self, the better we can contribute to the world around us.

About Rachel: Personal Bio

No one likes a precocious kid in a small town.

I was that kid.

During my childhood, I lived with my family on 40 wooded acres in a rural town in Western New York. (Way upstate. Canada, basically.)

I am the daughter of an actor and a poet. So it makes sense that I would become a therapist.

Rachel in 1973 (Photo: Arthur Furst)

Rachel in 1973 (Photo: Arthur Furst)

The town where I lived was small; the minds were smaller.

There was no room for me and my big ideas.

In second grade, I launched a program for other kids in my class to volunteer to read stories to the kindergarteners during circle time. It was a win for everyone: The second graders got to practice reading; the kindergarteners got to listen to a story, but they also had a chance to see their older peers as role models; and—best of all—the teacher got a break.

Sadly, the program was shut down after I got overzealous and expanded the program to include art: One morning I decided it would be a brilliant idea to grade the kindergarteners’ paintings on the bus ride to school and then hand them back with thoughtful corrections.

I told you I was precocious. (And I pray no child was emotionally scarred.)

Another early Big Idea > Execution > Failure cycle was a fourth-grade newsletter that featured an advice column I created from notes passed to me during the day. I would answer the kids’ questions about life and being a kid. Once a week, I painstakingly handwrote each newsletter on a page of mimeograph paper, fascinated by the purple ink that stuck to the underside of the page I was writing on. Sadly, the newsletter was shut down because it was “distracting children from the school curriculum.”

What I recall most was that in both cases there was an older person who believed in me and my ideas. Each mentored me and fended off (for as long as they could) the faculty who didn’t understand children who thought out of the box. Their belief in me helped me believe in myself.

My favorite film is Annie Hall. I love that woman. Annie is so astoundingly smart and articulate, yet she still futzes and flusters. She never hides what she’s feeling. When she is happy, her laughter is big like thunder. And when she’s hurt, she’s uninhibitedly authentic in her pain.

Damn, I wanted to be as authentic as Annie Hall when I grew up. But I wasn’t. In truth, there wasn’t much authentic about me.

As much as I was a precocious kid, I was also a quick learner. In order to survive my environment—in order to fit in—I figured out how to shut my true self off. Sure, I kept a bit of pizazz and a lot of humor, but essentially, I molded myself into the role of the quirky-but-wise-behind-the-scenes best friend in a rom-com.

I managed this for about twenty years before the mask started to rattle.
That was when I decided if the system wasn’t working for me, I’d rework the system.

During my 20s and 30s…

  • I was an actor and sketch comic who couldn’t stand Show Business, so I co-founded a comedic theater company.
  • I was a writer who couldn’t get published (not even with an agent), so I self-published.
  • I loathed Corporate America, so I quit my job as a senior copywriter with a multi-billion dollar company and launched my first business providing copywriting and voice-overs for sustainable and socially aware organizations.

To the outside world, I appeared vivacious and accomplished. Inside, I was burned out from all the hustling. I still felt like an utter failure.

It took the early death of my father, and the birth of my son nearly a decade later to truly acknowledge the deep hurt that my true self—that precocious little girl with her big ideas—was not accepted in the real world.

Once I grieved that wounding, I was able to turn the light of my Self on again. This time without the need for approval or acceptance.

But that took work. And, sadly, I did much of it alone.

Don’t get me wrong, the self work was good, solid, necessary work. But it would have been so much easier if I had elders to guide and believe in me as those teachers did when I was in elementary school. (Wherever they are, I thank them.)

The work I do now—helping others build a strong Foundation of Self so they can manage life’s challenges with grace and share the gift of themselves with the world—is a direct result of rejecting the notion that I had to hide my true self in order to survive.

A few tidbits about my true self:

  • I’m a single mother.
  • I live with three rescue cats who really ought to have their own sitcom.
  • I am a shamanic practitioner.
  • My favorite food is popcorn.
  • I practice Kundalini yoga.
  • I will watch a three-hour Bollywood film and not skip through the musical numbers.
  • My favorite color is turquoise.
  • My first spirit animal: Frog
  • I’m a sucker for international crime dramas. (Faves so far are “Shetland,” “Annika,” “The Killing,” “Bosch,” and “Wisting.”)
  • I read The New Yorker back to front.
  • I consider on a regular basis that I’ve misunderstood “normal” life’s master plan and am waving my white hanky as I pull away from its shore.

I truly believe there are other maverick souls like me out there. Weird. Wonderful. Fully and unabashedly themselves. If you’re here, I bet you’re one of them.

We can also connect in social media land if that’s your thing.

Copyright © 2023 by Rachel Astarte   |   Website design by: Péter Várnai and Divi   |  Pro photos: Heather Swanson Photography