to take a vacation. For whatever reason, however, she
Most importantly, Pergola agreed
didn’t cancel. “Something beyond my rational mind led
my exhausted self to the airplane that ferried me to East
Africa for the first time,” Pergola writes in “Time is Cows.”
There, Pergola met Sululu, who was working as
a safari guide. “From that first meeting, Sululu and I
became great friends,” she writes in her book. As their
friendship deepened, Sululu helped Pergola broker a
deal with Maasai healers. They agreed to teach their
ancient wisdom about maintaining
emotional and physical well-being
if Pergola would help the Maasai
with projects to better educate
students and alleviate poverty.
to share what they taught her with
her own tribe in the United States.
“I was passionate to learn what
they had to teach me,” she writes in
In 2001, Pergola moved to
Tanzania. If she was going to truly
learn from the Maasai elders and
get Terra Watu off the ground, she
couldn’t do it as a tourist. “The
people there need to know you’re
committed,” she says.
Pergola first tried writing
Eventually, Pergola earned enough credentials to receive
about her experiences with the
Maasai in 2006, but she couldn’t
get past a terrible case of writer’s
block. Sometime later, she picked
up a copy of Deepak Chopra’s
“Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the
Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles” in a
Tanzanian bookstore. “That’s when it all came together
for me,” she explains. “I realized he had found a language,
a way of translating ancient texts into an understandable
format for modern readers. I was inspired. He helped me
get over the idea that I had to write an academic book. I
wanted to bring it down from the ivory tower. You need
to make the teaching useful for today.”
In 2008, Pergola returned to the United States to
take a workshop with Chopra. That led to more work-
shops in yoga, meditation and mind-body medicine.
the title of Vedic Master from the Chopra Center.
For a time, Pergola tried to get a wellness center off
the ground in South Africa, but her plans kept crumbling. She realized it was time to move on to a new
chapter. Pergola returned to the United States and concentrated on finishing her manuscript about the Maasai.
It was time to share what she had learned with her tribe.
Pergola plans to continue that template. She spends
most of the year in Miami, continuing her work with
Terra Watu over Skype. She leads wellness workshops all
over the country and internationally. Pergola hopes to
write more, possibly about the rites-of-passage rituals of
the Maasai. She also plans an Internet talk show where
she interviews healers from around the world. “I really
want to give people tools for living,” she says.
high school, her dad arranged for an internship at a big-
city ad agency. “Most of my friends were lifeguards,” she
says. “There I was going into an office.”
She loved every minute of it. “Do I even have to
go to college?” she asked her father. He insisted, so she
picked W&L, mainly because the campus seemed so different from the Northeast. “I wanted an experience that
was new,” she says.
Pergola initially felt out of place in Lexington. Her
Southern classmates struggled to
pronounce her Sicilian last name.
As a member of the second coed
class at W&L, she was dismayed
to find urinals in the bathrooms of
Pergola entertained thoughts
of transferring to the University
of Pennsylvania, where many of
her high school friends attended,
but shook them off. That school
was so big she knew she’d never
develop the kind of close relationships she’d already made with her
professors at W&L. “I wanted to
stick it out,” she says.
Instead, Pergola threw herself
into her studies. She’d planned to
create a major in advertising, but
that went out the window as she
fell in love with the Department of
Sociology and Anthropology.
Ken White, professor emeritus of sociology, recalls the regular
occasions when Pergola would
drop by his office to talk about philosophy, a shared
interest. He also remembers at least one tense conversation with her parents, who were concerned about how
their daughter would turn sociology into a career. “I
explained to them she would make a wonderful professor,” he says.
After graduation, Pergola spent a year working in
an ad agency just to see if she could regain her earlier
enthusiasm for the corporate world. It didn’t take. The
next fall, she left for Seattle and graduate school. Pergola
stayed so busy reading and writing at the University of
Washington, she felt she’d lost the connection with her
physical self. “I lived in my head,” she says.
She started yoga to remind herself she also had a
body. Pergola had grown up in a family concerned with
health and wellness, so it seemed like a perfect fit when,
in 1997, she took a job at a new think tank studying
health and wellness. While simultaneously trying to
finish her dissertation, Pergola flew all over America
She stayed so busy, however, that she didn’t eat well.
She didn’t exercise. She didn’t take time to grieve her
father’s sudden death from a brain tumor. “We were all
working ourselves sick,” Pergola says of herself and her
Pergola had a trip to Tanzania scheduled in 1999,
but she found herself dreading it. She was too exhausted
They agreed to teach
their ancient wisdom
emotional and physical
well-being if Pergola
would help the Maasai
with projects to better
educate students and