Stressed? ‘Have A Romance With Life’ Says Author Debbie Mandel
Tzivia Emmer, Jewish Press Staff Writer
“I knew it was my
mission to be happy,” says Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel.
former English teacher, whose book, Turn on Your Inner Light, was
in January, projects an infectious enthusiasm not only for
the system of mind-body healing and
stress reduction that she
developed, but for just about everything. I visited her at her
N.Y., home to talk about the book and how she happened to
Debbie is the only child of Holocaust survivors Samuel
and Tuna Eisenstadt. Her father
lost an entire first family in
Auschwitz; her mother survived the war by working for a gentile
Remarkably, after the war the couple built a life that Debbie remembers as
light and joy. “We laughed a lot,” she says of her
childhood in Brooklyn.
She attended the Crown Heights Yeshiva and
credits her training in Tanach and
commentaries with providing a basis
for the Jewish framework that underlies her thinking. Her
stories and the flowers blooming on her mother’s windowsill infuse her
“My father always told me to be b’simcha,” she said.
Debbie puts simcha, joy, and optimism at the center of the system
she calls Turn On Your
Inner Light.Simcha is not only a foundation of
the Jewish approach to life; as an antidote to
stress, it’s also a key
to physical health. Positive emotions, mind-body researchers assert, have
beneficial effect on the immune system and thus on overall well-being
and resistance to disease.
Looking at many healing traditions,
Debbie originated an approach that is a mixture of
psychology, body movements and breathing. An exercise fanatic herself,
consulted with fitness professionals to fine-tune her system.
“I read everything,” she says. “And then I found, whether I’m
reading kabbalistic things
or Chinese herbal medicine, everybody’s
saying basically the same thing.”
Lined up in Debbie’s bookcase are
titles like Heal Your Body by Louise Hay, The
Politics of Cancer
Revisited by Samuel Epstein, Kabalistic Healing by Shirley
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup. And,
of course, Love, Medicine
and Miracles by Bernie Seigel, the preeminent
pioneer in mind-body medicine.
It was an endorsement from Seigel
that opened the door for Debbie’s work to be taken
seriously. At first,
she admits, no publisher would even speak to her. She wrote the book in
burst of inspiration – she woke up one morning with the idea and then
didn’t stop until she had
finished, nine months later.
you to write this book?” one editor asked.
“Who am I not?” answered
Debbie with endearing chutzpah.
One might say that as a descendant
of the rabbinical Panim Meirot dynasty, Debbie is the
ideal person to
write a book entitled “Turn on your Inner Light.” (Panim meirot literally
Radiant Countenance, but in a play on words the word panim is
also related to p’nimi, inner.)
“I think I see all that I’m doing
as the legacy,” she said.
A series of workshops at medical and
community facilities grew out of the book, and then
took on a life of
their own. Most recently Debbie has given workshops for Holocaust
the Y in Lawrence, N.Y., and workshops on boosting the
immune system for breast cancer
patients at Hewlett House in East
Rockaway. After 9/11 she developed a workshop called KIND
(Kids In Need
of De-stressing) to address the needs of children living. Her workshops
Brooklyn College are for both faculty and students and are aimed at
helping students de-stress
and become empowered
In Turn On Your Inner Light, Debbie
provides an antidote to 29 different life situations,
burnout and overall fatigue, with a mind-body prescription for each. All
exercises begin with conscious breathing and with identifying the
point in the body where stress
“Pain is not a bad
thing,” she said.. “It’s telling me that something is wrong with
spiritual component and it is coming out in my body.... That’s G-d’s
way of giving me another
opportunity to regroup my
With conscious breath comes conscious perception. And
perception, a new, more
objective way of looking at one’s life, can
change our reality. Anger and resentment, which are
sources of stress
and potential detriments to health, can be transformed into love and
Debbie tells her workshop students.
piece of advice for everyone: “Have a romance with life.”
romance with life means “to live in the moment and enjoy every little
Debbie described visiting her mother, now in a hospital
Alzheimer’s ward at a hospital.
She brings cookies for the patients.
“You lower your expectations,” she said. “You are happy
elemental moment of touch and love that is there – whether the person can
name or not. The core of the person is there.
Kodak moments in your head.”
She says that meditation and
visualization, added to the body she teaches, can help
outlook to one of optimism.
At bottom, however, a healthy
optimism, she said, “is rooted in the confidence of
knowing that what’s
happening is not [from] me; it’s coming from a Divine source. Once
know that, how can you not be joyous, how can you not be
optimistic? G-d is in you.... You don’t
have to do it alone. There are
no failures, there are only learning experiences.... Anything can
modified, after a couple of months you can modify the brain pattern.
Do something affirmative
and joyous every day.”
I pointed out
this can be difficult for many people.
“That’s the test,” she
“And you think, maybe this sounds perverse, but that’s what
Auschwitz taught me.
Nothing fazes me because of my legacy, because of
the dark shadow. I’m thinking -- Compared
to Auschwitz how can you
bellyache about anything?”
I looked around at the rather lush
“So even here in this beautiful home, in this
country-like setting, somehow there’s this
little kernel that’s still
“It’s a big kernel... We can always grow from