Alex Garver

Major: Psychology
Profession: Hypnotherapist
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

What are you doing now?

I am growing personally and interpersonally, much as I did at Pomona. I question the narrative that work defines a person, while also putting a lot of energy into my professional life as a hypnotherapist and healer.

I'm most excited by paradigm shifts: how might we might reframe a situation in a way that allows more authenticity and aliveness, more harmony and integration. For example, instead of trying to save the planet by recycling more, perhaps it’s time, for our own sake, that we learn to humbly listen to the land and its indigenous people.

I am building a new world by connecting to others, heart to heart. I create intimate and healing spaces in workshops, because groups tend to be very powerful. I also work with people individually, to give them my total presence and focus. I run my own business, and support other entrepreneurs, because it allows us to offer our gifts to the world on our own terms. I continue to unpack cultural conditioning that would separate me from others, including Black people, Indigenous communities, and people of color.

How did you get there? 

I spent a year after I graduated living at Metta Forest Monastery north of San Diego, a community of monks and meditators nestled in a shady avocado grove. After a year of guacamole and some questionable power dynamics, I traveled to Thailand and learned Thai from one of the sweetest, kindest people I've ever met. After finding a suitable monastery, one with the requisite caves and snakes, I took on some rather ascetic practices, fasting and meditating through the days and nights. 

Indigenous cultures often have rituals where their youth temporarily leave society, risk hardship, and seek a vision of their purpose and role in the greater whole. This is one way to understand what I was doing. My country was waging war, her people oppressed and depressed, and the whole system destroying the very foundation of life on the planet. What was I called to do? As a result of meditating through the nights, I saw visions, heard voices and experienced a flow of energy through my body that left me feeling more alive than ever before. I was not able to integrate and ground the experience, however, and I ended up in a mental hospital, where I was told I had had a psychotic break.

I lived in a Thai monastery for a year and a half, meditating and reading, trying to understand my strange experience. I decided to return to America to seek opportunities to serve, grow and connect, outside of the confines of organized religion. “What do ex-monks do for work?” I wondered. I can't teach meditation, because I've never been very good at that. But in my exploration of consciousness, hypnosis had revealed some of the most interesting things. Clinical psychology had always been a possible career path, and I had always relished deep, personal conversations. So I signed up for a training program in hypnosis.

After two courses in hypnotherapy, and a three-year program in another healing modality called Core Energetics, I'm settled in Seattle, seeing clients and facilitating workshops like 'Being Human Together' and 'DreamTending' with my partner and her dog.

How did Pomona prepare you? 

In my first year a guy in my sponsor group invited me to join a meditation class (.25 credits!) taught by  a volunteer from a local Vedic temple. One guided meditation had me in tears as I remembered all the kindness that had been shown to me from conception up to the present. I stayed late digesting the worldview of this teacher who spoke of a soul. One day I sat down to decide once-and-for-all if there was such a thing as a soul. I found a good way to get a headache!

There were some upperclassmen living on Bridge in Harwood who wanted to mentor incoming students. I thought it only fair to give this Bible thing a fair shake, and joined a group studying the book of Mark. At the same time I took a class at Claremont McKenna on Hinduism. Zhiru Ng, Pomona's resident Buddhist specialist, suggested I spend a summer at a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, doing a program called Woodenfish, so that's what I did after my first year.

Meditation was a game-changer. Even though I hadn't felt peaceful or concentrated for any length of time, and sat with considerable physical pain, something in me was more peaceful and wise. I had found a tool that worked and massaged a level of the mind that traditional psychology didn't know much about. I became vegetarian, (mostly) alcohol-free, and began to brush off ants and mosquitoes instead of killing them.  

A clinical psychology class taught by Jessica Borelli placed me at Crossroads, a house for women released from prison, where I got to build relationship with women who had generally experienced pain and abuse far removed from my own upbringing. Eric Hurley taught one of my favorite classes, The Psychology of the Black Experience, that tracked how the myth of Black inferiority has been upheld in the most cutting-edge psychological theory, right up to the present. Students with the Women's Union hosted discussions that raised my awareness around privilege, as did a sociology class I took. My ability to build community, and my awareness of power dynamics, grew as I served as a sponsor and then head sponsor.

My time at Pomona was rich in many ways, with an abundance of opportunities, resources, classes, and perhaps most importantly-- interesting and passionate people.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I'm living on land, with my own little hut, with open-hearted, nature-loving people. We are a center of learning and healing, with opportunities for mindful movement (qi gong, yoga, contact improv), listening circles, and an assortment of healing modalities like acupuncture, massage, and counseling. We are a place where people can rest and learn new ways of being.

Any advice for prospective or current students?

  1. Around my second year I chose a handful of people to really invest in. I recommend noticing who you're drawn to, who responds to your bids for connection, and really valuing them. Let them know what they mean to you and appreciate them for all the things you notice! This is great for feeling more grateful and is also a really effective way to create loving relationships.
  2. Reach for people different than yourself. White people, Black people, trans people, rich people, poor people, international folks. There's a unique opportunity at Pomona to love all types of people, so take full advantage of it!
  3. If your situation allows, have more money coming in than going out. Save at least 10% of what you earn and invest in a socially-conscious index fund. This develops an important habit, and the money compounds over time, especially when you start early.
  4. Finally, ask yourself: What do you really enjoy doing? Maybe there is a way you will be able to do what you really enjoy and get paid for it. You might start your own business, pitch a new position at an established company, or follow a thread of research that will eventually be a new field of study.