I am a writer, actor, educator, yoga instructor and massage therapist, intrigued by the ways these practices inform each other and eager to create experiences that bring them together. Passionate about living a dynamic empowered life, I hope to inspire others toward the same.
One Breath, Then Another is both a print memoir and an interactive solo performance piece called The Jew in the Ashram that invites the audience to chant, meditate, move and breathe. It's the story of my quest for healing to avoid destroying myself like my father, which lands me on an ashram in India. Its goal is to inspire audiences to prioritize self-care through yoga, meditation, ritual or other methods that resonate, and to uncover their most authentic means of spiritual connection and expression.
From a young age, I identified with my father, a heavy smoker with food issues who starved himself until he was skeletal. I, in turn, developed a severe case of anorexia that led to hospitalization. My relationship with my father was complex but loving at its core, as we understood each other better than anyone else. Nearly a year after I recovered, he died of lung cancer.
Desperate to escape his ghost, I fled San Diego to pursue acting and writing in Manhattan, where I eventually became so obsessed with and disturbed by the concept of language that I suffered a mental breakdown and moved back into my mother’s house. After a year of ineffective psychotherapy, I felt intuitively pulled to study massage therapy and, while massaging a cancer survivor, discovered that easing the pain of others was a powerful way to find reprieve. I moved back to New York to resume creative pursuits but soon found myself lost again. Frantically searching for inner peace, I left to travel alone through ten cities in India and Nepal.
As a tourist amidst extreme poverty, exotic beauty and charged spirituality, internal whirlwinds raged. After weeks of constant motion and changing scenery, I landed in a quiet Indian ashram surrounded by green fields, mountains and endless sky. There, as I trained to become a yoga teacher, I reflected deeply on mortality and the workings of my mind, learning to let go and surrender to the present moment.
I hope that One Breath, Then Another will inspire and empower people to realize that their voices matter, nothing is insurmountable and one’s own mind is often the biggest obstacle to one’s happiness. Life is fragile and finite; this memoir is about getting out of our own way and supporting each other so we can all make the most of the time we have.
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I was sitting in the back of a parked bicycle rickshaw, waiting to leave the Ganges, when a woman approached me. With her dirty face and sari, holding a dirty sleeping baby naked from the waist down, she looked me in the eye, extended her cupped palm toward me for money, then raised her hand to her mouth. I could see sores on her baby’s legs. She reached her hand toward me and pulled at my sleeve, reached her hand back up to her mouth, pointed to the baby, and lifted up his shirt to show me his skeletal frame. Crying and muttering unintelligibly, she grabbed my sleeve again, yanking this time, hand back up to her mouth, desperate. It was thirty seconds extending into eternity and I sat paralyzed.
I tried not to look at her and her child, but was incapable of not looking. I stared at them, unable to fully process that she was real, her baby was real, India was real. This all existed in the same time continuum as New York City, as the United States.
I held my breath, tensed every muscle in my body. She continued yanking on my sleeve, crying, muttering. The baby’s head hung off his neck unsupported. Just when I felt like my heart might really explode, shooting all my fleshy bits out across the city of Varanasi, the rickshaw pulled away and I left her standing there. She disappeared behind the torrent of buses, rickshaws, cars, dust clouds, cows, cow shit, goats, pedestrians, flies, women sitting sideways on the backs of motorcycles- bright saris flapping and flying, honking horns, no one wears shoes here.
At 5 am the next morning, feeling twitchy and exhausted, I boarded a bus with the word “Tourist” splayed across the top of the windshield. The ride from Varanasi, India to Lumbini, Nepal (the birthplace of Buddha), would take twelve hours. We passed heaps of muddy garbage, goats and cows, handmade huts, laundry hanging out to dry, dirty men in rags with sores on their legs, defecating beside cows defecating. As the bus bumped down the potholed road, the girls behind me whined, "I'm going to be sick," and then the girls behind them, "Turn off the air conditioning!" So the air went off; suddenly it was stuffy and smelled like rotten bananas and human feces.
Meanwhile, all my desires were crawling through me alongside the crawling scenery: I want to publish a book, perform a solo show, find love. These wants felt like twisting knives in my heart, so intense. Why was it so painful to want these things? And why were these desires attacking me then and there?
I looked out the window at two small children walking nearby, an older brother holding his younger sister’s hand, both of them laughing. She was wearing her hair in pigtails, like I used to at her age. But she was not wearing shoes and her clothes were tattered and torn. Her smile beamed. I dug my nails into my forearms. I am lucky, I reminded myself. But my desires didn't care; I felt them wrapping their fingers around my neck.
I leaned my head against the window and thought about how I’d signed up to sponsor a child in India. Two weeks before my departure, after buying my plane ticket and booking the tour, I had gotten off work and didn’t feel like going home yet, so I sat on a curb in Union Square to meditate on the flurry of frantic pedestrians. There was a man standing in front of me in a blue Children’s International t-shirt. He was doing the normal guerilla street marketing, "Do you have a minute for the children?" Of course, no one had a minute. I was sympathetic to the passersby; I don't usually like being attacked by people and their causes when I am rushing somewhere. After fifteen minutes of watching that guy get rejected, I called out to him, “Hey, I have a minute for the children, tell me about them.” I knew I had done myself in.
He sat down beside me on the curb, and pulled out his binder, flipping through pictures of skinny smiling children from impoverished countries.
“For twenty-two dollars a month, this child can receive health care and go to school. Come on,” he said, “How much money do you just drop on a night out?”
I had emptied my bank account, cashed all the bonds I’d saved from relatives since childhood and accepted a generous financial contribution from my mother, spending thousands of dollars to travel to a place where people were struggling to meet their basic needs. I was quitting my job and uncertain about my financial future, but come on, just twenty-two dollars a month. Later that week, I received my welcome packet with a photo of Bikash Kayal, age nine. He speaks Bengali and enjoys studying languages, playing with friends, and drawing.
With my head still against the window, I squeezed my eyes shut and repeated, I am lucky, as my cravings continued to slither relentlessly inside my skin: head to neck to shoulders, torso, hips, knees, toes, like a snake sliding up and down, down and up, hissing.
Staring out the window of the bus with trash, shit, and crumbling structures everywhere, I prayed for self-actualization. That was my ultimate craving. May I work toward my goals with peace and grace, may the pain from these desires cease.
Buddha said suffering is caused by craving and he preached the middle way: Become master over your cravings and you will reach nirvana.
I shut my eyes. My head bumped as the bus bumped. “Get some sleep,” some voice from somewhere whispered, “The rocket will be at your door before sunrise to shoot you straight up to heaven.”
The Jew in the Ashram
The original version of this show, One Breath, Then Another: An Interactive Yoga Show, officially premiered as part of Theater For The New City's 4th annual Dream Up Festival 2013. It has also been performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, PortFringe, The Rochester Fringe Festival, The Secret Theatre's Flying Solo Festival, Third Root Community Health Center, Dixon Place, & Manhattan Repertory Theatre and The School of Healing Arts in San Diego. A newer version, The Jew in the Ashram, has been performed at Beloved Brooklyn, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Temple Beth Shalom of Hastings, Kings Bay Y of Brooklyn, Brandeis Collegiate Institute of Simi Valley and Bhakti Barn of New Jersey.
I’m a fan of Amanda’s. I felt comfortable in her hands for an hour, and be it her writing, her performing, or her general personality ( she’s a nice person to see around the fringe) you can trust her ( and let’s be honest, we never quite know what we’re getting into in regards shows). Her writing is crisp and she has some interesting storytelling techniques which really make the show pop. Go. Take a breath.
Sara K. on September 17, 2015 at 10:49 pm said:
I will be honest. I did not enter this show with the highest of expectations. I expected this to just be some glorified ‘Intro to Yoga’ class packaged as a Fringe show. To anyone else is expecting something like that, I’m going to tell you … this show is not what you expect.
Amanda brings a personal dimension into this show by telling us bit by bit about the both loving and painful relationship she had with her father. There’s no bold dramatic story here – her father didn’t try to kill her mother or anything – but it’s moving because a lot the elements are familiar to a wide range of people. Have you been told more times than you can count that you should ‘work harder’, or that you’re too self-centered? Yeah, I thought so.
The yoga exercises (and chanting) are actually very helpful for establishing a connection between the audience and the story. I was surprised.
What really makes this show so compelling, in my opinion, is that Amanda is really a very good actress. Her performing skills are what brings this show to the next level.
I must say that this is one of the better shows in this year’s SF Fringe Festival (and I’ve seen 19 shows so far). Recommended.
Shawn Shafner on September 16, 2015 at 11:51 am said:
I loved Amanda’s show! Incredible storytelling in a blend of movement, sound, interaction, and exquisite acting. Amanda transforms her personal narrative of healing into a communal ritual that leaves you inspired, refreshed and warm of heart and soul. So grateful for her bravery and honesty; a show that must be experienced!
Last night I was attended a performance of Amanda Miller’s “One Breath, Then Another”, and I am so glad that I did.
Amanda is a wonderful actor with a hell of a story to tell. It’s one of loss, redemption, hope, frustration, exhilaration and love. She inhabits the many characters she encounters on her journey with complete physical and emotional investment. She has the enviable ability to bring an audience on a trip around the world – and into her heart – seamlessly and without a trace of self-consciousness.
I was the only person in the audience, and it is a testament to this woman’s passion and professionalism that she gave so much for the world’s smallest crowd. She even gave me a hug afterwards.
Amanda’s acting is some of the finest I have ever seen. Go and see this woman do her thing.
Bárbara Selfridge on September 16, 2015 at 9:06 am said:
I thought this was terrific.
TJ on September 16, 2015 at 7:42 am said:
This is an inspiring and thought provoking show with a unique audience yoga participatory aspect. Amanda’s bravery and genuineness with this difficult personal material really impresses, and she plays multiple characters with amazing chutzpah. Don’t miss this one!
amy dee on September 15, 2015 at 11:00 am said:
Amanda’s multifaceted one-woman show is an insightful, inspiring, and thoroughly entertaining experience! I loved following her emotional journey to India while performing yoga poses, breathing exercises, and thought experiments with her guidance. Amanda plays multiple characters to immensely humorous effect, but also allows audience members to step inside intimate, secret, and painful moments of her life to experience them anew. I was particularly astounded by her portrayal of her deceased father, as well as her ability to relive and thus reinvent traumatic moments of mental distress. I was right there with her the entire way, and her incredibly honest story allowed me to reflect on my own journeys. Through Amanda’s performance — and through breath, focus, and laughter — I gained more self-awareness by the end of the show.
Amanda Miller’s brilliant, searing and incredibly touching show not only demonstrates her absolute star power, it weaves a tale of a woman’s journey to self awareness, via a wild and reckless journey to India that will blow you away.
Julio P. on September 15, 2015 at 6:15 am said:
This show is a must see. I went knowing it was a one woman show and left with not only knowing more about the artist on stage but also about myself. The interactive element of the show engages the audience in the most genuine soulful manner. It made me aware of myself and everyone’s participation around me. That energy was a pleasant part of the show. Very creative and as well as serene. Amanda’s character and storytelling skills are so engaging that I felt we were all just a group of friends sharing stories. I was entertained and also grateful to be included as an audience member in this show. It was a wonderful journey. I recommend this show. Go see!!
Sarah on September 15, 2015 at 5:09 am said:
I first saw this show in NYC and was blown away by it’s strength, heart, and humor. As Brad says, it deals with deep and raw emotion in an honest and fearless way, but with such gentleness that you walk out of the theater feeling connected and happy. The interactive element is very light – a brief guided meditation and the like – but very effective in bridging that fourth wall gap between audience and performer. Writer/actor Amanda Miller is an artist to watch – her smarts and heart are a rare find, and her talent will surely bring her far. Catch her while you can!
One Breath was a really refreshing show. It goes to some raw, emotional places, but retains a sense of humor about itself throughout and never crosses over into self-indulgence. The interactive yoga aspects actually really added to the experience and really punctuated the show with some moments of stillness and meditation (also it wasn’t scary or uncomfortable, in case “interactive yoga aspects” strikes fear into the hearts of anyone).
A great show that takes you through every emotion in an hour. I laughed out loud at some parts, tear up at others. Amanda is a great storyteller who pulls you into her world with chanting and yoga interspersed throughout the show. Don’t be scared, the yoga is not intense! Go, you will not regret it.
"There is just one life for each of us: our own." -Euripides