First Fridays: Katia Tallarico, Co-Founder, The Uplift Project

Q+A with a psychotherapist tapping the transformation economy

For this month’s edition of First Fridays, we connected with Katia Tallarico, a Columbia-trained psychotherapist democratizing transformational retreats with The Uplift Project. Read on for her thoughts on raising collective consciousness, the power of Vedic meditation, and why adaptability is key for personal and professional growth.

Please tell us a bit about The Uplift Project and what inspired you to co-found it.

The Uplift Project emerged from the positive response Andrea Praet, co-founder, and I received from the first urban retreat we curated. Since we both know first-hand the personal transformation possible on retreats, we sought to find a way to bridge the gap for those curious about them but not quite ready to take the plunge. Retreating is highly beneficial, but in addition to the fear of the unknown, there are associated costs such as arranging transportation, accommodations, and taking the time off work, which can be daunting. By offering a retreat in the city, we are able to make the experience more accessible. As we prepared for the weekend, we began to develop relationships with wisdom keepers, expert practitioners and provocateurs from so many modalities, we figured, why stop here? Let’s have monthly offerings to showcase these amazing people and introduce our community to the variety that is out there. There is a practice for everyone, so our hope is to inspire organic connections to the possibilities.

Why do you think personal transformation has become such a priority for young generations?

I think young people are increasingly more aware of their power and how they have a role in raising collective consciousness. It’s not our role to end the world’s suffering, but by healing our own, we become models for those around us. My teacher, Thom Knoles, says, “If we want a forest to be green, then every tree in the forest must be green; a green forest is not made up of brown trees. Likewise, if we want a peaceful world, then individuals must become peaceful; a peaceful world is not made up of unhappy people.” This is my personal inspiration and what led me to produce the urban retreat. My wish is to inspire inner peace to all those I encounter by sharing the wisdom of my many teachers.

How does your work as a psychotherapist inform your creative or programming decisions?

The Uplift community trusts our choices and offerings—we see this by the steady increase of repeat attendees at each project. Similarly, as a therapist, you must quickly establish trust if you want to see your client again—no real work is done without that foundation built. This comes through rooting oneself in the core conditions of being an empathetic listener, a genuine presence, and offering unconditional positive regard. These conditions remind me of the principles we base the decisions we make for every aspect of each project. From the experts we feature, the snacks we serve, to the treats we gift, every element has been personally experienced by us. We vet each practitioner through conversations, private sessions, and research into their lineage and experience. We relate to each practice and feel they are expressed authentically. And we are open to everything and everyone, so long as they respect our principles. This continuity is what I feel our community values and keeps them coming back for more.

In addition to your own, which companies are doing a good job of helping people elevate their lives?

Vedic Meditation (VM) Initiators are teaching an invaluable practice that is the baseline to elevating all aspects of our lives. I invite everyone I meet to discover Thom Knoles and come hear him speak in New York, where he appears regularly. Or, if New York is not accessible, become informed on the hundreds of teachers he has personally instructed to share Vedic wisdom. Learning VM was the single best gift I ever gave myself.

What’s next for you and the Uplift Project?

Our next urban retreat, Change of Heart: How to Amplify the Power of your Heart, is coming up November 12th and 13th. This year, we have pared down the experts from six to four so that each can share more in-depth knowledge. They are Vedic meditation teacher, Theo Burkhardt, Kundalini master, Hari Kaur Khalsa, sound therapy practitioner, Sara Auster, and holistic nutritionist and Ayurvedic expert, Noel Graupner. We have established a theme surrounding our heart, how we can be our best selves and have the most relevant responses to interact with the needs of the time. Participants will leave feeling more alive; it's a really special weekend to gift oneself!

Finally, why do you think entrepreneurship has become so aspirational for young people today? What words of wisdom would you offer to those hoping to go down this path?

Traditional career paths are no longer speaking to young people, and as Albert Einstein so aptly put it, “You can’t solve today’s problems with the same thinking that created them.” If you feel the desire to innovate, follow that charm without delay. But do so with ease, prepared to switch paths and take unexpected forks in the road. We can have plans and goals, but we must also be highly adaptable beings. Trust in change and that all the obstacles thrown our way are just opportunities for greater growth.