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From The Doors Photographer to Psychologist and Spiritual Educator: An Interview with Bobby Klein

By Sophia Perlstein
Aug 12, 2019

Tulum’s magnetic and almost other-worldy synergy attracts a type of seeker. Its mysticism ignites curiosity and its cavernous enclaves are spaces for transformation. Upon his first visit 25 years ago, Dr. Bobby Klein experienced this calling. A renowned clinical psychologist and spiritual educator, he is the founder and director of Yaan Wellness spa in Tulum. 

This September, we’ll welcome him to Habitas | Tulum where he’ll share his knowledge of the healing arts through practices that invoke courage and expand our consciousness during our three day gathering, Reintegration. We recently spoke with Bobby about his path, mentors and home in the jungle. 

Check-out our interview below. To join us this September, click here.

You went from being a pop icon photographer for The Doors and Janis Joplin to pioneering the legalization of acupuncture… how did you come to discover acupuncture and transition your career path?

In addition to being a photographer I was in the restaurant business at the time in the late 60’s; I had the first organic restaurant in L.A.  It was groundbreaking, exciting, as well as stressful. I began to have trouble with my eyes, they were painful and inflamed. I tried the traditional Western Medicine route to no avail. I saw a friend at a party. My eyes were noticeably red and irritated and he asked what was up. He told me about an acupuncturist in Chinatown, Los Angeles, and suggested I go see him. I was skeptical, but the next morning my eyes were worse and all I had was an address in Chinatown on a scrap of paper. I made my way downtown and convinced the doctor to see me, it was illegal at the time, so his business had a mostly Asian clientele. He made an exception for me because he saw that I was suffering. He fixed me in 20 minutes. I was blown away, and after some grilling me to see if I was worthy, he agreed to take me as a student. From there I became one of the first licensed acupuncturists in America and helped to get it legalized. I was instrumental in opening the first acupuncture clinic at UCLA now known as the East West Clinic of Traditional Medicine.

Are there any mentors specifically who have influenced you on your path?

I would say that my acupuncture teacher Gim Shek Ju had a major influence in my life as did a man named Malcom Boyd Dana. Mr. Dana had been a priest, College President and was a student of Jung and Adler. He became my mentor in psychology and in Jungian analysis. There have been various healers, shamans, and Native American elders who have influenced me through the years as well. I have been blessed, and to this day find many influencers and teachers on the path.

We are so excited to welcome you to our home in Tulum… and we know you have your own wellness center here Yaan Tulum.. When and how did you first become connected with Tulum?

I had been visiting Tulum for 25 years. About 10 years ago I was the subject of a gang initiation in Echo Park, California and was badly injured in the fray and ended up having to have a reparative surgery. I went to Tulum to rest after surgery and was led to a Temazcal/sweat lodge where I heard the voices of my teachers telling me I should move to Tulum immediately and continue my work there….and I did. My life in the Yucatan unfolded from there.

Tulum has become a hub for many seeking spiritual awareness. Can you share with us a few local traditions and rituals that embody the spirit of the Yucatan?

Temazcals are a powerful cleansing ritual of body, mind and spirit that is similar to a Native American sweat lodge. In taking part in the sacred rituals and traditions of the Maya though we must always remember we are on the sacred land of the Maya. It is the embodiment of the healing traditions and faith of the Maya that is felt whether you are on a spiritual quest or not. The energy in Tulum will open you to take a good look at yourself and your path. For some it is enlightening, for others it is frightening. To live or work in Tulum, you must make a choice to embrace the energy or to leave.

You have spent many years working alongside Mayan communities in the Yucatan. Can you speak to the synergy between business owners, tourists and locals?

Well, there is a “synergy,” but one must also acknowledge the ruptures and well-deserved contention. Again, I often speak of having respect for the traditions of the land and original peoples. The expats here who do not choose to live in harmony with the land, people, animals, sacred waters and traditions are deeply affected by their choice and suffer for their actions. Businesses don’t work, illness comes, relationships fall apart, etc.

Many visitors have their lives greatly affected by visiting here. If you want to make changes in your life for the better Tulum can be a power spot for change… if one is respectful and honoring of the history and people.