Lois Libby Juster. Photography by Courtney Conk.
Lois Libby Juster. Photography by Courtney Conk.
She's been a community organizer, social worker, psychotherapist and yoga teacher, among other things, but when Lois Libby Juster was asked to define her work, she did not hesitate. "I'm a healer," she said, her intense blue eyes sparkling. "I call myself a healer because I don't know what else to call myself." It is an unconventional answer, but Juster has never been concerned with convention.

Uneasy beginnings
She was born the third of three children in an immigrant Jewish family in north Minneapolis. During the year Juster was 2 years old, her father and both her maternal grandparents, with whom Juster's family lived, all died. It was the depths of the Great Depression, and her mother struggled to support her young family. "My mother had already had a difficult life," Juster said, and related that her mother's family fled the pogroms of Russia when she was a young child. Juster's mother, who had a third-grade education, went to work at age 12. She married Juster's father at age 19, and was both widowed and orphaned at 32.

Though her mother remarried four years later, Juster said, "She never really recovered. The man she married was 23 years older. She didn't remarry for love, and it was not an easy marriage. But she felt she needed to take care of her kids."

Juster's new stepfather adopted all three children, and she became Lois Bloom. "We had a love/hate relationship," she recalled. ... "[and] I had a difficult relationship with my mother. I wasn't this easy child. My sister would sit so still on a couch in a store that people thought she was a doll and wanted to buy her. I never sat still," she remembered.

Juster's mother never understood her unconventional daughter. Like her mother, Lois Bloom married young. She was 19 and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when she met her husband, Rudy Becker, and dropped out of college to marry him. Their first daughter was born when Juster was 20; a son followed when she was 22, and a daughter was born four and a half years later. The family initially lived in St. Louis Park before relocating to Minneapolis. Juster's husband partnered with her father in his scrap and steel business.

Something more
Juster found herself restless as an at-home wife and mother, especially as her children grew. "I wasn't really interested in staying home, having coffee, playing cards," she said. "I wanted to go back to school."

Juster's mother couldn't understand her daughter's need to do something beyond her family life. "My mother asked me why I needed to go to school-after all, I had a husband and children," she said. In other words, Juster had the security that her mother had always craved. But Rudy Becker did understand. "He really supported me in doing whatever I wanted," she said.

Juster was going to school in the evenings to complete her undergraduate degree when a neighbor invited her to a yoga class. Though Juster didn't continue with the classes at that time, she started practicing yoga at home.

When her former yoga teacher invited Juster to a class held by a swami from Canada, Juster went but found the experience "weird. I wasn't much taken with what was going on. I was uncomfortable with all the spirituality. After the class, I thought, 'I'm done with that.'"

New beginnings
It turned out, though, that she was really just beginning. Juster continued her schooling, and she and Rudy went on a trip to Israel. When they returned, there was a postcard waiting. Swami Rahda, the Canadian woman, was coming to town for another class. "I was hoping there wasn't space," Juster said. "But something inside said I had to do this."

Juster was busy finishing her degree, and she was involved in the alternative schools movement, working more than full time at what was supposed to be a quarter-time position-but loving it. And then she went to the second class with Swami Radha and, she said, "It changed my life. ... it wasn't like an 'aha!' kind of thing, but something was deepening in me. I had an inner knowing, or I wouldn't have known to go." That was in the spring of 1972. A year later, she was invited to attend a six-week summer training for yoga teachers at the ashram in Canada. The timing was good in one sense-she had completed her undergraduate degree and her next real commitment, starting graduate school part time, wasn't until fall. But it wasn't such good timing in a global sense: In 1973, Juster said, women didn't just up and leave their families for six weeks.

"It almost destroyed my marriage," she said, speaking of her desire to go. "My husband was afraid that [if I went], I was never going to come back. My mother told him, 'A good wife would never go. If she does this, you should divorce her.'" Juster's children, then 11, 15, and 17, opposed the trip.

Juster's husband finally told her, that though he didn't want her to go, if she felt that strongly that she wanted to go, she should. "He was a wonderful man," she said.

Juster went, and it was the first of several trips to the ashram. In the meantime, she finished her graduate social work degree. Along with several others, she co-founded the Psychosynthesis Institute, a group of psychotherapists who integrated eastern and western psychology into practice in the tradition of pioneering psychotherapist Roberto Assagioli.

"I was never much of a traditional psychotherapist," Juster said. "I don't look at people as sick or broken, but that something is trying to emerge. I believe we hold within our cellular structure the history of humanity. There are lives that live inside of us that affect how we are today. You can call them past lives, tapping into the history of the world. Sometimes we have to go back."

Juster is aided in her work by what some would call a heightened intuitive sense; others would refer to her as psychic. Juster's mother, too, had this gift, though she did not acknowledge it.

Reclaiming herself
As Juster worked to help others reclaim their past lives, she found that she wanted to reclaim her own birthright. In 1981, Lois Becker took back her birth name and became Lois Libby Juster. In a way, the name was new to her; Juster's mother had told her she didn't have a middle name. She'd discovered that she did indeed have one-Libby-when she was given her original birth certificate. "In theory, my husband was fine with [the name change]," Juster said. "I told him, I had never gotten to know myself with that name. ... Although he agreed I should do it, he was really uncomfortable."

Her children, too, were opposed to the name change, so much so that when Rudy Becker died three years later, they told her, "'If you get married again, you better not take his name!' My kids took it as a rejection," Juster said.

Helping others die
Rudy Becker died of cancer in 1984, leaving Juster a widow after 31 years of marriage. He had originally been given "six months to live, a year maximum," Juster said. She was unwilling to accept the prognosis, and with alternative medicine, he lived seven years- good quality years, she said.

Juster learned something important about herself when she quit work to stay home and care for Rudy during his last few months of life. "I learned that I knew how to help people die," she said. "I do some hospice work, it's an honor, a privilege to go through someone's dying process with them." She would, she said, like to work with more dying clients.

Along with her full-time work, Juster is has other passions, too. One of her current projects is elementary education in Mongolia. She and friend Ann Alger have formed a nonprofit, the Bridge Project, that has built a kindergarten. "The government pays the teachers, we raised the money to build and equip the schools," she said.

The women held a fundraiser and have also sold handmade Mongolian jackets. Others have joined in the effort. "It felt like, part of it was building this community... all of us working together," Juster said. Mayor R.T. Rybak proclaimed the day of the fundraiser, May 7, 2007, "Mongolian Education Day" in the city of Minneapolis.

"I'm not a fundraiser, I don't want that to be my new job," Juster said. "I have the heart, a commitment to the future of the world, the transformation of humanity ... to a world where everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their lives in a way that's meaningful to them."

Though she sees the big picture of transformation, Juster gains most of her fulfillment working one-on-one with clients. At 73, she maintains a full-time practice. That is, when she's not taking tango lessons (she loves the 'sensuousness' of tango but finds it challenging to be the follower), bicycling, or traveling: to Mongolia for the school, to Nepal with The Advocates for Human Rights, or to visit a granddaughter in Scottsdale (she has eight grandchildren).

Juster is grateful for her gifts but honest about her own limitations. "Most people that know me, know that I've got just as much shit as anyone else does. "I feel so much gratitude, appreciation to be able to do this work. When people thank me, I say, no, thank you. I couldn't do this if you didn't come."


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