Kelly Morris knows that meditation can save the world. She just needs everyone to get on board.
The true believer first happened upon yoga accidentally, when a boyfriend dragged her to class. She realized immediately that she’d stumbled onto something giant and she committed herself entirely.
It was just after the tragedy of 9-11, when Morris was profiled as the cover story by New York Magazine, that the world’s relationship to yoga shifted, and she began to realize her potential to affect change on a greater level. Since then, the yogi, meditation teacher and energy coach has been initiated by every guru from Amma to Satchidananda, and founded the lauded Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Program. She is regularly tapped for speaking and teaching engagements and offers private Find Your Infinity coaching sessions, as well. Most recently, The Parrish Museum chose Morris to lead one of their coveted Friday Night Series events this summer (on August 21st, 2015 in the Hamptons).
Here, Morris describes why hearing your own unimpeded voice is so rare and precious:
Live The Process: How did you discover yoga and meditation?
Kelly Morris: Back in the 80s, I was in LA and dating a now-famous guy in the hedge fund business. (I was quite different then.) After weeks of pestering me to come to yoga class with him, I finally went. Halfway through, it was like something clicked into place and I was in some kind of somatic heaven. I couldn’t touch my knees, let alone my feet, but I was smitten.
When I got back to NYC, I promptly bailed on figurative sculpture at Parsons and began a mad search for the right yoga place in NYC, replacing the modern art in my apartment with Hindu iconography almost immediately. Out with abstract Pollack; in with flamboyant Hindu iconography. I tend to go all in.
LTP: Did you understand their power from the beginning?
KM: I did. I left behind everything I once understood and believed because of the power I felt. Some of our modern ennui arises out of the vacuum created by having somehow abandoned ourselves at the deepest level. We have taken care of the outside of ourselves, what the world sees when it looks in our direction.
But most of us have not paid the same kind of attention to cultivating our inner experience. One of the unhappy results of that neglect is we often search for someone or something outside of ourselves to provide the direction we so need. More often than not, we end up disappointed when we realize they, or it, are not what we thought, and our search begins once again.
Through the patient practice of meditation, our own hearts become our source of authority. My greatest moments with my Find Your Infinity personal coaching clients are when we succeed in getting their daily meditation practice off the ground. They are shocked at how quickly that inner compass can develop.
LTP: When did you realize your calling and how was it realized?
KM: From a young age, I’ve wanted to help. I grew up all over the world and saw the global nature of suffering firsthand. From Africa to Ceylon to Egypt to Japan, no one seemed to escape its clutches. I would often find myself obsessively wondering, “What’s the point? Why is there suffering? Why am I here?”
When I first began teaching at Jivamukti Yoga, I was a terrible instructor. I may seem brash and outgoing, but, the truth is, I am extraordinarily introverted. But I was so changed by all I was experiencing, I knew I needed to share it with others. It wasn’t until I realized I was making a difference in people’s lives that my fear subsided.
My classes at Jivamukti grew larger by the week and, at one point, tickets were required to attend. But, more than that, I was reaching people. I finally had the answer to my childhood question. My students felt the power of the practice.
LTP: Why is compassion so important and how can we cultivate more of it?
KM: Our world is in such dire straights. The global extermination of women is in full play. Men have been taught not to cry, which means they are taught not to feel. When we don’t feel, nothing is too barbaric. I believe that meditation can be the profound redirect our planet needs to save itself. We seem to be unique among species in that we are the only one actively creating the causes of our own extinction.
But what is really dying is the old way of thinking and being: Circle the wagons, take care of you and yours and screw the rest of the world. Send a check once in a while to a starving kid in Africa and call it a day.
We are all being called to step out of fear and into Love. How is this transition to take place? Can we love from our ivory towers? Can we love from a place of abject disconnection, one that we seek to mitigate by drinking, shopping, eating, fucking and achieving? If we don’t connect to Source on a daily and committed basis, will we have the requisite chops to pull it off?
Meditation affords connection. Connection—experienced long enough and frequently enough—eventually makes everyone feel like family, from trees to Iraq to that spider you squealed about and stepped on last night. When everyone is experienced as family, violence ceases.
I take it that far. Meditation has the power to stop war. It forces you to lay down your weapons.
Everyone I know is so distracted, so frenzied. Multitasking is seen as an admirable and necessary skill in the modern world, but a fractured mind is an unhappy mind. The mind hates being pulled in a million directions, no matter what your coffee addiction tells you.
Imagine 50 people telling you what to do at the same time and you trying to do it: That’s the state of most people’s minds. They hear their parents, their kids, their significant others; they hear CNN and Oprah, they hear Vogue and Anna Wintour; they hear TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and commercials all the time and without abatement.
Eventually, it seems quite normal. Having a voice unmediated by culture is rare.
Meditation makes you the authority. For so long now, about 5,000 years or so, we have lived in an onerous culture predicated on hierarchy. It’s good for business: Someone is an expert and it’s probably not you, so pay up. Meditation engenders self-agency. It spells the end of, “I have no idea what I am doing.”
Many people have no idea what it might be like to be so in-tune with their inner authority that no other authority is needed. It feels almost illegal. In some ways, when we tune out and check out, we are right where they want us; we are lemmings lining up for the newest and greatest iPhone because surely happiness is found in the 4x2 inch metal box. That is until the next version comes out and, with planned obsolescence, you’re queuing up several times a year.
LTP: For beginners to both yoga and meditation, who might feel intimidated, what would you recommend as a starting place?
KM: It’s usually best to learn from a qualified teacher directly. But sometimes finding the right yoga teacher is tricky. There are as many charlatans in the world of yoga and meditation as there are anywhere else. You need to ask who they studied with, for how long and where. As silly as it may sound, finding a meditation teacher should be taken seriously. You are entrusting someone with the most precious part of your body: your mind.
Never ever, under any circumstances, give your power away. By that I mean, never surrender your thinking cap, your ability to discern right from wrong. The world of yoga and meditation is rife with scandals of every variety, whether you see it on the news or it stays hidden in the shadows. Keep your eyes open.
LTP: You spend so much time trying to guide others. What does your personal wellness regimen look like?
KM: Every morning, I meditate and practice asana. I make a point to put only natural substances in my body: I own a juicer, I refuse to drink tap water (fluoride calcifies the pineal gland, the seat of the third eye) and I try to eat as organic as possible. I also make sure to hug at least one tree a day. Yes, even in NYC.
LTP: How do you keep yourself balanced and centered in the face of your busy schedule?
KM: Not to beat a dead horse, but meditation. If you keep your mind clear and your heart open, live your life aligned with your deepest values, refuse to fold under cultural pressures and remember that we were all put here to love, you will find yourself quite balanced. It’s only when we get sidetracked by envy, doubt and the rest that we lose our way.
LTP: What is your current wellness obsessions?
KM: Brooklyn BodyBurn has me absolutely hooked. I am already worried about leaving Brooklyn for vacations and not having that evil (but amazing) black machine with me.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
KM: The whole world meditating would make me happier than anything else. I have had money, fame, celebrity friends and influence. None of it has come close to how I feel when I succeed in getting a new personal spiritual coaching client in the throes of awakening to meditate. For me, it must be how a mother feels the first time her baby walks. There is a tug of pride and joy on my heart.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how do you do that every day?
KM: It’s a cliché, but every day is a chance to begin anew. Seize it. You don’t have to remain anxious, miserable or frantic. You can change; your life can change. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life wondering if the men in white coats from Bellevue are on their way. You just have to sit down and learn to meditate. You can heal your brain. Even my clients resist. Everyone would rather read a book about meditation for an hour than sit down and do it for 20 minutes. But somehow, despite their resistance, I get them meditating. Once that’s in play and, for good, a certain autonomy is established. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
Editor's Note: other interviews you might enjoy include A Moment With David Lynch, A Moment With Tracey Ash and A Moment with Mina Gough.