Take a silent meditation retreat with an experienced meditation teacher once or twice a year. If we drive our car without ever servicing it properly, in time it will just give out. As humans, we operate in a similar way. Silence gives deep rest to our mind, body and spirit. It’s a gathering of energy. Deep silence and meditation allows our mind to settle down, while nourishing our body and our spirit.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing international speaker and inner-transformation coach, Patti Montella. Patti has taught tens of thousands of people worldwide how to access more happiness, peace of mind and dynamism through the Art of Living Foundation. Patti is the author of Becoming Unshakeable, a spiritual memoir and collection of fifteen Wisdom Lessons to help readers develop newfound self-awareness, leading to a path of greater clarity, happiness, inner strength, and fulfillment.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up a pretty happy and healthy kid, in a traditional catholic family in upstate New York. Around sixteen, I was restless to explore the world and to discover the universal truths about life. I knew that what I saw as a “normal life, ” i.e. getting an education, a job and raising a family wasn’t the lifestyle for me. I joined an international airline and travel technology company, moved to its corporate headquarters in Texas and started traveling the world. After the death of a dear friend and a failed marriage, I pulled up stakes and moved to Colorado for a fresh start. After years of searching for spiritual fulfillment, that’s when I found my Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Upon Sri Sri’s invitation, I became a full-time international faculty member and leader in his non-profit organizations,which are dedicated to the upliftment of humanity. And just like that, I walked out of life as I knew it toward something much greater than myself.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
- Number one is incorporating breathwork and meditation as part of your daily routine. The Sudarshan Kriya (SKY) breathing technique, conceived by Sri Sri, is a powerful technique for releasing stress, fostering clarity of mind, increasing self-confidence and creativity along with a greater sense of connection with the self and others. It’s benefits are cumulative at a physical, mental and emotional level. It was a game-changer in my life, and the reason I continue teaching it throughout the world.
- Start moving toward a vegetarian diet as a way of life. It’s better for our health and our planet. As humans, we’re built more like a herbivore; our teeth aren’t pointed and our intestines are very long which means that meat is heavy for our systems to digest. As a result, meat ferments and rots over time creating toxins in our system. Once I became a vegetarian in 1998, every aspect of my health improved. Becoming a vegetarian was a process and in order to acclimate, I found it time-bound commitments helped me to transition toward a completely vegetarian-diet.
- Take a silent meditation retreat with an experienced meditation teacher once or twice a year. If we drive our car without ever servicing it properly, in time it will just give out. As humans, we operate in a similar way. Silence gives deep rest to our mind, body and spirit. It’s a gathering of energy. Deep silence and meditation allows our mind to settle down, while nourishing our body and our spirit.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
What I do is more like a calling, not a career and it’s dynamic — there’s never a dull moment!
If you had met me 25 years ago, you would never have imagined that I would live at an Ashram today and be so peaceful.
One of the more interesting people I had the honor of teaching was a young man from Copenhagen, who took several different self-development workshops with me one summer, in London. He was a recovered addict, a former drug-dealer and gangster — all by his early 20’s. Not too long before we met, drug-dealers who were after him for money had thrown acid on him and he’d lost one of his eyes. Miraculously he found his way to an Art of Living Happiness program, learned the SKY technique and meditation. As a result, his entire perspective of life and what was truly possible for him, shifted. After that summer in London, we became friends and he went on to become the youngest teacher ever for our prisoner rehabilitation program. He has now dedicated his life to sharing what he has learned with others.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started out, I was constantly losing patience and becoming frustrated with people and situations when mistakes were made, when things didn’t move as quickly as I wanted, or how I had imagined. The need for perfection had a negative impact on several relationships, and holding on so tightly to what I perceived was the right outcome, actually limited my success. Over time I learned the value of keeping a calm state of mind and a sense of belonging with others while also leaving room for imperfection. These are essential leadership qualities which can lead a team to success, and inspires everyone to keep moving forward — together.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Chronic stress, depression and anxiety have become common illnesses in our world today. This is a sign of an unhealthy society. By strengthening the individual through breathwork and meditation, we strengthen the family, community and all of society. The organizations that I am part of, have been doing incredible work around the world in this regard for almost 40 years. I have personally taught tens of thousands of people how to manage their mind and emotions and to restore harmony to their body, mind and spirit through breathwork and meditation. From business executives who are struggling at home and in the office, to veterans suffering from PTSD and youth being recruited by ISIS — every single person I have personally had the honor to teach the SKY breathing technique to, or who has benefitted from our programs, usually wish they had learned these techniques earlier in life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Not only did he teach me the powerful SKY breathing technique he conceived, he made me a full-time international faculty member and leader for his organizations — which brought meaning to my life in ways I never could have imagined.Through his teachings, unconditional love and patience, I have become a more energized, happier and fulfilled human being who is living life to her highest human potential. I’m blessed to share what I’ve learned with people all over the world, which brings so much happiness to me and to others.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m actually part of that movement today. The Art of Living Foundation is a movement that has reached millions of people in 156 countries with workshops designed to holistically strengthen the individual and foster human values throughout society.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I don’t have any regrets. I have lived life authentically at 100% every step of the way. Through all the experiences and the wisdom gained in walking this path — I have become unshakeable. I could say that I wish I’d learned the breathwork and meditations that I teach today, when I was a kid, but I also know all unfolded as it should at the right time in my life. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be?
I don’t have a crush, but I admire Brene Brown. I really appreciate her authenticity, vulnerability, humor and research in the field of human development. She is a fellow Texan and transformation expert — I think we’d have a lot to share with one another as well as a lot of fun and fulfillment uplifting others — as a combined force! I would like to learn more about her journey in sharing what she has learned with millions of people and staying true to herself along the way.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health. When we learn to manage our mind and emotions through the yogic sciences and ancient Vedic wisdom, our life energy increases, as does our self-awareness. As a result of becoming more established in the Self, which is our highest level of existence, human values naturally flourish, i.e. caring for the planet, non-violence, friendliness and an attitude of service toward one another. Caring for our mental health is the first step in leaving this world better than we found it.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights!