An Interview with R.R. Shakti, PhD.
Every now and again, an interview goes amazingly well—the questions are juicy, the intention is clear. Recently, I was interviewed for the Steamboat Movement Fest' and the energy was so delicious, I was actually a little sad when we finished:
SMF: What do you plan to share at this upcoming workshop in Steamboat?
RRS: To be honest, I never know EXACTLY what will come out in a workshop, but my intention is to offer tools for balancing Vata. Colorado experiences a windy and exciting Autumn season. For many of us, it can be easy to slip into erratic tendencies of “busy-ness.” Yoga and Ayurveda both offer ways of channeling the creative forces that surge during the Vata season. There will be a lot of flow movement with long, luxurious yin yoga, breathing practices and, of course, a little story-telling...I can’t resist. Maybe we’ll even draw pictures...
SMF: Why do you practice Ayurvedic traditions?
RRS: Because they work. At first it’s like a Cosmo quiz. You check all the boxes that apply: Are you kapha, vata, or pitta? It seems like people love to be labeled, you know. Like, they want someone to tell them who and what they are. But then, as you get to experience the work of Ayurveda, it becomes a living—very dynamic—practice of self-discovery. You learn how to truly witness yourself. When you are fully present to your experience, you can nurture yourself. You are your own healer, teacher, and guru. You are empowered to find balance for yourself, again and again. It’s not a static thing. It’s not really a Cosmo quiz. You just keep peeling back the layers of self-discovery.
SMF: Name your three biggest influences.
RRS: That answer changes often. Currently, I am digging Marion Woodman. Her work as a Jungian Analyst and champion of the feminine principle is deeply influencing my PhD work on the Hindu Goddess and Alchemical Sacred Marriage. My teacher, Sreedevi Bringi is a big influence. She always make you feel like YOU are the teacher. Her compassion and genuine Love is contagious. And then there’s my own mom. She cultivated a lust for learning within me and exemplified a contemplative spirit.
SMF: Are you a mother? What is it like teaching a path of mindfulness to your child?
RRS: I am a mother. It is my favorite title. It’s more like she is teaching me. She is one of the best mirrors for how I am living my life. One night, I was putting her to bed and she asked:
“Mama, are you happy.”
“I am happy,” I responded. “Because of you.”
“No, mama,” she reminded me. “You are happy because of you.”
Kids embody a profoundly human wisdom. I try to always listen.
SMF: How has your formal education created a space for your creative endeavors?
RRS: Words. I like to say that I don’t sling mysteries. I teach what everyone already knows, deeply, in their heart of hearts. That is what makes it valuable. My education has provided more words to use, that’s all—more ways of relating the precious things that we all already know. This is a gift because we forget what we know. The more we can remind each other of our basic goodness and inner power, the more inspired and inspiring we are for one another. I think that is why we are here.
In addition, every single thing I learn opens the door to one thousand things I don’t know. It serves me well when I realize what I don’t know. Then I can be open to what another person is experiencing beyond my limited projections.
SMF: What brought you to the Goddess?
RRS: I would say that I have been brought to the Sacred Marriage. From a mythical, archetypal perspective that is a reunion of the God and the Goddess.
Since I was a child, I have always had an intimate connection to the Infinite, without a strong dogma around my God-Image. If anything my idea of God is expansive and all- encompassing Love. But I have gotten progressively weary of the spiritual quest for transcendence.
I was always taught that I am not my body or my mind, but the spirit within. So in 2002, as the van I was driving careened over a 50 foot vertical drop into a mountain river, I had an overwhelming realization. “I am not my body. I am not my mind,” I reassured myself. I was sure that I was dying. And it was really peaceful. Death didn’t hurt at all…
Waking up, alive, on the side of the river—now that really hurt. My broken, bleeding body quickly reminded me that it is not an illusion. It’s a real thing. I am a spirit, yes. But I am also a body, at least for as long as I am alive. And I am a mind. Through the primal instincts of my mind and my body, I scrambled and crawled my way to safety.
Two things happened that day. I became less afraid of death. It also brought me to a new celebration of life. The experience of just being human became so precious to me.
In asana class, we learn to “root to rise.” And for me the whole endeavor of Patanjali, Plato, and patriarchal reason is one-sided and lacking. There is something sacred about going deeper, lower into the muck and mud. As humans, we are angel-monkeys after all—part transcendental spirit and part stinky feet. When we don’t recognize ourselves as part of the Earth, we tend to take advantage of her.
That is what I stand for today: a reawakening of the sacred that is within the Earth. It is a stand for the re-wilding of life—the affirmation of life—so that “all-encompassing Love” may be a deeply human, real-world, experience.
SMF: What is your heart-offering to the world? Your biggest dreams?
I want to be a reflection of universal Love, to remind everyone of their own basic goodness and inner power.
My biggest dream is that I am an old, old lady on my deathbed telling my beautifully thriving daughter that I am joyfully ready to die. I’ll say, “Darling, I have had an amazing life and you were my favorite part of it. I got to be both an expression and a reflection of universal Love. I spent just the right amount of time dreaming and the rest of my time wide awake to life. I celebrated my life. I truly lived, and now I am truly ready to die.”
SMF: Describe some of the tools in your “tool box” for when things get tough - meditations, asanas, teachings, etc.
RRS: The best tool I know is to stop and get quiet. Throwing lessons or activities at challenges can seem like throwing small stones at a giant. Then, it’s just frustrating when the tough times keep coming. I find clarity only when I slow way down and listen to my inner guru. I have to get really intimate with my feelings and get really honest. Often what happens then is a deep sense of gratitude. Gratitude is the big stone that takes out the giant—right between the eyes.
SMF: What does a Full Moon Goddess Gathering entail? What does the full moon symbolize to you?
RRS: Goddess Gathering has had a few different incarnations. My favorite is when a bunch of women drink wine together, laugh, cry and empower each other. I like to bring a Goddess myth into the atmosphere as a topic for real-life exploration. We tell each other stories and maybe gain some insights. We leave feeling nurtured and inspired.
Mythically, the full moon has been associated with the Mother Goddess as zoe, in her full potentiality for creative expression. For me, the full moon is just another reason to celebrate. I could just as easily celebrate a crescent moon, or a sunrise, or 10:37 on a Tuesday.
SMF: Have you always been in touch with Shakti energy?
RRS: Yes. But when I was younger they called it different things: “creative,” “free-spirited,” “willful,” “sensitive,” “impulsive,” “dramatic…”
SMF: What is the best way you have found to empower other women?
RRS: Hands down, the best way to empower others is to remember my own inner power, every time. When I forget, I am of no service. I get envious and weird just like anyone else might.
SMF: Name some challenges you’ve faced being a spiritual feminine leader in a predominantly masculine-driven world.
RRS: I don’t find men trying to hold me down, actually. I find that most female oppression, these days, comes from other women. Of course there are patterns of patriarchy that remain in my psyche from the collective, and maybe childhood. Those voices sometimes tell me that I shouldn’t assert myself or that I have no right to actually “know something.” Sometimes I feel like a little kid in a 40-something body and I have to remind myself that I actually have an amazing education—both from academia and life experience. I do have gifts, ideas, and stories to share.
SMF: What other things are you involved in?
RRS: Truly, my PhD work can be a little isolating. These days are all about Mythology, Yoga Psychology, and my four year old daughter.
SMF: Where can we find you? When/where do you teach?
RRS: I’ll be out teaching more when my dissertation is done. In the meantime, I am thrilled whenever I get an opportunity to play with others. It makes my work more dynamic and living when I can share it—when I can teach the content as I am learning it. You can find my schedule online at rrshakti.com and at innerpoweryoga.info.
SMF: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RRS: I am honored that you would want to ask me questions at all, let alone such good ones.