Life has a way of coming at us fast, and when it does, we’re usually left searching for answers. That’s where Patti Montella found herself early in life after the death of a beloved friend and the unravelling of her marriage: seeking the universal truths of life.
Her book Becoming Unshakeable, gives us a rare inside look into the life and transformation of a true seeker who rose above countess obstacles, learned from her failures, discovered her inner resilience, and uncovered the source of happiness.
Of course, in our chat today, she shared some of the 15 life changing wisdom lessons she writes about in her book. They’ll not only help you develop a new found sense of self-awareness, but also sets you on a path towards greater clarity, happiness, inner strength, and fulfillment.
Patti Montella: I saw the deep value of the yogic sciences and the Vedic wisdom and what it was doing for me personally and what it was opening up in my consciousness—how it was making my life easier, how much more resilience was coming up and more joy, more dynamism, just more in all the best ways. It’s a path from the East, from India. It’s an ancient path. It’s ancient wisdom.
As a mainstream, you could say traditional person, I wanted to connect the dots for people. To see that this may look, on the outside, different from what you’re accustomed to or what you’ve been exposed to, what you’re familiar with.
But the truth in this wisdom and in these practices, transcend religion, culture, and any limited identifications. Truth is truth.
Regardless of your religion, culture, or background, this is wisdom that facilitates the highest expression of life in you as an individual and for society. So, as someone who is not from India, although this wisdom and these traditions are from India, I felt like if I would write about my experience, it would help people step foot on the path themselves.
They would be able to relate with, to me, in the obstacles and the questions and the doubts and the wonders and some of the concepts I had. Break through that and have this treasure trove of wisdom and practices so they could have a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life themselves.
Patti’s Spiritual Journey
Rae Williams: Tell me a little bit about your personal journey. What happened in your world that led you to this?
Patti Montella: I have a questioning and curious mind. How do things work? What is truth? How do I get to know what that is? I have never settled for a mundane existence, and I find that’s our nature. Our nature is to expand. We want to know more, we want to have more love, want to have more money, we want to have more happiness, we want to enjoy more.
Because our nature is to expand.
And that was very true. I was very aware of that in my own nature, this curiosity to understand, how does it all work? I didn’t want to take just what I was told, in school or through the religious instruction classes I had as a kid. I got value, but I kept feeling there was something more that was universal. I didn’t know how to find it.
I also wanted to find unconditional love. I felt like it existed, but how to know it, where is it, how to experience it, and who can teach me that?
I did try a number of different things. I studied, I had a really good solid training in the Catholic religion growing up, and it really instilled love and appreciation for everyone who has come before, who has shared this kind of wisdom.
It gave me a strong faith in a higher power.
But it still left me wanting to know more and to also see it, beyond an intellectual concept, but to experience it in life.
So I studied Native American traditions, I dabbled in metaphysics for a while, and then I came to A Course in Miracles. That was the first time that I started to find something that was beyond any religion or dogma, but was just pure truth about consciousness and how to live life with a great expression of human values, compassion, happiness, friendliness, sincerity, non-violence.
That woke something up in me that said, “Aha, I’m starting to get there, this is a good compass but I’m still not quite there.”
One of my clients when I was in the corporate world, invited me to take something called the healing breath workshop at the time, which is now the happiness workshop. She told me it was about breath.
I had seen the power of making my breath smoother, finer, lighter, and helping me with migraine headaches and tension. I said, “You know what? Let me check this out.”
When I first went to the course, I thought, “I don’t actually know if this is for me. I have an open mind; I’ve done a lot of things.” But things on the outside. My mind was still caught up in external factors. It was different and the people were different and the environment, where I happened to take the course was a little different, and I was a little unsure of myself.
When I learned the Surdashan Kriya, the at the sky breathing technique that is taught in the happiness program, it was an absolute game changer in my life. And then I heard the wisdom that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares this ancient wisdom that is so applicable for my life, for everybody’s life. Again, in managing the mind, the emotions, and really celebrating life, instead of just existing but making life a celebration.
The truths were so universal.
I said, “Okay, this is exactly what I have been searching for since I was 16.”
It has not disappointed. It just gets richer, there’s more, the effects of the techniques, they’re cumulative. The wisdom, there’s so much wisdom, and I ended up finding the mechanics of the breath and our consciousness and the study of consciousness absolutely fascinating. The law of the unconditional love that poured through, the teachings, the teacher, and everyone around was undeniable.
I had found the place that was going to bring me to the truth, and it is truth. It’s allowed me to walk in truth and be very happy doing it.
Rae Williams: What does being unshakeable mean, and how do we begin to apply that?
Patti Montella: What becoming unshakeable means is not letting people or situations or circumstances affect your state of mind. You know, you wake up in the morning, wake up in a really happy mood, hear the birds singing, have something to drink, have your breakfast, and have a little bit of spring in your step.
We all have days like that, right? And then, you go to the office and somebody says something to you or something doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, and this thing called life starts showing up either in the office, at home, with the kids, wherever.
And that spring in your step, if you’re not unshakeable from within, you’re going to give your state of mind over to what someone is saying or doing or what is or is not happening. You’re no longer free.
Rather than allowing outside circumstances to dictate your state of mind, when you learn breath work, meditation, you’re in wisdom and you’re in the company of the enlightened as a way of life or people who are studying and applying these higher states of consciousness, ways to live.
You’re going to find that there’s a way to start the day, like you’ve put on your suit of Teflon. Nothing’s going to stick. So, you keep the remote control for your state of mind in your own hand. That’s powerful place to be, you know?
That’s how we have inner freedom: “This may be an unpleasant situation or a difficult personality but I’m going to be able to have inner peace, clarity of mind, I’m going to keep my smile, I’m going to have the ability to tap into my intuition, my creativity. I’m going to be resilient in the face of change or difficult to challenging circumstances and move through life with much greater ease.”
Not only do we do that for ourselves. But instead of adding pollution, thought pollution in the environment, we’re adding something positive. We’re contributing something positive.
The Sky Is Falling
Rae Williams: One of the chapters that leaped out at me is The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling. I’d love to know more about that.
Patti Montella: The Sky is Fallingis referring to the year 2000 when Y2K happened, and there were so much fear and so much preparation worldwide that the computer systems could crash and the calendar had only gone that far. I’m not a programmer, but had something to do with programming and the technology and then what was going to happen if all the technology crashed.
What’s going to happen, are you going to be able to get your money out of the bank, is there going to be food?
People were storing seeds and food and all kinds of things, anticipating an apocalyptic situation. This was complete illusion in the mind. I was with a technology company at the time. So, you can imagine, we were doing all kinds of things to avoid or say prepare for what ifs. Nothing happened.
That particular new year, I was in Italy with Sri-Sri Ravi Shankar. We were having a millennium course. We’re on a beach in Tuscany, about several hundred of us with our teacher, in front of the ocean, meditated to say goodbye to 1999 and then meditated in the morning to welcome the year 2000. Nothing happened, and he predicted nothing would happen, but still, the world was on edge.
It was so amazing to me to see how our minds can get carried away with anxiety. I mean, even in our own country, it’s almost an epidemic level. With fantasy and imagination of what might have happened. There’s going to bring a lot of stress in the nervous system. Either if the mind is in the past, where there’s sorrow and regret or we glorify the past, or the mind’s in the future where there’s anxiety, we’re not in the present moment.
The present moment is where the joy is. The present moment is where the clarity is.
So, it is really quite an experience to see how one person’s fear or your own fear can get carried away about things that may never come to be. We waste so much time and energy in doing that missing the beauty and the joy of the present moment.
Rae Williams: Another chapter is the called purified in the fire of criticism. I feel like criticism is something that leads to anxiety that people are afraid of. What was that like for you? What was that chapter about?
Patti Montella: Absolutely. It’s part of life. People are going to say nice things to us. People are going to say things, have their opinions. It’s just part of life. But it is a strength in life to be able to give constructive criticism and to receive constructive criticism. Anybody could say anything about me now, it is not going to shake my smile. That is not going to affect my state of mind, because this journey leads you to knowing who you really are and to embrace that.
Suicide is so high anymore, especially among young people, particularly in our country. Why are our kids committing suicide like this? Because somebody rejected them at 12 years old or 13 years old. Well, rejection is going to come in life, failure is going to come in life. These are things that give us an opportunity to apply our faith. Our faith in our self, our faith in the good of society and faith in a higher power. And being able to give criticism and receive criticism it brings up so much self-confidence.
And I don’t mean criticism, where someone is shaking their finger at you telling you what they don’t like. But the kind of feedback that will create expansion in you, not contraction.
So, it’s a deep topic, and it looks at one of the seven levels of our existence. It looks at the ego.
There are seven layers of existence, or seven levels: body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego, and the self.
When we, in my experience, say “somebody’s criticizing me or I am failing,” then you can go down this road of victim consciousness. And you start with, I failed because of these circumstances, or this person didn’t help me, or that situation didn’t happen, or how could they say that about me or how could say this about the work that my team did?
That is called victim defense consciousness, and defending makes us small. It means you don’t really know who you are, that you are part of this divinity.
You are truth, you are beauty, you are love, you have so much capacity, so much resource.
And the difficult times, the failures, these things you move through it with—breath work, meditation, and wisdom—tou are going to become so much more resilient. So that anybody can say anything to you and again, you will be unshakeable. You will be in your center. You will be able to move forward in life rather than getting shaken by someone’s opinion.
In that story, the purity is the purity of emotion. The emotions can make our state.
If they are negative emotions, it’s pollution in your state of mind, in your equanimity, in your total peace. So, when you are purified in the fire of criticism, what happens?
If you pound gold more, gold gets shinier. If you rub something like sandalwood, the more you rub it, the sweeter the fragrance. So, facing the fear, facing the failure, and moving through it with the tools I talk about in the book will purify you so that you are unshakeable.
And that is exactly what happened to me. It was a big event, and of course in any big event, it seems everybody does right things that aren’t so right. Mistakes happened, but Sri Sri took it as an opportunity to really purify me in the fire of criticism. At first, to be honest, I did not handle it well. I thought I could take more, and it turned out there was still something small in me that couldn’t take it.
A year later, nature set it up that put me in the exact same situation. And honestly, I thought, “You have got to be kidding me. I already went through that.”
It was unpleasant. I became emotional, and I don’t want to do that again.
I don’t want to be so shaky in life that if somebody says something, I lose my smile and I want to defend myself. That is a really small way to move through life. I know that is not who I am. And when that same dynamics were presented by nature, the absolute same dynamics, this time it woke the valor in me.
Instead of being afraid, the valor woke up, and I just let go of what the outcome was. I was 100% in action, and this time it turned out to be very successful. That was our very first national interview of Sri Sri in America.
How I had failed the year before, I found it was a game with nature.
To have that valor and move forward, come what may, it worked out quite well and it made me much stronger from within as a result.
So that is the purification. Rub that sandalwood, go ahead and hit that gold, and it is going to shine more in time.
Working with Patti Montella
Rae Williams: Do you have an example of maybe a client you worked with or a company that you worked with that has applied some of these principles and has become unshakeable?
Patti Montella: Well, I could never say that a company has become unshakeable, but I can give you a very recent example of a company I worked with who really took a risk at a time when a lot of pressure was on the company. Because a company is made up of individuals, right?
So, I cannot speak for everyone in their company. But last year, I was in the Philippines, and I was teaching a corporate program at Coca-Cola FEMSA. It was really something. The CEO of the company had taken our programs in Argentina years earlier and had had an extraordinary benefit in his personal life, and he wanted to share this with his employees, his management team and directors and all of the senior executives at Coca-Cola FEMSA.
And their top boss was coming in within a couple of days, and there was a lot going on, a lot going on in the marketplace, a lot happening for them in the Philippines at the time. Now the big boss was coming in to meet with all the top executives.
I knew at the time it was going to be difficult for the busy executives to agree to it because it seemed illogical to them, right?
Why are we going to take a training program of managing our mind and emotions and getting along better as teams and inspired leadership right at this particular time when everything is hitting the fan and we are working so many hours to prepare for this big visit?
So, I have conviction in what I teach and what I’m sharing through my own experience and that of tens of thousands of people I’ve taught. I knew in the end it would be a boom for them. But we are going to have to get through some doubt and resistance to get there.
In only a few hours over a few days, all the dynamics in their team changed.
They said to one another, “I never knew you. I have worked with you all of these years. I had no idea what you are going through, had I known I would have been able to better manage things for us as a team so that you don’t have to go through all of this.”
They were so excited. They’re like little kids who just found the best candy in the shop, “Patti I am getting actually more done in less time because my mind is so focused. I am not worrying about the visit that is coming up in two days. I am not thinking about what we did or didn’t do right before. I am really in the present moment with these breathing techniques, this is amazing,” and I watched it unfold.
I was there when this big boss came in from—I am not sure exactly where, it was Mexico or Panama. He came in and I watch them waiting each to go into their meetings with him. They were so happy and relaxed. Everything went so wonderfully, and they were so relieved.
It also had a domino effect in their personal life too. Because they were not quite so tense. they were able to finish earlier and to be home earlier. It brought balance into their lives.
It helped them to be really unshakeable during the time of high stress and high demand, and it was a joy for me to see it as a trainer and to see that happen for each person in the group. The CEO was very, very pleased.
A Challenge for Listeners
Rae Williams: If you had to issue a challenge to your readers, listeners, people who are just wanting to change their life, what would that challenge be?
Patti Montella: I would say, when we travel and we’re at 30,000 feet on the airplane and we decide we are not comfortable or we’re not liking how it’s going, you can’t just say, “Let me out. I want to get out now.”
You have to finish the trip in order to have a full experience. So, the first challenge would be read the whole book. Start to finish, see the whole journey, and then take at least two to three of those wisdom lessons shared in the book and reflect on it in your own life.
Self-reflection, again, not giving people or situations the power of over our state of mind, to me has been one of the sweetest things in life.
It is exactly what has helped me to become unshakeable—not being afraid to look at what is small in myself, but to look at it so I can make it a strength not a weakness.
So, if my readers would take two to three, you don’t even had to do more than that, just start with two or three of those wisdom lessons. Self-reflect and see by living that wisdom, what will that do to bring more joy, more ease, more fulfillment in your life?
I really challenge them to take a happiness course with the Art of Living Foundation and learn the breath work.
Rae Williams: How can people contact you if they want to learn more?
Patti Montella: Well, they can email me at [email protected] and I also am on Twitter, I’m on Facebook, I am on Instagram, and I am very active on all of it.
So email me, reach out to me on social media. I have the heart of a teacher and a passion to share the knowledge with others so that they can really have celebration in life. It is my nature to connect with others, and I’m really going to look forward to having a conversation along these lines.
I think these are the most juiciest, the most interesting conversations that help us to look into our self-development and expansion in life. So, any one of those ways will work.