Nat Kendall is a San Francisco-based Bhakti yoga teacher and musician who hosts weekly classes in the Bay Area, annual retreats and has produced numerous albums with different collaborators, most recently an acoustic collection called “My Friend.”
Raised in Bozeman, Montana, Nat learned guitar, keys and percussion instruments early on and attended the Musicians Institute of Los Angeles followed by the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He then moved to San Francisco at the age of 30, working as an audio producer and creative director for Pandora Internet Radio before he discovered the path of yoga and began his teaching journey with Rusty Wells and Janet Stone.
This is a deeply personal conversation about truth, vulnerability, commitment to self love, and life as the ultimate practice of yogic philosophy. We talk about seeing our teachers as humans, not people who are perfected beings or enlightened masters.
He openly shares insight into how his yoga practice helps him remain humble in partnership, the incredible gift of parents who always told him to ‘Keep Going’ no matter what project or hobby he was pursuing, and the long and winding path of how he navigated a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ period in his twenties. We get plenty of laughs, though, as he recounts his time playing in punk and hip hop bands, a path that ultimately led him to using music as an expression of devotion rather than ego.
You can hear the buzz of the fans in the heat of the evening, the clink of people setting down mugs of tea between sips. This audio brings you right into the main lodge of the Feathered Pipe Ranch—a place that perhaps you’ve been before or want to venture to in the future.
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This program is brought you by the Feathered Pipe Foundation and its kind supporting community, who has been inspiring positive change in the world since its inception in 1975. Please consider joining us with your kind donation.
Andy Vantrease (00:00:17):
Welcome to the Dandelion Effect podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that help them blossom into their unique version of this human experience.
This Podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community, and empowerment.
Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Dandelion Effect podcast. I’m your host, Andy Vantrease, and today I have a very special episode to share with you because we tried something completely new this week. We recorded in front of a live audience at Nat Kendall’s Big Sky Bhakti Yoga Retreat at the Feathered Pipe Ranch in the main yoga room in the main lodge. Absolutely beautiful space. Nat is a San Francisco based Bhakti yoga teacher and musician who hosts weekly classes in the Bay Area. He takes people on annual international retreats and he’s produced numerous albums with several different collaborators over the years. Most recently though, an acoustic collection called My Friend, which was released last month, raised in Bozeman, Montana. He learned guitar keys and percussion instruments early on. Then attended the Musicians Institute of LA, followed by the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Nat then moved to San Francisco at the age of 30 and worked as an audio producer and creative director for Pandora internet radio before he discovered the path of yoga and began his teaching journey with Rusty Wells and Janet Stone. This deeply personal conversation covers a lot. We talk about truth, vulnerability, commitment to self-love, and life as the ultimate practice of yoga philosophy. We talk about seeing our teachers as humans, not people who are perfected beings or enlightened masters. And Nat openly shares insights into how his yoga practice helps him remain humble in his partnership, the incredible gift of parents who always told him to keep going no matter what project or hobby he was pursuing. And the long and winding path of how he navigated what I’d describe as sort of a dark night of the soul years in his twenties. We get plenty of laughs though as he recounts his years playing in punk and hip hop bands, A path that ultimately led him to using music as an expression of devotion rather than ego. In this conversation, you can hear the buzz of the fans in the heat of the evening, the clink of people setting down mugs of tea between their sips. This audio brings you right into the main lodge of the ranch, a place that perhaps you’ve been before or maybe a place that you wanna venture to sometime in the future. Thank you so much for joining us in this special episode, the first ever live Dandelion Effect podcast, and enjoy this conversation with my good friend, Nat Kendall.
So what comes up for you when I ask, what’s the origin story of Nat Kendall?
Nat Kendall (00:03:36):
The first thing that comes to mind is, uh, a moment with my father, and it was probably about 4:00 AM we had driven from our little home in Bozeman, Montana towards the crazy mountains for a hunting trip. For those of you that may not know, I grew up hunting and fishing and living off the land, really in tune with the land. And I recall getting to the location I’m in my dad’s old Ford pickup. I remember the custom embroidered seats, kind of funky, super western, totally Montana. And I remember looking through the windshield and my dad looking up there as well with me, and we looked up at the stars together and I was a kid. And however he said it in that moment landed so intensely. And it was something to the effect of, we are so tiny in this magnificent world. It is such a miracle to look up at the stars and acknowledge that we’re part of this.
And our lives are so, so tiny. They’re just a tiny little drop in this big cosmic pond. And the way that he shared that humbled me so much to my soul, I felt like I am woven into this and I only have a brief moment. It’s crucial to understanding and to blossoming into life in its fullest. We’re so often running around thinking we have forever and that we’re the center of the universe. And the ego is just this big massive construct. And that maybe 10 years old, the wisdom that came through my father kind of blasted some of that away and left me in the seat of gratitude, humility, and connection. And I think that was kind of the spark. I just, I remember the moment so vivid and also, you know, being in tune with the land hunting and fishing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Andy Vantrease (00:06:09):
I was gonna ask about that cuz you were on a hunting
Nat Kendall (00:06:10):
Trip. Yeah, we were on a hunting trip. And the reverence of knowing that you were are sustained by such an abundant creation that you are able to live in harmony with all of this, only take what you need, give back how you can, and be connected to spirit in the sense of these animals. And we, I’m now a vegetarian, but we took the lives of many animals to feed our family, and it was done with such reverence. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. It wasn’t easy, but it was the way I was brought up part of this land.
Andy Vantrease (00:07:00):
You love coming back here so much and that energy and that love for Montana and the mountains and the water and all of that is so palpable, even just in the way that you share it with other people. What are some of those things that kind of shaped you growing up?
Nat Kendall (00:07:19):
Yeah, we grew up camping. We were always outside, always outside from a youngster. I was just out behind our house. We lived in this area growing up and there were no other houses behind us for the first couple decades. And I would go back there and build forts and have rope swings and camp out on my own just as a kid. And nature is so crucial to, um, to waking up. I think nature holds the capacity to remind us where we come from and where we return to. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and all of those experiences throughout the entirety of my upbringing, my adolescence just kept me in check. Uh, nature is the great equalizer. And when you remember that, you return back to that and you get to be in it now, then the journey gets all the sweeter and all the dramas, all the swirling around, all the busyness, um, maybe isn’t as prevalent and you get to remember. Yeah. So, I mean, Montana’s shaped me in all those ways. And being a state that experiences seasons was beautiful. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, winter time. It wasn’t like you got to sit inside and play video games and there’s work to be done. Yeah. I mean, we had a tiny little black and white TV and maybe they would let me watch something every once in a while. The parents that we had been given in this life were spectacular humans.
Andy Vantrease (00:08:54):
What made them so amazing?
Nat Kendall (00:08:56):
Oh, a bazillion things, but mostly their undeniable love, encouragement, support, the sacrifices they made, the guidance that they so skillfully handed me here, here’s how to operate in this world full on empowerment, how to live harmoniously, how to be kind, how to nurture my creativity that gave me so much.
Andy Vantrease (00:09:29):
One of your earliest memories is sitting in your dad’s lap and listening to him sing and watching your mom dance <laugh>. And that was just the most beautiful image of a childhood.
Nat Kendall (00:09:43):
You know, it’s funny, I can get just fully drawn back to those days and I can smell the inside of the Martin guitar case. I can hear the sound of the clips opening and knowing what was about to happen. And it brings me back to, yeah, the sweetest moments. My dad playing Puff, the Magic Dragon, <laugh> <laugh> and my mom singing along, I’m sure in the background. And as a child, just being enamored with that. Yeah.
Andy Vantrease (00:10:13):
What’s the first instrument that you learned to play<laugh>?
Nat Kendall (00:10:17):
The serious first foray into music was actually alto saxophone.
Andy Vantrease (00:10:23):
Nat Kendall (00:10:23):
Wow. Yeah. <laugh>, um, junior high or middle school. Yeah. Everybody had to pick out an instrument. I thought, okay, the coolest instrument I could possibly pick, it’s gonna be alto saxophone,
Andy Vantrease (00:10:37):
Nat Kendall (00:10:38):
Until I had to lug that thing down Texas Way, which was our long drive to the bus stop year round. Oh my gosh. All the time. This little kid lugging my alto sax. You know, it was only like a half mile or so, but as a kid it’s like, oh gosh, I didn’t love it. I really didn’t love it. And music didn’t really click playing the, uh, saxophone. I was kind of, I didn’t get it. And I think they realized that. And they presented me with the opportunity to trade it in for an acoustic guitar. And life switched instantly and music just boom came to life. And with that guitar, I could say what was ineffable as an adolescent, you know, what was not presentable in words for me at that point I could make in music. And believe it or not, I was so shy as a kid. Some of y’all have been like, please don’t make me chant. Please don’t call me out. And I get it. And know that I was one of the most shy humans, and sometimes I still am. And music was a way for me to communicate. It was so beautiful. It was so cathartic to let something move through me when I couldn’t find words. Mm-hmm.
Andy Vantrease (00:11:58):
<affirmative>. Yeah. Did you start writing your own songs? Or how did that evolve, like in adolescence once you got the guitar and things really started to click for you?
Nat Kendall (00:12:08):
Yeah. Songwriting came very naturally to me. Um, I spent a lot of time actually just learning the guitar, all the technique. Um, and that was a beautiful foundation to have. But songwriting was something that was in there from the very beginning. And it was so weird as a kid to have this feeling of like, there’s something in there that wants to come out. And it was just finding the right medium to unearth that. And yeah, I mean, I look back at some of those lyrics and they’re just adorable. <laugh> and so ridiculous.
Andy Vantrease (00:12:44):
I gonna say angsty, but adorable.
Nat Kendall (00:12:47):
Well, born hearing. I mean, they’re funny <laugh>. They’re right. Yeah.
Andy Vantrease (00:12:54):
So just following your trajectory, you went to two different music schools, right?
Nat Kendall (00:13:02):
Well, first stop was the Musicians Institute. Okay. In Los Angeles. And here I am, was I even 18 yet? I graduated high school early. I was like, gotta get outta here. I knew it, I knew I was done. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I wrapped that up and I went to the Musicians Institute in LA this youngster from Montana, plucked out of the mountains, dropped into literally Hollywood, Los Angeles, <laugh>.
I was so blown away. I mean, it was a full on experience, auditory, all the sounds I was taking in. The smells of everything were so foreign to me. Um, the sight, it was like just overwhelming to see all of that movement and hustle and rush. It was a trip. But yeah, that was the first dive into more formal training with music. And then after another jaunt to the East Coast and then making my way back to Bozeman, I went to Montana State. Okay. And studied classical theory and music there. I, I think it’s important to acknowledge the roots of it all. And that was literally in our garage in Bozeman. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, My friend had a drum kit and we had a bass player and I had an electric guitar by that moment. We had a few microphones and it was absolute cacophony. I cannot believe that they let us do that in hindsight. And they would come out all the time and say, sounds great. <laugh> Keep going. You know, imagine those two words. Yeah. Keep going. Not, sounds good. Are you ready to come in and do something different? Keep going. And that theme carried through to all of my music projects. Flash forward, I was in, um, Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Andy Vantrease (00:15:07):
What were you doing there? <laugh>
Nat Kendall (00:15:11):
Oh God. So some of those guys that I was in the band with in Bozeman, Montana, were actually from Pennsylvania. They had moved back. I had gone to music school in LA I had finished and I was like, what on earth am I gonna do with myself? Yeah. And they’re like, come to Pennsylvania, let’s start a band, <laugh>, or let’s finish the band. And I was like, okay, cool. And I hopped in my car. I left LA had everything packed in my Subaru, drove through Death Valley. It was about 115. My car was overheating. I had the heat turned on so that the car wouldn’t blow up. I would pull over into underpasses, chill out for a moment, sip some water, pray. Okay, cool. Get back in the car, keep driving Cornfield after cornfield, cornfield finally got to Pennsylvania. And there we were. This was more of like a punk band. God, y’all are hearing it all.
Andy Vantrease (00:16:08):
Nat Kendall (00:16:09):
Punk, ska, reggae. And another moment where we recorded a demo tape. And God, if I could hear it now, it’d be so embarrassing. But I, I sent a copy home and my parents Sounds great. Keep going. Keep going. We love what you’re doing. Never ever was there a have you thought about something else? Have you reconsidered a different path? Keep going.
Andy Vantrease (00:16:40):
Nat Kendall (00:16:42):
Okay. So the punk band did its thing. I mean, we toured all over the East coast. It was,
Andy Vantrease (00:16:48):
What was the name of it?
Nat Kendall (00:16:50):
Andy Vantrease (00:16:51):
Because that’s gotta be great <laugh>.
Nat Kendall (00:16:54):
I don’t, I don’t know. I’m kind of embarrassed to say <laugh>. Okay. It started out as seven 10 split, which is a bowling term.
Andy Vantrease (00:17:03):
Nat Kendall (00:17:08):
Uh, ska bands for some reason were largely associated with bowling. Don’t Ask Me Why <laugh>. And, uh, all of a sudden we found out there was another ska punk band with that name <laugh>,
Andy Vantrease (00:17:23):
Nat Kendall (00:17:25):
Well, they may have, they may have even sent us a letter. And so the next band name that we chose was the Biggins. Okay. Yeah. And if some of you may know where that comes from. If not, you can look it up on your own time. Um, God, I’m getting red.
Andy Vantrease (00:17:42):
Nat Kendall (00:17:44):
Yeah. So we went as the Bigs. We recorded a couple records. We toured around, had way too much fun, way too much fun. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And at some point, actually on my own accord, I said, I am ready for something different. And I started looking into schools and I found the Art Institute in Pittsburgh. And I said, it’s time to do something different. I want to explore different parts of my creativity. So my dad was a home builder and a woodworker and a very experienced craftsman. And I got to grow up doing all of that. I was in the garage. Not only was I playing in a punk band out there, but I was also like building everything. Shoji screens for my mom, A little Zen rock garden, um, all kinds of furniture, jewelry boxes. I was just always building mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I decided I would go to art school for product design. It seemed like the perfect fit for my creativity, my craftsman skills. My last semester, some of you guys heard this, I did Semester at Sea, which is an incredible program, circumnavigating the globe on a floating campus. 700 students, almost 800 people on the boat in totality. And we circled the globe. And while we were on our adventure, September 11th happened, and this was a very, very challenging time in my life.
There were a lot of things happening on that boat. I’ll start with the good stuff. When I knew I was taking this adventure, I packed a guitar, a bass, I knew I’d find a bassist <laugh>. I packed a few microphones and I knew that I would create a little band somehow on the boat. Within the first two days, I had the bass player. I had a sax player. Thank God I didn’t have to do it. I had my guitar, we had mics, and we became the boat band. And we were serenading the entire crew. All these dance parties on the back of a giant cruise ship. Wow. Here I am floating around the world playing music for everybody. So amazing. During that voyage, the woman I was dating who I moved to Pittsburgh with, she and I were on the boat together as partners, and about a week into the journey, realized that it wasn’t the right fit. And so here we are on a three month voyage in the confines of a ship in very close proximity, going through an extremely challenging dissolve of a relationship. I think it’s important that I share all this, that combined with the events of September 11th and the fear and the anxiety of floating around the world is a little perfect target spun me into the most anxiety I have ever experienced in my life, full on panic attacks that rendered me completely incapable. The first one happened in Hong Kong. I was sitting at a tea shop in what would’ve been probably my dream day sipping tea. I’ve always been a tea aficionado. And, um, all of a sudden everything started closing in on me. I thought for sure that was it. I thought that was the moment that I was gonna leave the planet. And I laid myself down in this tea shop. Fortunately, there was a medic in our group at that moment. They came over, they held me. They took my pulse. They assured me I was gonna live. I was completely convinced otherwise. Throughout the rest of that journey, they only got worse. Every single time we would get to a new port, I would not really participate in some of the fun adventures. I would try and walk myself to a hospital and knock on the door and say, Hey, can you take me in? Can you gimme a brain scan? Can you check everything? I’m dying. And nobody knows what’s happening. And that happened so many times.
And one of the last big ones, we were on the ship, we were moving, we were out at sea. We’re in the middle of nowhere. And I had one happen. And I picked up the phone and I called the medical clinic on the boat and I explained what was happening to me. And they said, can you get down here? And I thought, I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try. And somehow or another I walked myself down there. And the medical clinic on a boat is very, very rudimentary. You know, you look up and there’s bone saws and there’s giant tools for doing all kinds of emergency things. And I laid down on the table, I held the hand of the nurse, and I said, please tell my parents that I love ’em. In my mind, it was death. And if anybody here wants to know who my biggest teacher is, it’s death. That’s not an am morbid, sad, depressed way. It’s in a way of truth. I realized that I would leave this body and I had these unique opportunities to practice leaving it, to set it down. And if I were given another day to live it fully.
Andy Vantrease (00:23:58):
What did you learn about life in those experiences with death?
Nat Kendall (00:24:06):
That you can’t waste a moment. And that if you’re not living the life you want to live, make the changes you need to make. It’s short. And I think when we all finally come to terms and stop fooling ourselves that we don’t have forever, then life presents itself. And you can wake up from the dream, from the illusion and from wasting any time. And so when I get to share these events, I hope I can share that. It doesn’t need to be the experience and the journey I went on, but it’s just simply a reminder that today is what we have.
Andy Vantrease (00:25:00):
How did you come out of that? How did you come back from that?
Nat Kendall (00:25:06):
It took forever. It felt like forever. I felt like I was locked into an experience that I didn’t want to be in. And it took so long to get out of it. And it took the support of my family, my parents, their never ending undeniable love, even though they did not understand, of course, we cannot be in another’s body and another’s experience, but their love and their support throughout that journey. I saw a therapist and it just took time. Mm-hmm. It took a lot of time. And eventually I started getting glimpses of the okay-ness. I started seeing that I may just make it through it. And I had my dad take me to every specialist possible. I need this scan, I need this test. I need, I, you couldn’t have told me. It’s panic attacks, it’s anxiety. None of that mattered to me. I am dying. Help me figure it out. And until like all tests were run, I still didn’t have peace with it. It just took digging myself out. Slowly but surely in company that held me.
Andy Vantrease (00:26:34):
Was yoga a part of that path?
Nat Kendall (00:26:37):
I hadn’t met yoga yet, but, um, in the bigger picture, yes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. But I hadn’t met the formal practice. And then I moved back to Bozeman, Montana to work in a design firm after finishing my design degree. And within like the first couple months of being back, I went down to a venue in downtown Bozeman and there was a live band plane and there was another mc up there, and he was kind of free styling and rapping. I was like, I want to do that <laugh>. And I just walked up and I asked if I could get on the mic. And honestly, the rest is history. I think they called me the next day and they were like, we wanna start a hip hop band. <laugh> Like, okay, let’s go. I’d always had a love of kind of the underground, things below the surface, the people that were doing things differently.
And for me that was hip hop. It felt like such a beautiful, honest, authentic, raw expression of energy pouring through people, spontaneous, alive, emotional, not polished. And this is, you know, back in the day of like hip hop conscious lyrics, people with a mission, people with intention behind what they’re doing to create uprisings, to be activists in their own communities. It felt like a way that I could express and let it move through me. And we took it very seriously. We poured a lot of love into this project. We had drums based turntables, trumpet, guitar, and two MCs. We were a big live energetic force on stage. And being in Montana, we were somewhat of an anomaly. You know, you can see who I am. And we were in a hip hop band. And did you ever make it to any of those shows? Yeah.
Cool. <laugh>, it got to a point where it was crazy. It was crazy. We, there was one Halloween we were playing at the Baxter Ballroom, which is up on the second floor of this beautiful historic building in downtown Bozeman. And it was sold out. And apparently I didn’t witness this, but apparently people were climbing the fire escape breaking windows to get into our shell. It was crazy. People were mobbed towards what we were doing. It was such a blessing. Yeah. And, um, how about this? Because we drew such a big crowd in Bozeman, if there were any touring acts coming through town, they would always ask us to open up. So we got very unique opportunities to open up for the Wheelers, the Wu-Tang Clan, um, Busta Rhymes, Blackalicious, Tone-Loc. Those were some of the most amazing days of my life. I was with seven of my good friends. Although we had our challenges. We had a big RV in a trailer and we toured up and down the coast a bit, and we were playing all over Montana and Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. And so much of that endeavor was pure ego.
Andy Vantrease (00:30:21):
Nat Kendall (00:30:22):
Look at me, I’m on stage. I got a microphone. Wait, has anything changed?
Andy Vantrease (00:30:28):
I was gonna say, we’re still on stage and you still have a microphone.
Nat Kendall (00:30:34):
It was a different essence that was coming through. It was, I’m here to rock the party. All eyes are on us. We are a performing act. We are here to entertain. And at some point that grew tiring. It was depleting. It was a ton of fun, but it, it was not, it was not chanting to God, <laugh>. It was not the practice of Bhakti. It was making noise and albeit fun and quite cathartic and certainly an honest expression at that moment. It evolved. It evolved and, uh, yeah, eventually found the path of Bhakti. And when I chanted, I realized it wasn’t about me anymore.
Andy Vantrease (00:31:32):
Can you tell us the story about how you met yoga?
Nat Kendall (00:31:37):
Well, we met on a
Andy Vantrease (00:31:40):
Nat Kendall (00:31:41):
Andy Vantrease (00:31:45):
Nat Kendall (00:31:46):
Um, I was back in Montana and the partner I was with at that time got accepted to the San Francisco Art Institute. She was a yogi and she moved from Montana down to San Francisco. We did a year apart. And I just decided that was torture and I couldn’t do it. And so I decided to pluck myself out of the small pond that I was currently in with my band and make the journey down to San Francisco and see what would happen. It wasn’t long after that that she brought me to a Bikram class.
Andy Vantrease (00:32:35):
Nat Kendall (00:32:38):
That was my first public class. I was a sweaty puddle of a mess. And yet I was in Shavasana and I thought, this is pretty amazing. I’d like to learn a little bit more. And I only ended up going to a couple classes with her. It wasn’t until I had come back to Montana for a visit. There’s another part of the story I’ll throw in quickly. I had picked up surfing in San Francisco in the Bay Area. And surfing drew me so close to what I remember feeling in the mountains here in Montana. That connectivity with source was something bigger and surfing planted a seed in a, in a different way. And when I’d come back to Montana, I missed the fluidity in my body of being in the ocean. And so I said, I’ll go to a yoga class and see what happens. And I went to a class with a marvelous teacher. It’s all set in setting and time and place. But this teacher was just the right moment. And in that Shavasana, I said, I’m home. I am here. I am a student of Yoga for Life. And on my return back to the Bay Area, I had then at that point moved down to Santa Cruz and I was practicing nonstop with a teacher named Mark Stevens in Santa Cruz. And was having such radical transformations in my mind, in my heart, in my body, and never looked back.
Andy Vantrease (00:34:32):
After Mark Stevens. Who were some of the influential teachers in your life and who brought you into evolving into the teacher you are today?
Nat Kendall (00:34:43):
Um, after Mark Stevens and throughout that course there was a wonderful woman in that community who countless, countless times said, you should go practice with Rusty. You should go check out Rusty Wells. You’re gonna love Rusty. Like over and over. And I was like, okay. At some point I may, I don’t know, you know, everybody will be like, you gotta check out this teacher, you gotta check out this teacher. And yeah, it has a way of unfolding perfectly. I finally did and I got it <laugh>. I walked in to a room of well over a hundred people in urban flow and I opened the door and it was like an explosion of love and chanting and joy and sweat and asana and yoga. And I thought, what the heck is going on here? And it took me a couple classes, but eventually I was one over, just handed everything over and said, I’m, I’m here.
This is my new family, this is chosen family. And I practiced with Rusty Wells for probably a couple years before I even pondered a teacher training. And at one point I just said, I wanna know so much more about this. You know, I, I’ve soaked in a lot from his presence, but I really wanna know more. And I signed up for a teacher training. At the time I was working in a tech company called Pandora. And uh, I was there from nine to five doing that thing that you do. And I did a teacher training and I wasn’t even finished with the teacher training. And somebody at Pandora found out I was doing that. And they said, you’re gonna teach the employees here. I was like, well that’s cool. Let me finish. I have no idea what I’m doing. Zero.
And they were very persistent. If it weren’t for that, I probably would’ve pushed it off indefinitely. Finish the tt months later. So many emails just teach, just teach. Just teach. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. You know that story. I’m not ready. I’m not ready, I’m not ready. Yeah. Yes you are. I finally said, yes, we’d cleared out a conference room. Such reverence. I like moved everything out. There were other teachers and they would just kind of haphazardly like, uh, let’s do our down dog. I cleared out the entire space. I took these giant whiteboards and I drew massive oms on the whiteboards. I had the music playing. The vibe was just right. I was like, oh, I’m gonna teach yoga. And uh, it was funny cuz that day I had brought a drum with me. It was in my car the entire day. Cause I was teaching at 5:30 PM the entire day.
The question bouncing around my brain was, should I chant with them <laugh>? Should I chant with these people? Like they’re coming from their computer job. And like, I don’t know. I went out to my car at lunch and I sat with my drum and I hit the first note and I was like, who am I fooling? Of course we’re gonna chant. I grabbed the drum, I marched back in and I just said, please help me. I’m gonna teach my first yoga class. And I did. And, um, a funny side note, everything’s going along swimmingly. The music’s just perfect. Things are happening. And all of a sudden my phone rings <laugh>. Guess who it was?
Andy Vantrease (00:38:36):
Nat Kendall (00:38:37):
She’s my mom. Of course.
Andy Vantrease (00:38:40):
Nat Kendall (00:38:40):
I hope you’re having a great class. I just wanted to check in.
Andy Vantrease (00:38:43):
<laugh> Keep going.
Nat Kendall (00:38:50):
I didn’t answer, but I knew her intention was there. We’re so proud of you. Keep going. That set the stage in a beautiful way. And I continued working at Pandora for a handful of years and doors in the yoga community and world were swinging wide open for me. And I just started listening and I made a plan with my team at Pandora. I’m gonna exit soon. I wanted to honor what I had been up to. I didn’t want to just say peace. So we made a little six month plan and I slowly did a cross fade and I set myself up to teach. This is important for other teachers out there. I set myself up in a way that I didn’t have to be out on the streets, like come to my yoga class, come to my yoga class. I need everybody to come to my yoga class so I can pay my rent. I was able to teach from my heart, but without worrying about the outcome, without trying to pack a studio, without trying to get students, I was able to teach yoga from my heart. And it was an extreme privilege that I had to exit that job that I had and save what I could to make a transition into the life that I wanted to move into. And doors kept opening. I started working with, uh, an amazing teacher. Janet Stone started playing music. I went to a training with her. I wanted to be a student. Day three. I think. She was like, do you mind just maybe showing some folks how to do some harmonium?
And I was 10 minutes into leading the trainees through some basic harmonium stuff and she said, we just found our next Bhakti teacher. Carried on the grace of something so much bigger.
And so I, I did a lot with her. We’ve put out multiple albums. It’s been such a blessing and have helped with all kinds of trainings with her and have just given myself permission to kind of do it in a way that feels aligned for me and not feel beholden to um, what other examples have come before to be inspired by but also take my own upbringing and weave it in and let it be part of this experience. Which I think is why Montana and landing at Feathered Pipe is so aligned for me to bring us into the wonder and the awe of nature to bring us into community and song and reverence and to all show up as students.
Andy Vantrease (00:41:59):
Something you just said is really interesting cuz you know, one of the things that we wanted to talk about was truth. It was so funny when we talked in the beginning before we were gonna have this conversation. And so what do we talk about? And we landed on relationship, vulnerability, trauma and truth. No big deal. <laugh>, no big deal. Just a couple tiny subjects. <laugh>,
Nat Kendall (00:42:27):
I thought that should be some light material <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:42:31):
And so I was looking into, you know, what you have put out there as far as the way that you teach truth and the way that you hold your own truth in a teaching environment. And I wanted to read something that you wrote. You say, “Hear this. No teacher, no partnership, no relationship, no therapist, no micro dose, no pranayama practice, no institution, no religious organization, no spiritual practice, no training, no education, no degree. None of these can promise you the realization of your truth nor assure its deliverance. Truth is a pathless land.” What does that mean to you these days?
Nat Kendall (00:43:27):
Well, first I want to acknowledge, um, the inspiration behind that, which was Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti was a huge believer that there’s no institution, there’s no this, that, or anything that can systematize truth. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think that is what’s present for me in that is that nobody can guide you there. I think we’re all constantly like looking for what, what is gonna bring me to where can I find the source of it? And we’ve talked about this today. It’s here, it’s present, it’s in this moment. It’s in another person. It’s in life happening. As it happens. It’s not happening to you. It is just happening. And until you can make peace with that in your own way, on your own terms, then truth will be something that we’re just kind of searching for from someone else. And so when we embark on this journey of being a human, we’re gonna get thrown every single thing, challenges, loss, heartbreak. Nobody said it’s gonna just be this easy walk in the park. And our path for each and every single one of us is so unique. How we come to the realizations of impermanence and the transient nature of life and those deeper truths is something that we’ll all meander through.
I think there can be ease when we finally can surrender and we finally stop seeking when we finally stop looking for the answers elsewhere. And I think inevitably we can find a bit more ease, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. But we can find more ease and grace as we navigate the challenges. They’re always going to be there. Sorry, you can have the best yoga practice in the world and it can be gone in an instant thrown out the window if something just kind of ticks you off. Right. But you can learn how to navigate it with a bit more ease and grace. A little more trust, a little more surrender. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah.
Andy Vantrease (00:45:48):
With everything going on, I think that there has been a lot of overwhelm. You were saying there’s a lifting of the veil that perhaps a lot of people didn’t think that they were ready for, but hello, we’re here.
Nat Kendall (00:46:01):
Andy Vantrease (00:46:02):
<affirmative>. Um, what have been the major principles of yoga that you’ve leaned on to try to find some ease and grace in this past, you know, 18 month period?
Nat Kendall (00:46:17):
I mean, all of the teachings shine through. They all support the human journey. I really truly believe that it’s, it’s a practice of living. Yoga is, and I think the biggest thing for me was, you know, is just deep sur surrender to that which is, which is really truly happening. And you know, this is all out of my control. I control none of it. I don’t know when the quarantine’s gonna lift. I don’t know what caused this. I don’t know why this is happening in our political world. I’m here, I’m present, I’m observing the deep surrender. Really got me through it all day by day, wake up, see what was present, the micro moments. Here’s my partner. I get to go teach yoga. Teaching was such a blessing. Thank you to everybody that was practicing during that time and showing up online, the community, and just being in the practice every single day in some way or another. Whether it was just chanting, asana or pranayama. All of the tools and techniques from the practice got me through it. Absolutely.
Andy Vantrease (00:47:36):
I wanna talk about yoga as relationship. You know, another one of your writings is like yoga is relationship and reading through that, it was, yeah. It was just this huge expansion of us being in relationship with the world and with all the elements and with the cosmos. Like you learned very young with your dad. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and us being in relationship with ourselves. And at one point I think that you said that your teacher Rusty used to encourage you guys to like walk by a mirror every now and then and just say perfect <laugh>. Which I just thought was so fantastic. I was like, I’m gonna start doing that <laugh>. Yeah. And so I wanna start out the relationship topic as relationship with self. Because as I understand the world, that’s where it begins. Before you can even be in partnership with another. It’s what does the partnership with yourself look like? Mm-hmm.
Nat Kendall (00:48:44):
<affirmative>. I think that’s one of the ultimate questions in something that we all are working on. Our relationship to self in so much stems from that and how we engage with the rest of the world. Thank you Rusty. I mean, honestly, that little notion of just walking by a mirror <laugh>. Perfect.
Andy Vantrease (00:49:09):
Nat Kendall (00:49:09):
<laugh> And then walk on by, you know, don’t hang out and be like, oh, <laugh>, oh, you know, the self-loathing, the self berating, the internal judgments, the internal criticism. Those stories that we concoct in our minds occupy for most of us way too much bandwidth. And we spend a lot of time in that realm. I’m not willing to do that anymore. Quite frankly, what I had, that taste of death, you just inevitably stop doing some of that stuff because it’s pointless. All those dramas, all those stories that we tell ourselves that we’re this, we’re not that, or we compare ourselves to someone else, is such a detriment for what wants to flow through us in the next moment when we are holding onto what is already happened has already come and gone yesterday and yester-you, when we’re holding onto that, then the next moment wants to come through us.
But it is filtered by that. This was a huge teaching in the yoga realm are samskaras, are habitual patterns of mind thought. And when we start to unwind and roll those back, then we get presented with the moment to start every day as a brand new day and just say, perfect. Move on. Let’s go chop wood and carry water. You know, I don’t wanna live my life as a constant self-improvement project. I did that for a while and it occupies a lot. And when you can just spontaneously say, I’m done doing that, because I am perfect. I am intrinsic harmony with the universe right now. Me, adorably flawed in all the right ways, but perfectly me. When you can enter into that realm, God, it’s so liberating. That’s the moksha that is the liberation. And it, it’s not easy, but every single day you can start to take little micro moments to say, that story doesn’t belong here anymore.
That story doesn’t serve me anymore. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that story prevents me from being who I really want to be in the next moment. And they’re micro moments and these brains are way too just finicky fickle. This is the practice of yoga to start to work with these, the minds and change some of the stories that we’ve written in there. And I hope that this week here presents us opportunities, all of us to reimagine, to revise and to rewrite and to reconsider how we show up with ourself. You’re taking a beautiful first step by saying, I would like to have a week in nature to practice yoga and take care of myself. I cannot emphasize enough self care and self love. There’s no reason to do it any differently.
Andy Vantrease (00:52:42):
How does that carry over into your partnership? I mean, having that foundation of constantly working on your relationship to self?
Nat Kendall (00:52:54):
Maybe, maybe constantly just allowing it to be.
Andy Vantrease (00:52:57):
Yeah, I, I felt a self improvement thing happened just then <laugh>.
Nat Kendall (00:53:02):
<laugh> Good. It works. Yes.
Andy Vantrease (00:53:05):
Having the foundation of the commitment to yourself, how does that carry over into a partnership with another person? Is there a commitment on the other end that has to meet yours in order to be able to be in this dance?
Nat Kendall (00:53:27):
If I understand your question correctly, I think it’s a disservice to place and imposition on the other person to make a commitment to the same thing. I need to be able to show up to the next moment, present with who I am and what I have and meet this human with radical acceptance and an open field of awareness. So I do not put the imposition that they should, could, would need to X, Y, and Z. So I think that is one of the biggest things that I have learned over the last few years is that if I’m going to give myself that permission, I need to give it to another. And I mess this up all day long with my partner all day long. And I’ll catch myself in moments of judgment, moments of criticism, whatever it is. And those are the opportunities for me to rewire for me to remap what’s going on up there and say, wait, I have just imposed something on a living, breathing, dynamic expression of life thinking it needs to be some other way.
And when I show up open, then I just witness and we’re in a dance together mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I cannot expect in this case her to do the same mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we can’t make any commitments like that. All I can do is make a commitment to me to do that. And we can, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about it and we could write down commitments. We could put rings on our fingers and I’ll still never know exactly what is going on in her mind. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if I can give her the space to be her in every moment, then I think a true relationship can exist.
Andy Vantrease (00:55:25):
There’s this, um, this quote by a psychologist that I follow and she says something like, to love someone long term is to attend a thousand funerals of the person they used to be. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then there was this subsequent quote that said to love someone long term is to attend the birth of a thousand new people that they’re becoming. And I just love that so much. I mean, there’s, there’s that within ourselves, right. All of the deaths of the people that we are as we evolve. Yeah. Being able to surrender to that and then also allow it in another person.
Nat Kendall (00:56:09):
This is when relationship can actually be harmonious and coexist. If I were to try and put somebody in a little tiny box with a bow on it and think for the next however many breaths or years we have, they will always be this, it would be the biggest failure. And I’ve tried it already. It doesn’t the work. And you’re right, the self for me, I also have to die a thousand times. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and partnership gives us that unique opportunity if we are willing to be in it, if we’re willing to come up against that time and time again. I, every single day have this moment when I roll outta bed to reimagine, to let go of yesterday and show up to this person exactly as they are with whatever is going on. And it’s always going to be something mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I want the freedom to do that myself. And I think this is relationship and sometimes it may lead to long lasting and sometimes it may lead to the realization that we lovingly untether when we’re willing to see somebody exactly as they are and honor their evolution and their growth. That may be a conscious untethering so as to not hinder or prevent the natural course of events.
And this is where the, as humans, it’s tough because we wanna, we wanna keep it. It’s like it’s gotta be this, it’s gotta be like this forever. Good luck. <laugh>.
Andy Vantrease (00:57:56):
What’s the role that spirituality and your devotion and Bhakti plays in your relationship dynamic?
Nat Kendall (00:58:08):
Andy, you asked such good questions. I’ll tell you. It’s simple. Hey God, um, can you help me out today with being the best partner I can be? Can I see you in her? Can I see your divine spark in her heart and know that she is also a miracle? Can you please help guide me in this relationship to be supreme love and service of you? Can you let me know when I fall short with a gentle touch? And can you help me forgive myself and her? I lay it down at your feet and I I take the next moment and stride in your hands. That’s how.
Andy Vantrease (00:59:03):
Daily practice or moment to moment?
Nat Kendall (00:59:06):
<laugh> daily. Every single day, every moment, every breath, every single moment. It has to be. Until you slip up and then you just get back to it for me. You know, the deeper you get into the practice of devotion and Bhakti and ultimately love the more it needs to be there in every moment. And it’s just a constant conversation, whether I’m even conscious of it or not anymore in the background. It is. Wow. Thank you for this moment and oh, thank you for this moment and oh, thank you for this moment, <laugh>. Yeah.
Andy Vantrease (00:59:46):
I think it’s helpful for people listening and for your students to hear some real life examples of when yoga slips away from you, you know, and, and perhaps that can be in a relationship context or friendship work wise. You know, what are the challenges that you face and how do you weave the principles into those challenging moments?
Nat Kendall (01:00:18):
I wanna start by saying this is an important question to be asked. I think in our modern yoga world, we frequently will put our teachers up on a pillar and it is a, a disservice to all of us. I hate to say it and I’ve done it and I continue to because in my eyes, my teacher, sure <laugh>, it’s perfect. But this question is paramount and crucial to our own truth as finding that Lauren and I talk a lot about this, about not creating the facade that we are perfected beings. I mess up all day long. You can ask anyone that is close to me, especially my beloved.
I have a laundry list. I don’t know if it’s as important to share specific examples as it is to just say that I ask for forgiveness multiple times throughout the day and I give it to myself as well. And I ask that you see me in my humanity, I ask that you all are forgiving of me and simultaneously hold me accountable. I have zero interest in someone told me this phrase and it was so perfect. I don’t want to be a sage on a stage. I have zero interest. Relationship has humbled me significantly. Being in partnership with Lauren is truly one of the most rewarding things because she sees right through me> <laugh> Sometimes I’m like, dang, how did you know? She asks me very difficult questions and she holds me to the fire. And there’s no room for fluff <affirmative>. And I think when we can engage in that kind of relationship, there is space for growth, learning, and expansion. If we operate under the assumption that another is perfect beyond the perfect, but that they can do no wrong, that their life is easy breezy and they’re enlightened. No, we’ve fallen short.
Andy Vantrease (01:03:06):
How do you find the balance between the discipline of the practice of yoga and just not taking things too seriously? What’s that balance point for you?
Nat Kendall (01:03:19):
Well, for me, I mean it’s, if you take it too serious, it comes back to truth is a pathless land. If you take anything too serious, you start to put structures around it, you start to define it, you start to make rules, it becomes rigid. There are guidelines that all of a sudden need to be adhered to. And you may overlook the essence of the practice that simply asks us to be present with what’s unfolding. And if your discipline prevents you from bearing witness to that because you’re like, no, it should be like this, or that’s not how I’ve been taught, you may miss an opportunity to leap into the Leela, to the play of life, to the fun, whimsical nature that’s here. Right. And I, you know, I see this all the time in the yoga world where it’s like we are just so focused on the alignment, the anatomy. And I get it. And it’s important. It’s really important to honor that I can tie it into music. I took all those years of music theory, guitar technique, learning how to play perfectly. And ultimately I had to throw it all out the window if I really wanted to play music. It’s similar with our yoga practice.
We can learn this as a discipline and it’s important to. It’s important to create the right foundation and parameters for us to then ultimately peel off those layers blossom into our truer nature, which is an ever flowing expression of our humanness. And if it’s too defined in any direction that we miss the opportunity. So discipline is very nice at the beginning to really commit to it. And ultimately we need to untether ourselves and play and play with this world, you know, in our yoga yes. But also play with this world. Do you see Zia out there <laugh>? She’s, all she does is say, do you wanna play <laugh>? Will you play with me? What happened to us? Yeah. Why did we adult? You know, I miss that and I think it’s a good precious reminder. And keep youngsters close to you, they’ll remind you.
Andy Vantrease (01:06:15):
Thank you so much.
Nat Kendall (01:06:16):
Thank you. Andy.
Andy Vantrease (01:06:18):
I think that’s a really good place to close. And yeah, thank you all for listening and asking questions and hanging with us.
Andy Vantrease (01:06:37):
Nat Kendall. Wow. What’s an incredible conversation with a man who teaches me so much every time we talk, every time I listen to his music, every time I step foot into one of his yoga classes, I so appreciate Nat’s courage in showing up fully to this interview in front of 35 plus people. Um, he shared his heart, his deep soul challenges, the ways that he has and still struggles and asks for forgiveness all the time, just like we all do. Nat’s retreats are always a love fest, I would say. But this week felt even deeper after sharing this space together with the group. We got to the heart so quickly and never really looked back. There was so much trust that was built so much, um, connection and love that was shared following this interview and into the rest of the week. It was just such a beautiful way to get to know each other. If you’d like to learn more about Nat, visit natkendall.com and check out his music on Spotify.
A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers, whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how ideas move through the world.
This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501c3 dedicated to healing, education, community and empowerment. If you’d like to help support this project, please visit FeatheredPipe.com/gratitude or leave a review on Apple podcasts and share with your friends. Be sure to tune in to our next episode in two weeks. We cannot wait to share another amazing conversation with you. Until then, have a beautiful day.