I first encountered Michael Hewett on a warm Sunday in October at Le Tigre Yoga Club in Paris.. he was the instructor leading the two-hour “Shamatha Meditation Atelier” I had signed up for.
I was looking forward to starting my formal initiation into Meditation, a discipline which I had long yearned to start practising. The workshop promised to take us “step by step through the Buddha’s stages of meditation”. Having long been fascinated by everything spiritual and read extensively about the subject over the years, I knew that I finally needed to put the theoretical into practice. Meditation seemed to be the natural next step into a brave new world and a practical, more attainable entry into a sublime state of being that I had so far touched for only brief moments.. I wanted to access that state far more frequently. I knew it was the right path to follow, long ago convinced that we are indeed all spiritual beings having a human experience.
Michael Hewett was everything I expected a Yoga / Meditation instructor to be.. ultra fit and dressed in an all-black sleeveless top and yoga trousers, interesting pendants, bracelets and charms adorning his body (that Brooklyn influence, I figured..). His manner: serious, attentive, detailed, methodical – even strict at times – when explaining the theory and various postures.. juxtaposed with spurts of great sensitivity, expertly playing his acoustic guitar as a way of getting us into a relaxed state, in preparation for the later silent meditations.
By the end of the two hour session, I was pleased that I was successfully able to enter into a meditative state (despite the sometimes distracting tick-tick of my neighbour’s watch). I knew I had landed on the real deal: a genuine first-class professional Anglophone Yoga / Meditation teacher in Paris… a rarity indeed.
So who is Michael Hewett? I wanted to learn more.
A Brooklyn, now Paris-based Yogi / Musician, Michael has taught Yoga for over twenty years and been in love with music for thirty. His classes, workshops and retreats weave together philosophies, asana, music and meditation to experientially guide students along their paths with humour, scholarship and artistry. He is the founder / director of Sarva Yoga Academy, a composer/guitarist of over seven albums, DJ Nagual and a graduate of Berklee College of Music.
I got in touch with him again recently and asked if he’d be interested to be part of our Lettre de Paris Interview series.. I was delighted when he accepted.
Q. What drives you?
As a student of Buddhism, Indian Yoga and Shamanism, practising ‘death meditation’ on a regular basis is a powerful way to avoid negativity, procrastination and laziness. To get the most out of life’s opportunities is to be in touch with the fragility of life. The conditions we have to study, cultivate ourselves, and share with others are so rare and precious. So revealing this truth moment to moment empowers me to dare to live passionately and with curiosity.
Seeing so much darkness in the world drives me to ‘shine light’ brighter and brighter so that others may also begin to do so. This is why I teach. It is the source of non-violent non-compliance against the ignorance, erosion of attention, fear and unchecked consumption which the ‘Powers That Be’ appear to be encouraging at every level. I love seeing people wake up and spread this fire of wisdom and compassion as an inner / outer revolution.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important keys to success?
Belief in oneself. Having a mentor(s). Having access to powerful information. Dreaming and working to realize the dream. Remembering that one has no time to lose.
Q. Who is your greatest inspiration?
There are too many extraordinary influences to mention. And, the fruit of my particular spiritual practice is to eventually see EVERYTHING in the world as a source of inspiration. So, ‘Life Herself’ would be my short answer.
Q. Where do you feel most at home?
Q. Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When a woman comes to a man with a problem, he shouldn’t offer any advice or try to fix the problem. Men need to listen first to women and hold space. If she wants his help or advice, she’ll ask for it.
Q. What made you interested in Yoga?
As a child, I was having pretty wild experiences and deep inquiries into what it means to be fully present. To muster the right amount of will to bring the mind to the senses. I was always trying to wake up inside dreams, astral project and move things with my mind. That led to exploring various spiritual practices, music and ancient esoteric Christianity. All this happened by the time I was 10 years old; thankfully I grew up in an open minded household and not around a bunch of muggles!
When I moved to NYC, I knew I needed a way to cope with the stress of the city. My drummer gave me a copy of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ (E.N.: by Paramahansa Yogananda) which I devoured and found the ‘lineage’ authentically represented three blocks from my house at Ishta Yoga with Yogiraj Alan Finger. They needed someone to manage the studio so I immediately took the position and ended up being invited to the first teacher training. It was all very fate driven.
Q. What is your must-do health routine?
Eight hours of sleep. Good coffee before any conversations (this is for other people’s health =). Listen to amazing music. Exercise in a way that keeps the body from adapting too quickly. Take risks. Follow passions. Learn to surrender. Compromise but don’t take any shit. Consume as little meat / diary as possible. Spend a few hours in silence each day. Party as hard as I work. Create something beautiful. Disrupt and Inspire others. Have fun and laugh. Stay curious. Seek out masterpieces. Keep company of high frequency beings, avoid low frequencies. Travel. Love myself and others. Partake of the ‘Vine of Death’ (E.N.: Peruvian shamanic medicine) only when called. Never eat where they don’t want to feed me.
Q. Favourite “quartier” (area) in Paris?
Q. Best places for a drink?
‘Professore’ has incredible Mezcal cocktails and perfect atmosphere.
Q. Favourite culinary experiences?
Almond croissants and fig bread in the morning.
Q. Most romantic setting?
The lesser traffic’d streets in the Marais and Saint-Germain at night in October.
Q. What is your philosophy in life?
Live in such a way where there are no regrets when death comes. Practice Loving Kindness. Commit to physical, emotional and intellectual well being on a daily basis. Speak Your Truth. Know Thyself. Stay Inspired and Authentic. Celebrate Excellence. Always offer a clean and divinely scented body to a lover. Be friendly, compassionate and try not to judge others. Debating is healthy, arguing is a waste of time, so always find a point of agreement BEFORE entering a debate! Take risks. Vulnerability is power. Leave the place better than you found it. Give from ‘Source energy’, not from your blood.
Q. Your greatest dream?
To start a show called ‘The Applejuice and PeeWee Show’ to educate kids and adults about all the beautiful non-human species and the importance of taking care of the Earth for future generations. We would have all kinds of crazy cute animal videos to hold attention, CGI animal hosts doing ridiculous things and offer all the profits to ecological conservation. We’d promote the critical importance of vegan / vegetarianism as the best way to reduce greenhouse emissions. Of course, I’d do all the music =)
Oh, it would be lovely to see a wide-spread and clear distinction made in between ‘Asana’ (E.N.: physical yoga posture/position) and ‘Yoga’ in the teaching and marketing of Yoga.
Q. Paris is…
…gorgeous but lonely.
…learning that using double negatives to express affirmation isn’t the same as being encouraging.
…situated atop the largest mass grave in the world (E.N.: Catacombs) in a clockwise spiral of energy.
…finally figuring out how to make a good cup of coffee.
…presently ignorant of differences between indica and sativa.
…understanding that there’s more than Iyengar and Ashtanga (E.N.: types of yoga) to choose from.
…needing another Renaissance and more Live music.
…taxed to death.
…charming me against all better judgement.
E.N.: Editor’s Note