Her history with the healing arts (“all the arts”) is more or less life long, and has run deeply throughout the Colorado Springs area since 1973.
Kat moved to Colorado Springs those years ago to attend Colorado College. She stayed and has been an active participant and community leader since, as an artist, teacher, healer, performer, and connector through the creative and healing arts.
During an hour-long soak in the mineral waters at SunWater Spa, Kat shared her insights about a range of creative and spiritual experiences and ideas.
The first of this two-part interview included her insights on healing arts, native teachings, Manitou Springs’ cosmic significance, and the special waters that flow through it all.
Humanitou: You teach yoga. What is yoga, its purpose?
Kat: Yoga means union. It’s when you understand that your body and your mind and your spirit are actually one thing, and you become conscious of them.
I met a yogi in India who was 142, and we all came to talk to him, we had a translator there. He asked us, “You’re yogis from the United States, what kind of yoga do you practice?”
I said, “Hatha yoga.”
He said, “That’s a difficult practice. I practice bhakti yoga. I practice devotion and bliss. Practice hatha yoga, that’s another way in, but that will take you a lot longer. You’ll have to live to be 180.”
So, there are many paths. The body teaches us a lot. When you listen to it, because your body, mind and spirit are connected, you start getting deeper messages. The purpose is to make you whole, to make you connect your mind, your body and your spirit.
Yogis say that your thoughts become your words, then your words become your deeds, your deeds become your habits, your habits become your life, your dharma, what you’re doing with yourself, what you’re doing right now on this planet. What’s that start with? It starts with your thoughts. A thought is so powerful.
An amazing thing that yoga teaches you is that you can control your thoughts, that you can focus your thoughts, that you can find a way to make your thoughts with pinpoint accuracy, become much greater than yourself, to connect with much greater wisdom than yourself.
I hear a lot of negative thoughts people say about other people, words they say about themselves. “I’m too fat to do yoga. I’m too stiff to do yoga. Yoga is stupid.” People have this thought, then they say it, then that becomes their action.
From ancient times, people have given great advice to just be quiet. Be quiet for a while, let your thoughts settle down. Find a way to direct your consciousness towards a larger consciousness.
Fortunately, there are a lot of traditions that tell you you can do that. The Sufis tell you you can spin and do that. There are many walking meditations. There are many meditations with mantra, where we just say sacred sounds over and over again until our consciousness becomes one.
There’s singing meditation, there’s laughing meditation, there’s tai chi, there’s qi gong, there’s so many paths. But yoga itself is very specifically about the practice of union.
It’s the practice of me sitting here in this tub talking to you, because I am able to share some of my spirit with you, you with me. So, this is yoga, sitting here being together, taking in the light.
Humanitou: Do you see a connection between art and yoga?
Kat: I think it’s easier for me to open up to the flow of consciousness, the flow of the divine, because as an artist that’s exactly what you do. You think about the great artists that you know, they’re not following a map. They’re not finding an opinion. They’re open and they’re being. Inspiration, maybe that’s your word for God.
It’s an ability to, “Am I painting my little opinion or am I sort of just letting consciousness come in and expressing it?”
So, I believe, in some ways that brain that we artists have to be able to be open to inspiration helps us with our spiritual practice, or it can. Or it can drive us crazy and we could turn to drink or drugs or– there are a lot of paths.
Art and yoga are very similar for me. When I teach art, I always teach yoga first. Always. If you’re opened up to yoga and you have a mantra, you can overcome that voice in your head, “I’m not an artist. I can’t draw. I can’t paint.”
I find with yoga that you’re able to open people up, that everybody’s an artist, everybody can draw, everybody can access that.
Humanitou: I practice yoga. I’ve not participated in a satsang or kirtan, which I know are regular community events at SunWater. To me, they conjure childhood experiences with church, something I still struggle connecting with.
Kat: Me, too. I grew up Episcopalian and I just didn’t resonate with it. I was fortunate that one of the first books I ever read was a book of Greek myths for children. I grew up believing in Greek gods and goddesses, and finding them far more fascinating than what I would find in church.
So, I have also not a good relationship with religion. Fortunately, yoga is not a religion. Fortunately, Maya teachings are not a religion. They are wisdom, tradition. There is a belief in great spirit, as there is by the natives. Or you could call it the Universe, or you could call it Yahweh, or you could call it Mama.
In yogic tradition, we’re often calling her Mama and talking about Mama Earth, and her names and her traditions and her legends. The natives here say White Buffalo Woman brought the healing to the earth.
So, I believe it’s whatever you resonate with. You might resonate with the elements, the ether, the air, the sun, the waters, the earth. I can’t do religion. I can’t go to church. To me, yoga is the great aura beyond religion. It’s so much more within. It comes from within.
You actually are God, and me. For some people, that’s hard to accept, “Me, God?” Of course, you are.
There are so many limbs of yoga. Bhakti is one of the limbs; that’s what kirtan is. Bhakti means joy and devotion. It’s when you just sing from the heart, you chant.
The vibrations open you up and make you more elevated in your spirit. It makes you more conscious. You make sounds, you dance, you play instruments. It’s so unchurch, I can’t even tell you. (laughs)
In all the traditions, there are these certain sounds, certain vibrations. Tesla would tell you this. You know anything about Tesla?
Humanitou: The scientist?
Kat: Yes. Who lived here. He did that water plant up there and had the most amazing laboratory here.
Tesla said all problems may be solved by frequency, vibration and energy. And that’s what yoga says, too.
It’s the energy of love. OK, you don’t like the word God? How about love? It’s whatever you resonate with.
Or maybe your limb for now is asana, moving your body around, because that’s the way in. It’s not the easiest thing to get in there, but your body shows you the way in. Then, lo and behold, you’re right there.
There’s a Lakota saying, “Smudge, not judge.” One of the traditions that the natives have is to smudge. Use sage, use copal, use palo santo. Use whatever your sacred wood is to get rid of it. The main thing smudging gets rid of is your opinions.
If you want to know what’s making our world sick and what’s holding any of us back, it’s these opinions. So, what smudging does, what burning sage, what burning copal does is clear the air of whatever has been sucked in there to bring you down, to make you vibrate at a lower frequency.
We tend to vibrate at the highest frequency of whoever is around us, so if you’re with someone who is vibrating on a higher frequency, you can’t help it. You, too, will start to vibrate at a higher frequency.
That is what can often happen with satsang. You learn this amazing teaching and you let it vibrate with you as you are in silence with other beings.
I personally like kirtan. I like to dance, I like to sing, I like to play instruments. For me, that’s my way in. But there are eight limbs. There’s Maya yoga and there are many paths. One way, but many paths.
Humanitou: There is a lot to explore, to learn.
Kat: There are many lessons, many teachers. I have been told by all my teachers that I’m here to bring all the traditions together.
I’m here to bring the Lakota, the Ute, the Maya, the Indian, the tai-chi, the Qi-Gong, the sincere Christian– I’m here to bring them all together and to not judge, and to bring them here for us all to practice peace.
When you find what resonates with you, usually the advice is: Go deep there. Don’t keep digging a lot of holes. Dig one and go down to the well.
Seeking is the first step. “Whoa, I don’t know everything. Maybe my opinions have been formed by the Internet or by the billboards or by the radio. Maybe I don’t know anything.”
That’s when you get to the point where you actually start searching for truth, and it can come up in many levels, many ways, many vibrations.
You’ll know the vibration of truth when you hear it.
Humanitou: What is your ongoing vision with SunWellness and the healing arts?
Kat: My latest vision is to make backpacks with art supplies and healing supplies in them and take them to refugees around the world. That’s what I, currently, want to do, fill them with paint and brushes and markers and paper and healing oils and sacred stones, and take them around the world.
I feel there are many people suffering and displaced, and having them be able to make a record of this, to express themselves, to paint, to draw, to make a book. I think that is really important for healing our planet right now.
Humanitou: What is something any of us can do to improve the world, regardless of personal obstacles?
Kat: You can try to see if you can heal yourself. How do we heal the earth? That’s a big project, but here’s what my teachers tell me. Rather than having an opinion that I might just get from God knows where, we heal ourselves.
We try find where our blockages are, where we’re holding hatred, where we have a boulder damming up the living waters, and we heal ourselves. Without that, we don’t have much hope in healing others or healing the planet.
How can I make myself whole? We all can be a little kinder to ourselves, as well as others.
Humanitou: Can you, in one word, describe what drives you in all these things?
Kat: I don’t feel like I’m so much driven as guided. I feel that I am open to the prophecies of this place and this time, to hearing them. I feel I am guided by my teachers and the ancient teachings, and so I hope I’m guided by universal wisdom.
I hope I am doing that dance to let my ego help with that fire, but not guide my actions, so they can be more guided by my heart. I hope I am guided by compassion and my love for other beings.