Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Kelly Morris – founder of the Conquering Lion Teacher Training
Check out our interview below:
Kelly Morris: The name Conquering Lion comes from the scriptures; it is a code phrase for a realized being. We can debate what that means, but inevitably its something different for each individual. If you are happy, and getting happier, you are probably on the right track.
Conquering Lion began 5 years ago as an effort to bring together several lineages that had been torn apart by the vicissitudes of history. I trained deeply in the Jivamukti lineage and Tibetan Buddhist lineage of His Holiness, for a combined 19 years.
Currently, I am thrilled to be exploring the shamanic tradition of the Andes a profoundly feminine lineage dating back over 30,000 years. It’s a very exciting time for me!
AT: How does your TT differ from others?
KM: There are so many amazing trainings in NYC for the plucking…. all beautiful, worthy and effective. The student needs to carefully examine what each of us offers, and make a determination based on what they are actually trying to learn and accomplish.
Every yoga TT proclaims that “we are all one” — and rightfully so — but to my knowledge, none of them explain why. That’s where the impeccable logic of Tibetan Buddhism comes in. It’s the facts behind the faith.
Conquering Lion teaches you how to live, not just how to do weird things with your body like putting your feet behind your head. Although you’ll learn that too! In other words, this program is for everyone, not just ‘yoga teachers’. It dramatically improves every aspect of your life, personal, professional, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. At least half of our program are regular people who simply want to get happy, fast.
Conquering Lion is lauded for its stellar faculty, its profound sense of community and its in-depth coverage of the inner teachings of yoga. And believe it or not, everyone loves each other, for real, and works hard to create climate of trust, support and wisdom. Each trainee has my personal cell phone number and believe me, they call all the time!! I love it.
Most importantly, in light of the breaches of ethical conduct in the various yoga communities that continue to come to light, we are honored to have John Merz joining the Conquering Lion Faculty. John is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and is the ‘priest in charge’ for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island . John and I attended St. Ann’s in Brooklyn together and I know from personal experience how gifted he is at educating and how deep his insights run. John will be teaching our trainees how to take the scriptural injunctions on personal behavior and apply them to modern life in a profound yet practical way. For example, how do we hold ourselves accountable both as a student and as a teache? For me, this addition of an ethics component is the most exciting development for Conquering Lion and one I believe will be quickly adopted by other programs.
AT: Where are some of your graduates currently teaching?
KM: All over the world. We have done a lot in a short amount of time. We even have a current trainee gearing up to spend six months in Oman teaching there! Our March Term is about sold-out, but we have another beginning in September and are already receiving applications, so we must be doing something right.
AT: What keeps you coming back to your mat every day?
KM: You get to a certain point in your practice when its absolute heaven to be there. If I don’t practice for more than a day, I feel not right. I see myself regressing to some previous, less kind, less trusting, less stable version of myself. On the other hand, taking a few days off inadvertently allows me to develop compassion, because then I walk down the dirty, crazy streets of NYC and know exactly how most regular people feel, everyday. Its awful, to be honest. I just grab them all, drag them to class and blow lavender oil in their face, throw a Bhagavad Gita in their hands and tell them to get with it. Works like a charm every time.
AT: How has meditation changed your practice?
KM: Mediation is the key to all things good. We find that most people would rather read a book about meditation for 60 minutes, than actually sit down for 20 minutes. Further, many people are teaching their own /made-up/ versions of meditation. Not clear on the utility of that. Why entrust the most precious aspect of yourself, your mind, to a method that has not been proven to succeed, other than to calm your mind down momentarily before the next person cuts you off in line?
Conquering Lion holds your hand and supports you until you get up everyday, rain or shine, lover or no lover, money or no money, and meditate.
Meditation takes you from walking menace to tolerable sod to delightful being in short order.
AT: Who/what most inspires you?
KM: Nature and my boyfriend, Alex Matthiessen.
AT: Any events or retreats coming up?
KM: Lots. I am teaching for Swan River Yoga/New Orleans at the end of March, a 3-day course titled “Mahamudra:Full-Metal Jacket”.
Then May 18th kicks off the start of The Hangout Festival, a wondrous event on the Gulf Shore of Alabama that was just voted the best under 50,000 people music event. I bring a pride of Conquering Lion graduates with me, and we rock it.
While down there, I will be interviewing with a film crew many of the top bands for my friend Maranda Pleasant’s new creation ‘Origin’, which has just partnered with VH1.
Founder and director of the Conquering Lion Program, Kelly is a lineage holder in the Gelupka tradition of His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Featured numerous times in the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Yoga Journal as one of NYC’s most influential, sought-after teachers, Kelly teaches many celebrities including Willem Defoe, Sting, Russell Simmons, Chris Botti, Kim Raver, Christian Slater, Donna Karan, Madonna and Jennifer Jason Leigh. She has been teaching sold-out classes and retreats worldwide for 12 years and is on faculty at the Omega Institute. A close student of Sharon Gannon, David Life, Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Kimberley Theresa, Lama Jack Brady and White Lama.