Missy Balsam – Music and Healing for the Heart
Missy Balsam’s “Revealed” is inspirational and healing music for the heart. Blending elements of alternative rock with Kirtan, and infused with empowering lyrics, Missy offers unusual, vibrant songs that are powerful, raw, and real. She is generating excitement in Naples among Kirtan enthusiasts with her unique style that rocks the house while calling to the Divine. Her album “Revealed” is available on iTunes and on her site at missybalsam.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at Missy Balsam Music.
Missy is also a Yoga Teacher and Retreat Leader, specializing in Bhakti Yoga, and offers group lessons as well as one-on-one sessions at her studio. You can find her on Facebook at Missy Balsam Yoga or visit her website at missybalsamyoga.com
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Missy studied Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, spending her junior year in Paris at the Sorbonne. After graduation, she lived in Washington, D.C. for a year, then in New York City for 8 years and Los Angeles for 2 years before finally settling in Naples in 2005. She moved to Naples to be closer to her parents after her son Noah was born. She is a woman who has been through personal challenges, like we all face, but in her case, she chose to rise above the situations, learn something new, create, and discover her more authentic self, becoming in the process a teacher and songwriter. She has a positive outlook on life, and the one word that emanates throughout her music and her philosophy of life is love. Unconditional love. She is also extremely aware of the moment and expresses gratitude for the opportunity to be alive and part of the Universe.
“Unconditional Love,” from the album “Revealed,” by Missy Balsam.
Missy Balsam: The path I refer to is the path of personal and spiritual growth. I feel that life is a journey, and the lessons we learn along the way hopefully affect the course of our future by the choices we make. I am very tuned in to practicing self-awareness so I learn my lessons and don’t end up repeating them over and over, which is very easy to do if we don’t pay attention.
Naples Noteworthy: You seem to have focused on Bhakti Yoga, the path of the Heart (or of love and devotion). What has drawn you to this path, and to Kirtan, in particular?
Missy Balsam: When I first heard Kirtan (call and response chant music), it struck me deep in my heart. Honestly, it seemed somehow to have found me rather than the other way around. The practice of Bhakti, or devotion to the Divine, circumvents the thinking mind and connects you to the heart, the feeling center, in such a powerful way. I think this is why it feels so good to me, because I have a very analytical, over-thinking mind. Chanting mantra gets me out of my head!
Naples Noteworthy: Can you articulate your view of the Divine? In what way is it possible for us to have union with the Divine, or is this not possible?
Missy Balsam: The Divine to me is Love. It is the entire Universe. It is all of creation. It is you, it is me, it is everyone. It is who we truly are, beyond the mask of personality, the ego. And yes, it is possible to have union with the Divine. To me this means connecting with our true selves and being our authentic selves. When we feel that all is well, and that we are connected to everyone and everything, that we are not alone, and that the Universe has our back…this is Union, this is Yoga. It is a knowingness of this truth.
Naples Noteworthy: Does all of your music incorporate Kirtan in some form? What are you hoping to convey with your music?
Missy Balsam: At this point, yes all of my music does incorporate Kirtan. Many of my songs have English lyrics woven in with the Sanskrit mantras, and some are all in English but have mantra woven in. It is a mix. Even my English lyrics and the way that I wrote my songs often have the Kirtan feel of call and response. The call and response is an energetic flow that helps us to feel connected, like we are all in this together. My intention in putting my music out into the world is to bring healing, peace and empowerment. The messages that my lyrics convey all share a common theme: knowing the truth of who we are and standing in that truth no matter what people might think, and overcoming all the fears we have around really being ourselves. By sharing my own fears as well as my triumphs, I hope that others will feel comfort and derive strength on their own journeys of growth.
Naples Noteworthy: What inspires you to compose?
Missy Balsam: Inspiration comes when it comes. My songs have all come through at different times and for different reasons. Generally I am inspired by whatever I am going through at a particular time. I might have a spark of an idea and play with letting lyrics flow out while meditating on a particular theme or issue I am contemplating. Sometimes the melody comes first and I fit the lyrics to the music.
Naples Noteworthy: Tell us more about the importance of yoga in your life. Is it just about fitness, or is it, as we suspect, far more spiritual for you?
Missy Balsam: For me, the physical aspect of the yoga is just a small part of what the whole practice is about. I often say in my classes that the physical benefits of strength, balance and flexibility, while all wonderful and important, are merely a byproduct of what I am really teaching in my classes. I consider myself a Bhakti yogi, which means my main path is the opening of my heart and practicing unconditional love and devotion. It means practicing cultivating love by BEING love, and experiencing myself as love. It means being in awe of the beauty and magic of existence and allowing and trusting the Divine to guide me in all aspects of my life.
Naples Noteworthy: What was your life like before you were involved with yoga and Kirtan and how has it changed since you have embraced it?
Missy Balsam: Believe it or not, I worked in the corporate world in New York City and Los Angeles for many years as a marketing and sales executive. I was a typical Type A overachiever, caught up in the rat race and the endless striving for more success. I still am shedding that conditioning, but back then I did not have a sense of a bigger guiding principle in my life. I did not feel connected to my true essence, my authentic self, and I don’t believe I was truly happy. I felt that something was missing, and I was searching for it outside myself. Through my journey into yoga and Kirtan, now I know that happiness is only found within, and I am so grateful to have experienced this shift. This is why I Iove to teach so much, to share this beautiful realization with whomever I can. It changes everything, taking responsibility for your own life.
Naples Noteworthy: We see you are planning a trip to India. Have you been there before? Why are you going? What do you hope to achieve/do there?
Missy Balsam: I first visited India in November 2014. I went on a two-week tour with the founder of Bhakti Fest, the yoga and Kirtan festival/organization which I have been affiliated with as yoga teacher and Kirtan artist. This experience blasted my heart open and made me feel connected to myself in a way I had not felt before. As with everything I learn and experience, I love to share it, so I decided to collaborate with a good friend and fellow yoga teacher in Naples, Jacqueline Glasgow, and lead a trip there this coming November 2017. I am so thrilled and excited to go back and feel the magic of this amazing country once again. It is truly a life-changing experience.
Naples Noteworthy: When did you first realize you were a teacher? Do you have room for more students at your yoga studio?
Missy Balsam: I first realized I wanted to teach yoga when I felt the dramatic shifts inside myself that my practice brought to my life. I started practicing seriously when going through a very difficult time in my life and the healing I felt through practicing yoga was profound. It felt like coming home to myself. I always welcome new students in my group classes and for private one-on-one sessions as well. Teaching and sharing what I have learned is so fulfilling to me.
Naples Noteworthy: How long have you been composing music?
Missy Balsam: I started composing my own melodies to Sanskrit mantras back in 2011, and began writing English lyrics to go along with the mantras in 2012. I am very proud to have released my debut studio album “Revealed” in July of 2016. It is a collection of all of my own compositions that reflect my journey of personal growth and healing.
Naples Noteworthy: If you had the power to change anything in the world, but it could only be one thing, what would you change?
Missy Balsam: I would want to put an end to all human suffering, so we may all feel happiness, freedom, and peace.
Naples Noteworthy: Do you consider yourself happy and fulfilled? Is there anything in your life that is missing, that you are striving for?
Missy Balsam: At this time of my life, yes I do consider myself happy and fulfilled. I am blessed to do work that I love, to share my heart and soul with people, and to offer inspiration, hope and healing. I am also blessed with a beautiful son and a close relationship with my parents who are also in Naples. What I am striving for is to relax and flow with life even more, and not be so hard on myself when I fall back into old patterns and ways of being. We are all a work in progress, and it’s never done!
Naples Noteworthy: What is your personal philosophy of life?
Missy Balsam: Trusting that all is well and that the Universe, the Divine, Spirit has my back. Trying to stay in the present moment as much as possible and enjoy the incredible gift of my life to the fullest. It is truly a miracle to be alive, and I am so grateful.
Naples Noteworthy: What do you hope to be doing in ten years?
Missy Balsam: I hope to be continuing to teach yoga and share my music with a wider audience. I enjoy speaking to groups as well, so I may do more of that. I also have been contemplating the idea of writing a book for quite a long time now.
Naples Noteworthy: Is there anyone in particular who has been highly influential in your life, whether personally, or in regards to your music or your spirituality?
Missy Balsam: I have had so many wonderful teachers and mentors through the years that it is hard to narrow this down. Baron Baptiste was highly influential in my practice and teaching of asana (postures), as was Erich Schiffmann and Steve Ross. As for Kirtan, there are so many, but my top two have to be Krishna Das and Jai Uttal. I am eternally grateful for their teachings of the Bhakti path.
Naples Noteworthy: What has been one of the biggest personal challenges you have faced—and how did you get through it? How did the experience change you?
Missy Balsam: The biggest personal challenge I ever experienced was also what set me on my spiritual path, so I am actually very grateful for it. It was back in 2005 when right after the birth of my son I left my marriage and moved to Naples from Los Angeles. What got me through was my daily yoga practice, which led to my discovery that I wanted to share this amazing healing practice with others. I would not be who I am today had I not gone though that experience.
Naples Noteworthy: Are you involved in any volunteer work, missions work or other charities or non-profit organizations that you would like to mention?
Missy Balsam: From time to time I offer my yoga teachings and sharing of my music with Youth Haven in Naples, a residential emergency shelter for kids and teens who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. My friend Gina Monteiro runs a program there called Partners in Shine to bring yoga and meditation practices to the kids. She does amazing work and I am so happy to participate in any way I can.
Naples Noteworthy: What are some of the things you like best about Naples?
Missy Balsam: Naples is such a unique and special place to live. I’ve honestly never experienced another place like it, and I’ve traveled quite a bit! I love the weather of course, and being so close to the beach. The beach is my absolute favorite place to meditate and feel peace.