I was already in my late thirties when I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember the very moment when it flashed like neon across my mind. I was on the treadmill at the gym, ruminating about my future, and I heard a resonant voice within me say, “Jody, when you are on your death bed, reflecting upon all the choices you made in your life, do you want to look back with regret and wonder ‘why didn’t I do the thing I REALLY wanted to do?’ ”
It was the fall of 1995, and that question catapulted me into a leap of faith from my head into my heart. I left my day job as a schoolteacher and took a head-first dive into the career I’d always dreamed of: singer-songwriter, touring musician, and recording artist. I made up for lost time by recording 4 CDs of original music in 7 years.
Performing mainly as a solo artist, I travelled throughout the US, sharing my music in coffeehouses, nightclubs, churches, festivals, concert series, house concerts, and more. I did not get rich doing this. But I was living my dream, and I loved it.
In addition to my passion for music, another thread that ran through my life over the years was my dedication to yoga and meditation practice. As my spiritual life deepened and blossomed, my songs reflected that inner transformation. I was invited to perform music for church services, retreat centers (including the world-renowned Omega Institute and Kripalu Center), and I began to find my niche in these spiritually-focused venues. This was a whole lot more fun than playing in bars! I began leading worship services and personal growth workshops, weaving music together with the wisdom of inspirational teachers. I started hearing people refer to my work as a music ministry, which led me to the next phase of my journey.
I realized that my calling was bigger than being a performer. My songwriting was part of a larger life work. I enrolled in The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies in New York City, and in 2004, after two years of study and contemplative practice, I was ordained as an Interfaith Minister.
Rev. Jody Kessler
When I tell people that I'm an Interfaith Minister, I get both nods of enthusiasm and quizzical looks. "Wow, that's so cool! Um… what exactly IS an Interfaith Minister?”
Interfaith is not a religion. It’s a philosophy and a movement that encourages deep respect for diversity, while celebrating our common ground.
Interfaith Ministry draws upon the wisdom and inspiration from the teachings and traditions of the world's faiths. This diverse range includes both ancient and contemporary paths, and mainstream world religions as well as off-the-beaten-path spirituality. Interfaith Ministry also recognizes that many people self-identify as spiritual but not religious, spiritually-eclectic, or “outside the box”, and this is respected and honored. Each person's journey is unique.
So what does my own ministry look like?
I travel far & wide to congregations and spiritual communities as a visiting minister, sharing my personally-crafted blend of music, message, and meditation, as well as leading simple and powerful participatory ritual.
I have travelled across America leading global ecstatic chanting and multi-faith devotional music with my band, One Love.
I love officiating at weddings, baby blessings, coming-of-age ceremonies, memorial services, and other life-cycle rituals and sacred events, creating personalized ceremonies that express each client’s spirituality in an authentic and heartfelt way.
I also love to facilitate seasonal celebrations, retreats and workshops, bringing human beings together to deepen our connection to one another, to the earth, and to our shared source of creativity, spiritual power, and love.
Singing Heart Yoga with Jyoti
When I was 18 years old, two things happened that directed the course of my life.
I took my first yoga class, at a community center in Ithaca, NY. This was before yoga was popular, before there was a yoga studio on every corner, before there was yoga hanging from the ceiling, or yoga on tightropes, or yoga in barns with goats. In fact, this was even before the advent of sticky mats--we practiced on an ordinary blanket on top of a linoleum floor. Nevertheless, I experienced a sense of peace that was beyond all understanding—my first taste of true bliss.
The second thing that was transformational for me was being initiated into a community of meditators and being introduced to that practice and way of life. I was given a mantra as the key to unlock the stillness that dwells beneath the surface of the mind. During a tumultuous first year of college, that mantra became my anchor and a portal into peace.
Fast forward several decades, and my dedication to these practices brought me to Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, where I immersed myself in the study of yoga, with over 500 hours of advanced teacher training.
I took on the Sanskrit name Jyoti, which means the “effulgent light.”
I opened a business which I named Singing Heart Yoga: Celebrating Life through Yoga and Chant. I feel that this name expresses the joining together of two deep passions in my life--music and yoga.
Yoga is so much more than doing stretches on a mat. It is also about living a life that is in alignment with one’s dharma, or true purpose. It’s about cultivating presence and insight through meditation, and deepening into the heart through prayer and devotional rituals.
One of the most joyful and powerful expressions of devotional yoga (known as Bhakti in Sanskrit) is the practice of kirtan, which is the group call-and-response singing of the Divine Names and mantras. I love this confluence of music and yoga, celebrating That which is Infinite, Eternal, and ultimately beyond all names and forms.
I teach hatha yoga classes, private sessions, workshops, live-music yoga classes, and lead kirtan events in the Ithaca, NY area, as well as at retreats, yoga centers, and festivals around the country. In this work I weave together my passions and gifts as a motivational speaker, teacher, musician and yogini. I invite you to join me for a unique, uplifting and inspiring body/mind/spirit experience.
Minister, Musician, Yogini
So, when people ask, “What do you do?” It might seem like a complicated answer, because I wear so many hats.
But the answer is really very simple. What weaves all these threads together is my desire to do what I love in a way that serves others and invites us into the remembrance of our Divine Essence. May we meet one another in that Big Love.
Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God. Neem Karoli Baba