"I learned that you really can achieve anything... but maybe what you want is different from what you're working towards"
About Matthew Schmidt
Matthew discovered the Isha System in 2010 at a time when his anxiety and self-doubt were driving him nuts. After a desperate plea to the universe for some sort of intervention, Matt stumbled upon Isha Judd’s book Why Walk When You Can Fly at a bookstore in Vancouver’s West End. That discovery changed his life forever. Shortly after beginning to practice with the facets described in the book, Matt had his first experience of what Isha calls love-consciousness. In that moment, Matt began a commitment to expanding his consciousness and to sharing this experience of connectedness with all those he encounters.
In 2013, Matt completed a seven month healing and training program in Isha Educating for Peace’s Uruguayan retreat centre. He now hosts private and public seminars in Vancouver, as well as weekly support meetings for practitioners of the system. He uses every experience, however big or small, as a chance to grow, and he wishes the same for every human being on the planet.
Through the use of the Isha System, Matt has found a sense of completion he could never have imagined before and an appreciation for the profound love that lives within his heart. He wishes the same for you.
1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?
I’m driven by authentic expression. If you’d asked me that question a few years ago, I don’t think that would have been the answer because I sort of overlooked myself… but now I’m constantly wondering about who I am and what I am. Then looking at the boundaries of those ideas.
I see myself as a multifaceted conscious being. I interface with my whole universe in all these different ways. I have all these feelings and these sensations, and I get to experience all these different people and circumstances. So what fuels me now in terms of creativity is looking at and exploring the nature of myself. What does self knowledge and self actualization really look like? That’s what fuels me. The quest to be with myself 100%, and to celebrate myself as I do it.
I just want to stop, and say I’m actually really nervous about identifying as a creative.
How would you define a ‘creative?’
Someone who gives through whatever medium they can wrap their hands around… basically.
That’s how I define it too; as someone who shares their soul.
2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).
I think it was all the expectation I put on myself. There was all this expectation to be a certain way, to understand myself via the lenses I’d received by my parents and society. There was SO much expectation – a painful amount – and that translated into needing to be the best at everything.
I was extremely successful in school. As McMaster, I thought ‘I need to be the best student’ which is what I set out to do. I succeeded – I have all these honours to my name – but I also loved what I was doing. The two went hand-in-hand, but it was a little insane. I realized that you can build these empires, but then what is the purpose of the empire? Is anyone home? That’s eventually what the question became for me. All this work, but what was I doing it for? It was almost manic.
This failure was also a huge success, because I saw that you really can achieve anything… but maybe what you want is different from what you’re working towards.
I was really into law of attraction several years ago, and I got really interested in manifesting. I wrote this book called ‘Finding Alex’ (never published) about finding the perfect partner and perfect life. I decided that person’s name would be Alex (I did a meditation and that name came to me). When I met my present partner, we were both a bit drunk and he actually introduced himself as Alex. I didn’t think too much of it then – maybe thought it was a bit weird.
So I built this whole thing – this is the perfect relationship – and the leap happened when I realized that even the ‘perfect’ relationship is nothing, because the real relationship I need was with myself. Things started to shift when I realized that I couldn’t look to someone to make me happy or give me fulfillment. This shift was really how I started all this inner work. I realized that deciding something was going to be perfect – the perfect fantasy relationship – was a lot of pressure to put on myself and another person.
I think we like intensity, but is it necessary? Do I have to be so intense all the time? Is there something beyond intensity that is more nourishing? Can I just be gentle and love where I am? And what does that make my life look like? Those are some of the questions I’ve been asking.
3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?
I’m super happy. Happiness for me is being able to celebrate whatever’s happening. It’s about being able to embrace my emotions, and honour and feel gratitude for what I have. Do I do it 100% of the time? No, but I can forgive myself when I don’t do it perfectly.
I think happiness is the profound ability to say ‘yes.’ I don’t think there’s anything else that can make you happy. I think happiness is saying ‘wow, life is amazing! It’s majestic, it’s everything you could ever want it to be and more.’ Before, I was running around looking for what was going to make me happy, now I understand that it’s my ability to be happy and present that will make me happy.
You know, I think I’m actually greater than happy… I feel joyful. There’s an intimacy I experience with myself and my surroundings. There’s a freedom to surrender, and to being able to be with yourself.
My favourite thing that my partner and I own is a painting – a print – of two cherries on this wooden canvas. It says ‘we tend to seek happiness’ and at the bottom only half of the text is there, and it sort of fades off into nothing. That bottom text reads: ‘when happiness is actually a choice.’ When I first saw it, and bought it, I didn’t really understand the message. But that message has since grown into the focal point of my life.
Do I have bad days? Yeah. But I can find the peace in it, and this message lives with me all the time.
4. What do you think is your greatest strength?
I think my greatest strength is my ability to really be with people. This is new for me. The capacity was always there, but I wasn’t open. I wasn’t able to be, and feel with someone, and just enjoy them for no particular reason other than just to enjoy being with them. Along with that, I also think my capacity to give is a strength; the genuine sense of love that I have for people.
On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?
My mind is a little obsessive. My dance is to be with that, and honour that, without getting caught up in it. It’s a constant game: to watch my mind without becoming snared up, and enmeshed in the chaos that sometimes happens in my head. When I see that I’m doing it well, I recognized that and think ‘good job! ‘
What I find so shocking is that even things that you don’t think are your mind, are your mind. It’s kind of all your mind. The whole way you perceive your reality is enmeshed in your value system, hidden beliefs, hidden ideas, and memories. And the more space you create around that, I think the better life you can have for yourself.
5. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?
When I was a child, everything was encouraged in the household. My mom was a teacher. We did everything at home from playing with water, playing in the sandbox, going on long hikes.
Reading was big. There were 6 kids in my family, and we would all pick a book, and my mom would read each of those books to us. My favourite was when we’d do it outside in the summer. We’d do it under the maple tree in the backyard. Maybe put down a blanket, and maybe have a snack. My mom would then read us the different stories; ‘Jacob Two-Two meets the Hooded Fang’ is one that comes immediately to mind.
I loved all the creativity around me. Now, my older brother is a guitarists, and my parents are gardeners (my dad is also musician, and my mom is an art collector). I didn’t necessarily appreciate all this creativity going around me then.
Early on, I felt drawn to write vivid description – writing about everything that was going on around me. I love Virginia Woolf. There was something about her ability to capture the moment.
I wrote my first book when I was 13. I was really into environmentalism at the time. So the novel was situated in the Amazon Rainforest – which I knew absolutely nothing about. I pieced together the world using books that I found – there was no internet then.
The first story that I ever had published was when I was in France. I wrote this science fiction piece based off an interaction I had with a squeegee cleaner, and I thought it would be great to write a story from his perspective. It’s called ‘Last Man.’
When I want to write, the first that comes to me is a line – usually based on something that I’m currently experiencing. I look at it as almost a divine whisper.
6. Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?
It’s funny… the one that comes to mind that I’m really trying to actualize right now is flossing; really pushing myself to floss. I’m still not doing it everyday, but I feel better about my life when I floss. It’s something about getting into those nooks and crannies – maybe ones that I’m avoiding. Can I go there, and be loving?
That’s something I really love about yoga – nourishing that increased body awareness. You can become very aware of what’s going on inside.
Exercise is also huge for me. Drinking water. And learning to choose ‘me.’ There’s a lot going on. There’s 7 billion people on the planet, but I’m the only one that gets to play this role. So, what am I going to do for myself? What is this ‘me.’
I work hard. I value hard work… a lot (sometimes I think too much). I think it’s an attribute that can get you very far, but perhaps it’s one that you should moderate if you have a tendency to go overboard.
Being thankful is also big. I’ve always been incredibly grateful for my family. Even though they’re far away, I feel connected to them. I feel that, that connection is forever. It’s very meaningful to me.
And enthusiasm. I love enthusiasm. I think it helps you to want to create things and inspire those magical moments
7. How do you deal with doubt? Where do you go for support?
I don’t really feel a lot of doubt anymore. I’ve sort of built this mechanism for dealing with it, because doubt is really just not trusting. If you’re trusting, you don’t need to doubt. Doubt keeps you in your head, and stops you from moving forward. I think it’s natural to be uncertain about things.
I mean, I do get confused about things. I get confused about say, how to move forward. What’s the next step to take? My solution to that is to just surrender, and trust that it will be okay. I’m going to trust that either I will make the right decision, or that maybe I don’t need to make a decision. Because doubt is maybe based on the idea that there is something I need to do, but if there is no essential road, then doubt serves no purpose.
When you do need to make a decision (and in actuality, I don’t think there are too many to make) the right answer is usually fairly obvious. And if you don’t know, and you’re experiencing doubt, maybe you’re just not ready to explore that aspect of yourself yet. So then the answer is just to love yourself where you are.
When you are ready, you’ll know. Why force it? Why squeeze every morsel out of everything out of fear that you’re going to miss out on something.
That was one of my biggest fears. Am I doing it right? Did I make the right decision? Is this the right choice? The tendency to do that is still there, but now I just try to witness it, and honour whatever I’m offering.
Self-image can also be quite binding – thinking ‘what are they going to think of me if I say this or change it to that tomorrow?’ Well, maybe you’ll look like an idiot, but you’ll be an authentic idiot.
I love my doubts, because they push me to move forward. If had a choice between acting and thinking, I’d just act. Thinking is a little annoying. It usually doesn’t even take place in the present. Usually I’m thinking about a time or scenario a million miles away – something that hasn’t even happened.
8. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)?
The ability to listen to what it is they actually want to create. Are you listening? If you can listen, then you can have a relationship with that thing, and you can be in flow with that thing.
There’s this sci fiction anthology called Tesseracts – it’s one of the bigger Sci Fi anthologies- that I really wanted to be published in. I knew the deadline was approaching, and I had this idea that had been floating around in my head about masks. And then I got my wisdom teeth pulled out. I had promised myself that I was going to write this story, but it was 2 or 3 days after my teeth had been pulled and I was still on T3s. 3 hours before the deadline, I ended up writing this story, and it ended up being put in the anthology.
It’s funny how we agonize over all these things.
Here’s what I’ve learned: just f*ck it up. That thing you’re afraid to say, say that. Submit things even when you’re not ready. You’re at least showing the universe that you’re interested. It energizes something.
I also think the more joy you have while creating, the better it’s going to be. The best things I’ve created have also been the simplest things.
Even the Isha system – along with being the most hilariously simple thing that I’ve created, it’s completely transformed every single thing in my life. It’s been challenging, but when you compare it to the process of trying to do it the other way – trying to change everything, which is excruciating – learning how to love everything is actually super easy.
9. Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).
Push yourself. Push yourself to ask ‘where can I grow here?’ Ask yourself if there is a place where you’re holding back, and then think about the next steps you feel you should be taking. Then just go fucking do it. Any excuse you have that is holding you back is just bullshit. Do it, or let it go for now, and don’t torture yourself over it.
Every day push yourself a little bit, because that’s how you grow. Push yourself to face and walk towards your fear. Push yourself to see what you’re made of. You’re not going to hurt yourself. You’re just going to find more love on the other side.
10. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship to money? This is a less specific question, but I’m just curious about your thoughts on the topic. Has your relationship to money changed over the years?
I’m still learning how to heal my relationship with money. I’m working to think about it as something that is good and natural in the human experience, instead of something that I might feel shame around. I’ve never lacked, but it’s been very easy for me get in head dramas about money (as something that is either good or bad); especially when I think about the future.
I feel like I have this idea that money is unholy (the root of all evil). I’m healing this idea, because I would like to believe that I deserve to be well taken care of. But I also know that fulfillment isn’t in things. So, how do you balance out the ‘celebration of your human experience’ without getting lost in the worry of either the upkeep or acquisition?
I mean, experiences vs things is what I would prefer… so I’m learning how to balance that by loving myself enough to get the money I need to continue expanding my experience, without creating a disservice to society through that process. That’s the question I’m asking myself, and I am confident that I will arrive at the answer. I am confident that I will arrive at a relationship with money that is kind and supportive and good. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. Ideally I hope my relationship will be one where I can also give.
Money is also a gift of love. I think in this middle class, we’re collectively focused on lack. And so to appeal to other people we are all equally devaluing ourselves. I think you do eventually have to create abundance if you value yourself.
11. Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?
It feels like flying. It feels like being weightless, being carried, being appreciated for no particular reason – just by your virtue of showing up.
I wrote this book called ‘Hand Dance’ a couple of years ago, and it was one of the most magical things that I’ve ever written. It was about me going deep into the relationship with my childhood self (I’m only learning about that relationship now, and about all the inner rejection that I had).
I started writing it during Nanowrimo… I used to think ‘you’re not going to write a good quality book in November… that’s just crap.’ But I started writing this thing, and it ended up being very beautiful. I finished it in February – although now I need to tweak and refinish it.
The process of writing the book… it felt like it was being downloaded to me. I just loved writing it. I’d come home, and couldn’t wait to read Adam (my partner) what I’d written.
It was a very colourful piece, and dealt with the process of being an outsider. In the past, all of my writing really centred around deformity, and wondering if it’s possible to find evolution through the loss of something.
Lately, my writing has been evolving away from deformity and towards compassion. I wonder if there’s a place for fiction at the end of that? Is there a post-outsider fiction? Does there need to be a sense of apartness or aloneness in order for us to gravitate towards the beauty of fiction? Is that the part that resonates, or is there a transcendent self that writes beautiful stories that human spirit or human mind more carefully?
Because what I was doing before was sort of less careful. It was driven by this intensity. So now, I feel like what I write would be more careful. I’d think of my job as being to offer care vs conflict.
12. What is your favourite book?
Isha has a question and answer book called ‘Consciousness Revolution‘. It’s one of her earlier books, and it’s basically a collection of her answers to questions on different themes – like love and innocence.
I love it because of the vibration of it. I bought it in Mexico, and it’s stayed with me. It’s the one book that I feel is very enlightened and enlightening. I’ve read a lot of books, but it’s the vibe – the feel – of it that I love. Whenever I feel a little out of touch with myself, I pick that up and I feel pretty back in touch pretty quickly.
Creative Life will be hosting a 3-hour Isha System workshop with Matt on Friday, May 15th.
Learn more by clicking here.
This interview is part of a series
The goal is to ask 100 artists these questions as part of a mastermind to understand the ethereal nature of the creative life.
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