Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 194 – Andrés González, Ali and Atman Smith

Sharon welcomes friends and colleagues Andrés González and brothers Ali and Atman Smith back to the Metta Hour Podcast for Episode 194 to celebrate the release of their first book, “Let Your Light Shine.”

Together Ali, Atman, and Andrés are the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation, a non-profit organization bringing yoga, meditation, and breath-work to thousands of at-risk kids in Baltimore schools since 2001. Their work has received wide national attention due to their remarkable results in public schools where suspension rates plummet, and graduation rates skyrocket. Outside of their work with the Holistic Life Foundation, Atman, Andrés and Ali also teach to diverse populations around the world, including drug treatment centers, mental crisis facilities, homeless shelters, as well as Yoga, Wellness, and Mindfulness Festivals. Their work has been featured in NBC Nightly News, CNN, CBS, The Washington Post, Upworthy, and many more.

sharon salzberg

In this conversation, Andrés, Atman, Ali, and Sharon speak about:

The impact on 9/11 on the formation of the HLF non-profit • The origins of “The Light Within” over a decade ago. • Growing up as black and brown-skinned men • How institutional racism has affected their lives. • The influence of their elders’ involvement in the civil rights movement. • Growing up in one of the most violent neighborhoods in America. • Learning to “be the check” instead of “earning the check”. • Moving from partying in college to spiritual practice. • Overcoming our cultural and familial conditioning.  • Awareness practices to access inner peace amid outer turmoil. • The quality of connection that opens up from spiritual practice. • Mantra Yoga Practice. • Mantras as cheat codes in life. • Projecting love to those who are suffering the most in the world. • Some of Sharon’s personal mantras. • The guidance of their teacher to create more teachers. • HLF’s reciprocal teaching model. • How the love of Bhakti Yoga is intertwined in their teachings. • It all starts with self-love and self-worth. • How love can look in different ways. • Love doesn’t dictate certain behaviors. • The challenges of love as a spiritual path. • How their work has become trauma-informed. • The impact of meeting Bessel van der Kolk. • Facing their own childhood trauma. • How life becomes challenging once we embark on the spiritual path. • How to start and end your day in the light. • To finish the episode, Ali leads a guided meditation to bring the conversation to a close.

To learn more about Ali, Andrés and Atman’s work, visit and get a copy of their book, Let Your Light Shine, available October 18th, 2022, in hardcover, eBook and audiobook formats. 
Let Your Light Shine

Sharon welcomes Ali, Atman, and Andres back to the Metta Hour. She asks about the writing process for their new book, Let Your Light Shine: How Mindfulness Can Empower Children and Rebuild Communities. Ali, Atman, and Andres share their stories and talk about walking the spiritual path in one of the most violent neighborhoods in all of America.

“It was really just awesome to see how long it’s been and where we started from and where we came from, and where we’re at now… It’s exciting to finally be able to put it down on paper so people could see our journey and hopefully benefit from all that we’ve gone through.” Andres Gonzalez

Ali, Atman, and Andres dive even deeper into their new book in BHNN Guest Podcast Ep. 118
It All Starts with Self-Love (24:05)

Sharon asks about the inner practices to help uncover one’s own light. Ali, Atman, and Andres talk about the difference between their personal practices and the practices they teach through the Holistic Life Foundation. For them, the book is an opportunity to share everything they know. Sharon asks about their philosophy of teaching teachers, and how they incorporate the power of love into their teachings. 

“You can’t expect someone to love or care about their neighbors, their community, Mother Earth, strangers walking down the street, if they don’t love themselves first. It all starts with self-love. And we talk about that in the book a lot, because a lot of people are trying to do all this external work, but they’re not doing the internal work to love themselves first, and that’s what’s really going to make a shift.” – Ali Smith

Don’t miss Sharon’s other conversations with Ali, Atman, and Andres in Metta Hour Ep. 52 and Metta Hour Ep. 40
Tapping Into the Light (53:05)

Sharon turns to the topic of trauma. Ali, Atman, and Andres share how they work with a population that’s dealing with a lot of undiagnosed trauma. They discuss what to do with our light once we uncover and nurture it. Atman talks about their new creation, the Involution Group. Ali closes the show with a powerful guided meditation about tapping into the light.

“A lot of people who’ve been through trauma, their body is not a safe space. So that’s why we do the physical practices, the asanas, postures, and stuff like that, to kind of release that trauma that is stored in the body.” – Atman Smith

Sharon, Ali, Atman, and Andres are teaming up for a virtual retreat this December – Learn more about People Who Care for People