#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Developing Your Higher Self with Nanette Hucknall

Unlocking creativity and wisdom to achieve your heart’s desires.

Nanette V. Hucknall is an award-winning author, psychotherapist, teacher, lecturer and the Founder and President Emeritus of Higher Self Yoga Inc. In today’s show, Nanette shares how each of us can discover our hidden potential by connecting our hearts, minds, and bodies to unleash creativity, wisdom, and peace.

Nanette Hucknall portrait

“If everybody on the planet started working with their higher selves, we would have peace.”

—Nanette V. Hucknall

Higher Self Yoga Inc.

50. Developing Your Higher Self with Nanette Hucknall

Key Takeaways

  • The connection to your highest self is through the heart.
  • Peace comes when a good mind, a good body and a good heart are in balance.
  • Healing from childhood traumas through therapy provides clarity.

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Nanette V. Hucknall is an Award-Winning Author, Psychotherapist, Teacher, Lecturer and the Founder and President Emeritus of Higher Self Yoga Inc. She has spent a lifetime studying spirituality and psychology, and has used her learnings to help others on their own personal journeys. With a background in Agni Yoga and Psychosynthesis, Nanette has combined her practical knowledge with her own spiritual wisdom and insights to create Higher Self Yoga. She has developed many Higher Self Yoga classes and retreats in North America and Europe and is currently developing a complete Higher Self Yoga curriculum to give students comprehensive access to a wealth of teachings pulled from the HSY canon.

“The higher self is the wise part of you. It’s the wise being in you.”

—Nanette V. Hucknall

Higher Self Yoga Inc.

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group, an award-winning California based facility management, maintenance, and construction management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

Welcome to the BeBetter podcast! Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learned as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to Be Better?

Michael Kurland (00:02):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I am your host, Michael, Kurland. Joining us today is Nanette Hucknall, Founder and President of Higher Self Yoga. Nanette, welcome to the show. Tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Nanette Hucknall (00:23):

Thank you, Michael, very much for inviting me. I look forward to talking to you. For one thing, I’m 88 years old, which I spoke to you about, so I’ve done a lot of things with my life. I think my main accomplishment, while I was thinking about it before, was having taught Higher Self Yoga, developed into a specific yoga- actually, it was not a yoga; it was just the higher self- and then founded the organization. That’s what I’ve devoted a lot of my life to. I’m also a writer. I’ve written 12 books, mainly on the higher self. My recent book is called How to Live from Your Heart, Deepen Relationships, Develop Creativity, and Discover Inner Wisdom. All my books, by the way, have exercises in working with the higher self and stories to illustrate the text. I made my living by being an art director, a career therapist, and a psychotherapist.

I started off in New York City, in the sixties, I became an art director. It was very rare for a woman to become an art director at that time. If anyone has listened to the Mad Men TV series, it’s very much like that. The way women were put down and not in any way used correctly in terms of being honored in terms of their work or their mind or anything. I went to a very famous art school, a full scholarship school, and when I graduated, I called all the big agencies in town. Every single agency said, “We do not hire women, even to do mechanicals.” I was shocked! I was 22 years old. I had no idea that I couldn’t get hired because all my classmates who were men all got good jobs in all the agencies. So, I ended up eventually finding a job as an art director designer then art director at a very good agency, which ended up being a big agency as part of a big interrepublic thing. That was my career as an art director. I also have to say that as an art director, in all the places I worked that were agencies including Clairol, I was the only woman art director of all of them.

Michael Kurland (02:50):

You were certainly ahead of your time.

Nanette Hucknall (02:53):

Yeah. When I was an art director, I started hiring women as designers under me and that was good. I’m so happy that it’s changed in all these years. It’s not the same way.

Michael Kurland (03:06):

Yeah, and it wasn’t even that long ago. It’s crazy. It was only 60 years ago, so thankfully it has changed. I do want to point out the fact that you are definitely the oldest guest to ever come on my podcast, so I want to say thank you for that.

Nanette Hucknall (03:25):

Thank you for having me.

Michael Kurland (03:26):

I appreciate that. So, you were an art director in New York City and then you said you started the Center of Peace Through Culture. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

Nanette Hucknall (03:36):

I was in my forties then. The organization was to bring artists, scientists, and philosophers from all walks of life, from all cultures, all races, and to bring these people together to start to work on world problems. Back then, we didn’t have climate change but that would have been a great one for them to work on.

Michael Kurland (04:00):

[Laughs] Definitely.

Nanette Hucknall (04:02):

The goal was to have maybe eventually a place in an international city where they could all live together and work together and bring peace to the planet, helping peace to the planet. It’s interesting because in retrospect, I was thinking of that higher self yoga, which is a yoga but it’s working with helping people to really develop and work with their higher selves. If everybody on the planet did this, started working with their higher selves, we would have peace. Completely at peace.

Michael Kurland (04:35):

I totally agree. For the audience’s perspective, can you just explain what the higher self is? Because I think that’s a good place for us to jump in on to a lot of what we’re going to talk about for the rest of the show.

Nanette Hucknall (04:51):

Let’s explain it this way. Everybody has an ego self, which is a part in them to which they function. It’s the main part you function with is the ego. You have a lower self, which is the part which can get angry and mean and all your negative characteristics. But you also have a higher self. Most people really don’t understand they have a higher self. This higher self is the wise part of you. It’s the wise being in you. It has all your positive characteristics and all your higher qualities. The higher self is also the part in you that is spiritual. In most yogas in the east, they talk about the higher self, but they talk about the higher self in terms of the spiritual part of you. You don’t talk about the practical side of the higher self, which is very different than higher self yoga.

The higher self also has the part in you that can really start to have unconditional love for others, really the unconditional love. It has your wisdom and discernment. That’s very important. That’s why we call it the wise being within you because this is the part that can really help you bring down into your ego self the wisdom and discernment when you’re working with people. It has compassion, and it also is where you get all your inspiration and creativity. People are using this. People are working with the inspiration and creativity of their higher self, but they don’t realize that it can also be the part in you that that can bring all this together into a place of calmness. This is one of the things I really love about the higher self is that when you can really be in your higher self, it puts you in a place of real calmness and clarity of mind.

It’s like you don’t have your personal emotions attached, so you can really be in your higher self when you go into business meetings, for example. The work that you do. You’re going to go in there with this feeling of total clarity. You can listen without any personal feelings coming up about the people that are talking to you, and you can really start to not only listen to but to bring in ideas in that meeting that are really good, important ideas. The same is true if you have a staff. I was working with a staff as an art director. I would always try to be in my highest self when I had to sit down and talk to somebody, particularly when I had to say something that was critical. I did it in a way that was helpful, not critical. When you do any kind of function in your life, it’s very important to have this.

The main thing that I really want to talk about is the higher self knows everything about you. It knows about your ego self, your lower self. It understands you completely. And because it understands you completely, it can really help you solve your mundane problems, your psychological problems. It can help you in anything you do. How I found out about the higher self is while doing the Center for Peace Through Culture, we had a lot of volunteers. I decided it’d be really good to learn people skills. Our office was in an office of the Psychosynthesis Institute in New York City. I said, “I think I might take the three-year training.” In the training, the higher self is part of the actual training process to work with it. It just changed my life completely. It changed my life in terms of spiritually, psychologically, and career wise.

During that training, a friend came to visit me. They said, “Nanette, I hate my job. I don’t like doing what I’m doing. I have no idea what I want to do in life.” I said, “Let’s do an exercise. Let’s do a higher self exercise.” I did that with her, and she found out what she should be doing, and she got so excited. She told all her friends. So, everybody was calling me to do career stuff with them. I sat down, and I designed a whole process. A real process. I started doing that with people. I wrote my first book, which is called Finding Your Work, Loving Your Life. It was later published under the title of Karma, Destiny and Your Career, and it actually was even published in four different countries. I started working with that also with clients. At that time, I quit my job as an art director and moved to the Berkshire Mountains. It’s western Massachusetts. Beautiful mountains. I lived on a lake and started being a career therapist. But part of my career therapy was also working with childhood conditioning in terms of people not feeling good enough about what they should be doing. I just started very slowly getting to be a psychotherapist. I ended up starting to get clients coming to me just for psychotherapy. I did that for 30 years actually. I didn’t start doing it until- I’m 88 now- I think I was doing that about five years ago.

Michael Kurland (10:21):


Nanette Hucknall (10:21):

That’s my main story. I also do a lot of workshops in Europe and the United States and Canada. I started with my first book on the higher self I wrote, started classes, and now I have classes all over the United States, also in Canada. I do annual retreats. Now, we’re doing them on Zoom. Hopefully we’ll go back to doing them in person.

Michael Kurland (10:46):

Yes. I think we’re a little Zoomed out. We’re ready for some in-person connection.

Nanette Hucknall (10:52):

That’s definitely true.

Michael Kurland (10:54):

You founded all this stuff with the higher self. You’ve written 12 books, and now you started Higher Self Yoga. Let’s talk about that. How did that come about? It seems like a natural progression, but how did that come about and where is that now?

Nanette Hucknall (11:13):

I have a group of students, and we all got together. I said, “I think it would be good to really start to introduce the higher self to people globally.” Talk about being better. If you start using your higher self, you will definitely be better because you’re starting to acknowledge that this is a wonderful part within you that you can really use daily in your life. It literally changed the people that I work with spiritually in all my classes because the highest stuff is also spiritual, but it was also very practical. I saw people in the classes really change psychologically when I started working with it. In fact, one of the things I always required is that anybody that wanted to be a student mind, they would have to do therapy because I discovered that most people working spiritually get stuck because of the psychological.

At this point, I kind of decided that it really needs to be more widespread. So, I spoke to some of my followers, and we got together. We decided to incorporate it. We set up a board. Fortunately, we were donated some money from one of my spiritual sisters actually who had passed away and left all her money to us. We had the money to start it going and starting to make it happen. Now, our website has thousands of visitors internationally. It’s just wonderful because if people can start working with the higher self, it will really help them. The website has weekly blogs on the higher self. We’re starting the classes on the higher self. Right now, we have two free classes. One is Awakening Your Intuition and the other is How to Live from Heart based on my book. The next class we’re doing this spring is the Introduction to the Higher Self. We’re trying to move it along into where people can start really coming to the website and start learning and starting to read the books and starting to really operate with their higher selves.

Michael Kurland (13:25):

That’s a good point right there. Why don’t you give the audience your website so they can go to the website and check out these free classes that you guys are offering currently?

Nanette Hucknall (13:36):

It’s higherselfyoga.org, and my website also has all that on it. It’s nanettevhucknall.com.

Michael Kurland (13:50):

Beautiful I love that. Let’s talk a little bit about the difference. We talked pre-show the difference between all the different kinds of yogas and what they’re really kind of built for, which was fascinating to me because I just thought yoga was to get your mind and body spiritually in check. But you were telling me how there’s different versions of them, and they are built for different reasons. What’s the difference between higher self yoga and hot yoga?

[Both laugh]

Nanette Hucknall (14:27):

Hatha yoga?

Michael Kurland (14:27):

Hatha yoga. There you go.

Nanette Hucknall (14:27):

Hatha is more what you’re saying. It’s based on exercise and making the body really whole and good. It has a philosophy to it also, but I think most people know it as the exercise programs, which are wonderful. The basic yogas in India are Bhakti yoga, which is working with the heart. I should also say that yoga means union with God or the source or whatever you believe in spiritually, the divine being or divine force within. Bhakti yoga is working with the heart, using your heart in everything you do, opening the heart, which is, by the way, the connection to your highest self the heart is the way in which to connect to it. That’s one form of yoga. Then there’s Raja yoga, which is working with the mind and the higher mind and the intellect and that’s also a wonderful way in which to, again, start working with what we call the higher mind, which is also part of the higher self. Then the other yoga is karma yoga, which is actually doing service in the world, helping others. Those are the three main ones. There’s all different kinds of other yogas. A lot of the yogas do talk about the highest self, but, as I say, they talk about it as being that part which is very spiritual. The higher self yoga incorporates all of those, working with the heart, doing service in the world, and working with your mind and your intellect. In fact, it’s really important to work with the heart and mind together because the heart brings in the inspiration and the creativity from the higher self and the mind takes that. It also can bring in some of the wisdom from the higher mind, which is part of the higher self.

Nanette Hucknall (16:23):

The two together really are a wonderful balance in combination of working together. I also call it working with the feminine and masculine. I also wrote a book called The Rose & The Sword: How to Balance Your Feminine and Masculine Energies, which I wrote with my business partner, Judith Bach. The heart is working with the feminine or the ying energy. It’s the ying energy which brings it inspiration and creativity. The masculine is working with the yang energy. Bringing that in, I’ll give you a good example. If somebody is overly working with their feminine, they’ll have a lot of great, wonderful, wonderful ideas, but they don’t know how to manifest it. They have no idea how to make it function. I’m sure you have friends that say, “I want to do this, and I want to do this,” and they never do it.

Michael Kurland (17:25):

I do!

Nanette Hucknall (17:25):

That’s because they’re all in their feminine. The masculine is just as the opposite. They don’t just think of one thing and do it, but they don’t have the creativity to expand it and make it grow. In fact, it’s interesting. I read an article in Forbes Magazine many years ago, talking about women and men managers. They said a woman manager, when they give her a project, will think of many different ways to do that project. The problem is she won’t come up fast enough with it which way to go. It said that men will take the first project they think of and manifest it, but it’s not necessarily the best way to do it. He said we would love to have a balance of the two of this masculine and feminine energies. I’ve always took that as being a really good example of what I mean by masculine and feminine energies.

Michael Kurland (18:26):

You made me think immediately of yin and yang and balance. Just so that I’m understanding correctly, there is actually no exercise with higher self yoga in terms of physical exercise; it’s all mental learning to bring your heart, your mind and service together. Is that accurate?

Nanette Hucknall (18:49):

Yes, that’s more accurate. But we certainly believe in being good physically. I do a lot of exercise myself, and a lot of my students are doing yoga because it’s very important to have that balance of a good mind and a good body and a good heart. It’s a balance of all three.

Michael Kurland (19:08):

I agree. I think what your earlier point was if this Center for Peace Through Culture, if the people that were using their higher self mind came together to do that, you probably would have had world peace. The problem is the ego gets in the way and the lower self gets in the way, correct?

Nanette Hucknall (19:28):

Yes. Very correct. You see a lot of that everywhere.

Michael Kurland (19:34):

I love the work that you’ve done. I also want to touch on one thing that you kind of brushed over it in our pre-show that you haven’t brought up yet is that you also were on the initial committee that started Earth Day, the holiday. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Nanette Hucknall (19:51):

Yes. One of my duties as President of the Center for Peace Through Culture is we did a lot of different programs, and we also got to know some of the NGOs at the United Nations. We started having meetings together. We were not an NGO. We were thinking of becoming one, but we were not one. We did make some very good contacts with the NGOs, and we were invited to some meetings. The NGOs are really trying to really bring all countries together in doing really important peace building work actually, which is one of the things we were interested in. At one meeting, we all started saying, “We should have a day put aside just for people to really think about the planet and the earth. I was one of the ones that was part of those first meetings initiating Earth Day. It was a long time ago, but it was very small at that time. Now, it’s major, and that’s so wonderful to see. It makes me really happy that they finally got it off the ground into a major program because it was hard to do. It’s hard to do some of the things with the NGOs because they have to introduce it into the United Nations, and it takes a while to do that.

Michael Kurland (21:07):

It is definitely a major holiday. Everyone pays attention to Earth Day now. I remember when I was a kid, it wasn’t as big of a to do as it is now, but it’s come a long way. So, thank you. You left your mark forever on this earth, so that’s pretty cool. That’s what I’ve always been striving to do with my vehicle, Branded Group, and the service work that we do. I really appreciate that.

Where do you see Higher Self Yoga going now? You were saying you’re offering these free classes. You have your students. What’s the next five years of Higher Self Yoga? Where do you want it to go into the future?

Nanette Hucknall (21:47):

One of the things we’re planning to do is starting a whole coaching program for people who are interested in working with the highest self. They might need help in doing that, so we have a coaching program that’s starting very soon. The first session of coaching is going to be a free session for anybody that wants to take it. We’re just going into developing people using their higher self. We have exercises in the higher self. How to get in touch with your highest self. The next class is going to be in the spring on how to start working with the higher self and that’s going to be developed into more. My next book, by the way, is called Higher Self Yoga: A Practical Teaching. There are a lot of really practical exercises in there. How to work with your highest self in your everyday life and all of that. I’m going to be doing a podcast on that and continuing to really help people start to use it in their everyday life because it’s something that is not just the spiritual part, it’s also going to help resolve a problem. If you got a problem with somebody, you sit down and work with your higher self on how to resolve it.

Michael Kurland (23:08):

I think that’s what you brought up earlier, too, when you had to have critical conversations with people that were employees of yours, to be able to go into that conversation with your higher self thought process has got to be helpful. You said it best. When you’re talking about coming up as a child. Everyone has scars, and everyone creates debilitating thoughts of what they are and their expectations of themselves that are only in your head. They’re not actually true. Being able to remove the ego and being able to sit down and just look with compassion and have a higher self in a conversation like that, or in your everyday day to day life. I think it’s very important that everyone should be rushing to your website to sign up for these courses. Thank you for making those available to everybody.

Nanette Hucknall (24:01):

I want to add though, you don’t want to remove your ego because you need the ego to strive to be in your higher self.

Michael Kurland (24:10):


Nanette Hucknall (24:10):

You need that ego self to really function in the world, but you also need it to strive to start connecting to the higher self.

Michael Kurland (24:18):

You need to meld the two together.

Nanette Hucknall (24:20):

Yeah. That’s a very important part.

Michael Kurland (24:23):

What about the lower self? Do you need that to be also melded together or is that just where anger comes from?

Nanette Hucknall (24:31):

No. What you want to do is to start to discover what it is in your lower self that you need to transform, to change, and to really work on changing that. Working on changing that, you can really talk to your higher self about it. What’s my first step in getting rid of this characteristic that I have? And then also looking at it in terms of your psychological background. You might have parents that did really nasty things, and you took on some of that characteristic just automatically by seeing it in your life. It’s just really important to just start slowly looking at everything in your lower nature. Just one by one. You don’t do it all at once. Everything is not done at once, even working with the highest self. It’s done one thing at a time so that you can do that one thing and then go to the next level with it.

Michael Kurland (25:25):

I think you brought up something very important earlier, too, which is therapy. You said you make all of your students go to therapy. I think that should be a requirement. It should be part of a curriculum for college and schooling. There’s such a stigma around it for a lot of people, and de-stigmatizing therapy is something that is very important to me. It was something that I was very against for most of my youth and younger twenties, and I needed it probably more than anybody. Once I finally broke through and started going to therapy, my life changed dramatically. I wouldn’t be where I am today without therapy. I still go to therapy to this day, and I’m a pretty well-rounded person by my own thoughts. I really appreciate that you brought that up, and I think that that’s great that encourage all your students to have to go to therapy.

Nanette Hucknall (26:26):

I had to do therapy when I took psychosynthesis. That was part of the program. You had to do therapy with one of the trainers, and that made a huge difference in my life also. I agree with you completely, because until you really start to work with the problems of your emotions from your childhood… You really can’t change those until you really start to heal those childhood emotions.

Michael Kurland (26:49):

Yeah. You have to be able to reprocess them and realize. From my youth, I talked about this many times, my father was an alcoholic. I really thought a lot of the time that it was my fault. Why am I not enough for him to stop drinking? Why won’t he stop drinking? What did I do to make him drink? This is a child’s thought process, and I’m not the only child that’s ever thought like that. I had to go to therapy. I had to realize it wasn’t my fault. It was a disease that he had that had nothing to do with me. It was a way for me to reprocess it. Ever since I was able to reprocess it, I was able to have a better relationship with my father at the end of his life. I’m grateful for that. Therapy gave me that, so that’s great.

Nanette Hucknall (27:32):

That’s wonderful.

Michael Kurland (27:32):

Audience, if you have even a thought of do you need to go to therapy? The answer is yes. You should probably get in touch with your local therapist. I’m sure your insurance pays for it and sign up and try and get in there and start working on it because we all have issues. We all have things.

Nanette Hucknall (27:54):

And make sure that therapist does work with your child. Inner child work.

Michael Kurland (27:58):

I have never done inner child, but my sister does that and she said it helped immensely.

Nanette Hucknall (28:04):

That’s part of the psychosynthesis training is to really work with the inner child in what we call sub personalities in you that are working with each other negatively to try to change them.

Michael Kurland (28:16):

Well, Nanette, this has been a wonderful conversation. So informative. I want to ask you if the audience wants to get ahold of you, how can they do so?

Nanette Hucknall (28:27):

They can contact me by going to either organization if they want to get in contact with me. My website has my contact information. Even the Higher Self Yoga website has my contact information. So, just contact me that way through the website.

Michael Kurland (28:49):

Higherselfyoga.org, correct?

Nanette Hucknall (28:49):


Nanette Hucknall (28:49):

Thank you very much for coming on the show. I appreciate it, and good luck with your book. Audience, until next time.

Thank you for tuning in! I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There is no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform.
To learn more Branded Group’s “Be Better” experience and how we provide industry-leading national facilities management, construction management, and special project implementation, visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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