Singer-songwriter Katy Mantyk shares her process of creating music and cultivating her heart
Standing at a cliff’s edge on a moonless New Zealand night, a young woman made a wish aimed beyond the stars above.
“It was a really humble request,” says singer-songwriter Katy Mantyk, who now lives in Mount Hope, New York. “In that moment, I decided to ask the divine, or God, the creator, or whoever it was—I didn’t even understand, but I just wanted to ask them to show me the meaning of life.”
Soon after that starry night, her search for meaning led her to meditation and the traditional qigong practice of Falun Dafa.
“That was the beginning of what people would call an enlightening process, and that is what my life has become. I’m just always hungry for that process of improving and understanding,” Mantyk says.
“In that moment, I decided to ask the divine, or God, the creator, or whoever it was—I didn’t even understand, but I just wanted to ask them to show me the meaning of life.”
Falun Dafa, also called Falun Gong, is rooted in traditional Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. According to Mantyk, “The principles of Falun Gong are really simple. Anyone can follow them to raise their level of understanding and improve their hearts.”
As her heart opened, so did her voice, and the music began to pour out of her. But the river of destiny often takes a winding course, and it wasn’t until ten years later that she wrote the lyrics of her first single, which came out earlier this year.
And I found the Way,
A path through the stars
Search no more
This is what you’ve been waiting for
A decade of learning
“When I was creating music in the beginning,” Mantyk says, “I felt clueless. And I was highly aware of my cluelessness. Creating music was just a primal feeling, and I wasn’t confident that I had the wisdom or the experience to create music that was meaningful. It felt a bit empty when I tried.”
Mantyk was 21 years old when she started practicing Falun Dafa, and her songs finally felt like they had meaning. However, instead of following the music, she answered a different call. After finishing her degree in sound engineering, she moved to New York for a job in television.
The music that once came to her on the ocean breezes of her youth got drowned out by the din of city streets and the demands of her new life. “I dropped music for ten years. I really had to close it off,” she says.
“I had this harsh lifestyle, just grinding, taking subways, pushing kids in strollers, carrying shopping on foot, and working full time,” Mantyk says, describing New York as “a kind of sandpaper on my soul.”
“I wouldn’t say it was a bad experience, though,” she says. She sees personal growth as the foundation of her practice, and she now sees that time in New York as building the meaning that she had been searching for in her music.
Let It Flow
After that decade in the city, Mantyk and her family moved to a small town in the Catskill Mountains.
“Once I got out of the city and into the countryside again, the music was just calling to me. I knew I needed to pick my guitar back up, and as soon as I did, I started writing songs again.”
Living in a mountaintop cabin, she gained a new perspective on her life once again. The frantic energy of urban life subsided, and she found herself connecting with nature in a way she had forgotten.
“I was outside playing a beautiful little riff on my guitar one day,” she says. “I started thinking about how the forest and trees are so old, they witness the entire rise and fall of human societies. I was surrounded by this old forest and these trees that have seen so much. I wondered what their wisdom was. And I instantly got an answer, and I turned it into the lyrics of a song.”
That song turned into her upcoming single Let It Flow, which begins with these lyrics:
The trees in the forest, they have stories to tell
Of ages come and kingdoms that fell
Ask them how they weathered all the storms
And they will sing in unison
Let the wind blow, let it blow
Trust your roots are deep in the earth below
Healing through music
“I write my music for myself,” Mantyk says. “Of course, if the music is good, it can be a gift for other people too—but it really heals me. My lyrics incorporate the kind of things that I need to reinforce in myself.”
“That song, Let It Flow,” she says, “it’s not like I’m perfectly living that philosophy. Every time I sing it, it helps me to accept life’s challenges and remember that I have an inner strength in my roots. Every time I sing that song, it nourishes me.”
What draws audiences to Mantyk is the sincerity of her music. Her lilting voice has a sort of calming touch to it. She sings with the wisdom that her words matter, and she backs up those words with a heart of compassion.
You can find her online at katymantyk.com and enjoy her YouTube channel full of acoustic songs to help the day flow by.