A Quest for Stability

I value all of the seasons, but Summer holds a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is the memory of the years I spent as an ocean lifeguard in Fenwick Island, Delaware where my days consisted of morning workouts on the beach with my friends, being completely present for hours guarding the water, and happy hour get togethers with my squad after work. Summer is warm, welcoming, vibrant, and full of social interaction.  

This past Summer I spent the majority of my time in Encinitas, California, a quintessential surf town in northern San Diego county. For years Encinitas has been my happy place. I discovered it when I was driving home from visiting an online client who lived in La Jolla. We met once per month in person since it wasn't a far drive. Instead of sitting in traffic on my way back to LA I pulled over and decided to go for a beach run. I felt charged with so much joy seeing the bluffs, the fiery sun, and rising moon.

For me, Encinitas feels like eternal summer. The weather is always pleasant, the people are very nice, there's always surf, and most importantly, I feel the most free there. Free to create and free to be myself. It's like I remember who I am when I'm there.

I don't want to hate on LA, but it's been nearly 7 years here and it's been tough. I mean really tough. So tough that I've spent who knows how many thousands of dollars on herbal remedies, doctor bills, self-help workshops and counseling. Looking back I don't know if there was ever anything really wrong besides feeling not good enough, watching hopeful projects come and go and feeling like a failure, and feeling lonely- so terribly lonely. 

It's amazing how a city with 4 million people living in it can feel so isolated. An acquaintance once referred to Los Angeles as the city of Lost Angels. It's like we all came here searching for something. That something is disguised as fame, success, riches, a partner, but that something is really just our true Self. 

There are many places to seek out spirituality in Los Angeles, but in my opinion it all feels commercialized. I have met great clients here. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have received for work. It supports my soul searching and helps me try to dig myself out a hole of loneliness by learning. 

At 25 I came out here so bright eyed and optimistic. My first job was being a fitness expert for a virtual training website. I was an IFBB Bikini Pro, and knew my shit. I wrote the content, built the programs, and supplied the mathematical formulas to the tech team for the online calculators. I walked the talk as they say. 

I took great pride in that job. I thought I knew myself by seeing myself through the lens of a fitness expert and pro physique competitor; perhaps that's why it was stripped away. 

Like a hermit crab looks for a new shell I found a new identity as a fitness writer. I took on a job as a fitness editor, but within less than 6 months the company lost funding and that was the end of that. On to the next one...

I received a call from a major fitness production company within 2 weeks of being laid off. I got the job after the first meeting when I was able to put some scientific rationale to a heart training program and come up with a creative name for a burpee variation. I signed a contract as a independent contractor for a good amount of money. It was thrilling at the time; mostly because I had a title again. 

I spit myself out of that job though. My body started breaking down and giving me signals to get out. My back hurt from driving in LA traffic, childhood trauma was triggered from the stress I felt and the perfectionism I chased. A deep feeling of inadequacy haunted me daily. 

Instead of being honest and quitting, I told the director I was going to Bali and needed to travel. The problem was I didn't have the funds to do it. I knew I needed to make my own program, run my own business without counting on other jobs to always support me, because I was too scared to put the work in myself and make it happen. Too afraid of failing. 

Just as I was starting to put together my escape plan I was approached by an executive producer to create my own travel fitness show. This was my dream come true. My own show! My own creation! 

I put my heart into creating 12 episodes. I signed a BIG contract for a lot of money. I felt ALIVE again. I felt resurrected. 

But, then it didn't happen. Just as quickly as I had become inflated and high on life I deflated, spun downwards, and hit the ground hard. So hard, I shattered into a million pieces. 

I cried on my bedroom floor for weeks. I was financially broken and most definitely spiritually broken. I felt betrayed by God, the Universe, and myself. 

It's taken years to try to put myself back together again. 

Nature has been my greatest healer. She has helped me remember my childlike wonder, how to play, and time and time again she has showed me my strength and grace.  

It has taken me a long time be able to stand on my own two feet and offer something from my heart. That's exactly what this program I am building out- Elemental Conditioning is. It's the story of self reliance. It's my revival. It's the way I discovered to love myself more deeply no matter how badly my ego wants to berate me. It is all the things I have learned from the moment I shattered and how I am still, everyday, putting myself back together again.

It's an honor and a privilege to share it with the world even if it's not perfect, even if some may not like it, even if I struggle with the creative process I choose not to run away.

I have tried to stay in LA to prove to myself I am not running away, but the real stability is not about my physical location- why keep walking around a bloody battleground just to be able to prove I can carry myself upright?

The stability I seek is within- it's not running from the pain. It's taking the pain and being an alchemist; turning lead to gold. 

For the past month I have walked many miles to be able to see this clearly. I have walked to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite just to FEEL a stable surface beneath my feet, and when I reached the top I flipped my perspective to be able to see it was never about the physical in the first place.

I can run from place to place. I can create stability in my spine, routines, and practices, but if I never face myself and the past hurt I will never have a strong and stable foundation within. 

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My Wish

My wish is that I had all the answers. 

My wish is that I could magically do any feat I dreamt of with ease. 

My wish is I felt steady, grounded, stable, yet creative, free, and spontaneous all at the same time. 

My wish is that I knew where this path is leading me.

But, if these wishes came true I wonder what I would work towards? 

I wonder how I would spend my time?

I wonder if I would miss the curiosity and the surprises?

I wonder if I would miss the journey because the journey is all I know. 

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Vulnerability

For the past two months I have been standing in front of my peers with a slideshow behind me, clicker in hand, and a mouthful to say about mobility & movement and healthy eating. 

Last week we changed gears and started a 4-week journey into mindfulness and mind training. Leading up to the first seminar I was panged with anxiety.

How could I most authentically convey the importance of meditation and mindfulness? 

Reflecting back on my own journey, I remembered that I didn't start meditating one day because I thought, "oh yes, this is a good for me, let me do this everyday." 

No, it was more like, "I don't have a choice but to do this." 

Doubt filled my mind. 

"Who am I to talk about meditation? I'm no renowned spiritual teacher."

"Who am I to layout steps towards happiness and contentment?"

"Am I even happy?" 

I've walked for miles up and down mountains, driven for hours solo along the coast, camped in nature for days to reconnect with the force of Source, traveled to India to learn meditation, spent countless hours in the yoga studio and gym, spent thousands of dollars on coaching and workshops, have a well-established library of self-help books, have filled journals cover to cover, sat in silence at a meditation retreat for hours on end for 10 days just watching my crazy monkey mind, all in the quest for happiness. 

And after all of that, I've learned that happiness does not come easily. 

Happiness is a practice; it takes work. 

To tell others, "just watch your thoughts and let them go," would be a gigantic disservice. Mind training may be simple in theory, "be present, equanimous, release attachment to thoughts" but let's face it, actually practicing that stuff is tough. 

Sometimes it's really hard to let go and we get stuck. You can be stuck for minutes, days, or years. You can't plan on when it's coming and you can't run from it when it comes; it consumes you. 

It sucks. 

But, without those dark moments life would be terribly boring.

It's very important to know that there's nothing wrong with you when you feel low. I'm pretty sure everybody does sometimes; it's just that no one talks about it. It's as if we put on a mask to the outside world and get really good at replying, "I'm great" when others ask how you are. So you suffer alone. 

But this is not true....suffering is part of the human condition. There will be love and loss, there will be disappointments, pain, and failures for everyone. 

Look at the bright side- there will be love, there will be miracles, joy, and there will be authentic success! 

When I feel stuck I discover my greatest strengths. I learn ways to get out of the dark hole: 

 a) courage to face the darkness

b) faith that the moment will pass and faith in Source and universal intelligence

c) self-discovery, healing, and life lessons that I am then able to share with others. 

Standing in front a room full of people with all eyes on me sharing one of my darkest moments was terrifying. I let go of being the expert. I let go of self-consciousness, and  I let go of the barrier that stood between my peers and myself. 

It was terrifying, but simultaneously immensely liberating. It was as if it came through me without my control, thought, or effort. 

In that moment, I learned what it truly means to be vulnerable.  I felt seen, heard, and most importantly loved.

Sometimes we think we are only loved or liked if we achieve more, acquire more accolades, more money and success; live the life we think we ought to rather than face who we are. I'm learning that loving all of myself no matter what the circumstance is the greatest achievement. 

When I teach meditation and mindfulness, I am sharing my journey. I teach because I am a student of myself and this life experience. We are all in this together and the best thing we can do is support each other through the good and bad until we see it all as one in the same.