Only Big Talk at lululemon’s The Immersion

by Kelly Krause, Head of Publicity, SXSW Interactive + SXstyle

Santosha: when you’re content but unsatisfied.

I didn’t know there was a word to describe my current state of mind. I am a happy, glass half-full person, but love change and the idea that we’re always evolving. Though, as one who preaches and writes about living kindly, I had recently felt disconnected from my own mantra and longed for the opportunity to hit the reset button.

Then, just as the universe works, in March I received an invitation from lululemon to be a part of The Immersion. Details were vague, but the invitation mentioned that 50 thought-provoking humans were gathering for yoga, meditation and self-development for five days in May at Travassa Resort in Austin, Texas. I knew no one, I’m not a yogi and I don’t meditate. But I find that some of the biggest and most impactful changes occur when I spend time outside of my comfort zone, so I immediately replied, “Yes.”

= = =

May arrived quickly. I know I was ready for change, but as I drove through Travasaa’s gates, my heart started to flutter. I was so nervous. Who will be here? What will we learn? Can my body physically do yoga? I was asking myself too many questions, so I sat in my car before I walked in and promised myself to just trust the universe, live in the moment and leave any insecurities behind.

After we checked in and got settled, we met that evening for the first time as a group. As we walked up to the pool deck with the sun shining brightly, a sign that read “You’re The One We’ve Been Waiting For” greeted us.

For those of us who knew no one, we engaged in small talk and seemed to have the same questions: “What are we doing here? Why us? Does anyone know what we’re doing?” None of us knew and none of us seemed to care — the excitement was too strong.

As conversations continued over the next hour, I quickly realized I was in the company of some seriously accomplished, talented and kind people, and that we all shared something in common: we are all open-minded and curious people who said yes to an experience knowing little to no details.

After a welcome introduction by Carolyn at lululemon, we got to hear from Baron Baptiste (Father of Power Vinyassa and creator of Baptiste Yoga) and Gabby Bernstein (meditation expert) who were about to be a huge part of the week. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Baron or Gabby. While the invite mentioned them, for reasons I can’t even explain, my type-A and curious self didn’t do my research.

In hindsight, not knowing a soul at The Immersion—especially through social media—was a blessing. I met each and every person in the most authentic way possible: face-to-face. There was no Instagram bio to tell me they have 50k followers and do a lot of epic shit. I got to learn that on my own, and thereby learn more about everyone than I could via social media. I got to ask Baron and Gabby real questions that I might’ve been otherwise nervous to ask. And I got to be very vulnerable in front everyone because I wasn’t intimidated by their online presence. Instead, I was moved and drawn to their in-person presence.

= = =

We started every morning with a lovely and healthy breakfast — a come-and-go-as-you-please schedule, creating time for serendipitous interaction. After, we walked to our first activity of the day — heated Power Vinyasa with Baron. All 50 yoga mats, blocks and straps perfectly framed the stage and “The Immersion” neon sign (which also happened to be the only lululemon branding we saw the entire weekend) took center stage. I found my spot next to a few familiar faces and sat in anticipation. Baron opened the each session with conversation. Only big talk with this guy. On the first day, he started with “I want to know what brought you here? What made you say yes to something you knew very little about? What are you hoping to get out of this experience?”

A few people got up and explained why they were there. It was great to hear and see my peers be so raw. Just as I thought we were about to get started, Baron paused. “Anyone else?” My heart fluttered. Something came over me. My hand shot right up. I felt safe. And uncomfortable, so I wanted to share.

“Yeah, come on up!” he said. Baron was encouraging and calm, but always had a smile on his face.

I shared my journey. I talked about losing close to 140lbs and gaining a little back. I told the group that I wanted to learn how to live a kinder life that I write and preach so much about. And, that this entire experience was new to me and uncomfortable, so that’s why I came. I wanted to learn from everyone here and leave with the tools to make me feel better.

There was one common theme that morning: we all wanted change, in some capacity.

= = =

I didn’t have one big moment of clarity during The Immersion, but I did experience several moments will leave one big impact on me forever.

The first moment came from our daily workshops. Two wonderful women at lululemon, Taraneh and Parker, guided us through workshops focusing on relationships, leadership and understanding our emotions. During each session we had the opportunity to listen and learn, but also share. Each day the group became more comfortable, open and transparent. I applaud my new friends for sharing their thoughts and personal stories with so much honesty. That room became a very special and sacred place for me.

Listening. Taraneh asked us to find a partner and listen to what they had to say about important teachers in their life. Before we started, she asked the room: “When you sit down, please listen to listen, not to think about your response.” I always feel anxious listening because I want to sound intelligible or at least relatable, so I took this to heart and began practicing immediately.

Speak in I. I am guilty of this. I use blanket statements constantly like, “You know when you ride your bike up that hill and you’re, like, the slowest person?” vs. “I’m pretty slow when I ride up that hill.” Speaking in I makes the conversation real and honest, and doesn’t put anyone else in a false or uncomfortable place.

Sacred Zone. Whew. I wish I understood this concept years ago. Your sacred zone is your personal space where you determine who is allowed to come in. I have a tendency to let other’s attitudes or moods dictate my day. It’s my way of being an empathic friend. But it does not serve me or help me. I learned that I could still care deeply for someone, hear what they have to say, but place them outside my sacred zone so my day is not affected. I’ve practiced this since and it’s been a game-changer.

= = =

The next moment arrived on our second day. Baron said something that I’ll never forget: “Who you are on the mat today is who you are in life.” In an almost out-of-body experience, I saw myself on the mat, practicing something completely out of my comfort zone with an open mind and the desire to listen and learn. I received help when I needed it and I reciprocated the same gesture. I was happy and enjoyed every single moment, even smiling while trying to move into a seemingly impossible pose.

Moments before class wrapped up and we moved into our cool down, or Savasana, Baron asked, “Can you push yourself further?”

I could and I did. I got into my first wheel pose (back bend).

I remembered the word he taught us the day prior — Santosha (content but unsatisfied). I realized it was okay for me to feel unsatisfied with where I am, yet still happy. In that moment, the weight of the pressure I’ve placed on myself was lifted and I felt like I was living kindly.

= = =

The final moments came during meditation with Gabby and a conversation we shared later in the week.

During our meditation and Kundalini (“the weird yoga,” per Gabby), we closed our eyes as Gabby talked to us about egos and fear, and to always choose love over fear. If love is missing in situations, it’s because there is fear. I thought about every single thing I feared and realized my own mind was getting in the way.

Minutes later, with our eyes still closed, Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out” came on. She had us shake, shake, shake our arms, then stand up and shake our body. “Shake off that fear, forgive who you need to forgive!” she chanted. I don’t know that I’ve danced with so much intention in my life — actually, I haven’t. I’ve been dancing like everyone is watching. In less than three minutes, I decided to approach life with the same confidence as I had with my eyes closed, and choose love over fear.

Later, I had a chance to sit for a moment with Gabby in Austin, after The Immersion had ended, and tell her about my story.

“I know a little about you from your conversation with Baron, but where are you at right now?” she asked.

“Well. I’ve lost a ton of weight and I’ve gained some back. It’s ebbing and flowing. I just want to stop obsessing over working out and what I am eating. I’m tired of asking my sister if she thinks I should have a cheat day. I hate those kinds of conversations. I only want big talk, and I just want to live.”

We talked about my all-or-nothing tendencies and our similar addictive behaviors.

“But let me tell you something,” I said, “In the past five days, I never thought about my next meal. I never thought about pushing myself harder in yoga if I ate dessert. I didn’t obsess over anything.”

Without hesitation, Gabby leaned in, “It’s because you were happy.”

= = =

I went home that evening replaying each interaction and conversation I had as if it were the scene of a movie. I thought a lot about Taraneh and Parker’s words in our workshops and remembered what everyone shared so candidly in that room. I recalled conversations I had after being so vulnerable and speaking my real truths and felt forever thankful. I remembered hearing, “Thanks for sharing” “I tried my best” and “That was fun!” I pictured Baron’s smile and calming presence. I heard Gabby’s voice like I did with my eyes closed during meditation. I felt the same butterflies I had on Day 1 as we met at the pool and made small talk. And I beamed with happiness as I remembered our final evening and dinner together.

During that dinner, underneath the twinkle lights with a bluegrass band playing in the background, I sat in silence for a moment at my table. Conversations were happening on both sides of me and all around. I was in awe. That small talk we all made on first day transformed to big, meaningful talk. Everywhere I looked, my new friends were smiling, dancing, laughing, sharing a cry, taking pictures, hugging and planning the next time we could all reunite.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and a wave of calmness came over me.

Turns out, You Were the Ones That I Was Waiting For.

Follow Kelly on Twitter and Instagram, and read more of her words in her column on Living Kindly.

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