My Journey: Igniting a Sustainable Inner Fire

Strong Roots & Hot Coals

I have always found it strange when people refer to me as a fitness expert.  I’ve always thought of myself more as a student. I am a student of my body, mind, movement, habits and patterns, and life.

At a young age, I discovered the life changing effects of working diligently and persistently towards meaningful goals. Growing up on a farm in Maryland I grew up caring for horses, mucking stalls, tossing hay bales, and reading my favorite books in the hayloft. I learned the importance of daily hard work, patience, and performing actions from the heart expecting nothing in return. With this experience I built a strong foundation in mental and physical strength and applied those same habits and values to athletic and career goals.

I started working at a gym when I was 16 years old. I wanted a place to learn, practice, and be around people who would help me grow. During quiet hours at the front desk I would read fitness magazines cover to cover. As soon as I was off the clock I would workout and read every machine’s instructions and compare notes with my text books. 

I became a trainer and coach at 18. As a “teen” I worked with people of all ages and abilities and helped them reach their goals whether it was improve their 5k time or drop 20 pounds. 

While a student and Division I lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins University I started and composed a weekly health and fitness column. I discovered how my knowledge and the power of my words could positively impact the lives of others. My peers would come up to me on campus and share their wellness successes and struggles as I offered motivation and advice.

After college I continued to write for blogs, magazines, and the local newspaper. I started my own in home training business in my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland all while completing my Masters degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and training as a top IFBB Bikini Pro athlete. 

Becoming the Expert 

At age 25, I sat next to a man on a plane who offered me a job as an on camera fitness “expert” and content writer for a virtual training website. I packed my car and  moved out to Los Angeles, California to elevate my career in fitness.

When that venture ended I used the experience I gained to start creating customized online training programs for clients through my website. I worked as a local trainer, continued to write for web and magazines, got involved in fitness modeling, worked for a period of time as fitness editor, and then landed a job as fitness expert consultant for a major fitness production company in Los Angeles.

 Burnout

In 2014, I had a lucky encounter (or so I thought) with a producer, I signed a contract for my own travel fitness television program. For a girl who grew up doing Buns of Steel videos at the age of 12, and working out with Denise Austin on Lifetime during college, it was my dream come true.

When I put my heart and soul into the creation of this television show and it didn’t happen after the producer dragged me along for months saying the budgets would be released soon, but never were, I broke.

I was broken physically, mentally, and financially. My body literally fell apart. I lost strength, muscle mass, and the stability of my spine. It was difficult to even breathe. 

Soul on Fire

The saving grace was that I didn’t break spiritually.

 It was during this time that I started a diligent yoga and meditation practice and it helped give me the strength to put my body and life back together.

I found hope in the books by self-empowerment authors like Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay. I went to self-help seminars like Hay House’s I Can Do It conference, meditation workshops, and listened to motivational speeches daily. I found friendship in the yoga community and slowly started to heal the wound.

Things were going well. I was beginning to rewrite my story, but Source took hold of the pen and wrote a better story than I could ever create on my own.

Lost in the Smoke: The Fit Vision Quest

I started meditating with A Course in Miracles.  Just as dormant muscle fibers wake up with focused and intentional movement, dormant emotions flood to the surface when you do spiritual work.

I found myself waking up every morning around 3 or 4AM and crying. It felt like every emotion I had ever stuffed down was pleading for my attention. I prayed, meditated, and wrote in my journal during these times and it got me through the ethereal hours.

When the sun came up, I was able to go about my day, and I could hold back the tears until the next lesson in A Course in Miracles at dawn.

Soon after the morning sobs started I had a panic attack. I was called to go out into nature. As I sat on a rock at dusk with my dog my mind just stopped. All the mental anguish stopped. The pain in my body faded. It felt foreign yet undeniably familiar as I had not experienced that sense of freedom in years.

The next week I sold all my belongings. Decked out my car for travel and adventure and went on a quest to restore my health and happiness. 

 

 On the Path to Ignite: Lessons in Illumined Living

I learned how to let go of counting every calorie and simply eat real food and eat mindfully while adventuring and enjoying life.

I discovered how to rely on yoga, hiking, surfing, and beach workouts for fitness instead of being in a gym.

I learned how to tune into what my body needed versus following a generic training and nutrition program.

With no home, there was no other choice but to learn how to camp. Communing with nature taught me how to practice patience and listen to my intuition. 

It was during this time I learned the lessons of appreciation and self-reliance. I discovered what mattered most and ultimately the art of letting go. 

Tending to the Fire: Finding Balance & Flow 

The next chapter of the quest, I rented a sailboat. I was exhausted from the roaming and travel of my previous month and learned how to implement  recovery practices into my life.

I discovered how to increase my flexibility and wake up dormant muscle fibers that kept me from moving with ease and experiencing life through my physical body.

The newfound mobility in my body translated into an open and more creative mind.

I learned how to play and how to rest. I discovered the value in being productive versus being busy.

Thanks to a relaxed mind I found the wellspring of creative energy overflowing. I journaled idea after idea, but they all seemed so random. I just kept writing without trying to figure it out. I found joy in the process and learned one of the laws of nature- patience.


Every morning I would wake up and greet Mother Nature and every evening I would pray to her as she rocked me to sleep.

It was on the sailboat I truly began to understand the importance of  gratitude and appreciation for the simple things in life.

 

Shining Bright with Daily Practice 

The next lesson I was to learn was the power of daily practice. I began practicing ashtanga yoga, which taught me tapas.  In Sanskrit tapas means self-discipline or inner cleansing. Through the fire of purification my mind and body grew stronger. That discipline translated into my work, focus, and  soon into my living situation as I moved off the boat and back into an apartment for the first time in six months.

Just as my joints were becoming more stable, my work became stable as well. I learned how to focus and work without feeling drained or depleted thanks to the previous lessons of play and creativity.

I could feel myself healing from the inside out. I was learning to go with the flow of life, surf my emotions, and gain a deeper connection and appreciation for myself.

Keeping the Fire Lit: Developing Devotion

The following Spring I traveled abroad to India. I never took time for travel that was not sport or work related before the vision quest.

With greater awareness and a greater sense of self-worth I learned how to practice self-care, make time for personal development, and do things for myself that helped me be a better person for others even if that meant investing money and time into my own self-discovery and happiness.

My practice and will grew strong not because I was going after some BIG goal that would bring me fame, success, or security, but because I loved the practice, process, and the journey.

Source, the Universe, Spirit, whatever you want to call the energy that runs through us broke down old layers of conditioning that were like heavy armour and restored me physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Nature nurtured me and brought me back to my roots. 

Yoga taught me how to take responsibility for my health and happiness, not with grit and a tightly clenched fist, but with compassion, presence, and awareness.

In life, we, like the great Sequioa trees must endure fire as it opens our tough shells and releases new seeds for growth. 

Sharing the Light 

Throughout my life I have shared my love, knowledge, and experiences with others every step of the way.

It is through teaching that I truly learn. It is through being of service that I feel most fulfilled.


Keeping the Inner Fire Lit

I am still learning about the phenomena of balance and keeping the inner fire lit. I am still discovering the magic of practice, trusting the process, cultivating the courage to walk the spiritual path, and the power of communing with nature. 

It is my intention to share the lessons and tools I was taught through my direct experience with you.

May our thoughts, words, and actions  contribute to the healing of the planet. May the inner fire of wisdom shine brightly, illuminate our lives, and spark the light within others.

Shine Bright!

Kelly