Discovering your inner purpose - from 'Stuck to Summit' with Kula Founder Anastasia Allison
Hello to the Kula-Verse!
I'm really excited to share this blog post with all of you today. I hope that it will give you not only some inspiration for you to continue pursuing your true path in life, but that it also shows you the very big heart and much greater purpose and intention that exists behind this super rad 6-inch square piece of gear.
Me, on the top of Thompson Peak during a trip in the Trinity Alps
A little bit about my background to set the stage: I was a very adventurous, outdoor-obsessed child with a natural interest in entrepreneurship. I was the kid who was running a lemonade stand, a dog walking business... I even started a fresh squeezed juice and muffin delivery business when I was 15 years old! However, I lived (unconsciously) with the belief that pursuing a business endeavor would be a failure and that the most important thing was to find something 'stable'. Stable job, stable life, stable retirement, etc...
I moved very unconsciously through life, not realizing that I was creating my own reality. I didn't question whether or not I was going where I wanted to go, but rather, I made decisions based on whether or not they were 'responsible'. After college, I floundered around for awhile - I had been pre-med in college, but now, as I frantically studied for my MCATs, I started to second guess myself. Did I really want to spend my life in a hospital? I had been a volunteer for the National Park Service since I was 12 years old, and one day I was talking to the Superintendent of the park. I was playing my violin outside that day - simple hymns that connected with the park visitors. The Superintendent asked me what I wanted to do after college and I said, "This. I want to do this full time." Suddenly it hit me - why was I pursuing a medical degree that I didn't actually want, when my true calling was in the outdoors? The only word that I could think of for a person who worked in the outdoor industry was a Park Ranger, and so, in 2005 I graduated the police academy and began my career as a Park Ranger in the State of Washington.
In 2011, after a budget crunch in Washington, I received word that I was being laid off from my job as a park ranger. I panicked. Instead of being open to the possibilities, I applied for a job as a police officer with BNSF Railway. I loved this job, and I'm so proud to be able to say that I served as a police officer for the Railroad. It's such a unique branch of law enforcement, and I know that during my time there I was able to make a difference - both by saving lives directly and indirectly through education (you can read more about railroad safety here).
And yet, even though I did love this job, I felt that very familiar longing for something... more. I didn't know what it was, and I very often looked at people who were living adventure-inspired lives, and I felt that they were simply 'lucky people' and that I had somehow not gotten 'lucky' in life. I spent a lot of time trying to 'think' my way to a new career - but I couldn't wrap my head around how I would pay my mortgage, how I wouldn't end up living in a box, etc... my mind was obsessed with 'what if' contingencies that seemed very very real to me.
Then, in January of 2017, something changed me forever. I was driving back from a snowshoe trip with my mom and my husband, when our truck went spinning across the highway into the path of an oncoming semi truck. To this day, I can't explain how I am still here typing this blog post - that incident remains a miracle in my mind - one that I felt was intended for me. I had been searching for so long for answers... for a sign... for a way out of the fear, and suddenly, in that one brief fraction of a second, I had my answer. In the moment where I faced my own mortality, there was no fear. There was confusion, a sense of surreal awareness, but there was no fear. It was at that point that I realized that all of the 'fear' that I was creating in my mind about following my dreams was completely illogical - manufactured by imaginary thoughts in my mind. I disassociated from my thoughts (if you want to read an amazing book about this, I recommend this one by Eckhart Tolle) and was able to sense true presence and being for perhaps the first time in my life.
This video was made shortly after I made my transition from police work to full-time adventurepreneur.
From that point on, I knew that I was the one in control of my reality. I started focusing on all of the incredibly wonderful things in my life - starting with finding gratitude for my beating heart and breathing lungs. Happiness does not come by changing a condition or jumping from job to job. Transformation and discovering peace and joy in your life MUST begin within - in that place, you can find acceptance anywhere.
Once I was focused on how much good there was in the world, I started attracting more opportunities for expansion into my existence. From that place, I ultimately transitioned away from my job as a police officer (I used the word 'transition' because if you are simply fleeing something to find happiness in an external condition, it will ultimately fail). Through focusing my attention on gratitude, appreciation and giving and through a daily meditation practice, incredible abundance began to flow into my life in the form of experiences and friendships. The Musical Mountaineers was born during this time, and it was through the Musical Mountaineers that I started to reconnect with an idea that I had stuffed away in 2015 on through hike of the Wind River High Route. An idea for an intentionally designed pee cloth.
The campsite where Kula was born.
Kula Cloth wasn't always Kula Cloth. It started as simply an idea - an idea that arrived to me while sitting in one of the most beautiful places I've ever pitched a tent. An idea that arrived not out of a place of desperation, but an idea that was given to me as a gift. I'm sure that you've had ideas like these before - little 'flashes' or insights that simply arise. The 'old' me would get excited about these ideas and then stuff them away - telling myself the same old story that I would never be successful or that I would never be able to afford this, or that starting a business was completely irresponsible. But this time, it was different. This time I had been given a glimpse into the infinite power that lives within each of us, and I knew that the only thing that lies between a dream and making it real is simply knowing that it is possible.
One of the biggest takeaways that I've had during this process is this: You cannot know the 'how'. We paralyze ourselves by needing to know the answers. When I was still a police officer, I remember trying desperately to figure out 'how' this was all going to be possible, and as my brain struggled to know a perfect plan from A to Z (including what the heck I was even going to do), the resistance that arose in my body completely shut down my ability to look within for the answers that were always there. This sounds corny and cliche, but it is absolutely true. When you place yourself into a state of gratitude and appreciation, the answers come and find you. Your job is simply to believe and to know and to EXPECT them to come, and believe me - they will. You might not have clarity about what your next step is, but instead of thinking, "I don't know what I want to do", simply rephrase the story to, "I'm open to the possibilities of where my path will lead me." And then sit back and watch the magic unfold.
For me, I truly hope that Kula can become a vehicle for good in the world. At it's heart, Kula is a simple, well-designed piece of gear - but it also represents something that goes far beyond form. Kula is a physical manifestation of a much deeper transformation - the journey of discovering inner peace and presence, transmuted into a beautiful external path of discovery and joy. I know that this journey is available for each and every one of us, and it is truly my hope that by sharing my own life experience with others, that it will be possible for more people to start to find that joy in their own life.
Words cannot teach - only life experience can teach. Maybe you resonate with some of what I've said, but maybe other things sound a little bit 'woo'. All I can suggest is that when you have felt a true inner transformation - an awakening to who you are - you will nod your head and understand. This is not a process that I can tell you the exact steps to follow - it's simply a process that you must be open to allowing in your own life.
Photo by Stephen Matera
The other thing I've realized is that my happiness and success isn't dependent on anything other than myself. My husband and family and friends do not have to be a 'certain way' or behave accordingly for me to find joy. Kula does not have to be successful for me to experience life to its fullest (although I am thoroughly and truly savoring the joy of the unfolding of this beautiful company). What matters to me is that I am bringing more good into the world - and that my intention each day is to find things that I like and to bring that light into the world.
The mountains are a place that speak to all of us - if you're a fan of Kula, you're also a fan of the earth. Nature is a beautiful place to start sensing the concept of being and presence. Away from it all, simply sit in nature and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and when thoughts arise, recognize them as simply that - thoughts. Those thoughts are not you. You are so much deeper - so much more vast than any thought that enters your mind. Sense the greatness of the mountains... the expansiveness of the sky... the space that surrounds it all. That is the essence of presence and the essence of who you are. When you discover that stillness that lives inside you, the fears and doubts melt away. The truest version of yourself arises and everything you create is created with love.
I did a live Facebook event the other night called, 'Stuck to Summit' and I wanted to share that video here, as I give some tangible ways that you can start taking steps towards deliberately discovering your own path in life (fair warning: I get emotional when I talk about this stuff, so pardon the tears):
Please don't hesitate to reach out with comments or questions. My greatest vision is for The Musical Mountaineers and Kula Cloth to serve as inspiration for others to pursue their own passions. Don't look at me and think, "Well, Anastasia has special talents and/or she just got lucky." Those are the stories that I told myself about other people for nearly two decades, and all it did was put me on a hamster wheel of repeating a story that wasn't actually true. I don't see myself as any different or more special than any other being on this planet - we are all connected, we are all equally brilliant in our own way. When you can sense that in your heart, everything falls into place.
I'd love to keep this discussion going, so if you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll be happy to answer all of them in another blog post.
Much love to the entire Kula-verse and beyond,