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June 08, 2016

When I was a little girl, I would often wander into the woods on my way home from school. I would somehow find myself, lost. Completely immersed without worry in nature, the thoughts in my head disappeared faster than the path I was supposed to stay on to get home. Secretly, I think I pretended to be a runaway. I would follow the birds singing, and in the rays of sunlight through the trees, I would dance finding flowers to put in my braid. As the sun started to set, I knew it was time to head back home, but I never knew where I had gone off. Pure innocence. I would always have this moment turning myself around in circles thinking

  “I’m lost, which way should I go?” 

 A sensation of apprehension would begin to tug at my insides. I knew my parents would be worried, and most certainly upset with me as this happened often. I was ashamed for getting myself into the same predicament I most assuredly swore I wouldn’t get into again. Well, sorry Mom and Dad, I lied, but not much has changed in the past 20 some years.

Sometimes we have toGET LOST. We have to lose sight of what is comfortable or safe in the pursuit of discovering what we are capable of; what we are meant to pursue or be. Fear of the unknown and doubts of our capabilities to experience that unknown often inhibit us from ever wandering from the path of safety, expectations, and a repetitious cycle. I’m not an acclaimed writer, accomplished poet, or really actually know much about life, but I do think I was meant to have these tough experiences to share my thought to the world. Raw, wild and genuine, free of glorification in hopes I can help at least one person, that one day it will make a difference for someone else who may feel the same.

    Recently, as a 25-year-old woman, I got to re-experience my days as a lost girl. I was chosen amongst my peers to join the Wanderlust Festival in Oahu, Hawaii. How amazing to experience a week filled with yoga, surfing, and meeting incredible spirits like myself who were looking to get off the beaten path for a while - to get a little lost. Although, most did not know, I had already spent the last 3 months, prior to the festival, there in Oahu on my own wanderLOST adventure. Even more ironically, months prior to THAT journey, I was even more unknowingly lost than I had been before, in a very different way. Let me take you back to 6 months prior to the Wanderlust festival...

 I had been feeling misplaced for months in Las Vegas, a desert, how ironically symbolic. Deserted and stranded are actually the words that come to my mind. My dream career was starting to turn into something less artistic and less fulfilling. As a Vegas performer, I struggled to have my own voice and what used to be my own creative art, now felt robbed of character. Money and climbing the social ladder seemed to be the only dream of many that walked amongst my shadows, both delusions of success I actually despise. I wanted freedom to create but felt the need to inspire was only MY main objective and purpose. I lacked quality time for friends and family the way I wanted and felt a slight alienation from actual genuine friendships. Everything felt like business and deceit. Like a fallen angel into a city of sin, my precious mind and body had started to scream for responsiveness. I put myself last. Consistent need to please deprived me of self-care. It went to such extremes as stress seizures and even a cancer scare. I felt something was wrong but “didn’t have the time” to give myself attention. My body was desperately trying to tell me something, to get my attention, so I would uncover the truth.

Stress is a murderous poison and I was taking it daily like it was all part of the artistic process. I’m a pretty stubborn person. I never want to worry anyone or have people pity me because I see my problems irrelevant compared to the world, so I kept choking that poison down like an awaiting suicide mission. I was over worked and under a cloud of raining bullsh… er, ah show biz. One night, I had so much mindless work, I even showed up to the wrong show. What a mess. Where is my head? No one knew that performing that night I then decided I couldn’t go on anymore. After the show, my world started to blur. The Strip lights and marquees became the spinning rays of sunlight through the trees, as if I was lost back in the woods again. “Where do I go? I’m lost again.” The city was a spinning, spinning, blurry reality of this grand illusion (Thanks Styx) I once believed as my dream.

CRASH! The eagle has landed! There I was in Hawaii. I took a job performing in a theatre by the ocean and had left behind the show biz in Vegas. I wanted to leave on my own accord, my way. I left a world of what many would consider ‘success’ for a chance to live in a world of pure spiritual enlightenment. Frightening? Hell yeah, it was, but being brave isn't about lacking fear, it's about having the courage to still pursue despite fear.

If I was going to be lost, I was going to make it Wanderful.

For three months, everyday I was waking up with the sun rushing into the wilderness and ocean. I was doing the things I longed to do for many years, but was never “allowed” due to contracts and also my own prison of the fear of injury, getting behind, losing relevancy, etc. For so long I had denied myself, due to my perceived expectations of responsibility. I believed I held the responsibility for my coworkers, my producers, my cast mates, my agents, my parents, my friends, my loved ones, and even my own name. The common denominator in all those things was MY self. In order to take care of myself, I had to let everything else go. Let go of responsibility, the illusion of chasing something that I had actually already caught. It was all in my hands, yet things I no longer desired weighed me down. Things had changed; certain realities no longer served me. Money no longer interested me; I had everything I could ever need, success no longer drove me, I had accomplished more than I had even planned for my age, but adventuring into the unknown? That froze me and ignited my soul! I felt alive again, that I had a new purpose or goal to achieve, yet had no inclination of exactly what that was. I would dive deep down to the bottom of the shoreline and look up at the rays of light streaking through the water and I realized. I’m lost, but I’m free.

Ultimate freedom is letting go of all the things that no longer serve you. Let them go or they will hold you under to drown your soul” - I wrote 12/07/2015

I came across a poem by Mary Oliver torn from an old book of mine.

“The Journey”

“One day you finally knew

What you had to do, and began,

Though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice --

Though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles.

"Mend my life!" each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do.

Though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible, It was already late enough, and a wild night,

And the road full of fallen branches and stones.

But little by little, as you left their voices behind,

The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice,

Which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper

Into the world, determined to do

The only thing you could do --

Determined to save the only life you could save.”

   My return to Vegas was not a gentle transition. My contract was up and I was headed back. As my plane flew over the city my stomach lurched. Panic started to sting my eyes and I began to feel as if hands were wrapping themselves around my throat. We like to call that "Vegas Throat." Lips trembling, I could barely swallow. I felt like my own energy was beginning to evaporate. I clutched my flower leis from my Ohana and buried my face in them, trying to hold onto the sweet smell of Aloha. In the airport, the clanging of the casino slots and tourists screaming deafened my ears. I felt disoriented as I tried to find my way to baggage claim, like a feral animal. The terror had just begun on the drive home; my environment traumatized me. I became a stranded mermaid. Everything was brown, cold, dead, and colorless. I couldn’t look. Everything around me was fake, ingenuine and unnatural. You can’t come back after such an awakening and see things the way they were before. There was so much symbolism connecting what I was seeing and what I was feeling inside. I felt ripped by my roots and thrown into a dusty old pot with no soil or water, just rocks. The emotional rocks I discarded long ago piling around me. I soon realized no amount of yoga or meditation could change the undying need for me to escape from the energy of the polluted dust bowl surrounding me. I longed for realness, from people or nature. I remember I longed to even see a lake that wasn't man made or trees only planted by the hands of God.  

“What now? What do you want to do?” My boyfriend asked. “GET LOST” I replied, “We should just get outta here.” We had so much to discover yet. We needed time away from working, to step away from the path entirely. He had felt the same for years and couldn't wait for the day I saw, the way his wise mind saw the cycle we were in. He also realized his own accomplished dream had changed and was ready to adventure on a new path. We both had now left our dream jobs behind in search for what was next, our purpose. I know, crazy. We had accomplished what goals we had set forth long ago, but it was now time for a change, an adventure, and we had nothing but time to do just that.

“To live, would be an awfully big adventure” – Peter Pan

   We packed the truck and started driving. No plans, it was “Heads Carolina, tails California…” just to see the open road, a new horizon. We got all the way to the Texas shoreline at the Gulf of Mexico, I never felt so rebelliously free with the one I loved. I documented the trip and included much of these writings in my media posts. I didn't know what was happening, but I knew it had to be said. I had to be heard, even if it was only by the forests.

We were on the road smiling and laughing for hours about what we wanted to do next and how thankful we were to finally have this opportunity together. We had no idea how much this decision was going to change both our lives!

No call times, no business, just being in that exact precious moment. I recall watching the sunset across the highway and feeling the ashes smoldering freely inside me. Something was on the rise of re-creation.

   That night I received a message on the road back to Vegas that I was chosen to join Inner Fire to the Wanderlust festival, just mere weeks away. Tears streamed down my face, as I knew it was a sign I had to return, to find that final piece of this mysterious journey. As I unpacked and repacked my bags, I thought “Is this seriously my life right now?” At the airport I realized as I kissed my man goodbye I was off on the trip that would change everything. Watching the Vegas strip disappear in the mountains was so liberating.

I’m back. Aloha. The moment I saw the ocean I ran straight into it, dress and all. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of that, but I will never forget that night back with my friends. The day after next, I was wandering the north shores of Oahu reliving the moments from the morning, realizing that I actually jumped out of a plane. Who am I?! I’m terrified of heights! But I had always dreamed of doing it! I was really doing the things I was once limiting myself to do. It was the most free I’ve felt in my entire life. You can’t do something like that and be the same person after.

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”-Erin Hanson

    Back on land, closing my eyes, I could feel the wind on my body like a bird. I thought if I opened my arms wide enough, I might just take off. I was alone dancing with the ocean to the sounds of the festival behind me. It’s not that I didn’t want to be a part of the crowd. I just decided that right then and there I needed to take a moment to celebrate myself, the real me, the person I am when no one is watching. Ironically, out of the trees emerged this gorgeous being, Ali. She said “Look at you, you free bird out here all by yourself having your own concert by the sea. You’re so wild!” I was stunned as if she saw me naked. This beautiful soul started to dance with me and told me she captured photos of me through the bushes. She was a photographer for the festival, and immediately I felt silly, but her genuine spirit and aura made me realize, she saw me when I thought no one else was there. Dancing when no one else was watching. She saw me the way my parents or loved ones have barely seen, she was a stranger, but authentically she already knew me. She saw me for who and what I truly am and now gave me the opportunity to bare that spirit with her photos. I’m so grateful. I will never forget you Ali.

   The Wanderlust festival was something that I can't even explain. It gave me so much closure and also a new beginning. Rising from the smouldering ashes that were almost extinguished by the desert. I was looking for something I had lost, and it was myself. I realized the universe led me here, into the arms of strangers. We each were meant to learn something from one another. I met so many wonderful souls that I believe were just like me, finding their purpose in life, their peace, or their next path. I didn’t feel alone; instead I had a tribe, an Ohana.

I'll never forget jamming in a circle by the ocean with my new friends or secretly watching Leah, creator of Inner Fire, humbly in awe of her walking art on hundreds of people passing by daily. I felt a pull of excitement seeing that THAT is what I want. I want to make a difference! I want to see a change in others because I inspired it! I was so amazed by her and others around me who gave up so much to be in the service of inspiring others. I shared stories with Leah, Andie and Rachel after our long days about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness that ironically helped me discover the meaning of many of life’s struggles. I could feel the walls of submissive behavior I built over the years beginning to crack.

As I sat in the tidal pools of the North Shore in Hawaii, I found what I was looking for. The missing piece, the lost piece, it was the old me, the real Erika.

I had to GET LOST, to realize I was actually lost. Only then could I find my way back home.

It’s just the cycle of our life, a spinning circle. As I kneeled down near the roaring ocean, I wanted to thank God for my journey back, back to Hawaii, but mostly for the chance to return to that tiny lost girl in the woods. Like the heavens had opened, it began to pour glittering rain down upon my body... My walls broke down, as each drop of sea became my tears. The ocean was always and will always be within me. My soul was the connection between sky and sea. It was a sign from God - a reminder. We always return. Our cycle of life is much like the cycle of water, H2O, the very substance of our human makeup. We change, we go through many transitory forms, but always, we are meant to return.

We have to GET LOST in order to get somewhere new, and if we keep changing directions, eventually we find ourselves home again. Why? Well, I’d like to think it’s because we were meant to. I meant what I said that much hasn’t changed in the last 20 years because the truth really is I've just returned.

     I have returned to that free spirit that thrives beyond the need to be anything but myself. Unbecoming what I thought I had to be. I can't begin to say why or how, but all I have is my gratitude. I am HERE. Right Now.

  Surrender yourself to the unknown road of life, every emotional feeling. That is living your truth. It’s okay to feel unhappy, it doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful, it means you’re being honest. Being honest is who you really are, even when it’s hard to admit. Open up your mind and realize that as humans, we could not understand happiness without sadness. We are born crying. Allow the mystery of those moments to uncover themselves when you are either ready or most excitingly, unprepared. We aren’t supposed to know what’s meant for us, it will find us. “What should I do?” You ask? Well, my most honest and experienced answer would be to just, “GET LOST.”

“I have been and still am, a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me. My story is not a pleasant one; it is neither sweet nor harmonious, as invented stories are; it has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams — like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves.

Each man's life represents the road toward himself, and attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that — one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can.”  Hermann Hesse


A Thank You:

Thank you Inner Fire for not only giving me the opportunity to go back to Hawaii, but for giving me the chance to go back to the girl I used to be, to find souls like myself. Since this journey, so much in my life has changed. I have been traveling for 6 months all over the United States since this trip and believe I have only just begun to do what I’ve always wanted to do in my life. I feel so alive wild and free. Thank you Leah for designing and creating this beautiful apparel that empowers others and keeps me dressed in adventure.

I feel that these leggings hold their power in the message inscribed inside of them. I will never forget the day I put on my first pair and read “Be Brave.” It had been tattooed on my wrist for years. They were as if my own name was already on them, my own symbol.

August 30th, 2014:

Every journey I will always be wearing them, my hero suit, to save those who are lost.. Whatever mountain they need to climb. Remember, you just have to climb it; you don't have to carry it with you.

Now tell yourself and the ones you love to GET LOST!

Staying Brave, Erika Moul