For the last two and a half years I have been a student of aerial silks at Night Flight Aerial Arts in Portland. Having one class per week, my progress has been slow and steady, building up strength and flexibility like drops in a bucket. Aerials are difficult. The practice involves plenty of lifting of your own body weight, which can be overwhelming at first. It took me at least a year and a half before I could do more than one or two moves in the air at a time. For the last 7 weeks, I have been taking 2 classes per week. This was due to the encouragement of my practice buddy, Elisha. It’s really important to have the support of friends in these classes, in order to keep your morale up and also to push you to the next level at the appropriate moments. When she told me she was taking a choreography class, I signed up for it with her so we could both take it together. The first week of class, our teacher revealed her plan to have us perform in a group show as the finale for the class series. Finding this out, I was distressed! I’d never performed aerials before, and I didn’t feel ready to show anyone. After a bit of coercion from the teacher and other students, I agreed to participate.
It was the combination of knowing that the other girls in the class were relying on me, and knowing that people were going to watch me do this routine, that propelled my skill and pushed me to the next level. Our teachers didn’t indulge us with an easy routine. They knew that several of us had never performed before, but nonetheless, they aimed high. They taught us new, difficult drops to incorporate into the show. They shared their techniques for synchronizing moves (which is harder than it seems), and had a vision for what we could achieve. We stayed late after every class and held extra practices to accomplish our goals. For several weeks it seemed like we might not be able to bring all the pieces together to form the beautiful puzzle we knew was possible. Then, a week before the performance, something clicked. We had practiced so much, and pushed ourselves so hard, that it came together and we were able to breathe easier.
Nonetheless, right before show time, I was filled with anxiety. I had gone through the routine over and over again, but somehow I still didn’t feel ready to go out on stage and show everyone. This wasn’t my first time on stage. I was a hoop dance performer for many years. I’ve danced in front of crowds hundreds of times. Yet this still felt like I was venturing into unknown territory. I remembered the first time that I ever performed hoopdance in front of people. I definitely did not feel “ready” then, either. I remember my mentor, Christabel, telling me “If you wait until you think you are ready, you will never do it. We never feel ready the first time we perform, but we get better at it every time we do.” Taking these words with me, I sucked it up and stepped out into the world of silks performance.
There’s something incredibly magical about performance, in that it is a method of transforming people. The act of performing changes an individual by forcing them to own their power. There’s an inevitable “fake it till you make it” quality of performance that a person exhibits. The more you own these qualities of yourself that only develop when you’re outside your comfort zone, the more you grow and become the person you dreamed you could be. The viewer also undergoes a transformance while watching someone own their power. In seeing a beautiful performance, the audience gains inspiration and feel a deep potential inside themselves. Every performer can remember watching an act that changed their life and inspired them to start learning, growing, and pushing to achieve something they didn’t know was possible until that moment. I’m not claiming to be an amazing silks performer, I still have a long way to go, but I do know that pushing myself to take this step was good for me. There’s something about that “good fear” that forces us to grow, and reveals part of our own magic to ourselves. Everyone has fear, it’s a tricky part of being human. Embracing and transmuting our fear is part of growing, and an inevitable part of tending the seeds of our potential.
“We gain strength, courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
As a child I was afraid of ghosts. Every night I would lay flat on my back in bed, with my stuffed bunny tucked in next to me under the covers. I refused to turn onto my side because I thought that if I did, a ghost could sneak up behind me without me seeing it. This was how I grew up, every night, until I reached pre-adolescence, and it seemed babyish to be afraid of such things. But really, the subtle feeling never went fully away the whole time I lived in my family’s farmhouse, especially when I was there at night alone. This might sound silly, but first hear the history of the house I grew up in for some context.
You see, my family’s house in Geneseo, Illinois is old… really, really old. We have records of people living in the house that date back to 1856. It was built some time before that, but we don’t know when. To put this in perspective, this was before the Civil War, which started in 1861. Things were a lot different for people back then. Life expectancies were much shorter, since infectious diseases claimed the lives of many. As you can see from the image above, our house was the setting for a slice of American history, with trials and tribulations that we can only imagine today. Through all of the time I lived there growing up, I never actually “saw” a ghost. But somehow I always felt the presence of spirit there, especially in the oldest rooms of the house, one of which was the attic upstairs, a room I would rarely go into.
Flash forward to my sophomore year in college in 2001. I was home visiting my family over the holidays. Many of my friends from high school were home, and I had arranged for a close-knit group to come hang out at my parents’ house for the night and participate in a psychedelic experience. We were having a great time, being comfortable with each other and enjoying the happiness of being together again. I went upstairs into my bedroom to grab something, I don’t remember what. And that’s when I had my very first interaction with the spirit world. I truly believe that in the instances where we are engaging with psychedelics, we actually see past the veil that separates us from the world of spirit on a daily basis. We sense things that are really there, but usually our brain will block them out as a survival mechanism, or way of coping with the over-stimulus of the physical world.
What happened was that when I entered my old bedroom (note, you can see the two windows to my bedroom on the second floor on the upper right side of the photo above) I felt that I wasn’t alone. I could sense the presence of two other people, young children, in the room with me. I did not see them, so it’s hard to explain how I knew they were there in any other way besides telepathy. The children were young, I guessed around 5-10 years old. They wanted me to stay in the room with them, so I sat down cross-legged on my floor and opened up psychically to them. They were eager to communicate with me, because for the first time in my life, I recognized that they were there. This made them very excited and they couldn’t wait to show me things. I would close my eyes and they would show me beautiful, colorful, geometric patterns. It seemed like they were putting on a show just for me. Of course I was surprised, but not afraid, because they were so loving towards me, and it felt like I had known them my whole life. I felt that they were begging me to stay in the bedroom all night with them, but I couldn’t. I had a living room full of guests downstairs. So I told them “thank you” and that I loved them, and left.
This experience was profound for me, but I didn’t mention it to very many people. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Years later I told my dad about it. That’s when a story came out about an incident with my sister and I when we were little. Apparently we were supposed to be asleep in our beds upstairs, since our parents had tucked us in and went back downstairs for a while. Then they heard two sets of footsteps running up and down the upstairs hallway. They thought it was strange that we would both be awake, so they went upstairs to check on us. They found both of us fast asleep in our beds. There have been a few other quirky stories, one being a rocking chair that would rock itself sometimes (they don’t keep the chair in the house anymore).
So now we can flash forward to this past December where I was visiting my parents over the holidays. I asked my dad to pull out the file he had on the history of the house, where I found the photo above and a few other interesting documents. I love reading about the history of the house and the families that lived there. While shuffling through old census papers, I found an obituary for the patriarch of the family (seen on the far right, photo above). While reading the article, I found out that he and his wife had lost two of their children during childhood. Their names were Bernice and Everette. According to the censuses, neither of them made it past 10 years old. Of course I had the feeling of validation for my experience many years ago.
That night, I was in my bedroom with my sister and we were wrapping gifts. Suddenly I knew that they were there. After years of working with spirit guides, I guess I have become more receptive to subtle energies, and felt grateful to have their company again. They knew that I had discovered their identities, and they were happy. They told me that they would never do anything to frighten me or my family, and they had a special message that they had me pass along to my sister. After that evening, I didn’t hear from them again. I did, however, realize that my bedroom growing up must have been associated with them, and that’s why I had felt spirit energy there my entire life.
This is my first story about spirit, but not my last. It’s an introduction to why I have become the person I am. The spirit world is constantly around us, interacting with us, guiding, us. However, many of the messages that come our way from spirit aren’t heard or recognized. I believe that it’s part of my responsibility to share my stories so that others can understand that the spirit world exists, and if we are open to it, can help us through any situation that might arise. The truth is, all we have to do is ask for help, and immediately we are guided. However, it is often difficult to sort through the outside stimulus of our lives. It’s my goal to share as much as possible on this topic to help people understand the subtleties of the world of spirit. To be continued….
When I first decided to create Volacious, I was thrilled. It was something that I had wanted for a long time. As you may know, I started off my fashion career with a costume design business called Annieland, which I launched (somewhat naively) in 2006, and have been working at full time for the last 7 years. Annieland was playful, and a perfect outlet for my self-expression at the time. I learned so much about being an entrepreneur, managing my time, and having the audacity to put myself “out there”, which has always been scary for me. But in the last few years I started to realize that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t growing in the way I was growing, and I started to feel like it just didn’t represent me anymore. This wasn’t very surprising, as it happens to everyone in all aspects of life. We outgrow things and people, and habits that we used to cling to. Change is a good thing, and the idea of creating a new clothing line, one that really felt like an expression of who I am now, was like a breath of fresh air.
So I started wildly sketching. I filled a whole book full of ideas for the new line. I went to Peru with my boyfriend and came back full of wonder and inspiration, and I felt SO ready and excited to make this happen! That was October of 2011. At that point, I was fairly certain that the line would be produced and ready to sell by the spring of 2012. I was on a roll, and my efforts, when focused, have always produced successful results. Soon it became clear that this timeline reflected a gross underestimation of the knowledge, effort, energy, and skill that was actually required to achieve such a goal. Looking back at that time of my life, I’m actually glad that I didn’t know how hard it would be, or how long it would take to get here, or I might have given up.
In fact, I came really close to doing just that. Last spring, I found myself at a stand still. It had been 4 months since I had done any work on Volacious at all. I had been living in Salt Lake City for the winter of 2011, and had created several patterns for the line while I was there. However, when I moved back to Portland, I fell back into my old rhythm of doing things. I worked on my Annieland orders, and created new styles for my old brand, because it was safe, predictable, and quite frankly, I needed money. I looked at the designs I had created for Volacious, and criticized everything I had made. Nothing seemed good enough for the new line, and I felt like I had spent months designing things that I didn’t even want to use. I was also exhausted from working what felt like two jobs – one that I got paid for, and another that I worked really hard at, but never saw any rewards for.
During the midst of this frustration, I attended the Bounce Festival in Belden, CA. It was there that I told a friend about my endeavors, and how I felt like I was close to giving up. In response, he told me about a true story he had read, called “Touching the Void”. The short version is that two climbers were climbing a mountain in Peru. One of them had to cut the rope and drop the other climber into a crevasse in order for either of them to survive. The man who fell was broken and hopeless, and knew that he wouldn’t be able to climb back up out of the hole. In that moment so close to death, he began dragging himself further and further, deeper into the crevasse. The way that he found the strength to achieve this was to find a spot 10 feet in front of him, focus on that spot, and drag himself to it. Miraculously, by focusing on 10 feet at a time, the man was able to crawl back down the mountain through the inner tunnels of the crevasse and survive.
Ok, I know that my story is no where near as impressive as this one, but hearing about this man’s story inspired me, and changed my whole perspective on goal setting. I realized that I had been focusing on the top of the mountain, dwelling on how far away it was, and how difficult it seemed to get to. It had overwhelmed me, and made my work feel futile. I came home from that festival with a new plan: I would create a small, achievable goal that was “10 feet in front of me” ~ something that I knew I could achieve. Once I got there, I would set another small, achievable goal, and so on.
I made a long list of things that needed to get done in order to launch this brand. Then I organized that list in order of things that needed to happen consecutively. First it was finishing my patterns, then ordering the materials, taking classes, production, photo shoot, etc. Each of these big goals could be broken down into several small goals. And those small goals were broken into even smaller goals. The secret was taking these smaller goals one at a time, without thinking of how many other big goals were lurking there after. It made successes feel frequent, and set backs feel surmountable. It was the key to moving past that “gremlin in my head” telling me that it wasn’t possible.
I believe that often what stands in our way to following our dreams is that we are overwhelmed with the effort that it takes to change our own lives. It seems daunting to focus on the top of the mountain, but it turns out that reaching the top of the mountain isn’t the most important part of the climb: the things that you learn while getting there are. And no matter what it is that we achieve, there will always be some new goal waiting for us afterwards. Such is the beauty of life, and the way that we are pulled through it, constantly creating. So my message is this~ define that first step. Make a plan that takes you towards that big goal. Your journey will be one of diligence and grace, and no matter where you end up, you will have succeeded.
The most important thing I learned while creating Volacious is that my business is not centered around selling products. Counter intuitive, I know, but hear me out. Last summer, I took a very valuable class at Portland Sewing School: “Marketing for Apparel Business” taught by Kim Dawson of Flaunt Consulting. I figured it was going to be about how to optimize our websites in search engines, and create sales through social media networks, you know, the usual things you think of with marketing. But no, the experience was completely different than anything I expected.
Going into the class, I confided in my teacher, telling her that although I loved designing clothing, I had a deep longing to help people, which felt unfulfilled. I had been questioning whether or not the apparel business was really “for me” since I knew I had so much more of myself to give. I had an innate desire to help people realize their dreams, and encourage them to take the steps necessary to reach them. Having been in the apparel industry for the last 7 years, I felt that creating clothing was the only skill set that I really had in order to support myself financially, but my heart wanted more.
Through her mentorship, I learned that I have a point of view that is more important than the clothing I make. My brand and my clothing are an expression of my point of view, and not the other way around. Through several weeks of work, she helped me realize that Volacious It is about Moving Boldly: with our bodies, and through our lives. This realization freed me from thinking that my apparel business and my passion for guiding others were mutually exclusive. Most importantly, I had a plan of action to find other leaders in my community who share my point of view, and collaborate with them in order to create opportunities for others to experience free and fearless movement.
So here I am. Volacious has launched, and I am ready….
I’m calling out to you, my community, for collaboration. Please join forces with me to help the people around us experience life in new way, move our bodies, and open our minds to new ideas. Movement Artists, Health and Fitness Coaches, Visionaries, Teachers, Designers, Fine Artists, Musicians, Shamans, Yogis, Performers, Lovers of Life and Health~ I’m calling out to YOU!
What I envision are Free Monthly Events. I hope to have at least two or three other collaborators at each event. We each provide a half hour of teaching or sharing what we love to do with the community. We share our products and visions with whoever is interested in attending. We build awareness of our individual visions and our shared vision for the community. We are more powerful together, as a team, than we are as individuals. If you are interested, please contact me! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
With Love, Annie
I am a lucid dreamer. I’ve been dreaming in this fashion for about 10 years now. I also fly in my dreams, which has been occurring since I was a child. When I was young, I used to have to hang on to a couch cushion. The cushion was a device that I would ride high into the air, soaring and dipping, and usually crashing. I would always take a running start, holding the cushion tightly, then jump headlong into the sky.
When I was in college, I became aware of the idea of lucid dreaming as a phenomenon that other people experienced. This type of dreaming is characterized by awareness in the dream state that you are, indeed, physically asleep. I was fascinated by the idea, and read several books about it. I recognized this as being something that I had experienced a few times before, but didn’t know it was something that could be harnessed or controlled. Then it began to happen to me. It was infrequent, and usually quite frightening. I would become aware that I was sleeping, but often I would feel paralyzed, and feel my “consciousness” was slipping out of my physical body through my feet. Having never experienced astral travel before, this sensation was alarming and would wake me up immediately.
Sometime after college, my sister lent me a book called “Easy Journey to Other Planets”. Shortly after reading this book, I had a dream unlike any dream I had ever had before. I left my body (something that I had become more comfortable with at this point), and suddenly projected myself full speed into outer space. I landed on another planet, where I was alone in front of a beautiful temple. In one hand I held a short broom made of bound twigs. I danced in front of the temple, using the broom as a partner, like a whirling dervish. Then I went inside the temple, laid down on top of the giant altar in the center, and gave myself up as an offering. That’s when I woke up.
After realizing that this type of dreaming experience was even possible, I was compelled to advance my techniques so I could have these astral experiences more often. Though this dream was particularly special, I have found a way to recreate the lucid experience for myself in any dream. The first step is getting to the point where I ask myself “Am I Dreaming?” This is usually the hardest part, as not every dream I have is going to end up being lucid, and sometimes even if I do know I’m dreaming, I will still end up just playing out whatever scene I’m in without controlling it. But if I can get to the point where I ask myself that, then I have a way to test whether I’m really dreaming or not. My test is flight. No couch cushion necessary at this point, I just levitate for a moment. If I can levitate, then I’m dreaming, and that’s that. The magic comes in those moments. Lucidity is a place where I am completely free. I can choose to do whatever I want. Most of the time I choose to fly. Last night, for instance, I became a black dragon and flew miles above the ground, spinning in giant loops. That’s just how I roll, I guess.
I didn’t really “come up” with the name for this new business endeavor. It was given to me, in a dream, from a dear friend. In the dream, I was speaking to her and she told me that I was Volacious. I realized that I had never heard the word before, and had no idea what it meant. So, being lucid, I spelled it out to myself a few times so that I would remember it when I woke up. Upon waking, the first thing I did was turn to my computer and google it. Turns out, “Volacious” means Fit to Fly. This word resonates deeply with me, and has come to represent this business on many levels. It’s about taking risks, allowing ourselves to fall, moving past fear, and seeing our dreams flourish. I truly and deeply see this potential in everyone. We are all Fit to Fly. We are all Volacious.