Bryan Ellis is a performance artist and connector. Whether making music, teaching yoga, leading group breathwork experiences, intuitive meditations or CBD ceremonies, this autodidact is a practitioner of presence, bridging gaps to give life to the magical spaces between us all.
Bryan is one of the four founders and the Resident Mystic of The Wildfire Initiative, an L.A. born collective offering ‘modern training for the mind, body and spirit’ through public gatherings, workshops and with digital content (and international expansion we hope!) on the way. Their mission? To allow people to discover their inner playgrounds by encouraging them to find their LMAO mindset, give less fucks and feel more love.
In the following Expert interview this modern day cult leader discusses his love for adventure, his path to wholeness, and his commitment to showing up - naked and engaged - for himself and for others.
INSIDE/OUT: How would you describe your genesis story?
BRYAN ELLIS: There’s levels to this shit. At this point in my life, some of my most dominant values only came to be because I had invested in their opposites for so long.
For myself and most of the living breathing world, and for our entire lives, there’s been an incredible emphasis on Doing. Becoming. Success. Wealth. On external and peer-validated achievements in the form of recognition or monetary gain, or on constant and consistent ‘hard work,’ as long as it produces some degree of noticeable return.
My mom told me something when I was a young asshole that stuck with me and shaped my entire life. She would say something along the lines of: ‘To be a rarity in this world, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.’ I’ve changed it a bit over the years, but the sentiment remains. I took this to an extreme. I went from having dreams of success, fame and fortune to craving isolation and lusting after ‘enlightenment’ and the idea of needing nothing. It was so enticing to me. This image would constantly come to my mind: myself on a mountain; old, but vital and energetic; no possessions but but the clothes on my back; hopping from rock to rock; breathing in Life. I was obsessed with the idea of transcending worldly needs and desires.
On one hand, this is still a part of me. It’s in my blood. I took Being (as opposed to Becoming) as far as I could possibly take it. I’m ok in any situation. It takes a whole lot (so much that I can’t identify what it is at this point) to stress me out or cause me anxiety or grief. I’m obsessed with my life, myself, the way this whole thing unfolds. The whole happening.
On the other hand, I’ve had a massive realization recently that flipped my values and understanding on it’s head. What I’ve really been craving my entire life is to be a WHOLE person. WHOL-Y, you might say. HOLY. There is no greater feeling and validation of existence and experience than being filled with this inarguable vitality that dissolves all of the questions and stands on its own. But what I’ve found is that although I had mastered the road less traveled, I had done so at the expense of the oft traveled road of Becoming. So here I was again, still just a half-person. Not whole in any sense. I could meditate for hours on end but I couldn’t invest in a future, be in a committed relationship, keep a steady job, or even find the desire or urge to build anything or contribute to this great creation. I was passive. I fell in love with what happens and lost my Godliness. I ceased to co-create or collaborate with existence. And really didn’t even have the desire or motivation to start.
To bring this full circle, here’s my point: I’m finally having fun building things again. Working towards goals, manifesting desires and ideas. And I feel fucking blessed that I get to do it with the foundation of not needing it to happen, with this inner certainty that if all falls away or nothing works out I’ll simply shift with the tides or surf over the crashing waves and make an adventure out of it. I finally value becoming again, but with Being as my foundation. And I feel like a whole person. Not a complete person, not a DONE person. A WHOLE person. I feel like I’m able to use all the parts of me that want to be used. Like all the skills or endurance or talents that I’ve cultivated in my life all have a place in this current and future unfolding. And it feels very free. And I’m excited as fuck and also curious and motivated. All the sudden I’m interested in building a relationship, exploring a future with someone. I don’t disregard ‘future thoughts’ any longer, nor do I expect or count on them coming to fruition for me to be at ease.
All of the areas in my life are feeling enhanced and expressive now that I’m once again exploring the side I had denied for so long. I’d made a rule out of Being and a joke of Becoming, and I found myself limited in the same way as before I’d found the space to Be. With both sides, all sides, my teaching, my music, my love, my taste for adventure and fun and inspiration….it’s all coming back. Expressing itself more fully. It’s so rewarding.
Tell us a bit about what you do, how and for whom.
I make music. I teach things (breathwork, meditation, qigong, etc). I play alot. I read books and watch TV and movies. Lately, I take care of little wild animals with my girl. A newfound passion, for sure. She rehabs them, and I’m learning a thing or two along the way. An animal sanctuary is a real possibility in the future.
Music was always my main thing, but I was in a long battle to get out of my last record deal, so I was pushed into bringing some of my other passions into the forefront. Happy to say I’m now a free and independent artist once again (for the first time in years) and I’m working on some upcoming releases. Got the singing bug from my mom. She’s incredible. Pretty much learned everything I know about harmony and melody and using my voice by singing in the car with her as a kid.
I do have this equal, sometimes even dominant passion for teaching. At the end of the day what I really love is communication and connection, expression and creation. So whether on a stage or at a workshop or retreat, I feel the most alive when I’m bridging gaps. Giving life to the spaces between us all, so that we all feel a bit more entangled...a bit more interconnected.
What about your routines, your non-negotiables?
I’ve been much more strict in the past than I am now regarding any sort of mind/body routine. At one point I felt out of flow dominantly, and would practice more strategically and often. Nowadays, I feel in flow and I practice when I need a little tune up. Meditation was never good for me as an escape. But all the years of practice definitely created this sort of meditative baseline. (For example, if I find myself in the middle of the day stuck at the DMV for 4 hours, life just goes on. Nothing changes. I’ll just happily sit there without the mess of anxiety and impatience I might have had previously in life. My baseline changed.)
At the same time, occasionally I’ll take a nice couple of hours to sit and be with something that’s coming up. And I still love to do some qigong and breathwork often, whenever I find myself alone. I tend to not do practices when I’m sharing space with other people, or in a ‘normal’ environment, because I had a thing in the past (I found out later) with making people feel very uncomfortable, or isolating myself in situations when I could’ve been engaging with what and who’s around me. To me, that’s just as valid of a practice. Being present with who is present, is as powerful as turning inwards...if that’s what’s real at the moment. So now, if I’m the only one home, I often turn inwards. On the other hand, my girlfriend and I have been doing some meditations together from time to time, and I’m really enjoying it.
When I teach, it’s a very powerful meditation for me. It’s as much of a practice for me as it is for anyone else I’d imagine. The moment I lose presence, I’m less effective. I have to be as naked and engaged as I want anyone else in the room to be. And leading by example is the only (or most efficient) way to usher someone else into presence.
Any lifestyle rituals?
Besides what I’ve mentioned above, I’ve never been one for ritual. Although, because I rebelled so long against rules, regiments, and ritual...I’m now interested in seeing what’s there. I’m allowing myself to be open again to the idea that maybe there’s some fun to be had now that I don’t have to base my happiness or contentment on anything outside of me. It’s like, now that I don’t need it, what might add new levels of fun to my experience? I sleep, I make music, I read, I watch, I listen, I engage, I express. Those could all be rituals I suppose.
What does your ideal dietary regimen consist of?
I’ve been on every end of the spectrum in terms of dietary experimentation. From junk and fast food to raw-vegan to only the most nutrient dense foods on an intermittent fasting basis. I’ve tried everything. I started experimenting when I was young, maybe 12 years ago to deal with Crohn’s.
Nowadays, I eat what I want when I want, but I am always refining, and paying close attention to patterns within my body. I also fast pretty religiously. It’s singlehandedly had the biggest impact on my health since I began experimenting with it years ago. I now tend to fast about 1 day per week, a few days per month, and anywhere from 7-30 days once per year. And although I don’t follow this strictly, I do feel my best when I don’t eat until much later in the day. For example, if I eat around 6pm and don’t eat anymore after 8 or 9, my body processes foods and energy much more smoothly. So fasting for 20 or so hours per day and eating within a small window does wonders for my digestive system, and allows me to be less strict with what I eat.
I am slowly withdrawing energy from a lifelong love of sugar. Though even if I’m avoiding processed sugars I’ll make up for it in fruit sugars and so on. And I’m experimenting in that area a bit just because why the fuck not. I’ve already done it so hard for so long. Why not experiment with the other sides of life when I’ve accustomed myself to particulars?
Your favorite practitioner?
What mentors, teachers or gurus have had influenced your path?
I don’t want to discredit moments or people in passing that have had rather profound shifts on my life. Moreover, I give myself credit for what I’ve done with it. And being that I’m nowhere near any sort of mastery in any way, I’d hate to attribute who I am to someone else and then allow them to be blamed when someone else thinks I’m a piece of shit.
However, I’ll list some immediate standouts.
Master Chen Ying was responsible for some interesting shifts in my perception. He was a walking contradiction in many ways, but so fluid, so filled with vitality. Powerful.
A dear friend, Simon Moore (screenwriter, director), was one of the first people I’d ever met in real life that I actually looked at and thought, ‘I want what he has.’ He gets it. And we spent a significant amount of time digging in together. He has a smooth way of bringing me face to face with whatever bullshit I’ve cleverly hidden inside.
My girlfriend, Dawn (Olivieri). I fuckin’ hate her. She’s toooo good. She’s so much like me but also just enough not like me that I’m constantly looking in this mirror. I don’t get to hide anything. It’s like I’m constantly praising myself, but also constantly noticing my limitations. Sometimes I just wanna be lazy you know? But noooooo, she’s gotta be sitting there forcing me to level up. So annoying. And so incredibly magical and enchanting. She’s honestly a goddess on an entirely different level than I’ve ever experienced before. For the first time I’m excited about building something and having a future with someone. Love her. Fortunately, we both smack each other upside the head with realizations pretty frequently, so sometimes when she’s on the butt end of the life stick I get some rest and reprieve from my impending doom.
What are your thoughts on feminism and empowerment.
The feminine is divine. Feminism is a word. It’s a tool, an approach. Feminism paired with Empowerment awakens the divine. Feminism without empowerment enforces separation, and creates more barriers while wearing a mask of unity. As with any tool and any approach, wonderful bridges can be built, walls can be knocked down, lives can be changed, love can be cultivated and nourished. Or, if it lacks the empowerment aspect, if it lacks the part that dissolves separation, then it simply creates more of it. Feminism in and of itself is lovely and powerful, unless it’s used as a weapon to smite the masculine. Unless it buries the masculine in the sand to use as a stepping stone to the heavens. However, so much focus has been placed on the masculine for so long, that emphasis on the Feminine should be explored and uplifted. Particularly from the masculine energy. There’s no reason a woman should have to fight for her femme to be seen and felt. Perhaps the masculine should be lifting the feminine up, and the feminine could even put the masculine down. At least for a bit. If Life only allowed us one or the other, I’d always choose what’s soft, embracing, sensitive. But Life isn’t life without both aspects. Life isn’t love without the movement, the divine relationship between the two. Feminine is glorious. Feminism can be whatever we want it to be, depending on our motives.
Present and future projects?
I’m currently recording an EP that will be released independently, most likely just after the new year (2019). I’m also developing an online/home retreat program that will be all my favorite tools and techniques for awakening the superhuman within. The program will be a good primer or alternative to attending one of the several retreats we’re planning for 2019. A few good friends and I are currently planning 3 back-to-back weekend retreats in Tulum for the month of May. The idea is that you come only with what you have on your back, and you show up to a kit with custom clothing, workout gear, toiletries, all the necessities plus some fun gifts and treats - all from conscious and holistic brands. So you come as you are, and you step into a weekend retreat meant to help you redesign your lifestyle and upgrade your quality of life. I’m really excited about this series.
I’m also a partner in a CBD brand that will be releasing in the upcoming year, and we’re pairing the CBD tea with ceremonies and breathwork/meditation classes, which we’ve already started doing locally (in Los Angeles at BOL).
Who takes care of you? Who or what makes you stronger?
Me. Of course, anything and everyone in this life plays a role and can serve as potential catalysts for change and understanding. People can be there for us when we’re not feeling well, offer encouragement and so on. But at the beginning and end of the day, self care and strength are all on me. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. I create it, I translate it, I express it in whatever way I’m willing. What happens is of little difference. How we respond to what happens is what determines our quality of experience, of Life.
Tell us about any challenges or obstacles you may be encountering.
Obstacles are adventures and challenges are only challenging if I’m going after something I don’t want. If I want something, it doesn’t matter how difficult the road is to get there, it won’t feel like a burden. And if I don’t want something, everything that arises feels like a burden, feels like an impossible task. I prefer to not pay attention to whatever stories I’ve crafted in the past about hardships or struggles. Sure, I’ve gone through shit that I wouldn’t wish on anyone else. But I also wouldn’t wish any of it away. I wanted what I got. I got what I wanted. In every case. Even if there are areas in my life right now that feel challenging, to even frame them as a challenge, limits my ability to step into and through them RIGHT NOW. There are no challenges before or beyond me. All I see is adventure. Exploration.
What role does travel play in your life?
Much less of a role than it once did, but it’s coming full circle again. This next time around, I’d like to be traveling to teach more retreats, and perform more shows.
A large part when it comes to creative expression, a minimal part when it comes to consumption. I don’t really listen to music on my own. I’m not against it, but I would never think to put it on if no one else was around playing it. I prefer the absence of music. Or nature. Or silence. I’m much more inspired (even musically) by movies and TV.
Top 5 books.
Impossible! I’ll go with what comes to me first…
Oneness by Rasha
Freedom from the Known by Krishnamurti
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
The Science of Being by Eugene Fersen
Love, Freedom and Aloneness by Osho
Your favorite podcast(s).
I’m not a heavy podcast listener, but I’ll definitely turn it up if a topic or guest peaks my interest. I used to really enjoy Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. These days I love The Genius Life with Max Lugavere, Steve Jordan’s I AM Healthy and Fit, The Life Stylist by Luke Storey and the occasional Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss episode.
Your favorite Instagram accounts or other media outlets?
I follow so many people, literally anyone I come across that interests me or that even occasionally posts something that is intriguing to me. I have favorite posts, not necessarily favorite accounts. Going with what comes to mind right now: @Netic , @AbrahamWolke, @CrosbyTailor, @TheWildfireInitiative, @human_shift and @DawnOlivieri.
A person we should interview and why.
Netic Rebel. Because GOD.