A chat with Stephen Beck of Yoga Loft and Destination: Light. This piece serves as the first in Ora's new interview series: a series in which we're able to shed light on those we admire and the nifty things they're doing.
The very last thing anyone could accuse Stephen Beck of being is small.
At six foot, one inch he's likely to be the largest person in any room - followed closely by his ideas.
"In my mind I'm 8 feet" tall.
Stephen wasn't always a visionary but he always was a charmer. In fact, that might be how it all began: "I've got to make money or Amy Barkus is not going to go out with me."
Seeking dough (to woo the ladies) Stephen jumped into a career as a pastry chef. "I got on this pursuit of cash - kind of like the American Dream thing." Evolving from chef, to hotel manager, to Vice President of sales and marketing for the entire western region, to CEO of his own consulting company eventually left him feeling lost and lackluster. Stephen's Type A personality kept him competitive and on his game, however, until the day he went for a run that ended in open heart surgery.
"I realized that - this near death experience? Everything else is kind of a bonus now and we better get serious."
Previously always traveling he knew it was time for a change, to spend more time with his children. Then one year at Burning Man Stephen became aware of his dharma.
"I took one of my clients...the president of a corporation... and he was interacting with this woman who truly was a hippie...and they're having a really good interaction - a prolonged interaction and it was mutually respectful. And I was just taken back by how these two worlds at this particular time were interacting in a delicious, conscious way."
In his own words, Stephen's life calling is to usher in awareness to the mainstream. His hope is to inspire change from within by providing executives and companies with an "awakening" so that they are able to make decisions in a holistic way.
"The real work is in mainstream economy - if we can get them to be aware, first in their body, then they'll become aware second in their heart and spirit."
Stephen's goal was to bring yoga to the communities that don't already accept it, thereby effecting change from within. The dust had barely settled from Burning Man when Yoga Loft was born. A boutique studio in the heart of Little Italy, Yoga Loft became Stephen's means of accessing the yoga world. "I needed to know the minutia of this industry...what it is to teach" in order to bring yoga to a location where the people weren't already on this type of path.
But Yoga Loft was just the beginning. Two years since its inception Stephen already has his sights set high on his next adventure. And let me tell you: it's gonna be big.
"This piece is over. The next stage is Destination: Light."
As an active member of San Diego's yoga community Stephen's witnessed first hand just how divisive yoga "tribes" can actually be. Instead of uniting people through their commonalities, the genres of yoga (Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Vinyasa, for example) have the tendency to focus on group differences. After all, isn't my yoga your yoga? Seemingly not always.
Destination Light is, therefore, a space in which yogas of all shapes and sizes can co-exist peacefully. But it doesn't stop there. Not only will Destination Light provide a multitude of yoga experiences, but this enlightened space will contain a fitness facility, rentable co-work space, and a consciously minded restaurant.
This is a community, a place without judgement. "A space where all [their] needs are met." Yoga, fitness, food, and connection.
The goal, above all, is human osmosis. "Whatever gets you in" the door. Business men, fitness buffs, yoginis - it doesn't matter. The magic begins once these different groups begin sharing the same space and are able to grow by witnessing others' strengths.
Advice for those on their own spiritual journey
As a man who's experienced his own transformation, and whose calling is to inspire growth in others, I was curious what advice Stephen might have for those facing a similarly transitional period in their lives.
"Slow down and take some time to sit with yourself. Allow yourself to feel. Try not to allow yourself to fear."
Stephen continued to explain that all of life's decisions fall into one of two categories: those based in fear and those based in love. No matter how complicated things may seem it always boils down to this.
Fear choices are often categorized by "shoulds" and "better dos" while love decisions are as simple as "I love ______ and so I will do _____".
"Lean in to what your heart is asking you to do. That's your purpose."
So often, however, fear is the louder voice (something to which I'm sure we can all relate). This is where yoga and meditation become crucial to self development. Practicing yoga and meditation provides us, as humans, with the tools to be with ourselves in silence and listen to the small voice. The voice of love that may be too shy, or scared, to speak up.
Oh and guess what: all that planning we, as a species, like to do? Fear, 100%. Preparedness, on the other hand, comes from a place of love. Preparedness that fosters opportunity? Now that's when we're truly living in the midst of our fullest potential.
Practical tools for supporting balance
In summation I asked Stephen if he would be so generous as to share a few of his rituals for cultivating balance, or sattva, in his daily life.
The foundations for his sattvic lifestyle are as as follows:
- Morning yoga practice.
- Morning meditation.
- Teaching: as it provides him with the opportunity to selflessly serve others.
- Sleeping before 10pm.
- No electronics an hour before bed.
- Burning Palo Santo every morning.
Although most of his time is now spent immersed in the logistics of Destination: Light, Stephen does still find time to teach yoga, with an exclusive focus on clients in a corporate atmosphere. For companies based in San Diego that are interested in the benefits of yoga for their employees, Yoga Loft brings the asana to you. To learn more about their services please visit the Yoga Loft website or connect with Stephen on Facebook.