My name is Brianne Dela Cruz – Brianne Italia, actually. I’m a native Utahan – born from a Brazilian immigrant Father with roots that extend deep into the soil of northern Italy, and a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Cuban Mother. Although I was born in the Western US and have lived there my whole life, my parents have taken care to prune my sisters and I into women that don’t soon forget get our heritage. Or, if they didn’t intentionally train us, it must be because that passionate blood is far too strong to dilute.
There are a few things about the uniformity of the culture in my home state that I don’t care for, however I’ve come to accept the place which I was raised and realize that there is still beauty to be found – even in the least expected places. Generally speaking, I do enjoy being a Utahan- and I love living in the West. Mostly, because of the landscape. I love the variety that surrounds me – from the abstract red rock, to the snowcapped mountains right at my back door. And not only that, there are cliff-lined beaches, deserts, ancient green forests, and so many other mystical places within a day’s drive. I’m not sure where my love of nature originates from, but I suspect that it’s one of the traits passed down by my ancestors.
The natural world calls to me. Specifically, the mountains. It is my refuge and my inspiration. It’s where I go when I’m lost; when I’m exhausted; when I need to think or stop thinking; when I need to heal. For me, it starts with nature - it always will.
After high school, I travelled further north, like small town, concentrated Mormon, Aggie-territory north. I studied a variety of subjects but learned that my true vocation involves creative expression, and helping people heal to find joy. It was there that I experienced my first deep heartbreak, a faith crisis, big failure, as well as yoga and meditation. It was there that I experienced my first break-down. Or as I call it now – my first real break-through. I was 19.
I was crippled with heartbreak, anger, confusion, anxiety, and serious depression. So, I ran away to the mountains where I drowned the noise in my head with wind and rolling waters. I massaged the anxiety away with headstands and thousands of sun salutations. Over-time I learned to self-soothe. I learned to listen and to feel in truth – not by dictation. I learned how to become aware. My walls broke down, my lenses were removed, my mind and body were renewed. Slowly I began to see the world in a new way. I began to see the beauty and the magic of life, I began to find peace and balance, and sometimes utter joy in the smallest moments. I had religious experiences in the form of skiing, and savasanas. I was transformed. Nature & mindfulness practices pulled me through my shadow and taught me how to be grateful for it. They taught me that part of why I’m here is to help others navigate that same space. Because, now I understand.
After my first transformative experience, I bounced back to the Wasatch and became a Registered Yoga and Meditation Teacher, where I began my journey of helping others. Years later I entered the corporate world (with an 8-5 job I thought I’d never have) in order to make ends meet. I watched first-hand as greed and narcissism chewed talent up and spit it out without thought or feeling. I saw it corrode the human spirit, the culture, and the company from the inside out. It thrived on turning purpose-driven careers into workaholic lifestyles. I watched it convince talented people that they must live like that in order to be worth something. I watched people buy into the falsities. I witnessed, from a much-too-close perspective, the nastiness of legal spitting matches - all in the name of money and power. The insatiable ego. My heart broke again – but this time not for me. For humanity.
Our experiences shape us in ways that we cannot predict or understand until after our new shape has taken form. I believe it must be the same way rivers forge pathways through forests that were once beautiful as solid rock, soil and foliage. It can seem either devastating or beautiful depending on the perspective.
These days, I find myself staying a stone’s throw away from the canyons as much as possible, dabbling in sustainable craft projects, and daydreaming about my next travel spot. I prioritize getting my meditation and yoga practices in, and best of all, making a home with my husband. I spend my time writing, teaching meditation, taking photographs on adventures, volunteering as a Master Gardener, and studying Botany and Wild Crafting. As busy as it sounds, I do find time for slow living. I find time to notice the beauty in the every-day; in the mundane; in the gritty moments of life. I find time to stop, breathe and look at the sky. I find time to touch the cool loam in my garden and the velvet petals of each zinnia I plant. I find time to chase my husband up the mountain and follow him down the river. I find time to sit with our families and eat a home-cooked meal. I also find time to listen to the stories; to share my own - to laugh, to love, to create.
I’m not a good philosopher or poet, or even writer for that matter. And, I can't hold all the fancy yoga poses – but that doesn’t stop me from doing it. I am good at helping people get out of their minds and into their bodies and get out of their confined spaces and into the world. I’m good at getting people to slow down and notice the simple magic moments in life that make it more illuminated. There is too much beauty to behold to remain stagnant and mentally chained to busy.
I believe there’s an audience that wants to see those simple moments within the mundane. That wants to feel the connection between cultures – between humans. That wants to experience the world in all the natural beauty for themselves. I know there are people that are more interested in real life, and real experiences than in material things or anything contrived. I know there are people that are more interested in feeding their souls than their ego and finding a slow life without sacrificing aspirations or abundance.
My purpose stems from my pains. I feel no shame in that because what blooms after is something brighter, bolder, and longer lasting than anything before. I understand the majesty of transformation and evolution. And I understand the ugliness of it as well. My philosophy is that humans, as beings of nature, must inevitably endure some type of scarification process in order to unfold into our most brilliant selves. I also believe that intentionally seeking the moments of slow - moments of wonder - render life more beautiful. And for me, that's found in the details. It's found in the texture, in the light, in the scent, in the season, in the taste, in the shade, in the connection, in the tension, in the movement, and in the breath. For me, it’s about learning as much from a book, as a yoga pose, or learning as much from heartbreak as a breath of fresh air. Simply because those small details become the difference between the dark and the light.