I only knew Levi from a distance, but I knew him well enough.
We were classmates in high school and he was friends with some of my friends. A buddy of mine, Forest, had a sweet high school rock band, Vuja De, and they’d perform with Levi’s sweet rock band, Mode#.
Clearly, Levi was destined for greatness. He was the consummate performer.
We graduated and went our separate ways, but I stayed friends with Forest and Forest stayed friends with Levi.
As intention and serendipity would have it, I now work with Forest, and, in May 2016, he brought our company to Levi’s Digital Detox experiment, Camp Grounded, a legendary adult Summer camp at Camp Mendocino where you soberly ditch your technology, go by an alias nickname (mine was ‘Happiness’/his was Fidget), paint faces, rock out to music, make art, and burn your fears in fire before a 3 hour silent dinner.
I took a gospel choir class in the middle of the woods, then walked around with my new choir colleagues to wake campers at dawn with songs of happiness. I woke up at the glimpse of daylight one day and walked around the woods by myself for an hour singing aloud alone and I felt happy.
I was able to spend a couple hours with my thoughts and a notepad, sitting by the river in silence, observing and internalizing the beauty as best I could.
Levi and his wife, Brooke, who was also a high school classmate of mine, created Digital Detox to inspire others to connect with each other, as humans are meant to do. They created a tribe of musicians, yogis, inspirational speakers, leaders, instructors, facilitators and creatives of all types. They were always willing to grow their tribe to include anyone and everyone.
Levi’s philosophy and, thus, a mantra at Camp Grounded was,
“Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be.”
It was repeated many times every day- and it’s true. Being present and adding value to others is where peace lives. I remember the first time someone said the mantra to me at camp. I wasn’t ready to hear it. But the more I heard it, the more it made sense. The more I am present, the higher the well-being of my life is.
Brene Brown says,
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”
And, she’s right.
I’d like to think I’ve always been close with family, friends and loved ones. I like to think that I’ve always focused on relationships and getting to know and appreciate people more deeply. But somehow, somewhere, I know that’s not the case.
When I moved into the dorms at San Diego State, I remember seeing people being betrayed frequently for the first time in my life. I remember the pain. I slowly started losing trust in people. Perhaps, I even became untrustworthy to some. I bottled and compartmentalized emotions ever-so-slowly and continued to bottle and compartmentalize the pain, the vulnerability.
Intimacy and deep, connected relationships with others is how we make peace. Honesty with ourselves and truth with others is how we have contentment.
But, it’s hard.
It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes courage to express vulnerability. Bottling hides the shame, distrust, disrespect, and betrayal, while blocking intimacy.
I’m not a master of being courageously vulnerable, but I hope to one day be. Levi, on the other hand, was. He created a community of thousands built on in-person, face-to-face, teary-eyed intimate connections with intention. He forced people to face their fears to live their dreams. He got people in touch with their most creative center of being. He lived well and his impact will be felt through many lifetimes in immeasurable ways.
Another Levi- mantra of Camp Grounded was,
Levi knew that to be courageously vulnerable was to create a life lived well, so much so that he coined a word for it. No one could argue that the world feels the ripples that he’s made. I know I certainly do.
I’m sure that all that knew Levi would agree Ferdinand Foch’s quote embodies Levi’s life and legacy.
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”