While many other Los Angeleans are nursing hangovers, the Wildfire Initiative is nursing a new kind of outdoor spirituality.
Every Sunday morning, something strange happens on an abandoned tennis court in Runyon Canyon, Los Angeles. Around thirty men and women lay in savasana, hyperventilating around a man who seems to be orchestrating their breathing. At least, it would be strange if you didn’t know that the man, quite literally holding court, is Bryan Ellis, 31, the driving force behind the Wildfire Initiative, a mindfulness movement that is sweeping through the city’s “wellness” scene like, well, wildfire; and this is their regular weekend meeting. The initiative itself is very holistic in that the fit, tanned, urbanites and other transients that attend are hoping to find something as a group that they are perhaps struggling to find individually. This is neatly summed up by one of the posts on Wildfire’s increasingly popular Insta page: “We brainwash people to think for themselves.”
The ballooning number of followers on social media is an indication that the collective seem to be successfully subverting what it means to be a cult in a town that, well, has a bit of a reputation for it. It’s an irony not lost on another founding father, ex-model Abraham Wolke, who also owns a vegan protein bar company, called Hemplete, and is described on the group’s website as the “Jack-Ass-of-All-Trades”.
"The first time I saw us referred to as a cult in an article, it did make me a little uncomfortable, but as is life we can't control someone else’s opinion only our reaction to it, so embracing that discomfort as an opportunity for growth, and being secure enough in Wildfire’s true values to own the description went right along with what we’re really about,” reveals Wolke. “Being called a cult is pretty funny and harmless to me. Besides, there are enough studios, communities, classes, and systems focused on personal growth that another one hardly captures your attention. But a cult, dedicated to helping you move through life with a new level of ease and enjoyment, that is much more interesting. And embracing the description in spite of the usual negative connotation adds, even more, intrigue to what we’re doing.”
Aside from Ellis and Wolke, the other two who make up the movement’s nucleus are Crosby Tailor, a model and Wildfire’s nutritionist, and the fabulously titled Netic Rebel, who preaches his own brand of philosophy on the “walk and talks” that follow the tennis court sessions.
Every Sunday, you will find all four of them on the sun-baked dirt of the canyon along with whoever has pitched up that morning. From an outsider’s perspective the group looks pretty exclusive, all golden tans and shredded abs, but this is a perception that Abe seems more motivated to remove than the, aforementioned, cult tag.
“Everyone is welcome to join our Sunday meet-ups and see what our community is all about. We don’t care who you are, what you do, where you’re from, or what you believe,” he says. “We have people joining us from all over the world and all walks of life. The one thing we do share is curiosity, so if anyone is curious enough about Wildfire to come out on Sunday, then as far as we’re concerned they already fit right in. If someone out there were still hesitant to come out for any reason, I'd just encourage him or her to DM @thewildfireinitiative on Instagram to introduce themselves and let us know they’re interested in coming. I run the page so I'll answer any questions and keep an eye out for them on Sunday, so we can make sure they get introduced to everyone and feel welcomed.”
What you can be sure of is that at 10:30am on any given Sunday the Wildfire Initiative will be doing what they do best – turning a group of complete strangers into LA’s newest mind and body cult.
To find out more about the Wildfire Initiative, check out their Instagram.