Ninja Tribe-

Let’s talk about courage, my ninjas. It’s been on my mind a lot, especially since getting back from leading the first ever Deep Retreat Wilderness Adventure last month. The retreat was a complete success and provided some great opportunities for overcoming fears (read: “we saw a fuckin’ bear”, but more on that later).

Alas, any real adventure requires the presence of danger, and that means facing fears. And life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all, according to Anne Frank.

But to be a hero, you’ve got to do more than just face your fears. You’ve got to look your fear in the eye… and then invite it dance – preferably the Macarena or something as ridiculous.

Honestly, everyone gets scared. Everyone. But being a ninja hero means having courage – to feel the fear and then act anyway. To use the energy behind the fear to take action.

Fearlessness is the foundation of being a peaceful ninja warrior and the reason why Warrior Spirit is one of the key principles of TrainDeep. Courage is not about being or feeling invulnerable, it’s about being vulnerable and going for it anyway. If it were even possible to enter a battle invincible, it wouldn’t require courage because you don’t risk anything. In other words…

Vulnerability is the birth place of courage!”  Brené Brown


Dancing with Fear

Ok, terrible dances from the 90’s aside, dancing with fear is a great metaphor for harnessing the energy of fear to do epic shit. One of the biggest challenges is to face the fear without becoming totally fixated and focused on it – energy follows focus, if you focus too much on the fear, you magnify it.

Yet the other extreme – ignoring the fear completely – will lead to failure too. So to find balance, you must create a middle path.  Become aware of the fear (the thing you don’t want) without fixating on it, so you can share some of your awareness with taking action (the thing you do want).

This back and forth shared focus is like a partner dance where you have to feel and anticipate your partner’s next move. It’s a feeling practice – an incredibly powerful one – which requires a high level of self-awareness (which is why awareness is one of the other 12 core principles of TrainDeep.)

Normalizing Discomfort: Everyone Gets Scared…

But not everyone knows how to use the energy behind the fear to create the result they want. Yes, even the person you look up to – your hero, teacher, mentor, parent, friend, coach, whoever – has had to face fears to get where they are, and will have to face more to get where they are going.

No matter where we are on our path, there is always the uncertainty of the next step. Fear is a fact of life. And to keep rising requires increasingly more subtle, powerful, and beautiful dances with the fear.

In other words, the fear never goes away (all the more reason to stop avoiding it), but we can slowly get more comfortable with it as we increase our dancing skills. And then, maybe, just maybe, one day, we’ll even look forward to the dance! How exciting — the idea of doing the Harlem shake with the Grip Reaper.

Skill makes all the difference, and we’ll never get better at dancing with fear if we’re always sitting on our ass avoiding it.

“When you’re sailing on the ocean of the unconscious and a huge storm kicks up, if you’re a novice sailor you are absolutely terrified, but if you’re an experienced sailor you’re in for the best ride of your life. Skill makes all the difference.” Nevine Michaan

Snow Ninja

I had this experience of dancing with fear, of using it as a guide and map, last winter while snowboarding. I’ve always loved pushing my limits on the mountain – and especially in the snowboard park – and have landed back flips, 360’s, 540’s, and launched off 40 foot kickers.

But back in 2006, I landed on my spine and herniated a disc in my neck while in the snowboard park.  The fear and memory are very real for me: years of rehab, pain, suffering, endless amounts of boring physical therapy exercises just to heal myself.

Well, last winter I had the experience of dancing with fear while in the terrain park, it happened quite spontaneously. The way I approached my limits was very different ; I used to fling myself off cliffs and launch out of my comfort zone – literally. Now, I prefer to scout the landing, honor my boundaries, feel the fear as I’m flying down the mountain, and when it feels right, and only then, I dive in and embrace the unknown beyond my comfort zone. Then, I regroup, check-in, recenter, and only then do I begin to approach the edge of my comfort zone again.

No more compulsively slamming into the edge of my comfort zone, and no more back breaking falls.

This dance back and forth – hanging out at the edge of my discomfort and using the energy of fear- has allowed me to continue to excel at snowboarding without the crash landings and 5 year rehab detours of my past. And it’s my meditation practices that have allowed me to develop this high degree of feeling.

Choosing the Unknown

Taking calculated physical risks with my body – and succeeding – has empowered me to take other kinds of risk in my life, business, and brand.  For years, I’ve watched the “weekend fitness retreat” fad take off and thought to myself “holy crap I’d be so frickin’ awesome at creating something truly powerful and special” but it’s also always intimidated me. What if no one signs up? What if someone gets hurt? What if people don’t get along? What if a wild bear tries to make out with me?

Well, fears be damned, because last month I led the first ever Deep Retreat: Wilderness Adventure! AND I made out with a bear, and it was the best make out session ever – that furry beast won’t stop texting me. Sheesh.

Seven brave souls answered the call to adventure.

Deep Retreat - Wilderness Adventure -

As you can tell, everyone had a horrible time on our retreat.

Bumping And Grinding With Fear

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve organized a lot of fun adventures for my friends before: snowboarding, camping, hiking, rock climbing. BUT I’d never charged people because I loved leading these adventure weekends. Then I realized that money is funny, and if I charged people for the adventure, they’d actually get even more out of it. And that’s exactly what happened.

To up the fear factor to an even higher level, I made this big promise on the sign up page.

Deep Retreat Big Promise

Talk about going for broke…


Why did I make such a big promise? I mean, come one, I personally guaranteed a huge personal transformation. Who does that?

I do.

Because, for one, I believed it to be true – and it was (see the video below). And I also knew that setting the bar this high would “stretch” me a little, force me to become an ever more powerful leader, and create clear expectation for who this weekend is for–and who should skip it. I also created some general guidelines, to ensure only the “right” people came.

And that’s exactly what it did.

General Guidelines:

  • Funcomfortable- yup. Things might get a little weird (in the best kind of way) and secrets may even be shared, but it will be fun, even when its a little anxiety provoking. (Props to the RawBrahs for creating this new word.)
  • Co-creation-  together we collaborate and as a group create an amazing experience together. We’ll work as a team to build the campsite, collect firewood, and cook over the camp fire. No prior camping experience needed, you’ll be guided through the whole experience.
  • Play and Spontaneity-  we will play different games that get you out of your head and into your body, and it will feel so good to connect with other humans in such an innocent and natural way. The best games are ones where everyone laughs.
  • Cellphone Detox- During your free-time, go nuts, but during the guided encounters, we ask you disconnect completely from facestagram and connect to the present moment – fully.

Why Did the Bear Cross the Road?

And yes, even though I was the leader, I had to face some major fears. We went way off the beaten path – into the wilderness – and although I took every precaution, I could sense that we were going to see a bear. My ninja-intuition is damn near psychic these days. We were in the Catskills, which is home to roughly 2,000 black bears, and we were camping less than a mile away from the spot I ever saw a bear in the wild.

Well, I spent all Saturday night dreaming about bears, and the next day we cooked brunch, hung out, shared laughs, broke down camp, and hiked out. No bears.

In the parking lot, I told everyone “The trip’s not over yet, and statistically speaking, this is the most dangerous part of the trip. Cars kill! Be aware.”

Through the windy country roads we went, eventually hitting Route 28 and heading west towards the Interstate – I87.

We get on I-87, which is a huge six lane highway that I’ve been on probably 1,000+ times in my life. We are in the right most lane, and I see the car in front of me break for “no reason”. That car passes, and there, in the shoulder of the highway is a 500 black bear! Un-fucking-believable-I-shit-you-not.

And the bear is getting himself all psyched up, roaring. Our car passes within 10 feet of the bear, the other car in our caravan passes the bear, and then I watch in the rear view mirror as bear safely crosses 6 lanes of traffic to safely reach the other side.


My wife is also psychic, evidently. She sent this text within an hour of our bear sighting.

Evidently my wife is also psychic. She sent this text about an hour before our bear sighting.

What’s the meaning of all this? Why did the bear cross the road? What kind of person references the Macarena three times in a blog post?

I’ll leave up to you to decide. But if that beautiful beast can skillfully cross 6 lanes of 65+MPH traffic and not get hurt nor cause and accident, then I bet you can become a fear beast, dance with your fears, and cross over to the other side too.

I’d love to hear about how you work with fear energy in your life. How do you harness the energy? Do you have a technique? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, be brave my ninjas!

I’ve posted some photos below from our weekend, I hope you enjoy them. I’m so inspired the seven brave ninjas that followed me deep into the heart of the mountain forest. The retreat was such a success that we are planning to have four Deep Retreat in 2015!

As always, TrainDeep.



Photos From the Weekend

bear spirit rock

Bear spirit rock.


Sisterhood of the lodge.

Preparing for the lodge. Chopping wood and chanting.

Preparing for the lodge. Chopping wood and chanting.


Veggie madness!






It's actually snowing in this picture. #SunshineSnowShowers

It’s actually snowing in this picture. #SunshineSnowShowers


Deep Retreat Wilderness Adventure - - Jonathan Angelilli

Sacred fire keeper. More like twisted fire starter.



Smores for breakfast! Because camping, that’s why.




Ninja fairy, drunk with forest power!

Ninja fairy, drunk with forest power!


Crossing the threshold - into the wild we go!

Crossing the threshold – into the wild we go!




Fire wizard casting spells.

Fire wizard casting spells.








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