We had the good fortune of connecting with Rissi Zimmermann and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rissi, what do you attribute your success to?
I feel successful when I share peace with life around me. The most integral part of reaching this success, I feel, is nurturing peace within myself. Engaging in healthy dialogue through challenges and misunderstandings, finding ways to release and process the full spectrum of my emotions, listening to when my body is in pain and giving it the necessary attention to heal.
What I have found is that the health of my entire being is rooted in the attention of my thoughts. The more I am able to purify my thoughts, the healthier I become and in turn feel greater peace to share with life around me.
My understanding of success has changed over time. I used to understand success as an accomplishment, reaching a goal that I worked hard towards, whether it was a competition, performance or job I was dedicating myself to. I thought that success laid within the accomplishment of the task: winning the competition, mastering the performance, delivering the job and producing high quality services. At a young age I felt I reached success through receiving exceptional distinction under the Royal Academy of Dance Examination, placing within the top performances of the World Tap Championship, becoming the South-German track team champion, being accepted into the NYC “Fame” school, receiving honorary awards and an advanced diploma in Math and Science. Later, I felt successful for being awarded a full tuition leadership-scholarship to attend the University of Southern California, graduating on the Dean’s List, managing eight jobs simultaneously, getting signed with a top agency and founding a non-profit organization.
While these accomplishments grew through many joyful moments and peaceful experiences, the intense focus on reaching the specific goals I had set my mind on also brought about negative side effects. I struggled with insomnia, had regular injuries, carried stress into my personal relationships and consistently felt overwhelmed by the tasks I had committed myself to. While I felt successful, I did not feel healthy.
In my early adult years, I dedicated much of my time caring for close friends and family affected by physical and mental challenges such as breast and ovarian cancer, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Intimately witnessing the internal and external suffering these experiences held, recognizing how fragile our physical, mental and spiritual well-being is, started to shift my understanding of what success meant. I became passionate about successfully maintaining health within myself and supporting healing in life around me.
After my Mother, and best friend, fell ill for 5 years and passed, I deepened my reflection on the value of life. I began to grasp how precious every moment is and how abundant each interaction is. I meditated a lot on the process of dying, a journey we all experience. I began to ask myself if the cycle of life is ever-changing, then what is the accomplishment of a goal other than a passing moment in time? And if all of life is a passing moment, what is the value this passing experience holds? I recognized that the greatest value I can conceive of experiencing is love. Unconditional love for life. So, what if I could foster an experience of unconditional love through every moment that I am alive, could I experience the greatest value life holds through every living moment? Rather than experiencing time in a linear direction, with a goal outlined at the “end” of it, I began to shift my attention to experiencing time as an ever-evolving sphere holding the potential of deepening and elevating sensations of unconditional love through each passing moment.
So, my journey began… I practiced loving unconditionally. To me, this means loving something without the fear of losing it. Loving through the pure appreciation of something existing for what it is, free of judgment or expectation. What I learned through this process is that fear is very powerful. The closer and closer I explored fear though, the more I learned how silly it is. What am I afraid of? And why? If I am afraid of something that I cannot change, then there is no benefit of giving my attention to it. If I am afraid of something that I can change, there is more benefit in giving my full attention to positively influencing it than there is in giving my attention to the fear of losing it. If I spend time being fearful of losing something, I lose time loving what I am experiencing. I asked myself, if I am able to strip the fear of losing something – be it my job, my home, my belongings, my community, my life, my reputation – can I foster greater peace within myself, allowing me to love fuller and deeper through each moment?
Through many years of continued meditation and reflection, I slowly began releasing unfruitful thoughts which were causing stress, frustration, anxiety and anger. By focusing my attention on the appreciation of growth each experience holds I began feeling calmer, more grounded, more peaceful. Through shifting my perspective on the positive side of an experience each moment began to expand in multiple dimensions, holding infinite potential for appreciation and love. Releasing fear of expectation, fear of judgment, fear of loss, allowed me to not only feel greater peace but to also give greater peace through each of my actions. This sharing of peace is what allowed me to understand the true meaning of loving unconditionally. I began to feel profound joy from the simple act of giving love without something in return. In this way, I feel I became a stronger person for others to lean on, a stronger leader, a more attentive friend, a more supportive family member, a more reliable employee and a more considerate director.
My ballet teacher once told me that the true beauty of dance is not about the movement we execute. It is about how we move through each moment. Lifting our arm is not simply about lifting it from low to high but it is about every passing moment the arm moves through to get from one position to another. Even when our arm reaches its height, it will transition to its next motion. It’s about the path, the process, every passing moment that shall be filled with passion and intent in order for the dance to truly transcend. This is how I feel a successful life looks. It is not as much about the place we go or the title we hold or the amount of something we receive, as much as it is about how we walk from turning off a light to exiting our door, how we speak when passing our neighbor on the street, how we think when we are driving down the road. When each of these passing moments are filled with appreciation and intent, life can become a fulfilling journey of love and reciprocity.
While I continue to work hard towards creating and reaching positive outcomes I desire to see for my community and myself, I prioritize the process of doing so over the outcome. I feel successful when each moment is led with pure thoughts and peaceful intent. When I reach a goal at the sacrifice of harmonious interactions, I feel it was not a successful creation. This is the mission with which I strive to lead Sokamba. I honor this commitment while weaving the development of the company with nurturing peace through each interaction, creation and program. The success of the company lies within the peace that is maintained through the energetic cycle the organization molds, beyond any expected outcome to where this peace shall lead.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love authentic energy. My favorite spots in LA are those which foster authentic community, free expression and interactive creativity. Places which value the human spirit over financial profit. Here are some of my favorites:
Art & Culture: Leimert Plaza Park Olvera Street Mariachi Plaza Little Tokyo Arts District Art Share LA Venice Drum Circle The Last Bookstore Panorama Theater
Nature: Los Angeles Historic Park Vista Hermosa Park Ernest E Debs Park Los Angeles Forest Malibu Creek State Park Topanga State Park Pointe Dume Self-realization Fellowship International Headquarters (meditation center)
Activities: Santa Monica Muscle Beach Capoeira Brasil Peace Yoga Gallery Stronghold Climbing Gym
Food & Drinks: Tribal Cafe Mercado La Paloma Standstill Tea Wurstkueche DTLA
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Mahaaaabadoo woo! Wow! I have been infinitely honored with such extensive love and support in my life without which I would never have been able to grow to become the person I am today. I am deeply grateful.
Sokamba has grown to become the loving community it is due to the collaborative leadership that has nurtured it through various stages by the Sokamba spirit guides Stevie Rae Gibbs, Lara Marcin, Emily Rawl and Chris Robinson. The liveliness of its light is rooted in the playful passion of Tonatiuh Elizarraraz, Jamie Lew, Steph Whyte, Neaz Kohani, Irene Young, August Luhrs, Yo-Yo Lin and Lindsey Townley.
Within my personal journey, my greatest appreciation goes to my family, especially my Mother, Kimmie, for having been the most bad-ass, hard-working, peace-loving, silly-goose around and my four sisters Kamala, Kaeli, Kaianna and Ruby Sky, for being the strongest, most beautiful, humble, trust-worthy and kind-hearted women I know. As well as my extended family Peter, George, Naomi, Rob, Jessie and Nicky for the infinite love and support we share.
Instagram: Sokamba: @sokamba Rissi: @rissi.molejo
Andrei Moment, Stevie Rae Gibbs, Erin Jackson