We meet Bristol on a sunny afternoon in a Santa Monica loft that feels warm and cozy.
Bristol is a powerhouse of a woman, inside and out. She spent the early part of her career hustling to become Executive Producer of Oscar-Nominated and Emmy-Winning films, a TED fellow, and an overall badass.
In the past few years, she has dedicated her life and career to the pursuit of inner mastery; most recently creating ‘Inner Astronauts,’ a creative and unique platform ‘for those seeking personal and professional mastery.’
We meet to talk about being a ‘life coach.’ the future of transformation, virtual reality, surrender experiments, and heartbreak.
How do you introduce yourself when you are at a cocktail party?
The term ‘life coach’ is still awkward for me.
It’s undoubtedly what I do.. but it has all this baggage around it.
Sometimes I simply say that I founded a company called Inner Astronauts.
so what do you ‘DO ’?
I support people in sitting down, shutting the fuck up and listening to the truth that is already inside of them. because that is the hardest part to do, slowing down enough… to actually listen.
I help people tease out the misunderstanding that their self worth comes from their work,
supporting people to come alive and in service to the world.
and what is the most uncomfortable part about coaching?
It’s an amorphous industry: anybody can call themselves a coach,
and there is some discomfort because people don’t know what it is.
We are making it up as we go.
[ Her Story ]
I spent 7 or 8 years hustling in the film industry.
I made five films in five years,
part of it was fun, and I felt like it was what I was supposed to do.
But six years into it, I felt that I had abandoned myself, because I was playing as a tough guy: I had built an armor, and started to feel loneliness and disconnection.
In 2009 it became deeply uncomfortable.
[ The Search for Self ]
I traveled the world trying to find myself, on a mission to experience connection because I felt so disconnected. I was on the road for 6 months: I went to India. traveled with monks, and it was not the spiritual dream I had fantasized: I realized that they were just like anybody else… I studied tantra and yoga in Thailand. I went to all these spiritual places trying to heal.
I finally returned (to the US) and found the University of Santa Monica. I started studying (spiritual psychology) and slowly started armoring down. After I graduated from USM, I had one gig with the filmmaking company I helped to start.
Soon after that, I knew I was done playing that game.
[ The Divine Unknown ]
I didn’t know what to do. I knew I wanted to write and I was terrified…
So I sat in this little office in my apartment, and I got the message to buy the domain for ‘Inner Astronauts.’ I bought it, then forgot about it.
I had no idea what it was.
I kept writing and I did random gigs for money. One day someone called me and wanted to talk to me. Then it happened again, and again.. I soon realized it was a thing! My best friend happened to be a coach, so I started to learn about coaching.
This was not my idea...I never wanted to be a life coach, and now I love it.
It is so clearly what I am meant to be doing, and it’s already taking on different forms…
It’s like the Joseph campbell quote: “you have to let go of the life you planned to have the life that is waiting for you.”
When you started writing, what did you write about?
At the time I was writing a blog called ‘Hey Soulmate,’ letters written to the soul mate I had not yet met. It was all stemming from this longing for a relationship.
That was 3 years ago. It’s all about vulnerability, and then I did a 1 woman show called Judge-A-Holic. I was just going for it.
And now my first Inner Astronauts guide is about heartbreak, because I ended up meeting a soul mate, and having this 3 month experience of falling in love, that I hadn’t had in 12 years… and then it was over. I felt torn apart.
[ Biggest Lesson ]
I went to USM to heal the misunderstanding that my worth came from my work, and that goes back generations in my family. I discovered that there were 6 generations of Luther ministers on my father’s side… and they all had this relationship to work… all these things were never explicitly taught, but deeply embedded in the DNA… I started peeling off one layer after another of the belief that I had to work hard in order to be good.. In order to be good for God, or good for my parents, to earn my way into heaven…
[ Biggest Shift ]
One of the biggest shifts I had was in Bali
I was in a pool when I suddenly felt all this anxiety come up out of nowhere, this huge layer of anxiety… and there I was in paradise. I felt tremendous guilt, and this voice came up and said: how dare you… how dare you be here, and be this way?
I allowed the energy to take over.. My whole body scrunched up, I felt this energy of an old curmudgeon man saying ‘you better work… You have to work you lazy piece of shit !
At this point, I had done all this work, and I recognized the pattern.
I said to this voice: I don’t believe you any more. I experienced a moment where my whole body got really tight, and I was fully supported by these incredible women. I popped out of the mind for the moment, and there was this surprise delight… I had total awareness.
I had believed all along that I was playing this character on the planet, with a mission to save the world… and I saw the innocence in it all… I recognized that it was all ok, and then it was gone.
The hardest part about becoming a coach...
It was taking myself seriously.
Taking IT seriously.
I soon started to see the effect it had on people, and it made it much easier to believe.
As people started to heal, then it became clear.
[ on making money as a coach ]
It’s a total shit show.
it’s like working freelance… because you never know when it’s going to come.
It’s a total surrender experiment, because somehow it all works out in the end.
Right now I am in this place of practicing trust, so I don’t do a whole lot,
except for watch for who could be served..
When you are not actively building your coaching practice, what are you doing?
For years, I felt like everything was lazy and stupid when I wasn’t working.
Slowly that started to ease up, and now I am so stoked when I am not working.
I feel zero guilt now. I feel so lucky and so blessed.
Where do you see Inner Astronauts going?
I have no idea. It is so clearly my surrender experiment…
For now, I am writing guide books for these big life moments.
I am also feeling that something wants to happen around entertainment and education, taking my filmmaking experience and creating virtual reality experiences, where we mix education, mindfulness, and entertainment… I don’t even know what that means, but if I can create experiences where people feel connected from anywhere in the world, and do the inner work together, supporting each other… it sounds very dreamy.