I have often been told: “You are the company you keep.” And I’m in some pretty awesome company.
As human beings, we pick up on the energy and mannerisms of those around us. We can uplift or depress one another, inspire or discourage. When we make a conscious choice to spend our time with those that we love and those that motivate us, we raise the game of the entire group because we can feed off of one another.
The concept of living with others in a symbiotic sort of group consciousness is known as being a part of a kula. A guru kula consciousness means that on any given day, any member of the tribe can be the guru: the teacher, the leader, the anchor of the group. Within this collaborative framework, everyone is equally capable of learning from one another.
Every year as contracts are signed and team selections are made, each professional cyclist gets to choose their personal kula for the upcoming season. With the stresses of competition, training, relationships, travel, and health, it can be a difficult choice, and of course, an important one. You have to think: Who do I want to be with me when things get really hard? Who do I want to be by my side when I’m nervous or hurt and my mom is in a different time zone?
For 2011, I chose the Diadora-Pasta Zara team. The decision was on a bit of faith, as I didn’t know most of the riders on the team when I signed. But I decided on instinct, and for these next few months, THIS will be my kula.
I now say to myself, “Abbott – WELL PLAYED.” I have spent the last two weeks at training camp in Italy with my new teammates, and I can say – with a touch of arrogance – that I totally made an awesome decision.
Over the last few years, as I have aged to an old woman of 25, I think I let fear take the place of joy in my life. Then I joined a team of the most optimistic, expressively happy girls I have ever met. In a group, I have always been the irritatingly perky one. But baby, in this kula, I gotta raise my game!
The gurus who surround me have taught me how to hug and call one another “amore,” to pronounce important Italian words like the names of desserts, and to laugh so hard you can hear one another through hotel room walls. My team is healing every negative conception of the world I might have developed.
Shelley has remained so constant from last year – forgiving, optimistic, and ambitious.
Sinead is not here yet, but I have already been privileged to know her intelligence, work ethic, and great sense of humor.
Claudia has maybe the best laugh I have ever heard. She’s gorgeous and modest, possesses a remarkable devotion to the sport and school, and lends a hand to anyone who needs it.
Olga secretly boasts a quiet hilarity, which complements her poise and passion.
Francesca is constantly sunny. She’s determined and has the best sense of humor.
Eleonora is stable, determined to learn, and open to anyone.
Rachel cares so much for what is right, takes care of all of those around her, and is so engaging.
Inge and her smile make me feel so comfortable – I want to hug her every time I see her.
Jessica may be younger than me, but she already has more composure and grace than I will ever have. She also knows ALL languages.
Amber is warm, smart, and absolutely beautiful inside and out.
Oxana is independent and self-sufficient. Her entire face smiles.
And Alona is completely fearless and is the only other person I have ever met who will sing on a bicycle.
These girls are amazing. If being in their presence brings me closer to their level, I am going to get so cool this year! This team I’ve found myself on is simply an embodiment of joy. If this is the energy they bring to a room, I can’t wait to see what we can do this year on our Fuji bikes.