02/18/2012 08:18 am ET | Updated Apr 19, 2012

The Inner Journey of a World Traveler

Long ago in my life there was a yearning. I struggled to find my way. I searched, wondering if this "thing" was outside of me? Perhaps it was a "place" I might someday arrive at. If only I could have more of "this," do more of "that," experience more of me, love more of you. On and on it went, reaching toward the external. Whether it was obsessive shopping for mundane things I didn't need, or indulging in substances that would never fill the void, it all resulted in an unfulfilled desire that pulled me down. This grasping and lack of fulfillment continued for nearly two decades.

I thought I would never find my way back home to a place where I no longer had to search restlessly. I wanted to be in a place that was settled, soft, open, and aware. Above all, I wanted to be content. That craving took me on a different kind of journey. And as I found the courage to travel both internally and externally I began to find my footing.


Part of that external journey took me to Kathmandu, gateway to the Himalayas. I traveled by foot, up winding mountain passes, across hanging bridges that swayed over great white water rivers that fed the lands below.

I traveled by train, plane, bus and horseback, through cities filled with smiling faces, ancient languages, cows standing proud in the midst of traffic jams on crowded city streets. I visited the sacred temples and Stupas, lit candles and whispered mantras. I sat at the feet of extraordinary teachers, listening for hour upon hour to all that they had to share. I was not the first to come visit them. I would not be the last.

Of course I was in search of the Lama. The Guru. I had traveled across oceans to find the master teacher who would have every answer. I dutifully attended loud and sweaty yoga classes, trying not to be irritated with the politics some of the teachers preached while the class was groaning and struggling in downward facing dog.

But it didn't dawn on me until I started the inner journey that what I was seeking externally was really within.

One damp and grey day in Malibu, I walked the windswept beach. There wasn't a soul in sight. I watched as the menacing waves rolled in, shifting the patterns of sand and stone, transforming all that they washed over. I returned home, dried off and made a cup of tea. I was alone with only the sound of the distant ocean for company. I had been living alone for several years and despite all my travels, all of my yoga classes, all of the teachings, I still was alone.


I realized in that moment that at a certain point the search must stop. I had been so damn busy searching that I hadn't yet taken that final step. I had to surrender. What I had been searching for was within. I just needed to do the precious work to reveal and stabilize it.

I took the basics that I had been given, the treasured instructions that are shared between teacher and student, and began to put these principles in to practice. I began to recognize when I slipped back into seeking balance externally, and to counteract that urge by literally sitting with it. I sat with it on my meditation cushion or just by taking several deep breaths. Step by step, day by day, I wove a thread of continuity. I made a commitment to follow through, and to be with what was. Instead of going out on a shopping spree or getting "busy" with mind-numbing activities, I would turn my attention toward more mindful things, like weeding my garden or writing in my journal. Everything that arose became an opportunity to practice mindfulness and compassion. Almost paradoxically, out of this peace the great passion of my life arose.

This spirit permeated my existence and my actions. It became an energy that was so perfectly woven into every fiber of my being that all I needed to do to access it was to slow down. It infused my intuition, my answer and question process, my overall sense of calm and contentment.

The process of searching outside of myself had blinded me, as it has blinded so many others, from what was right there all along. At last, I was able to directly connect with this passion and it fueled me to discover the many ways to meet my life's purpose. By realizing -- or rather, remembering -- that the fire of passion must first be ignited from within before we can experience it externally.

I now feel I embrace this fire in my everyday life. I find it cuddling with my daughters in bed before the sun rises, or embracing my husband after a long trip, to the work I do speaking with teenagers about self esteem and healthy identity issues. Passion -- in the purest sense of the word-is my life force and my enthusiasm for sharing this passion is what guides my way.


Carré Otis has long been one of the most recognizable faces in modeling, headlining in campaigns for Guess, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Revlon as well as appearing on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. In her book Beauty Disrupted: A Memoir Carré shares her unique insight into the business of beauty and the high price it demands by giving an honest account of her struggle with love, identity and spirituality. Now a wife and busy mother of two she's found a new voice as a passionate advocate for young women in and out of the modeling industry.

For more by Carré Otis, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.