The Blog

The Blog

Was it Really an Accident?

Was It Really An Accident?

By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

It’s funny how life works. Sometimes people appear just when they’re supposed to. Just when you need them. Sometimes things happen that you don’t understand as they occur, but later make a lot of sense. Sometimes the bleakest news leads to a transformation that sets your world on fire. Sometimes the unluckiest moment of your life is the luckiest. Let me explain.

I recently met with a young man and his father who came to me looking for some help. Spencer Stein is 20, and had suffered an extremely serious skydiving accident. He broke 3 of his vertebrae and did a ton of damage to his back when his chute malfunctioned about 150 feet above the body of water targeted for landing. He hit the water at nearly full speed.

Spencer’s dad caught the whole thing on video and showed it to me. It was horrific to watch, and helped me to appreciate what a miracle it was that Spencer survived.

But, what happened following the accident was even more miraculous. With all of the X-rays and MRIs Spencer endured post-injury, something else was discovered – Cavernous Malformation – a devastating congenital condition best understood as a hole in the spine that could erupt at any time and lead to sudden death.

Sometimes “accidents” are blessings in disguise.

So, after major surgery in June 2011 to repair this condition, and countless physical therapy and rehabilitation sessions later, Spencer is ready to move to the “next level” in his training and begin “training like an athlete again.” I love it.

We started last week and it was great. We’re addressing the mind, body, and spirit with a total, comprehensive, “IMPACT” approach to get Spencer’s body strong and his mind confident again. And this is where the story takes yet another interesting twist.

Before one of our sessions last week, Spencer’s dad mentioned that he might bring his yoga instructor in to see some of the action. I said it would be no problem and that I’d be delighted for him to watch. After all, with my background, I’m a big believer in adjunctive and complementary therapies… Pilates, yoga, massage/Rolfing, acupuncture, hyperbaric chamber, etc.

So last Wednesday when our scheduled session time arrived, into the center walks my new client, his dad, and his yoga instructor: John Friend. John came in to observe our session and stayed to watch all 60 minutes. Here’s what I saw: healthy looking yogi, early 50s, very vibrant energy about him… but something was different about him too. Although I had no idea who he was, I liked him immediately.

About three-quarters of the way through my session with Spencer, my Fitness Quest 10 yoga instructor, Marilou Ramos, heard that John Friend was in the center and she quickly sought him out. Before you knew it, John, Marilou, and Spencer’s dad were in deep conversation. Hmm… Did I miss something?

Some of you know this of course, but lo and behold, I came to find out who John Friend is and why Marilou arrived at the center like a bullet when she heard that one of her personal and professional “heroes” was visiting her workplace. I later learned that Marilou had actually studied with John in Paris, France, and has followed him for years.

For those of you who do not know, John Friend is one of the most respected and sought-out yoga instructors and gurus in the world (the vibrant energy…). John founded Anusara Yoga ( and has certified thousands of instructors worldwide in his 30+ year career. He is often the keynoter at major yoga conferences and some of his sessions draw 800+ participants.

OK, I’m up to speed now.

After Spencer and I finished, John and I spoke and I learned that he’s building his “yoga sanctuary” in Encinitas, CA (about 30 minutes north west of Fitness Quest 10). John and Spencer’s dad have known each other for years and John will be helping Spencer with his yoga practice throughout the recovery process.

I love moments like this. Call it serendipity. Call it what you will. I called it a WOW moment. Here we are in San Diego, California, able to form a world-class team to positively impact this unlucky yet ultimately very fortunate young man. That is a happy accident.

When I told my yoga instructor wife, Melanie, later that night that I had “met John Friend at Fitness Quest 10,” she didn’t believe me. When she finally realized I wasn’t teasing, she practically flipped out. Confirmation of how awesome my day had been.

Last night, I spent some time thinking about Spencer and John, and couldn’t stop musing about how mysteriously the universe works. Everyday, we come across people with whom we are supposed to connect. People we are supposed to meet. People with whom we are meant to work with. Accidents sometimes happen and they can lead to breakdowns… and breakthroughs.

Spencer is a remarkable young man with a unique story and a very bright future who stepped onto my path as he begins his “chapter” of recovery and great healing.

Marilou has been absolutely radiant since spending time with one of her heroes and being able to share her yoga sanctuary with him.  She would tell you it was just the boost she needed in the New Year.

I got to meet a gifted yogi who is making his new home near mine here in beautiful San Diego. Who knows what the future will hold or what opportunities might exist for us to work together again?

My friend, it’s a brand new year with a new chapter beginning for each one of us. Where’s your story going in 2012? Who might step onto your path? Will you be ready with open eyes and heart? We all wonder what life will bring. What’s next for us… yet, it’s impossible to predict. The only thing that we each can do is embrace today, learn from it, stay open to the people placed on our path, work hard, and pray for the best.

Was it an accident that happened to this young man? I don’t think so. It all happened because it was supposed to be exactly this way. Thank you Spencer for sharing your journey with us and allowing me to be part of this chapter in your life. I don’t believe it was an “accident.” Really, it was written into your story from the beginning.

Peace and love,


Similar Posts