Blake Beltram was meditating for years before he realized it.
The wellness entrepreneur and true-believer grew up with a love for the outdoors (despite a steady diet of processed food), but it wasn't until college at UCLA that he began to consciously consider taking care of his body. And, though he had long felt a spiritual connection to something greater, he didn’t fully connect to and comprehend it until a decade later.
At that point, he was on a downswing—frustrated by his career as an actor and writer—when he experienced a kind of calling to take his fledgling “computer tutor” gig and turn it into a proper company. After creating client management software for a Pilates studio, he realized that there really wasn’t existing software for fitness and wellness destinations. Ultimately, with the help of his high school best friend, Rick Stollmeyer, he co-founded MindBody—a recognizable platform for anyone who regularly books studio classes and spa treatments. Now, he’s expanding that concept to include MindBody One, a worldwide community of wellness business owners and staff.
Here, he shares his story of physical, spiritual and entrepreneurial enlightenment:
Live The Process: Please tell us a bit about your upbringing. Can you describe how, on one hand, it was “all Wonder Bread and catechisms,” but, on the other, it taught you to get outside—and even to meditate?
Blake Beltram: I was born in a small, central Oregon town and was raised by my mom and two older sisters in the suburbs of Los Angeles. In rural and middle-class suburban America, I think Wonder Bread, Coca-Cola and Twinkies were just standard fare, along with lots of hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta and processed foods. Other than “eat your vegetables” and “clean your plate,” I don’t remember healthy nutrition being discussed much or anyone talking about what was actually in what we were eating. Food was fuel, and it was mainly supposed to taste good.
Thankfully, the next thing was usually something active because it was pre-smartphones, pre-computers—in fact, even video games were just coming on the market. You couldn’t keep most kids in the house if you tried; that stagnation felt like death. TV was a bit of an inside draw, but we were much more inclined to be outside, play whatever sport was in season, ride our bikes, learn tricks on our skateboards or pack a lunch and take ourselves on a hike in the nearby hills. Hard to believe now, but childhood obesity wasn’t even really a thing—we were burning way too many calories.
After we moved to California, I still spent summers in Oregon with my dad and grandparents. Those were the lucky years when nature taught me how to meditate: standing in silence with your grandfather in the middle of a pine forest, as the sun rises, contemplating the crunch of your own footsteps on a mostly forgotten dirt road; giving all your attention to the sound of crows calling, sitting for hours by a lake staring at a fishing pole and the way the wind ripples the water. These are the meditations nature teaches, and they are so sublimely profound and yet so subtle.
It took me years to realize what I’d been taught. It’s an experience we search desperately for in every yoga class, in every meditation, in every sound bath—and nature gives it to an open and curious boy for nothing. I realize now how truly blessed I was.
LTP: How did you come to find a different way of approaching health, spirituality and the world?
BB: The first big shift in my approach to health, and the world, began when I went to UCLA. Suddenly, I found myself around people who were thinking and talking about what they were putting into—and how they were treating—their bodies. Friends were taking dance classes and working out at the Wooden Center gym—a foreign concept to me.
I was naturally thin and fit, luckily. I remember a female friend asking me how I got six-pack abs and I was like, “What’s a six-pack?” I eventually started dating, and later married, someone who is super health-conscious. She really helped me evolve my entire mindset around fitness and nutrition. That became critical once I got a little older, became less active and saw my body change. I was probably a slow learner, and it took a health crisis a few years ago to stoke the fire further, but the cumulative effect has been that I’m now super conscious about what I feed my body—inside and out.
My spiritual evolution is another story altogether. I had some mystical experiences at a young age and, for whatever reason, just always felt there were unseen hands guiding my path. This mindset was supported and necessitated by the fact that I came from a broken family, and was raised mostly by my mom and two older sisters. I felt very alone. The universe I experienced seemed to be different than the one my friends and family were talking about. I had a gift for seeing into a deeper aspect of reality, which could be quite terrifying because I had no context for what I was experiencing and no one to guide me through it.
When I was about 13, I found a book called, Seth Speaks, and it became my cornerstone in terms of starting to grasp the true nature of reality. It took me 10 years to read it because it was so deep, but, as my perspective matured, I delved further into the book. It gave me a perspective that made more sense than what I was experiencing in my outer world, but, of course, I was still left with mostly questions and doubts. By the time I was 29, I was fairly depressed and had taken to calling myself a “devout agnostic”—or even “atheist” in the context of organized religion.
Then, that year, on February 22nd, my whole world was blown open. I had a mystical encounter in the middle of the night that forever changed me and became my true North. A light came to me. She smiled gently and knowingly and immersed me in a field of complete unconditional love. I called her an “angel” for lack of a better word, but, to this day, I don’t know what she really was. All I know is she changed me on the most profound level, and I will always think of my life in terms of before and after that encounter.
Before the angel, I was an expert at pointing out where God clearly was not. After, I became an expert at seeing and pointing out where God clearly is, which is just about everywhere, in one form or another. For me, “God” does not refer to an entity, but rather an energy and territory—and all words, all conversation, all religious and spiritual pursuit, are signposts and maps attempting to lead to that territory. Having had that experience, I now know that it is a journey beyond all words, and worth all costs.
LTP: How did you come to launch MindBody and how has it evolved?
BB: With a degree in theater, film and television from UCLA, in 1998, I was pursuing acting and writing in Hollywood, when a friend from my acting studio hired me to help “computerize” Mari Winsor Pilates in West Hollywood and Santa Monica. I called myself “The Computer Tutor” at the time and made a living doing trainings, hardware installations and odd jobs. I was helping to run a spinning studio (with my college sweetheart), and a yoga studio had moved in next door. All of these boutique wellness businesses needed similar software. I searched and, to my surprise, nothing existed that met their basic needs.
I was feeling very broken and unhappy at the time in terms of career; I felt like an abject failure. It had become clear to me that my mind/ego were not getting me where I wanted to go in life, so I had adopted the personal mantra, “Show me the way, and I will follow,” and I repeated it daily for weeks, maybe months. When I saw an opportunity to make software and start a business, I knew intuitively this was “the way” and, for awhile, I resisted. It made no logical sense whatsoever. I was an actor and a writer; I knew nothing about making software or starting a business, and an internal battle took place between my ego-mind and what I now know was spirit, guiding me. My ego-mind tried to convince me that this was all a distraction and that I needed to double-down on getting a new agent and working on my next screenplay, but the direction from the still, small voice was quite clear to me. It went like this: “Shut up. Sit down. Start making the software and do not ask where it’s going.”
Somewhat reluctantly, I did as I had promised: I followed. I made a deal with Winsor Pilates, bought a $64 book called the Access 97 Bible and taught myself how to make software for client number one. Once installed in West Hollywood and Santa Monica, I quickly adapted the software for spinning and installed it at our studio—RPM Fitness in Studio City (client number three and still thriving today). Revolution in Santa Monica was the first to purchase the software as a product, followed quickly by The Yoga House in Pasadena and “HardBody SoftWare” (as it was called then) was off and running.
I sent out cheesy mailers and carried my huge tower PC and clunky CRT monitor and keyboard around doing demos because I couldn’t afford a laptop. Almost everyone I showed the software to bought it; it was absolutely thrilling! In 1998, I charged $1,998, and in 1999 I raised my price to $1,999. Yogatime, an early client, insisted they needed point-of-sale to support their retail boutique in their Beverly Hills location, and I somewhat foolishly got out my legal pad and pen once again. I asked them what they needed and began a module, which I sold for an additional $800 per location.
By June of 1999, I had about seven to nine clients, with no end in sight. I felt like I had a tiger by the tail, and I knew I needed a business partner. I approached one of my oldest and best friends, Rick Stollmeyer, asking for his guidance. I really wanted him, but someone had advised me to ask for his “help” instead to alleviate any pressure. He went home and told his wife that I was looking for a partner with certain qualities and skills, to which she replied, “Well, it sounds like he’s looking for you.”
After consulting for awhile, Rick eventually quit his job at Vandenburg Air Force Base, took out a second loan on his house to fund the startup and we launched HardBodySoftWare, LLC. Our official business launch was 01-01-01, after which Rick set up a desk, computer and filing cabinet in the corner of his garage in San Luis Obispo—our new “world headquarters.”
Rick was a force of nature. He pushed our growth rapidly and successfully—we were a pretty dynamic duo. Today, my role is the “MindBody Evangelist.” I created and am the executive lead of MindBody One, a peer community for our clients. When all is said and done, I think it could be the technology that houses all the other technologies. I think One is the reason I was “called” into this thing in the first place.
LTP: Do you have any products, practices or rituals that keep you feeling balanced and healthy?
BB: Yoga, meditation, spiritual study, exercise and great nutrition are my rituals. I’m a member at my local yoga studio and keep a running 10-pack at the other. I like to go four to five times a week.
I spin, occasionally, and go on hikes. I’ve been hitting the climbing gym too and really enjoying that. Lately, I do community acupuncture once or twice a week, and I participate in sound baths on a regular basis. Regular breathwork has been a big part of my life and healing journey, as well, over the last three years. Insight Timer is my mediation app of choice, and I lead mediation at work every Wednesday.
I eat pretty healthy: no gluten, dairy or meat (except for dehydrated bone broth) and minimal processed sugar. Lots of green drinks, acai bowls and daily supplements. I consider all of these rituals my personal “medicine” and, while I’m human and continually ebb and flow, fail and succeed, I’m pretty diligent these days. If I fall off, it generally doesn’t take me long to get back on it.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
BB: My greatest happiness comes in moments of experiencing myself and the world around me from the perspective of the larger “me”—the me that observes myself fretting and stressing. and knows the silliness of that. In those moments I see that there is beauty in simply existing, and the miracle of getting to experience reality in human form, if only for a short time.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
BB: Life is the process, in my view. Living it means being aware, being conscious, dropping back into the role of “observer” on a frequent basis and consistently showing up, facing the crap we are confronted with or bring on ourselves, and proactively working toward a higher version of ourselves. This stuff is so easy to say and pontificate on; easy to pretend that we have it mastered. If someone has it mastered, I haven’t met them yet. I certainly don’t, so I don’t know that I’m qualified to advise anyone else on it, but I do think the more we can be real with ourselves, and vulnerable with each other, the more we can continue to learn from each other and ascend together. The process really is the point, and I choose to live it.