By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
Alphabet Streets resident Lisa Taitelman had been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years when she decided that something had to change.
“It was the hardest job I’ve ever done and also the most rewarding,” she told the Palisadian-Post. “My greatest gifts and joy are family—my husband and my kids. I’m very blessed in this life.”
But with her son and daughter both away at college, she was ready for something more.
Taitelman reflected on the past two decades of her life, looking back at what she described as a deep depression.
“I lost my mom to cancer over 20 years ago, and it was a very dark and very hard time for me,” Taitelman shared. “I was just getting married and having kids, and I was stuck and paralyzed and lost in time.”
That’s when Taitelman hit the trails.
“What got me out of bed was that I started to hike,” Taitelman explained. “Through the countless trails I hiked with my friends and by myself, it healed me and gave me this clarity.
“What hiking did for me was it forced me to go within myself and also to connect with others. It was through these mountains, they made me feel alive again.”
Taitelman wanted to share this experience with other women in Pacific Palisades—so Finding Your Trail was born. Two years ago, Taitelman made “the best decision” of her life and went back to school to become a health coach, earning a holistic MBA degree.
“It was here that I found my trail,” she shared. “I had put everything on the back-burner because I was raising kids.”
Finding Your Trail is a six-week program, led by Taitelman, where a group of hikers (which have so far been female in their 40s and 50s, but men are welcome to join) explores a different trail in the Palisades each week. Through the program, Taitelman encourages hikers to get more comfortable with putting themself first and making their own needs a priority.
The two-hour hikes Taitelman takes her group to are at Will Rogers State Historic Park, Westridge, Los Leones, Paseo Miramar and two loops at Temescal Gateway Park.
“It’s about personal development and abandoning these self-limiting thoughts of ‘I can’t’ and shifting into the mindset of ‘I can’,” Taitelman explained. “I really imagined myself sitting there with all these women at the top of a mountain and helping them connect to their truth. It’s really transforming for mind, body and soul.”
Through Finding Your Trail, Taitelman hopes to give participants both a physical and emotional experience. Each hike includes a meditation at the top, and every week builds upon the previous week.
“The evolution from week one to week six is pretty profound,” she said. “People begin to peel back the layers … each and every one of us begins to feel lighter.”
Taitelman shared the story of one hiker who started out “very lost.” The woman had little kids and was feeling overwhelmed.
“She felt the guilt that a lot of us moms do when we want to do something that calls to us,” Taitelman said. “At the very end she told me she developed this new mantra.
“She said, ‘This program gave me the three Ps in my life: Presence, patience and purpose.’ That’s what we’re all searching for in life.”
In addition to helping participants find their purpose, Taitelman also hopes Finding Your Trail simply makes it so no Palisadian has to hike alone. (The Department of Recreation and Parks offers safety guidelines for hikers, which include taking a partner.)
“A lot of people in the community want to hike but they have no one to go with,” she explained. “I don’t think that anyone should have that problem.”
And Taitelman, as a longtime Westside local, is well-acquainted with local trails. She moved to the Palisades five years ago from Cheviot Hills so that her son could attend Palisades Charter High School and play football.
“I love the Palisades, I love being close to the ocean and the mountains that we’re so lucky to have in our backyard,” she said. “I feel so fortunate. The hiking trails are literally in our backyard.”
She told the Post that she loves walking into Gelson’s where you can see five people you know, and the cashier and bagger know your name.
“I love the small-town feel here,” she said. “I can take my dog on a walk to the beach and the mountains.”
Taitelman shared that she walks to the Bluffs at night and watches the sunset.
“We live in such paradise here that I feel like I need to pinch myself when I’m overlooking the ocean.”
The next round of Finding Your Trail kicks off in September. Taitelman will lead three groups: A Tuesday group that starts Sept. 11, Thursday on Sept. 13 and a new weekend group that starts Sunday, Sept. 16.
“I think it’s a very powerful place to be in the mountains, and I’d love to share my story and what it’s done for me, and help other men and women find their trail,” Taitelman said. “This is all about not being alone.”