Elena Porter is no Pollyanna, despite the similarity with the name of Eleanor Porter, author of “Polyanna.”
The 1913 novel, which spawned a series of books, is the basis of what’s still referred to as the Polyanna Principle, referring to a person who sees the positive in everything and everyone.
Porter – an Ahwatukee resident for nearly three decades – is a self-described optimist as well, although she is no stranger to family tragedy. That includes the loss of both parents when she was 45, and the death of her son two years ago – an event she still finds difficult to even allude to when speaking to anyone outside her family.
But the mother of five maintains that being positive and sharing the belief that “the sun will come out tomorrow” – a song her mother sang to her as a child – are traits needed more now than ever.
“Things are quite negative and divided these days and I see changing that as just a matter of taking positive action, and that’s what this new company really is – a positive message movement,” said Porter. “I really believe that you change one person, you change a hundred.”
Positive messages are emblazoned on her new line of I AM 360 clothing and accessories – mobile messages of hope and inspiration. And though the line is fairly new, Porter said, she’s already heard reports of how the I AM 360 T-shirt messages are affecting others.
“One woman bought the ‘Be Fearless’ shirt and said people kept asking her if she was fearless, and she’d answer, ‘Yes, I am fearless.’ She was kind of stepping into it,” said Porter. “And another person wearing the ‘Trust God’ shirt said a man stopped her and complimented the shirt, and then asked her to pray for him because he was going through cancer treatments.”
Each shirt, available online in men’s and women’s sizes with children’s sizes soon to be added, is shipped with a message card. For example, the “be love, be light” shirt reads:
‘You are radiant when you love without boundaries and trust without fear, knowing that you lose nothing by giving more love. Your light has the ability to brighten someone’s day and guide through the darkness.
“In sharing the message ‘be love be light,’ you are telling the world that you are a source of strength, courage, shelter and comfort, always willing to love extravagantly and let your light shine. Choose to radiate love and light.”
Porter explained, “We want to inspire positivity.”
She said profits from all sales go to local and international nonprofit organizations “that do good,” including Ahwatukee-based Chlldren’s Home Project, founded by Ahwatukee resident Jenny Kast.
Porter said that as youngsters, each of her children had an acts-of-kindness book in which they were to write a kindness they’d done that day at school.
“And they did it,” she said. “They learned about living an intentional life and that kindness matters.”
Sometimes it is necessary to be kind to yourself, and that’s what’s behind the I AM 360 name, Porter said.
“I could say one day I just decided the time is right and I started the company. I’ve been writing down positive messages like these for years. But the truth is, I AM 360 has taken a lifetime to create,” she said.
“And yes, there is a backstory. I am one of eight children. My mom told me my whole life that I was light. My name’s meaning is light. I was positive by nature. Intuitively, I see the good in people in life and yes in all life circumstances. It seemed like nothing life threw at me, no matter how challenging the circumstance, I could still see the good news in the lesson.”
That is until, she said, she “experienced the unimaginable” – the sudden loss of her son, Daniel.
“This was the game changer; game over. I couldn’t find my feet. No matter how I tried, I could not find my feet,” she said. “I recall in the first few days hearing my son’s voice tell me, ‘Mom, you’re going to be OK.’ I’m like no, I am not.
“Then in his way, so clear, he said, ‘Mom, you know you are.’ I could see his smile. He said, ‘God has big plans for you.’ I dismissed the thought, and I tucked that experience away in my back pocket. There was too much pain in the present to even entertain the future.
“Fast-forward two painful years, years that have shown me the value of today. The hope of tomorrow. That true healing comes from serving others. That God does have great plans for all of us. That we do not have to be completely healed to be used. And that every day is a gift. And that I want to be a noticer. One that notices others. Such that everyone who crosses my path leaves with a smile and knows that I care.
“I came up with the business name as I contemplated who I want to be. I AM is a powerful statement of all that is true, good and beautiful, 360 is about being fully transformed and rooted in love,” she said
“My dreams for I AM 360 is to be, and encourage others to be, the difference. To inspire people to want to be intentional with their words and actions and choices. To pay attention to life and all that is going on around them.”
In yoga, she often advises, “If you do not know someone in need, you need to draw a bigger circle around yourself and include more people. We’re surely not on this planet to only care for ourselves and our immediate families.’
“We talk about wanting a difference. We talk about this world needing a difference. Well, my hope is to inspire others to be the difference. We need to be difference makers.”
Porter is best known locally as the founder of Christ-Centered Yoga and Fitness, hosted at Mountain Park Community Church. She started the class with two students, and there are now more than 2,000 students, seven weekly classes – free – and seven instructors. Porter teaches Monday classes. They include a 6 p.m. level 1-2 athletic class and a 7:15 p.m. restorative yoga session.
In addition to her I AM 360 website – which ends with “.love” instead of “.com” – Porter is planning a series of fall “Yoga in the Park” gatherings in Ahwatukee and Gilbert that combine yoga and inspirational rock painting, and includes an inspirational talk about being the difference in one’s community.
She’s also preparing herself for future speaking engagements with the purpose of encouraging others to be positive and “be love and light to others.”