May 1, 2017
Sixty years ago Virginia Woolf wrote: “The public and private worlds are inseparably connected…the tyrannies and servilities of one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other.”
The present order of consciousness in business is heavily influenced by aggressiveness, dominance and competition. These instill fear but are often seen as indispensable to success, which is typically measured in terms of accumulated wealth. If Woolf was right, fear-based tactics and striving to acquire and display material wealth exerts a significant impact on the personal and family lives of the people who live and work in that atmosphere.
How can the human spirit flourish when mere survival takes so much energy? Is there a role in business for the virtues of compassion, love, and sharing? Many in the business world would, if they could, expel Woolf’s “tyrannies.” Countless entrepreneurs have dreamed of creating a humane atmosphere for their investors, partners, coworkers, clients, and customers. But why have so few attempts succeeded? What’s working against such dramatic transformation?
The past half-century saw an expanding role in the American economy for women, who now own or co-own nine million businesses and make up over 50 percent of the nation’s labor force. (Office Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration). They play major roles, show strong entrepreneurial drive, and have made great strides toward equality in the workplace.
Their perspectives in the business world have also brought new challenges to the fear-based mentality of earlier times. Can compassion and competition coexist? Can love and service form the basis of a profitable business? The feminine propensity to nurture relationships adds a new urgency to earlier efforts at creating wholesome and supportive work environments.
“Spirit in Business,” a conference in San Francisco, attracted 550 business leaders from 30 countries to explore ways of establishing sustainable market societies, small and large, to thrive as both human communities and successful business ventures. Why do so many travel so far to confer on spirituality? People do not typically seek a power greater than themselves when life is going well. Their quest shows a thirst for deep and permanent connections with something greater than competitive edges, rising sales, and quarterly profits.
Growing up behind the scenes in the beauty industry, I discovered outer appearances were not inner reality. Power struggles, manipulation of emotions, and annihilation of personal freedom were common, spilling over to damage the private lives of those connected with these businesses. My family suffered numerous conflicts and addictions. They originated in the destructive family and business systems that interlocked and reinforced each other. I became part of those soul-numbing systems until painful circumstances led me to seek their root causes.
Recovery programs helped me reclaim parts of myself that were lost or taken away. When I realized what was happening, I could no longer tolerate this environment with its limited freedom and my repressed authentic self.
I was ready to call back my spirit. But to do so meant letting go of my idols of the false self I had been taught was a reflection of the American Dream. To stay in the game—with business as usual tactics, and material focus—I had to play by someone else’s rules. The false self also believed I was unworthy. The false self thought I had to settle for something less than my own personal power, freedom, and spiritual inheritance. My heart told me, though, if I clung to it, my soul would die.
Could I endure the suffering of giving up the familiar, the outer appearances and perceptions, when there was no guarantee of what would replace it? Despite my uncertainty and fear, some inner strength helped me let go. I jumped into the unknown. I renounced those abusive systems encouraged by false dreams and were failing so many people I loved. And with those systems went the only illusion of security I had ever known.
With only the clothes on my back, nothing in the bank, and a daughter to raise, I pursued my vision. Surprisingly, my lifelong battle with depression lifted. The post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by past traumas, evaporated. It was like climbing a mountain and emerging above the clouds to enter a new dimension. I discovered to love oneself is to love God.
The energy that filled me was unexplainable. It was strongest when my actions were based on a unity consciousness and inspired in my heart. For the first time I felt I was my own person, and one of my deepest desires—to make a meaningful contribution to our world—seemed within my reach. Life is a repeating series of letting go of one “reality” for another, deeper one. Now I eagerly sought change, for now I had everything that mattered. I had found myself.
My journey through spiritual recovery coincided with my adventure into small business ownership. No longer controlled by fear—of disapproval, of failure, of being alone—I was convinced recovery and restoration can happen within businesses as well as in individuals.
Entering the entrepreneurial arena to challenge existing systems, I founded and pioneered the first holistic day spa and beauty center in the Midwest, focusing on healing and a holistic approach to business. Working with my financial backers, colleagues, and employees, I combined two traditions—the sacred and the marketplace. We strove to create an internal synergy of business, family, and personal transformation. In the first year we saw nearly a million dollars in sales and grew from 3 to 35 employees. The business became an icon in the beauty-and-wellness industry.
My reputation as a pioneer and visionary has been gratifying, working one-on-one with over 50,000 clients, over a period of ten years, I heard in their stories and needs, not unlike my own experiences. This gave me another goal: to connect stories (mine and others’) of family, self-purification, and business ownership with the larger cultural issues at the root of the moral, ethical, and spiritual diseases in our nation. It is in the stories we see the only true sin in the world: not loving enough. Leaders who long to navigate the business world by their internal compasses—in quest of integrity, ethical behavior, and even love—need to hear realistic stories about others who have put spiritual principles into practice, with all the results from those experiments. What works; and just as importantly, what doesn’t?
I became a motivational speaker and teacher to bring business and spirituality together in the service of healing. Then I decided to write, to reach a wider world of readers, particularly women entrepreneurs, and show them a choice they may not have known was theirs—businesses based in love rather than fear. I want to show how women in business have integrated compassion, love, and healing, and what happened when they did. How money, seen as an energy source, can work in harmony with a love-based service mentality. How the sacred can emerge and flourish among those who treat others in the workplace with respect.
Many authors writing about spiritual paths and principles, about transformation and wellness, typically focus on the bright aspects, on the miracles and successes. Recently some have begun to confront the shadow side of our nature that interferes with successful transformation. My goal is to illuminate this dark side more fully and to illustrate, through stories and case studies, not only how difficult it is for leaders to discover and admit to its existence, but also how powerful their followers resist such disclosures.
Leaders who reveal their humanity often find others no longer accept them as leaders, because they can no longer idealize them. Entrepreneurship carries courageous and creative leaders through excruciating trials. There are visionary leaders out there who are suffering alone because established business systems demand one maintain a sense of mystery, hiding or denying parts of one’s true nature. I know; I suffered alone.
When the spirit enters, transformation happens; old beliefs battle new ones, and the familiar is threatened. Until a new system of beliefs and behaviors is established, leaders must cope with anxieties rising from a fear of the unknown. How can they offer this different approach to business in a way the renders their people eager to try it? It is not easy.
When I speak publicly, business people listen intently. The shadow side, I insist, must be faced if individuals, families, or business communities are ever to heal. Otherwise, we cannot fully reclaim the personal freedom and power taken from us. If leaders fear such revelations, then fear is the control mechanism by which destructive practices continue to manipulate them. Genuinely human communities become possible within businesses only when we can openly embrace and nurture all aspects of ourselves and others, our strengths and our weaknesses.
The Sacred Marketplace offers tangible strategies for the reader, as well as stories and insights to connect them to the human condition we face in business.
I foresee the Sacred Marketplace among the creative class and entrepreneurs, who seek a balance among themselves, their families, and their businesses to align and create holistic practices and systems within their businesses to care for people, the planet, and profits and ultimately “to make transformation their business.”
As a successful business owner, I felt led to write a book teaching other women to honor their feminine heart to guide a profitable business. In a world telling us we need to “be more like men” to succeed, I am living proof this approach is not the best idea.
I began my award winning mind-body beauty and wellness spa, after a divorce. I had no money and a small child at home. In a rational sense, none of the rules of starting a business applied to the way I started and developed the business. Yet, as the reputation of our business grew, people came to visit from around North America to marvel at what we had accomplished. The success of the business was both mystical and unexplainable.
The mind-body Day Spa I founded in the early 1990’s as one of the pioneers in the “dayspa concept,” had been used as a template for others to open spas and lifestyle centers as beautiful businesses. Working in partnership and alongside the Aveda Corporation allowed me to understand at a deeper level how to manifest success in business without abandoning the feminine spirit of nurturing others, as well as develop practices to support restoration of our planet.
See the e-book, “The Sacred Marketplace” on Amazon.com