Women in Wellness Interview (March, 2020)

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I grew up all over the world, went to college at 16, married at 18 and had four children while going on to grad school. On the business side, I founded a number of companies, mainly in tech, several of which have gone on to be sold. In my 30s, I found yoga and reconnected with art, music, and devotion. I live with a deep sense of relatedness, nested in a number of communities, with friends and relations on four continents, including a dozen first cousins in Germany — and this sense of relatedness extends to the Earth herself. My core life inquiry is around how our inner lives and beliefs show up in our cultural systems and technologies, and how we might accelerate our evolution to more connection and wholeness. My work is focused on gender, violence, and freedom, partially in response to my mother’s death by violent crime. I see life as a great adventure, through the lens of a poet, tantrika and a science nerd — that is to say, paying attention to the details. I am currently interested in cryptocurrency, innovating community and biohacking, and am an earnest and relentless utopian.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

When I was young, I was really marching along oblivious to the structural impediments to both having success at work and the ability to raise a healthy family. Once, working for a global consulting firm, I asked to be placed on some in-town projects, and they said no. So I left and started my own company. It was a poorly thought-through choice, but it launched me into entrepreneurship and following hunches and visions and dreams, which I’ve been doing since 1997. I’ve had success and adventure I couldn’t have imagined. I learned that, if you’re in a broken system, you change the system or invent an alternative system that meets your values. Either involve risking and learning and failing some and winning some. Live your life and have a career. Don’t make your career your life. My life is my family and my yoga, my projects and works in the world shift and change with the needs of the time.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In my early career, I just tried to get the plum job, fit in, work hard, and be smart. I didn’t tie my work choices to any deep interests, mission or values. In retrospect, many of those early years were wasted learning lessons and skills I don’t need. My mission now — more joy and less suffering. These have different metrics of success. Find your mission and purpose early! Life is too precious.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to my stepmother, who came into my life when I was 12. She worked her way up from a line job, as a single mom, to the first female managing men in the Bell System, to eventually becoming a corporate VP running international joint ventures, all with just a high school diploma. When she retired, she went to art school. She modeled that there are no limits- not just for me, but for a host of women in her field. I bow to all of those early careerist pioneers.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I have three lines of “work” and do a lot of philanthropy. First, I run rapidly growing intimate skincare company Rosebud Woman, which was started with the bigger intent of eliminating shame and increasing reverence for the feminine through shifting our inner concepts about our sexual and reproductive parts. It’s all over now in Neiman Marcus, goop, Detox Market, Canyon Ranch, and more. Rosebud Woman supports many charitable organizations working to balance gender injustices worldwide because it’s hard to separate the personal, cultural and political.

Second, my partner and I have a project in Hawaii that is a garden and farm retreat. It provides a time-out for people to inquire within, decompress their nervous system, make habit shifts and create their best works of art. We’ve had 6 artists-in-residence this year, and many groups — from China and Alaska and France. It also supports local programs in the community, as well as broader human systems topics such as transformative justice through GRIP, cognitive liberty with MAPS, and internet freedom.

Finally, I am a writer. Last month, I released a new book on social justice titled Bending the Bow: How Ordinary People Spark Visionary Movements after two substantive rewrites. It’s been well received. My question in writing this particular book was what do great social leaders across many movements have in common and what can I learn from them? Also out this year: Twisted: A Brief History of Yoga in America since 1965.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1) Silence really is golden. Be alone without talking at some point every day, for a longer period every week, and for an extended period at least once a year. This time to reflect and come into your own center is sometimes called meditation but it can take many forms- dance, walking, gardening. The point is to mute the performative ego observer and feel the connection to the battery charger of the universe.

2) Appreciate out loud. Pause before every meal to make eye contact with whomever you are with, and to be grateful for the food you are eating and how it got there. Tell your lover or children what you appreciate about them as a bedtime ritual and be specific. These practices are so ingrained now that I feel strange when we don’t do them!

3) Forgive early and often. I have a practice called “I’ll take it from here” that’s all about letting people be where they are, and moving on without resentments.

4) Don’t ingest animal suffering. I can’t make the arguments any more about it not being good for my digestion or the planet… once you understand the sentience of animals, you can’t be cavalier about consuming them the way we have become accustomed to. It will show up in your own body-mind.

5) Dance your emotions and move them through your body. Move and express your creativity, joy, suffering, gladness through your body: dance, shake, pound, jump, cry, sweat. It’s the best therapy.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would like to see a global movement that says “It ends with me.”

Its mantra is this “The lessons I have inherited on violence, separation, tribalism, competition, greed, inadequacy…. it ends here. Even if my ancestors went to war, if I was abused or abandoned, it ends with me. I release the patterns of collective trauma and fear that have come before me. I act from a knowledge that I am nature: perfect, whole and complete with nowhere to get to and nothing to do.” If this were to happen, the work might include collective trauma work, including mindfulness, emotional intelligence, present communication, and supportive community. It is now a dream, but I have a feeling it is where I am being pulled to next.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1) The “list” will never end- so don’t put off your enjoyment, enjoy your life right now. And if you’re making a company, enjoy the process of building it, not just the anticipated outcome.

2) Don’t judge people, be curious instead. Values drive everyone. Do you know what you and the people around you really value?

3) Trust is all there is in relationship- personal and professional. End professional relationships where you can’t trust the person to deliver, end personal relationships where you can’t trust — and do both of those swiftly.

4) Cultivate accuracy and patience. Things will go “wrong”, on the daily, but they are not worth spiking your anxiety for. The factory will be late, the event will be canceled, the website will break. Be there for the long haul, very few things are life and death or worthy of anger and upset.

5) There are many cultural and economic blocks to super-successful female entrepreneurship. Those are real. Don’t stick your head in the sand. You will need allies to overcome this, especially other women. Be a good sister.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Our disconnection from the earth and each other is madness that underpins all these contemporary illnesses. We are all connected, all the time, made of the same stuff; we are nature. To know this would bring us back to health and love and life, and we would definitely make other choices about our food and the planet!

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