Can you be Spiritual and Successful?

Last year, my friend and I had the idea to host a retreat for female entrepreneurs. But this was not going to be a retreat where we taught female empowerment or branding, or leadership skills. This was going to be a retreat where we looked our limiting beliefs in their faces, confronted our deep-seated fears and sang and cried until our conditioning and the layers that society had covered us with melted away.

If that sounds amazing to you, rest assured, it was. If it sounds terrifying to you, you can also be assured it was that as well. And, if you have no idea what any of that mumbo-jumbo above means, read on.

I work as a meditation teacher and psychologist, and my friend, Nicole works as a shamanic healer, songwriter and gifted ceremony leader. Together, our magic that weekend wove a container that housed 11 women and granted them permission to express whatever needed to be expressed about their business. For some, that was just breathing into existence an idea they had been afraid to speak out loud. For another, it was facing a long-held belief that money brought pain. A lifetime of watching her bipolar father go from rags to riches and back again had conditioned her to believe that untruth. For others still, it was taking a deep dive into their trauma around inadequacies and shame, to surface with clear eyes, and a deeper level of understanding of their true selves.

As a teacher, I was not expecting to have any deep revelations myself. The longer I’ve taught though, the more I realize how wrong this expectation is. For a few years prior I had been striving to become a meditation teacher. I knew it was what I wanted to do full-time. I had been teaching as a psychology professor for years, but when I taught my first meditation class, of my own design, when my students circled around me and allowed me to guide them into a state where they could sit in reverence of their own personal truth, I felt at home. I felt more at home than I could believe. But there was still something limiting me. There was something keeping me from fully embracing that this is me, this is who I am.

My friend, Nicole had us do a pendulum exercise around money. If you’ve never seen a pendulum used for scrying, here’s how it works. You hold it dangling out in front of you and you ask it yes or no questions. It will move one way for yes, and another way for no. Each one is different, and you just have to learn what your pendulum does. But it is not magic, the pendulum is not moving on its own, you are subtly shifting it. The idea is that you know the answer to the question, you just don’t know you know it. It’s a way to tap into those intuitions that you can’t access. You know how you flip a coin when you can’t make a decision? The real information comes when you see how you feel about what side it landed on. A pendulum is like that. Sometimes our mind just gets in the way.

Nicole had us use our bodies as a human pendulum. This interesting practice required us sit in a quiet, meditative state, and then notice a subtle shift in our body to indicate yes or no. It was so slight, I’m not even sure if anyone would have noticed I had moved, had they seen me from the outside. She asked us several questions around our feelings about money. “Does money make you a bad person?” “Is there a limit as to how much you can make?” On and on the questions went and each time my body had a subtle answer. Rocking one way for yes and the other for no. And each time my mind noted the shift, and agreed. But then she asked this question “can you be spiritual and successful?” and my body had a very strong, very clear “no.” But my mind was shocked. I rationally knew that the answer was yes, but my body had it’s own opinion.

After we were done with the exercise, Nicole asked us to think about who was the breadwinner in our house, and how did they model money for us. I grew up in a house with very stereotypical gender roles. My mother was a homemaker and my dad was the breadwinner. He was a professor and his work always felt like it was the most important thing in the house. You didn’t disturb him if he was working. He didn’t ever take off work for any reason, not if we were sick, not for vacation, nothing. My mom upheld this family myth, that our dad’s work was very, very important. But there was another part to this myth. One that had always peaked my interest. My dad, right after graduating high school, had first gone into a monastery. He was a Catholic monk for several years. He always joked that it was the celibacy that got to him, but I think that I believed, deep down, that the academic world was somehow more legitimate than the spiritual world. That the world of science and letters what was made the money. In so many ways they are similar, the ivory tower and the cloister. They are both lives of study and mind. But I think to me, the difference was one brought success and the other didn’t.

Throughout my life I’ve had many times that I thought I would become a hermit. That I’d live alone in the woods, reading and writing. I tried it, but some force would always push me back out again. I truly feel that same calling my father did, for the quiet halls of the monastery. The silence, the peace. I’ve gone to silent retreats and felt so at home. But there were these external forces that kept whispering to me that I was meant to teach. I tried to go the academic route and though I loved teaching, the ivory tower still wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t until I had that circle of students around me during my first meditation class, and we were connecting on a spirit level, that I really felt my calling. But that last piece of the puzzle, that limiting belief that I can’t teach meditation and also make a living and that spiritual teaching does not make money, that belief was there all the time, and I had no idea. I knew rationally that it wasn’t true. But my body knew, my body still held some shadow of that learning.

Finding that shadow and pulling it out into the light was enough to move forward. Sometimes it will crop up, but I know what it is now, I recognize it. It sounds simple but you will know a limiting belief by the way that it limits you. If you hold a belief about yourself and it feels restrictive, contracting, it was probably never your belief to begin with. It was something that you were taught, and it doesn’t fit you, it doesn’t align with where you are meant to go. Let it go, let it go. Dig it up, illuminate it with the light of knowing, and let it go.

Psychologist and Human mood ring.

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