5 Things I Wish Holistic Business Owners Did Better

Nearly every holistic practitioner I know either lives at the poverty line or requires a second earner (spouse, roommate, family member, etc.) to live independently. Quite often, they teach about manifesting abundance. Or they renounce capitalism while also complaining about the poor attendance at their workshop, class, or community event. 

Here is what I wish you knew:

1. You are a business.

If you are offering something in exchange for energy (money, food, lodging, etc) and you are dependent on this exchange to live, then you are running a business. It doesn’t matter if you are a yoga instructor, teach a healing modality, or access the Akashic records – you are running a business. 

2. You should learn how to run a business.

Even if you are the only person in your business, you should learn a few fundamentals. You need to understand social marketing, market segmentation, who attends your business, how to build and manage a budget, how to grow a business, financial record keeping and allowable expenses and tax deductions.

3. Posting events all over Facebook is not enough 

Social marketing is powerful. Knowing how to use Facebook advertising can get you exposed to people who may not know you. But passive event posting will not get you the numbers you want. It might be ok for low cost or free introductory sessions but you will not sell out a $1000 per person retreat or an 8 week workshop series this way. A deeper commitment from your market requires a long term business model. Most holistic practitioners think in one-off interactions instead of how to build a stable revenue model. 

4. Learning about business IS manifesting abundance

The law of attraction says you need to be energetically in alignment with your intent. If your vision is about a stable personal income, you need to know enough to be energetically aligned with a stable source or sources of income.

5. Your market probably wants you to be in a business partnership

The most successful holistic businesses today are established practices with unique add ons. You are probably the add on. The profitable businesses are covered by insurance: naturopath, yoga (sometimes), massage therapy, chiropractor, etc. These businesses can access a stable market and often co-locate with other practitioners to have offices, community presence, and workshop space. They then rent to you as an add on, so they make more money. 

Or someone runs a festival and invites you to run a session, promising you exposure and maybe a small fee. They are charging for registration, sponsors and sellers. They will walk away with 5 digit earnings and you probably made $200 or less. 

If you partnered, what could you do? 

I am so frustrated by these things I am thinking of running small workshops and coaching for people who see this in their own pattern. If you are interested, let me know. (So I can understand my market!)

The Gritty Parts of Life

I listened to the young man express himself fervently about all that was wrong with the world and how he would change it. As a yogini, I wondered why I didn’t share his energy about getting involved and making a difference. Was this a lack of integrity on my part?

This isn’t new to me. When I was in university, I felt callings to be part of communities of change – Greenpeace,  kibbutz, the Peace Corps. There were so many ways I could be in service. I liked the idea very much. Surely with my skills and my leadership I could change the world.

I watch the archetypes of society repeat themselves. There are new movements but they are all aimed at the same things that drove the movements of 20 years ago – sustainability,  equality, peace, unity. Love.

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Am I being complacent? Too passive? What am I doing about the changes I want to see? Is it really as simple as “Be the change you want to see in the world”?

I believe the deepest service I can be to this world is to deepen in my consciousness and live from there. The approach I take to the grittiness of life is how I change the world. Consciousness does not require me to become part of a movement.  For me, it requires me to always take action in line with my values.

I see beauty in the organized movements.  Supporting refugees. Donating to a family who have lost a loved one to violence. These are important reflections of love.

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But they are no more or less important than supporting the woman at work whose parents are overseas and are sick. Or sitting with the old lady in the waiting room who wants to talk about her life to someone.

I can go to shamanic rituals, experience mysticism and connect with beings on other planes, study Sanskrit or do 100 sun salutations each day. None of that is worth anything if I am not resting squarely in the Consciousness of Life and living the grittiness of everyday in an awakened way.

To me, the modalities we have can easily become confused with the goal of awakening. Collaborative community is beautiful but it is no replacement for innocent and earnest action from love.  Political outcry is an important part of changing planetary consciousness but it is impossible to shift without changes to individual consciousness. 

I celebrate that the grittiness of my life offers millions of moments of opportunities for service. I change the world by changing me. And that is more than enough.

How to Change the World

ghandiGandhi is credited with the inspirational quotation “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

No one would criticize me for not giving back to my community.  I have worked in not for profit community agencies, spanning from suicide prevention to health care to education. I have served on some board or another for 20 years.  I have fed the poor, donated closets of clothing, and countless dollars to charities.  I have supported campaigns to end violence against women, mental health, poverty, and particularly charities for children.  My heart is probably most aligned with helping kids.

But how can I really change the world? Each of those charities is worthwhile; I feel satisfied with every heart I touch.  I have been approached for a contract in Nigeria.  It will likely not work out as I cannot be away from my child for the length of time the contract requires. But it spoke to a key part of who I am.  The call for social justice is significant to me, and the idea of serving that agenda is a calling that has characterized a lot of my life.  From my days in university when I considered kibbutz, to today when I consider using my mediation skills with the Peace Corps, the calling to change the world has been with me for some time.

I have been around a few decades now, and even in my short life, I have watched the various sociopolitical causes for change emerge with each new generation.  In my lifetime alone, I have watched us rage against the machine, take on the conservative culture, build greener environments, challenge violence and bullying, occupy Wall Street, and change our definitions of success.

One such trend is permaculture.  It can range from radical socialism to caring eco-community. But is it a sustainable solution? Will it really change the world?

“Permaculture is predominantly based on three principles: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. However, As Looby Macnamara’s People & Permaculture emphasises, the vast majority of permaculture courses only deal with Earth Care, often excluding in one way or another, the other two principles. ” Permaculture  Today, we see a world where women are denied basic human rights.  Children live in poverty around the globe.  Significant change is required on all levels.

How viable is permaculture economically? “If the limits analysis is valid then a sustainable society would have to involve much less affluent lifestyles, highly self-sufficient local economies, little trade, little heavy industry, cooperative and participatory systems and a steady-state economy. This means much more than merely getting rid of a capitalist economy. It means developing an economy in which there is no economic growth, the GNP per capita is a small fraction of what it is (in Australia) today, no interest is earned on savings ( because if it is you have a growth economy), most economic activity takes place outside the cash economy and there are many free goods from the local commons, the “unemployment” rate might be 80% (because most work and production would not be for money), and in which much “tax” is paid via contributions of time to local working bees and committees. In addition a sustainable society requires fundamental changes in world view and values. Cooperation must become the dominant concern, not competition. A strong collective orientation must replace today’s rampant individualism. Affluence and consumption must become distasteful; frugality and self-sufficiency must become major sources of life satisfaction. Giving must become a more important source of satisfaction than getting.”  Would permaculture projects be able to effect this change?

“The important point here is that Permaculture can very easily be part of the problem. It is part of the problem if does not increase the realisation that affluent living standards and this economy are totally incompatible with sustainability and with global economic justice. Much Permaculture literature not only does not increase people’s understanding of these crucial themes, much of it reinforces the impression that fundamental change is not necessary because all we have to do is adopt things like organic food, composting, recycling and community supported agriculture. Permaculture is part of the problem if it is essentially enabling people to do some ecologically correct things in their gardens, such as growing some organic veggies, and then feel that they are making a significant contribution to saving the planet “. Why Bother?  Will small projects all over the world impact the value system that is at the root of sustainability issues?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead’s quotation has been one of my favorites for over 20 years.  It is not that I doubt that the social and economic systems can change.  I believe in grass roots movements as they are the ways in which our values have changed how we live through out history.  But I am not sure that permaculture is the solution. It is admirable, but the real viability of it is unproven. As a movement, it may itself be unsustainable.

“A cynic would say this lack of quantitative testing  (of permaculture principles and outputs) is not accidental, because it might reveal that many favourite notions are false, or at least not what they are cracked up to be. Most people attracted to Permaculture are young, dreamy idealists looking for some kind of system to structure their activities and impart meaning.” The Land. I am concerned that permaculture, like so many other movements in society, is trying to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Is it possible that the permaculture movement is a form of denial? A way to posit a new social order (which we have done for decades to no avail) instead of looking at the consciousness with which we create the world we live in?  I appreciate that most permaculture movements embrace principles of intentionality and true community responsibility.  That is not what I mean.  I mean we need a serious overhaul of our consciousness as a world community.  Inevitably, there are reasons why our world value systems (whether it be economic, social or political) evolved the way it did.  It was a reflection of the consciousness and of the journey of each of soul.  We could make the argument that what we suffer from today is rooted back to the domination of the Roman rule centuries ago. But that will not lead to true change. Tantra would tell us that the divine is as present in permaculture as it is in colonial rule; this is not a moral issue of what is more right than anything else.  For me, it is a question of the roots of the consciousness reflected in the thoughts and emotions that result in the world view that emerges.

So, the long and short of this is that if I am going to change the world, it is going to be with my own consciousness. It will be in how I raise my child, how I love my neighbor, how I treat each person with whom I come in contact.  It will be with how I feed the next hungry person – whether the hunger is physical, emotional or spiritual.  It will be in how I respond to calls for service, whether that is Nigeria, or youth recovering from sexual abuse in my own city.  It is how I embody values, not where I do it.  It is how I relate to money – money is not evil. It is when money means more than exchanging energy with others that we have a problem.

I will change the world, as Gandhi said, by embodying the change I want to see in the world.

Thanksgiving, Abundance, and the Root Chakra

I have a fear of being homeless.  Yes, this is possibly a silly and highly unrealistic fear.  I am well employed, and have proven that I can operate my own business as a consultant successfully.  But it is in the unrealistic fears that I think we can learn about some of our beliefs and how they need to move.

I didn’t know I had this fear, actually.  We have been working on the root chakra in Kundalini Dance, and one aspect of  that energy center is feeling safe and secure in your home.  I sort of “blipped” over that part of my Kundalini Dance homework, because if you look at my life, I have been very good at manifesting abundance.  But as a I watched a homeless man sort through some garbage this morning, and then again watched the man that sleeps on the landing of the church across the street from my office, I realized I was noticing them and my feelings around homelessness in a new way.

This fear is not foundless.  My mother had to declare bankruptcy following her divorce.  We went from an affluent home to a broken down house for about half of my life.  When I was in graduate school, I ran out of money often and remember having to stuff my purse with toilet paper from a public bathroom to make it through the two or three days to payday.  My credit cards were maxed out.

But, that was many (many!) years ago.  Despite that, I still have moments of holding my breath when I use my debit card, waiting for the NSF.  So what is this all about?

Here is my inspiration for answering that:

“Whenever you hold back and don’t give 100% of your love, efforts, or energy, you are sending a message to yourself and the universe that there is not enough.  In scarcity, people are in survival mode focusing only on how to get food and shelter and how to pay bills and doing so they miss the opportunities that are right in front of them every day.

Holding on to emotions good or bad is scarcity.  By holding on to past positive feelings of joy or love is sending out a message that there is not enough so I am going to keep whatever I already possess versus feeling it fully and releasing them allowing new emotions to flow in.”

When we are true to our core being we are in abundance and giving of ourselves fully is natural. When our core is covered up by emotional layers, baggage or masks, our giving nature is blocked.

I am a generous person. I give away physical possessions easily – I have given my sister a lovely bracelet to help her break through her fears about financial prosperity.  I have gifted money to family members when they need it with no expectation or desire to get it back.  I support many charities.  I give gifts to people that are little “dreams come true” because I love that celebration of financial freedom.

But…I hold on to emotions.  I trap them all over my body.  I swallow pain and anger.  I brush fear out-of-the-way as if it is a cobweb.  I do not embrace my pain – I emotionally “medicate” it to numb it.  I think I am afraid that it is too much.  And in honesty, when much of my pain started, I was a child.  It WAS too much.  This was probably a useful way to cope.  It seems to me that this is the symbolic homelessness – my emotions have pushed me out and I have nowhere to go.

So, as I reflect, I have been given many tools this last month to be able to heal this.  The play Medicine reminded me that these old coping patterns were loving ways of our psyche to protect us, that I can love that old pattern, thank it and release it.  I have set the intent to be living more in my heart than my head – an intent that has occurred as those with whom I am in deep relationship have made it safe enough for me to explore.  And I have Kundalini Dance to waken me to those things.

I also admire the Universe’s synchronicity in awakening these thoughts in me as we head into Thanksgiving.  Whenever we go around the table and say what we are grateful for, I tend to stick to the usual – my family, the love around me, all the bounty in my life.  This weekend, I will give thanks for my pain, for all the ways my heart has been healed, and for the beauty of my soul as it is coming forth more and more clearly.  And for yours, too.