My experience over the last three years was expansive, un-grounding, lonely and freeing. I sought and I found.

By early 2006, I knew that I wanted to work with business and spirituality. The question was, “How?” How were people doing this? What did this mean for me? Did I want to run a non-profit or for-profit business? Did I want to be a new age, self-help type or motivational speaker? I looked for trends and noticed a number of entrepreneurs had been on significant spiritual journeys, including living at ashrams in India. A few immediate examples come to mind: Larry Brilliant (Neem Karoli Baba ashram), Steve Jobs and Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus, taught transcendental meditation).

by Nina Paley

But, where were the stories about women? I couldn’t find one of a highly successful female entrepreneur that pointed to a significant spiritual journey. Who could I identify with? Kali? But, she wasn’t an entrepreneur. Oprah? Was a masculine-centric business environment keeping the feminine approach at bay? Mother nature likely agrees.

I felt like I needed some help, a teacher or mentor to guide my way here. Two weeks later, I found one.

At the time, I was consulting for a yoga products company where I met Jonathan Beaudette, now my good friend. He suggested I meet with someone who had been exploring business and spirituality themes for a long time, Brooks Greene-Barton. I went to an intro talk for his program, Art of God and was intrigued.

My first thoughts were — this is interesting; Brooks talks a lot about empowering the feminine, but he’s a man. My fears were it’s possible to lose touch with oneself or be influenced adversely when working within spiritual depths.

No one in my immediate peer group had gone to an experience like this. Needing to make a decision as to whether or not to attend, I sat with my thoughts and ultimately realized I felt safe, so I signed up for a four-day workshop.

The next four days, I released stored emotion and body memory at a rate I had not thought imaginable; I felt lighter and more free in ways I did not think possible.

I continued to attend workshops over the following two years and became more sensitive to my energy and that of those around me; I learned to become present with my own “stuck” areas and send light into them so that compression would release spontaneously. Eventually, I learned to help others do the same. I started assisting Brooks, holding space for other participants. In 2008 alone I assisted 5 workshops and took 3 (including a re-birthing workshop with Brooks’ wife Alison). That’s a lot of intense, energy work!

Six months after meeting Brooks, I suggested we start a project that evolved into my second company, the Soulstice Design Group — a transformational leadership consultancy named as such because we set out to “design reality.” I put up a web site (designed by Pausha Foley), created proposals and had meetings with sophisticated business people.


Description of the business:

Soulstice is a design model of a leadership consultancy for the future. It invites its clients to open to their uniqueness, guiding how leaders and teams can create change in society.

Soulstice fell flat. I spent over a year recruiting clients and received no traction. Here’s a proposal we wrote for McKinsey.

The work was pure, the product was rich and could really help people and the world, but here was the issue–it was very difficult for people to connect to it. It was all 7th chakra work, which literally has no form. The 7th chakra is located at the very top of the head or crown, symbolizing enlightenment and cosmic consciousness.

To make a living, I continued work as a strategy consultant for start-ups. I read another good book around this time: The Power of Unreasonable People.

I was also frustrated working from home; I was on a constant search for consulting opportunities and I was lonely. I had heard mention of the lonely road of the entrepreneur but that message does not come out very clear in entrepreneurial lore. No one ever described the depth of their feelings. I found exploring the self, having compassion for one’s personal journey, and awareness of the archetypal hero’s journey are key elements to successfully walking the road to profitability.

To expand my work and colleague possibilities, I looked at the burgeoning social profit world and organizations that were investing in non-profits or organizations with double bottom lines — seeking financial + social return.

I spoke and met with representatives from leading, well-known social profit organizations and did not resonate with them.

While discouraged, I kept on kept on networking and soon met Kath Delaney and the Madera Group based out of Berkeley, CA; I felt an instant connection with a group of like-minded souls advising high profile and innovative non-profits and foundations on strategy, communications, and fundraising. I spent the next year working with the Madera team and expanded my consulting repertoire to include non-profits and foundations.

In the summer of 2009 I sensed it was time to move on from Soulstice. Around the same time, a friend invited me to an afternoon of psychic readings at the Southern California Psychic Institute in Santa Monica where once/month you can receive 20 minute readings for $10. That afternoon, a psychic described Soulstice as very light, but almost intangible; it had no form — which confirmed my belief that our product was simply too hard for people to grasp.

A month later, I tabled Soulstice.

Four major shifts occurred concurrently which made me determined to make major changes in my life:

  1. I realized Soulstice would never close any clients
  2. Non-profit and start-up consulting opportunities were minimal; the economy was in shambles
  3. My twin sister met her future husband
  4. Despite many wonderful friends and community, I was feeling very lonely in Los Angeles

So after seven incredible years, I kicked myself out of Santa Monica. I moved to Las Vegas in August 2009 as an interim chapter.

I call Santa Monica my ashram. It’s a mecca of modern spirituality where the common vernacular revolves around: diets, cleanses, raw food restaurants, the latest consumer healing products, tight pants, kirtan on Saturday night, spiritual high, healer junkie, yoga, savasana; everyone is doing it; have you tried Ayahuasca yet?


Why did I move? Because I want to leave a large, positive impact on the world and felt I had become comfortable with and was fully supported in a life of mediocrity. Because even after all my spiritual work, I felt ungrounded. Because I had developed a business for the fringe of society which failed and I want to live integrated within society.

So, I shifted my physical and social space to invite something new.

4 thoughts on “The Ashram of Santa Monica and My Second Company

  1. Laurie

    Wow Neelu. You just lasered through a lot of big life stuff here, with amazing articulation and transparency. I SO relate to your quest to marry spirituality and business in powerful service that also brings in the bread! I was also saddened that Soulstice didn’t work, as I *just* learned of it the other day and was *so* impressed with the uniquely luminous idea, stunning web presence, and the alchemy I imagined brewing there. Ow! Perhaps its time will still come as the feminine becomes more securely anchored in the next couple of years.

    So – I have to ask – what drew you to Vegas? What are you intending/envisioning there? Your voice is strong; I look forward to more of it :) Shine on! ~Laurie

  2. Neelu

    I’m glad you’re able to relate to my story; I feel like a lot of people are on the same journey. How do we live authentically after we open up to the possibility? There are so many distractions and also simply pragmatism.

    Why Vegas? It’s homebase for me. I grew up here, so it represents a strong foundation, launching pad and support. It’s also an incredibly tolerant community and surrounded by gorgeous desert beauty!

  3. mimi

    Neelu, so nice to read about your journey, which at some point I got to intercept in real life as our paths crossed. I am looking forward to the new unfoldments of your journey.
    much love,

  4. Neelu

    It’s been a joy to play with you along the way!! From bikinis on the Santa Monica beaches to backpacks in the Patagonia mountains, what’s next universe??
    Love to you, Neelu

  5. Pingback: Spirituality: Envisioning A New Reality

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