From SoulFriends founder ....
If you would have asked me in 2005, when I walked away from a 20 year career in high-tech, if I would start a social benefit enterprise focused on human potential and spiritual actualization, I would have answered with a resounding "NO". It had been an interesting year. I was working at HP and we had yet another year of no raises, right after Carly walked away with 25 million. I was weary of spending long nights and weekends working for organizations sans heart or soul.
The journey that followed was an interesting one, filled with wonderful synchronicities and soulful reflections. While there were some bumps in the road, in many ways, the transition was relatively smooth. I shifted from full time employment, to part-time employment and then to unemployment. With the reduced work load I was able to complete a three year master's program in two, at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, taking graduate courses in spiritual guidance, therapy and coaching. It was a time of great growth and self-examination for me.
During my tenure at ITP, there were three clear events that led me to SoulFriends. I forget their exact sequence, so I will tell the story in an order that makes the most sense. The first transformative experience was an exercise during a creative expression course. The second was a vivid dream and the third was an upper-world, Shamanic journey.
While taking the creative expressions course, a guest lecturer facilitated an exploratory exercise using clay. (My apologies to our guide as my memory of her name is not present.) We were told to take a chunk of clay and break it into two pieces. With one piece, we were asked to create "our biggest obstacle". For me, it was the computer. I felt literally chained to it and all that went with it (the gray cube walls, the overhead fluorescent lights, the endless meetings, the days without sunlight, etc). The money was good and yet I knew I had another calling. I felt trapped in a dance with the Prostitute archetype and struggled with the definition of success. So, I created a little monitor and a little keyboard and a small mouse out of the first piece of clay.
Next, she asked us to create "our greatest inspiration". For me, that was my spirit - that little inner voice, inner vision, inner feeling, that guides me. The best metaphor I could come up with was a pearl. So I fashioned a small round ball. Then I crafted a half clam shell and placed the pearl inside. The clam shell represented my body; the hard, crusty exterior that protects the pearl inside. Much like a clam in the deep waters of the ocean, I was weathered and wounded after so many years of corporate bureaucracy and politics.
For the final and third step, our guide asked us to "put them together". The request surprised me and my head did a sudden twitch; my mind went ... hmmm. I then proceeded to put the small computer inside the clam shell; first the monitor, then the keyboard, and then the mouse. In the final step, I placed the small pearl on top of the monitor. It was as if something went click and an epiphany washed over me. I suddenly realized that my spirit could speak through the computer. That there were other types of applications I could create. I could facilitate 'something' that would support the spiritual growth and actualization of everyone. While this might seem like a 'duh' moment to some, it was a complete shift in my attitude and awareness. The belief system I had wrapped around my livelihood with a computer was entirely corporate. I was now free to explore other possibilities.
My second affirmation regarding SoulFriends came during a dream analysis course. I was lucky enough to be in a class with Dr. Jeremy Taylor, a master of dream analysis and an awesome human being. His teaching style is enlivened by his incredible charm and his delightful stories. In one of his classes, I shared a recent dream with the group. My dream started with me sitting in a park with trees and green rolling hills. I had a cherished dog beside me and we were enjoying the beautiful California sunshine. I was working on something, thinking and writing. At some point I decided it was time to go and we headed up a hill towards a small cluster of buildings. When we arrived, I looked for my husbandís car in a nearby parking lot but did not see it. So I sat on the grass, near a picnic table, waiting for him to arrive. My dog was lying next to me on the left and a young woman, in her early 30's, was seated on the grass to my right. People were coming and going out of the small buildings. All of a sudden my dog took off at a full run to my left. I asked the young woman on my right to please watch my things and I gave chase to the dog. (What happened with the dog is a bit fuzzy here.) When I arrived back at the buildings, my laptop was gone but my purse was not. I looked inside my purse and saw my wallet was still there. I glanced at the people milling around and noticed the young woman standing near the picnic table. I walked up to her and asked for my laptop. She looked me in the eyes and said, "I thought you had left it." She then raised and stretched out her arm, the laptop dangling from her hand. I took the laptop and immediately awoke.
During the group analysis of my dream, several interesting insights arose. First was that the Trickster made an appearance in the dream. The Trickster is someone who does something completely unexpected. In this case, she took my laptop. What made the encounter unusual was that Jeremy had never heard of a situation where the Trickster was a female. (Yeah Sisters!) The metaphors that most stood out were the dog, the purse and the laptop. The interesting event around the dog was that it suddenly took off, in a completely unexpected direction. A lot like my career change. I went from a company of geeks and engineers to a heart-centered transpersonal community. The purse and my wallet were associated with my identity. Even though I literally ran in a new direction, I was still me. My identity was not lost. The final metaphor was the laptop, the taking of the laptop and the return of the laptop. I was working with computers, I then 'left' computers and after my transformational experience, I was ready to 'return' to computers.
My third and final affirmation of SoulFriends was an experience during a Vision Quest, or Shamanic Journey. For those readers who do not believe in Angels or Guides, I suggest you skip this section and move on to the gestation section of this document. For those who do believe that we are all assisted and inspired by Angels or Guides, earthly and otherwise, then let my experience be an affirmation of our collective spiritual narrative.
As a certified (earthly) spiritual guide, I was required to learn and study several faith traditions other than my own. One tradition I chose to explore more fully was Shamanism, mostly out of curiosity about my own Native American roots (Shoshone and Cherokee). I enrolled in a three-part Vision Quest with two exceptional facilitators, a professor and a graduate student in Indigenous Studies at ITP. The first vision quest or journey was to what they called the 'middle-world'. We were to meet our guide or spirit animal here. The second vision quest was to the 'lower-world'. In this realm is the plant kingdom. We were to connect with and learn the secret of a plant. The third vision quest was to the 'upper world'. It is this journey where I received my third affirmation regarding SoulFriends.
We started the vision quest in a traditional way. We began with our intention ceremony; asking spirit, in group prayer, for a specific blessing during our journey. We then turned off all the lights, except for a candle on a center alter, and laid flat on the floor, in comfortable positions. Our facilitators started the customary drum and chime and chant process that begins the journey. (The instrumentals play an important role throughout the vision quest. Truly gifted facilitators have a tempo, tone and timing that make for a remarkable experience. The group size and the room, environmental conditions, are also factors to consider.)
In my journey, I went to a place that is familiar to me. A guide or person in human form appeared before me. I was greeted warmly and taken to a different location. I saw a tall white building in the distance and I remember traveling to it. It had a Greek architecture style, with long columns and high ceilings. We went inside quickly. There was no furniture; only concave steps, wrapping around the large room, and leading downward towards a center floor. There were people standing in pairs or small groups, all around the room. They were excitedly conversing amongst themselves. I was curious about the conversations. They all appeared to be deeply engaged and joyfully animated. I suddenly realized that I could not hear what they were saying. I turned to my left and asked my guide, "What are they saying?" The guide responde ... "they are excited about something you are going to do". I have no doubt the guide was referring to SoulFriends. I came away knowing that the spirit of many will speak through SoulFriends. We are all special! We truly are spiritual beings having a human experience!
This is the story of how SoulFriends was conceived.
The gestation period lasted for more than a year. While a student at ITP, I had the great fortune and privilege of working with one of Transpersonal Psychology's pivotal teachers, Dr. Robert Frager. We met almost weekly for a year, discussing transpersonal relationships, community and spiritual growth; exploring how a transpersonal community might be created on the Internet. Our conversations took place at a time when Facebook was still hanging out in a college dorm and the term 'social-network' was not yet a buzz word.
I would also like to acknowledge my dear friend, Dr. Rosie Kuhn. With her coaching and support and guidance, I arrived at a place of wholeness and actualization that made SoulFriends possible. I would also like to acknowledge the ITP community (cohorts, friends, faculty and students), who helped provide clarity and inspiration to my own personal journey.
The actual birthing of SoulFriends took a few years to fully manifest. SoulFriends experienced one or more false starts, birthing pains if you will. The official birth date of SoulFriends.com is September 1st, 2009 when a business license was purchased in the city of Sunnyvale, CA.
My hope is that SoulFriends can have a positive impact on the lives it touches. Too often, those of low-economic means do not have access to resources, like soft-skill development and personal growth tools, which can help them succeed in life. Together perhaps, we can indeed "be the change we want to see in the world".