It can be filled with raucous laughter or sober sincerity. It can manifest as a support system or a lecture series. Spiritual Networking Group is all of the above, and much more.

Founded by graphic artist and website designer Karin O’Dell of Minneapolis, this fledgling organization is helping people to establish themselves as entrepreneurs or transition from corporate life into private business. It is helping people to expose their fears about doing what they really want to in life and offer resources for making their dreams come true. Above all, it aims to let people know that they are not alone as spiritual beings who are struggling to earn a living with integrity.

O’Dell, a Twin Cities native and graduate of Macalester College, says she herself was let go from a large advertising agency in downtown Minneapolis last November and now confronts many of the very issues that Spiritual Networking Group helps to resolve.

“Right now, it is an empowerment group,” she said in an interview with The EDGE. “We get together and discuss issues and support one another.

“Where I want the group to go is to maintain that wonderful personal part and still expand to offer more resources. I have found that many people trained in the healing arts have no idea how to put a business together or promote themselves. I’d like this to become a concrete resource group where people can find information on how to become established as a business without paying too much to do so.”

Since January, as many as two dozen people have attended the group meetings at Washburn Library on South Lyndale Avenue, and at O’Dell’s home. Focuses of earlier meetings helped participants identify what they want in life, learn to overcome their fear, de-clutter their lives and mindset and explore prosperity and increasing abundance in their lives. Future group meetings will present a practical guide to planning and running one’s own business.

O’Dell likes the casual environment of the group, because it is not so rigid in structure that it sucks the life out of participants like she experienced at a business networking group she was invited to attend after being released from her job last fall.

“That’s how this group came about, actually,” she says. “A contact of mine asked me to go to a business networking group. I went there, but I did everything wrong. I spoke out of turn, I presented too long, they cut me off and I was way too informal with everyone. I could tell, because they had this structured set of rules about how things would take place. Being a creative person, I did all the wrong things and afterward I felt like it was really horrific. But you know what, I’m not that self-conscious about making an ass out of myself. It was really more the case that the energy of the group was dead. People were droning on and on about what they did, but nobody sounded excited about what they did. And I thought there must be a better way to make business contacts and personal contacts.

“I began to ask myself what common thing would bring people together in an energy filled environment, andspiritualitywas the first thing that came to mind. And the name, Spiritual Networking Group, came into my head.

“The group has taken on a life of its own. It was something I wanted to have happen and something I anticipated. People who come into the group bring their own energy to the mix and it all changes. I make it clear that I am organizing it, but it is not my show.”

But she is the one who made it possible. Early on she established a mission statement for the group: “To form business, personal, social and spiritual connections between people who are seeking support for redefining their life and work in the context of a spiritual economy.”

“People talk about this wonderful concept of a spiritual economy,” she says, “where you deal with other people on the basis of a sharedspirituality, where the energy of the interchange is perhaps as important as money, and you keep cleaner energy around the connection. I really see a need for people to start connecting in a more concrete way and start establishing this network. This is just my tiny way to move towards that.

“One of my ideas is to support others in coming out of the closet with theirspirituality. In business situations, don’t be afraid to say things like, ‘I’ll send you some good energy so you get that promotion.’ Don’t be afraid to sign your e-mails with blessings. It’s the little things that you weave into your life, but when you add it up, it makes a huge difference.”

O’Dell’s optimism is the result of a deep examination of her beliefs after a life-changing experience after college.

“I had a friend who was murdered,” she says. “It shook my whole worldview. How could such a thing happen to such a good person? That experience re-routed my life. I went through a dark period, and then I had to figure out a world where this could happen but a lot of really good things could happen, too.

“I can relate to people who have come through hard circumstances. I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes in my own life and came out of it OK. You get turned around sometimes in the wrong direction. I have a lot of empathy for people who are really struggling. If I get nothing else out of the group, I really want people to think about what they want in their heart and how to press that on the world.

“So many people are afraid of their dreams. They really are. At a meeting we were talking about what our deepest dreams are for our lives, about what we really want to do. And I could sense all this trepidation. People would whisper things, and I thought, ‘Why don’t you yell that out? Why don’t you go around and proclaim that?’ So part of the exercise was to tell people, ‘Hey, I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut — or whatever.’

“If anything, I hope people feel like they leave a group meeting in a more positive frame of mind than they walked in with. If there’s any gift I can give to the group, it is that.”
She says much of our culture is about keeping ourselves numb.

“People get used to the day-to-day repression,” she says. “I have to do this and I have to consume that. We’ve become robots. I’m all for bringing playfulness and creativity into our lives — exploring. Do you want to look back in 10 years and wish you’ve done something else? It’s never too late. Do something now.”

Five years from now, she’d like to see Spiritual Networking Group grow up to become something like Springboard for the Arts, a St. Paul-based organization that provides affordable management information, consulting and training services designed to improve the business competence and confidence of independent artists and cultural organizations in the Upper Midwest (see www.rc4arts.org). She’d like to offer an inexpensive, searchable online directory so members can advertise their services to the public.

“Our organization is not just for people who are alternative healers, but for people in all careers,” she says. “For example, there is a member who is very interested in doing energetic construction and architecture. He’s very interested in the energy of spaces. Serendipitiously, an architect from Madison who does intuitive architecture called me. He saw our blurb in the Edge Classifieds and wanted to make contact and come speak to the group about what he’s doing.

“One of the tenants of the group is not to be involved in competition. When I raise myself up, and when you raise yourself up, it creates a better environment for all of us to make money and live our lives happily.

Spiritual Networking Group meets at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. For more information on meeting locations, contact Karin O’Dell at (612) 728-0657 or e-mailspiritualnetworking@lycos.com. Go towww.spiritualnetworking.org. Upcoming meeting topics — August 14 and 28, September 11 and 25: a series offering a practical guide to planning and running your own business; September 2: a guest speaker on the Spiritual Entrepreneur; September 16: a speaker on Marketing Your Dreams; October 2: a speaker on the Nuts and Bolts of Business.

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Tim Miejan
Tim Miejan is editor & co-publisher of The Edge magazine. Contact him at 651.578.8969 or editor@edgemagazine.net. Visit The Edge online at www.edgemagazine.net.

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