This is episode #51 of Entrepreneurs for a Change and our guest today is Rowan Gabrielle, who is a visionary artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist with 20+ years experience in the conscious market place. Together with her husband Aywan Sawaf, they co-authored a groundbreaking book called Sacred Commerce, which traces commerce back to its roots in the Merchant Priesthood of Ancient Egypt & explores the future of conscious capitalism [LINK].
Rowan is also the founder of OrganicLeather.com, a company focused on Eco-Fashion, with the goal of revolutionizing our relationship to animals and the clothes we wear.
In this fascinating interview, Rowan shares with us:
- Why the ancient Egyptians considered commerce to be sacred.
- Who the Merchant Priests of Ancient Egypt were, and what were their responsibilities to society.
- What the gift of commerce is, and how commerce can bring peace and prosperity to society.
- How to transition from a mindset of “Profit at All Costs” to “Profit with Principles”.
- The secret to harnessing spiritual power for business success as the Merchant Priests of Egypt did.
Download the Audio Master Class
How to Be a Merchant Priest of Sacred Commerce in Modern Times
In the Master Class, which you can download for free at EntrepreneursForAChange.com/51, Rowan teaches us how we can tap into our own inner power to thrive as modern day merchant priests practicing commerce as a spiritual path & leveraging business as a powerful opportunity for positive change.
In this Master Class, you will learn:
- What Sacred Commerce is, and how we can practice it.
- Why commerce became corrupt and how to bring back the sacred to commerce.
- What the 4 Human Emotional Tools are and how we can use them.
- How to break free from negative emotions around money and financial transactions as modern day merchant priests and priestesses.
- What the ‘Pulse’ is, and how and why you should connect with it.
- And so much more…
Mentioned in this interview
- Al Gore – An Inconvenient Truth
- Kamal Ravikant
- Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It
- Live Your Truth
Free eBook Download
Where to Find Rowan
Full Episode Transcript
03:39 Lorna: Hello there, Rowan. I’m so glad to have you with me on the show and I want to say that I really enjoyed reading your book, Sacred Commerce, to discover that actually the roots of commerce were indeed based in spiritual principles. I would love for you to introduce yourself and the work that you do to our audience first, and then we can dive into the concept of Sacred Commerce. First off, tell us who you are and what is your business or what are your
04:11 Rowan: Thank you so much for having me on, Lorna. It’s a real pleasure to be a part of what you’re doing. I would say I’m basically a serial entrepreneur and my husband and I basically have an incubator. We work very much as a team. Our struggles and talents are almost polar opposites so we fit each other in very well. In the past 20 years, we’ve developed basically four different projects, which we definitely consider them as our life’s work. One of them is all the work that you have read about in Sacred Commerce, which includes a lot of work in emotional literacy and emotional intelligence.
04:55 The other one is a company called WholeLife.com, which is basically a media network for all the consciousness media that’s around in our world – holistic living, personal development, all of that stuff. Then, my other personal passion project is called OrganicLeather.com. That was a real desire to be involved in impacting the eco-fashion movement and creating something that was really cool and trendy and sexy and not yoga. Back when I started this in 2000, everything was pretty much what they would’ve called granola crunchy at the time. Obviously, it’s come a long way since then. Yes, those are my main projects.
05:44 Lorna: Can you describe what your ideal customers or clientele are? Who do you exactly help through your businesses?
05:52 Rowan: Well, obviously, different ones. With the emotional literacy work, our company is called Kids EQ, and this is really directed towards parents and teachers.Then with WholeLife.com, customers are everybody and everybody that’s into holistic living, so that one’s very wide. With Organic Leather, maybe a little slightly under kind of heppers; it’s a little bit more trendy. It’s a jewelry baseline. So that’s my kind of design fun side.
06:27 Lorna: Gosh. You’re like so many of us entrepreneurs, which is prolific and somewhat serial and obviously you have a lot of creative energy that you like to channel into different projects that are profit-driven. So I’m curious to know what inspired you to become an entrepreneur. Was there some type of aha
moment that led you to embark on this journey?
06:56 Rowan: A series of moments, maybe. When I was 18 and about to leave school, I can literally remember being in the classroom and having this kind of aha moment of how if communities just started one thing at a time and roll it with the profits into the next thing that they could start a café, and then a bakery and whatever. Profit-sharing really create things that brought people together. So I had this idea of creating interconnected businesses.
07:35 That also came from my internship during college. I was working as an environmental documentary assistant producer. So I had been to a ton of the environmental documentaries and really knew a lot more than the average kid my age about what was going wrong on the planet. That really led me very much into my spirituality and going, “Okay, there’s got to be more to this picture. I don’t believe that I’m doomed, which is what all the movies are telling me, and feeling that the way I could really have impact on that was through taking the spiritual insights I was receiving and implementing them through business.
08:20 I really saw business as the modern-day avenue for change.
I would say that the path of being an entrepreneur is not necessarily one that’s for everyone. It can be incredibly difficult and challenging. As entrepreneurs, we don’t have an established career track record like, “Here’s Level 1 and then here’s Level 2 and here are your deliverables and metrics,” and all that. It’s like we’re charting our own path and we often have to take the full brunt of failure if something happens to us personally or even to our business then there’s real financial impact that are associated with our risk-taking in life as well as in business.
09:04 Rowan: Absolutely.
09:05 Lorna: So I’m curious to know what drives you to be an entrepreneur to have that courage to walk this challenging path. Is there any personal story that you would care to share with us that really exemplifies why you’ve chosen this path and why it’s meaningful to you?
09:25 Rowan: I think it’s very similar to what you talk about on your website is that passion to be of impact in the world. In the face of that passion, that kind of carries me over all the various roadblocks one encounters.
09:44 Lorna: Yes, a lot of the entrepreneurs I speak to definitely speak of this passion and speak of their sense of purpose. I do think that for many of us who are purpose-driven entrepreneurs, it’s almost like there really isn’t another choice. It’s what we’re compelled to do and we’re compelled to do it through business, whereas others might be compelled to do it through activism or charity work.
10: 06 Rowan: Yes, I totally agree.
10:08 Lorna: So the curious thing to me and which is why I found your book so refreshing is that having been involved in environmental activist’s work for some time. I’ve spent about 10 years in the nonprofit sector and worked on Tibetan cultural preservation. I’ve worked in environmental activism and sustainability. Speaking of documentaries, I co-produced an event that hosted Al Gore for United Nations World Environment Day. He gave his groundbreaking presentation on climate change that eventually became the movie, An Inconvenient Truth.
10:51 Being in that activist world, one of the predominant messages that we as activists were told to endorse is that business is kind of evil. Business is evil; corporations are evil. We have to fight against corporations and capitalism and it’s just all bad and destroying the planet. However, what you bring up in your book, Sacred Commerce, is that commerce actually had spiritual origins. So I’d love to ask you to share with us what your research into Sacred Commerce has revealed to you and how we might be able to bring back those values into modern-day economic activity.
11:32 Rowan: I would love to and really that’s the reason that we chose to write a book and to share what we found because we found that so inspiring ourselves in our life’s work. So basically, back in the time of the pharaohs in Egypt, when all of the Isis, Osiris and all of these mythical characters that we hear about if we happen to be lucky enough to go to a tour in Egypt or if read a book about them. The active system of learning was in the priesthood. People will go into the temples and they would learn to be healing priests or scribe priests or temple priests or all of these different trainings.
12:20 Equivalent to our modern-day PhD at that time was to become a merchant priest. In order to become a merchant priest, you actually had to do the trainings of all the other priests. Let’s say you had to learn about the healing and about the writing and about all of these other topics in the priesthood. Then, you could put your cherry on top when you could learn how to be a merchant priest. That’s because the merchant priests were considered to be the people responsible for the peace and prosperity of the nation.
12:53 If you really think about it, that makes so much sense because obviously at that time in history, there was much more tribal warring and these kinds of things with neighboring countries. So if you were trading with your n
eighbors, you are far less likely to go to war with them. If you are training with them, then you will also far more likely to be able to secure things that could be of great use to you in your evolution whether it be amazing dyes to make it amazing fabrics or amazing herbs for your healers to make amazing healing remedies etc.
13:34 So they were the most highly revered and especially during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. That was when they really reached that pinnacle of success. As the warmongering people would be in charge, they would be demoted and the war mongers would be promoted and things would change. When they were really at the height of their power, they put into place things like these incredible systems that still exist, part of them still exists, even today where the Nile is controlled so that it feeds all of their fields properly and all of these things that allowed Egypt to prosper.
14:18 Lorna: Was there a code of honor among the merchant priesthood?
14:23 Rowan: Good question. I would say probably yes. Definitely as me thinking of the merchant priesthood forward but almost taken by different other elements throughout history like the Knights of Templar, there was definitely that sense of a code of honor, definitely.
14:48 Lorna: Has the concept of merchant priesthood actually extended from the time of the ancient Egyptians even throughout the ages? Is there a continuous lineage or were they different societies operating in separation from each other but who somehow arrived to the same principles? You mentioned the Knights of Templar. Not knowing too much about ancient world history, I don’t really know what the relationship might be between the Templar knights and Egyptian society and culture. So I’d love to hear what you discovered.
In the book, we give a brief history that takes people through different times in history and shows the world of commerce in the evolution of humanity. It’s very much our own kind of mythical story. It’s not necessarily like if you went to the history books, you might not find out the same thing. So it’s a little bit of a romantic story. It’s our own spin on things. It’s also very much based in facts but it’s not all literal.
16:01 Lorna: Got it, not necessarily connected in a linear historical type of way.
16:08 Rowan: Yes. We’ve got our own kind of mythology into it, basically. We’ve infused it with our own mythology.
16:17 Lorna: Help me understand what the principles of Sacred Commerce actually are. Is there anything written down anywhere or what were you able to derive from your research?
16:29Rowan: We’ve actually just completed rewriting a second edition of the book because when we first wrote it five years ago, we realized we’re a little bit ahead of our time and the mean was just coming in. We were like some of the front runners in it. So we wrote a relatively inspirational top line book and what we’ve done in the second edition, which will be published in September, is we’ve really added a hero’s journey so a way for you as an individual to implement this journey yourself. We take that from the teachings of the merchant priests. They were very highly schooled in the art of emotional alchemy.
If you’re highly schooled in the art of emotional alchemy, when you go into business dealing, your ability to deal with the more base emotions of anger, fear, and jealousy that can be rife within the marketplace, your ability to deal with those is through the roof compared to anybody else. Just to use Dan Steel as an example, in those days, an Egyptian merchant priest would go into a marketplace in the neighboring country and maybe there was a bunch of haggling going on that was quite stressful. It’s somehow easier to look at it in the market mentality but of course, there’s also a price to a board room.
17:58 Seeing that before going in to do the trading, they would just sit in the corner and they would literally suck in the energy of those emotions into their body using their body as the alchemical chamber and transform them by mixing those energies of jealousy and anger whatever they were bringing to them with the energy of joy.
18:26 The merchant priest were schooled how to be almost always on the state of joy. They were very happy, bubbly people. If you look at the god Bes who was the god that represented them, you almost always see him smiling and laughing with his tongue out.
18:46 He would then infuse box and back out energy from his body, the energy of peace and serenity and joy into the marketplace and then he would walk in to do head’s training. So you wouldn’t even necessarily have to say anything to anybody else. He would just use himself as an alchemical chamber. Similarly today in readying ourselves for a business transaction, if we know that there’s certain energies that are maybe going to make it hard, we can literally work with them before even walking into the door and put ourselves into a state of joy to be able to let the resonance of that situation and hopefully seamlessly carry everybody through.
19:35 Lorna: You know, that is such a powerful practice and it would be so great if that became part of the business management training.
19:47 Rowan: I totally agree.
19:48 Lorna: It reminds me of a time actually that I spent in Brazil a couple of years ago. I was spending time in the Brazilian Amazon in the state of Acre and I was a guest of the Kuntanawa tribe in particular a young man who was a rising indigenous political leader in the Brazilian scene as indigenous rights space. He had called what was essentially a three-day birthday ceremony-slash-celebration-slash-political gathering of indigenous leaders and the sarenggeros,
actually not sarenggeros but people excepto vistas like people who lived in extractive reserves in Brazil, who have very similar situation as the indigenous tribes where their rights and livelihood were affected by major decisions by the Brazilian congress, for example, around agriculture and mining rights and development of highways, things like that.
What was cool was that before they all got together for their meeting, everyone went in the night before to an Ayahuasca ceremony where there was music and singing and purging and all of that. So by the time they were ready for the meeting, everyone was in a really joyful loving high-vibrational state. It’s so much more effective to get things done like that, right?
21:33 Rowan: So much more effective, yes. I was just going to say it’s something that modern culture almost ignores by the pressures and stress that people have put under. It almost pushes the opposite.
21: 55 Lorna:
I’d say traditional business strategy around negotiation is how can we get the most of what we want out of the dialogue not so much how can we come to an agreement where both parties get what we both want and we’re both happy. It’s a win-win scenario.
22:15 Rowan: Right. For the highest good of all concerned is how we always say it. The transactions should be for highest good of all concerned.
22:24 Lorna: Absolutely. So I’d love to ask you because this is one of the themes that I came across in the book which is beautiful because instead of seeing business and commercial activity as inherently evil, you present commerce as a gift. So I’d love to ask you, what is the gift of commerce and how can it lead both to individual and society to prosperity, peace, and conscious evolution?
22:53 Rowan: We see the gift of commerce as exactly that it brings peace and then it brings prosperity. So when used in its purest form, it is a catalyst towards peace and prosperity. As we all know, as individuals prosper, I’m not saying that people in modern culture where Catholicism don’t sometimes go for a long time down some quite crazy roads of consumption but hopefully at some point, you then begin to explore your higher needs which is the need of beauty and spirituality.
23:33 Whereas when you are really stuck in survival, you don’t really even have that option to think about those things because your needs are so immediate you’re literally looking for how you can feed yourself and your family. That’s it. You are not able to lift your consciousness. The gift of commerce is really the gift of being able to pursue your higher needs when received. That is the gift.
24:00 Lorna: So far, it seems that the predominant paradigm of business has been based on shareholder maximization and profit at all costs as opposed to profit withprinciples, this old paradigm seems to have been a powerful driver in social inequality and the environmental destruction of the planet. From the years of being an environmental activist, it seems clear to me and many scientists will also agree that unless we change our patterns of consumption and resource exploitation, the planet can’t sustain this level of activity and yet business as usual seems to be driving this.
24:54 So do you think it’s possible for us to change the direction of consumption and the direction of business so that we actually do embody more of an orientation towards profit with principles? If so, what trends or examples do you see that support this theory that we can turn things around?
25:17 Rowan: I’m an internal optimist so I absolutely believe we can turn things around apart from the fact that all my work is towards that happening. I think that when you look at it more from the spiritual perspective, our focus on the external especially as an environmental activist and all of that has been destruction to some degree.
25:43 When we refocus on more of the internal process which is why in the book, we really talk about the first element of the return that commerce gives you being the return to self which is how did you grow, how did you become more, how did you learn more about yourself basically your spiritual journey. This is your first return that you should look to and then your return to people by profit.
26:11 I think that as people return to much more of having an inner reflective life then what you do externally and the world changes completely because you are acting from a totally different place. When we move much more into the space and we move into the space of emotional alchemy, we also move into the space f sometimes what we call miracle thinking, which is where things that were beyond our comprehension or imagination suddenly become possible because we’ve moved ourselves into the space of joy and into a space of alchemy where we transform in the more negative aspects of our lives consciously and all of a sudden different doorways open.
27:00 I believe it is absolutely time for all of us to co-create a new world together. It’s not about fixing the old; it’s about stepping into the new. I think a lot of the change that is coming is still beyond our current limited thinking ability to even see which is why the inner transformation is soul key to being able to get to the answers.
27:25 Lorna: You know it’s interesting I’ve been speaking to a number of conscious entrepreneurs that mention spirituality and mention business. Often the commonmainstream way of thinking is that they really should be separate. I personally have found business to be an incredibly powerful spiritual path. I say this because I live in the Tibetan meditation center for three years.
27:52 While it was great to really deepen my meditative awareness and do all the mind training and that was a really profound and beautiful experience, in the world of business, I found myself to be a lot more spiritually challenged because you need all different kinds of people and you find yourself in ethically ambiguous situations. It’s really on you to walk the high road of integrity and dealing with sometimes unscrupulous people.
28:22 How do you transmute that experience? How do you come up with clear honest agreements and appropriate boundaries? I think anyone who has chosen to take on business as a spiritual path is signing up for some amazing personal growth.
28:45 Rowan: Absolutely. It does definitely kick your butt sometimes. Like you, I spend 18 years in California which is pretty much heaven on Earth when it comes to being able to live in a spiritual realm. You can talk about almost anything to almost anyone you bump into and they’re not going to look at you funny. From there to living in the Middle East for more than five years. I had to put for every piece of metaphysical and spiritual training into practice immediately; otherwise, I was just exhausted, forget being able to be effective because the energy was so intense compared to the light fluffy energy of California.
29:28 Obviously, it’s 30 years of war. I was in Beirut most of the time and that weighs heavy on the culture. It’s great to gain all these spiritual tools and all these stuff like you said you could get in a meditation retreat space but to actually be able to then take them into the world and live with them, it takes all those tools to a whole level and sharpens them to excellent degree.
So speaking of spiritual or mind-focused tools, are there any mindset tools or techniques that you find particularly effective in achieving success as an
30:17 Rowan: There’s a lot and we do detail a lot of them in the book but just to give you an overview – one of the things I find probably the most useful, I tend to do what I would call active meditations, where you go inside and you speak to aspects of yourself. Obviously, we’re use to dealing with ourselves as a whole being but actually the truth is we’re made up of sometimes a hundred voices. The degree to which one or another voice gets loud is slightly random but without knowing it, you can certainly have your angry voice like swimming the house down and you haven’t actually even realized yet.
31:03 When you can take those voices and go into meditation and separate them out from yourself, I’ll go into meditation and I’ll sit around the table with my anger and my jealousy, for instance, and find out what’s going on if the situation is not going very well for me. I’ll get that feedback rebuilt on so in a way I’ll separate the big me, the more conscious me from the other voices of doubt or anger. Then what I sometimes do is I’m healing work if they really have been traumatized by situation and I’ll hug them back into myself because obviously, they are me.
31:46 But by separating them out, I’m able to more clearly understand their concern and it’s that being having to be addressed by business partners or colleagues, I can address it and then go as the bigger me head back into the meeting or whatever with more understanding of my position because they’ve actually real time told me what it is that they’re scared or worried about.
32:13 So that’s an excellent technique and I always do it in conjunction with myself. I always calm myself out into meditation and go to a neutral place somewhere in nature and invite those aspects of self that maybe are causing some stress in my reality and discuss things with them. Just make everything much more conscious. I always remember one of my dear friends and great teachers saying, “Life is random only for as long as you refuse to reflect. It is the reflection that stops it from being random and puts order to your chaos.”
32:55 Lorna: Thank you for saying that. I will try that technique. Great. We’re coming to the end of our interview segment. Let me ask you my favorite question that I love to ask changemakers. This is a very hot topic of debate in one of my entrepreneur communities where all of these people are chiming in on what they thought the most effective way to change the world was. So I’d love to ask you as a seasoned professional changemaker, what do you, Rowan, think is the most effective way to change the world?
33:36 Rowan: Change yourself. Nothing changes until you do. The world is your mirror. It’s nothing but a feedback mechanism to how well you’re doing. The nearer it is to you, the louder the message and the more you need to work on yourself. The more it pisses you off, the more directly it’s related to you. I hate to tell you.
34:02 Lorna:Okay. Thank you so much, Rowan. I got lots to work with. Well, we do in our different ways but this has been a wonderful…
34:13 Rowan: It’s piece by piece. Obviously, we can’t bite off more than we can chew. We are only one person and you can’t immediately deal with the starvation issues
in Africa when you first get a spiritual partner. But as you season, you start having impact on the bigger issues.
34:30 Lorna: Yes, very much so. It sure reminds me of something that a good friend of mine just recently posted to Facebook. His name is Kamal Ravikant and he’s now a leading a personal development author and he’s written two books – Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It and Live Your Truth. He recently wrote the more closed your heart is the more often it will get broken. Funny how it works that way.
35:03 Rowan: Amazing, isn’t it?
35:06 Lorna: Okay, great. So Rowan, please share with us how can we best stay in touch with you.
35:11 Rowan: SacredCommerce.com is probably the single best way of keeping in touch with us. It’s basically a central network for people interested in this mean. My e-mail there is email@example.com.
35:25 Lorna: Thank you so much for sharing with us your research, knowledge, and insight and I wish you a beautiful day.
35:32 Rowan: My honor, thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]
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