Creating and maintaining a business and marriage together requires appreciating what each other likes (and doesn’t like), as well as embracing disparate skill sets
It is true that the spiritual journey is an individual process. It’s true that the masculine and feminine unite within you, and that the merging of the river and ocean happens internally. However, the most powerful instrument for realizing this internal union is relationships. The greatest challenge for the human being at this current stage of evolution is to learn how to relate in a peaceful and loving way. This should be your main spiritual practice.
~ Sri Prem Baba
When I spoke with Kevin Gianni about the humble beginnings of blending love and business with his wife Annmarie, he said it all really crystalized for them in the RV. They began working together within nine months of meeting 10 years ago, and shortly after that they created Renegade Health — www.RenegadeHealth.com — an online portal for natural health topics featuring daily inspiration, health tips, and multiple weekly articles and videos, including The Renegade Health Show. “We spent two and a half years driving around the United States and Canada in a big, old RV — appropriately named The Kale Whale. It was the American Dream with a healthy spin. Our mission was to get out into the community to find out what was really working for people and what wasn’t. We learned a lot and spoke to thousands of people in over 50 cities and towns in both countries.”
In those RV parks – filled to the brim with couples of older generations — they came to understand a few of the key foundations of conscious and mindful relating.
There’s an unspoken rule out there that the men drive the RVs – actually, they don’t even let the women behind the wheel.
And when it comes to parking, oh boy, all hell breaks loose. The woman who has never driven a rig this big and cumbersome is still somehow supposed to guide her man as he backs up into the spot. She’s doing what she thinks makes sense and he is yelling at her that she has no idea what she’s doing. Surely you’ve witnessed this phenomenon or maybe even played a part in it.
But after day one of that fiasco, Kevin and Annmarie decided to do it differently. Kevin taught Annmarie to drive the RV so she would have a visceral relationship to it, and since he already did, he could easily support her parking. When they pulled into the RV park that evening, a crowd formed around Kevin, floored to see the role reversals while telling him he was crazy and basically betting against Annmarie being able to back it up into the spot, even with his direction…and she nailed it!
Learning the importance of communication — truly the cornerstone of mindful relating — along with valuing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, set the stage for the lifestyle they consciously created. As they moved forward with Renegade Health and then the launch in 2009 of Annmarie Gianni Skin Care — www.AnnmarieGianni.com — her line of products emphasizing a clean skin-care experience using natural, organic and wildcrafted ingredients, they realized they couldn’t push each other to do things that they don’t want to do.
In a revolutionary way, they began defining their roles by what they actually like to do. Weaving this simple and effective distinction into their team-building philosophy as well, they now employ 12 people who only do what they like to do, radically reducing reluctance and resentment.
Kevin and Annmarie’s collaborative efforts have expanded even further now that they have children, and all the business lessons they learned along the way — including negotiating and delegating — have prepared them for parenting.
“Nothing brings you into the immediacy of the present moment more than kids.”
So now — while balancing business, babies, and marriage — carving out space and time for self-resourcing when life is so enmeshed is more elusive than ever. Kevin says he’s learned to appreciate time where he can find it, most notably his 22-minute walk each way between home and the office, a plane flight, running, and cooking. He says he still has to remind Annmarie to take time for herself. She’s getting much better at flexing that muscle and leaving the mom gene at home for a while.
Time apart is a crucial ingredient in their recipe. Kevin heads out each day to the office where he can work within the confines of a specified space and time, while Annmarie stays home. Even in the RV they worked in “different rooms.”
What’s their biggest source of stress? Last-minute decisions. Kevin is spontaneous and can hop on a plane at a moment’s notice. Annmarie likes to see things scheduled on a calendar. Kevin’s recent embrace of planning — they just mapped out the whole year for the first time ever — has him experiencing it as a blessing instead of an annoyance. And, he still feels free.
When I asked Kevin how they handle conflict, he said that even since the RV days they employ a secret weapon about 70 percent of the time that has served them well over the years. If they’re in an argument, one of them says, “Hey, can we reset the day?” and then they instantly allow the argument to end. He said that afterward they’re often hard pressed to remember what they were fighting about to begin with. “Can you believe the power that a fake reset button has?!”
In the midst of pulling back from the daily operations of Renegade Health in order to fully support and continue growing Annmarie Gianni Skin Care – not to mention promotion of his next book Kale and Coffee: A Renegade’s Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity being released by Hay House this summer — I asked him to reflect on relationship as spiritual practice.
He says for him it’s all about humility. “The more humble I can be, the more forgiving, the more empathy I can bring to listening, this is my practice.”
And perhaps it’s the practice of us all. When we embody mindfulness from this place, we are free to relate to others in a peaceful and loving way.
In my own personal life experience, as well as in my work with my coaching clients, the emphasis is on conscious communication, which begins with self-awareness as the portal for compassionate connection. True intimacy with another is found only by immersion in self-love first. For so many of us this goes against everything we’ve been taught, thinking that love comes from the outside in. But I am here to tell you that love is an inside job. Self-love is the number-one key to unlocking your limitless possibilities. So before you invite another soul in, fall in love with yourself first.
mindfulness… is a request
a poem by nancy levin
is a request
to retire auto-pilot
to invite inquiry around
what’s truly alive
inside in each moment
allowing attention to
swell and land
igniting authentic movement
i still find it
so confronting to listen
closely for my desire
as it rises
still so easy for it
to be blocked out by
what someone else needs
we who are used to
for the sake of another
or avoiding feeling
by any sort of
it takes longer to listen
to the voice reminding us
that it’s only when we finally
honor all parts of ourselves
with permission to attend to
that we will be available
for mindful union
i know we all want
to be heard seen felt met
yet in conflict
may we remember
that staying in connection
is more important
than being right
loving in disconnection
is truly the most sacred practice
and all the time
i am certain
is at the root
nourishing my heart
to meet yours
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