financial healing

Creating Circular Economies of Care with Michelle Pellizzon of Holisticism

Hi Michelle 🙂

Hi! Prinita, nice to e-meet! 

I wanna say firstly, I’m a really big fan of your work. I’ll speak more to why as the conversation progresses, but I am so grateful to be speaking to you this morning. Thank you for being here. If you could describe your spirit right now using your five senses, what would she feel/smell/taste/look/sound like?

It’s my pleasure! Thank you for thinking of me. My spirit smells like vetiver, tastes like water, looks like the flicker of light in a prism, sounds like afternoon sunlight kissing a plant’s leaves. And she feels like mercury 🙂 

So beautiful, thanks for sharing. I am going to get right into it with the questions. I came to Holisticism last year, stumbled upon your instagram account and then just inhaled so much more of the work you all were doing. At that point I was still living in New York and trying to figure out the best way to be a creative in 2020 and make money for my work while I was simultaneously healing, having a bunch of debt etc. I have engaged with so much of your work but want to know, personally, how did you arrive at Holisticism? How many times did you have to stop and rejig your structure to keep up with both your internal and the external journey?

That means so much to hear you say that. Thank you. Holisticism has been a stop on the winding road of my life that I’ve enjoyed so very much. I’ve always been spiritual (my mom took me and my sisters to psychics when we were growing up, and I always really resonated with spiritual practices) and I’ve also always been interested in the idea of well-being.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 17, and that really threw my life for a loop. I’d been training and planning to graduate high school to become a professional ballet dancer, and then all of the sudden my perfectly obedient body started doing things without my permission or consent. I was put on a really heavy prescription drug to manage my seizures which changed my mood and personality, and one of the side effects was brain damage and the obliteration of my short term memory. 

My life took a turn as I figured out my health, I moved to NYC (my one true love!), and eventually found myself in the alt wellness space doing yoga, seeing energy practitioners, getting acupuncture. I eventually found a practitioner who… basically did an energy healing on me, and I haven’t had a seizure since. (That was 8-ish years ago)

I felt so lucky and also so guilty that I had so much access to alternative solutions to help me heal and become the fullest version of myself. I just wanted to create something that would make well-being in all its facets — from the socio-political, to the psychological, to the physical, to the spiritual — more accessible to more people. 

Holisticism’s path has waxed and waned but I really love where we are now, 4.5 years later! 

Such an incredible journey you’re on. I’m so moved to hear about the healing process of your epilepsy. One thing that immediately captured me about the Twelfth House podcast is how you speak with such a true and generous spirit that comes from the fact that you have grazed up against physical hardship, perhaps even death, and are really trying to share how you overcame and built forward. It resonates with me deeply, Fariha and I started Studio Ānanda as two South Asians, originally from Australia, queer, who grew up in households where incestuous abuse was rife. So that intention to create something that is truly accessible, truly recognises that all of us have the right to heal, is something that I feel so deeply.

What does financial healing mean to you?

Wow, what an incredible place for you to both operate from. I always find the people who are the most compassionate are the ones who’ve been the most hurt and truly experience grief. 

Financial healing… wheeeeew. It means a lot! I guess from a communal and global perspective, I think that financial healing means that we’ll open our eyes to the collective delusion that is “money” and recognize that we’ve imparted “value” into pretty arbitrary things… and that it’s not working so well for us, ecologically. 

From a personal perspective, I think that financial healing encompasses a lot. First (maybe? I guess we start somewhere) we have to acknowledge that we live in a capitalistic society, and we participate in continuing oppression because capitalism as we know it is an oppressive force. I think that’s really challenging for sensitive people to come to terms with, which is why many of us eschew “wealth” and enter industries that are stereotypically underpaid. (Artists, healers, birth and death workers, caregivers, etc.) 

So that’s tough! And then we also have to just note for ourselves that money is like, WAY MORE than just energy! Like, wow, I have so much trauma and pain and stuff around money. It’s very emotional for so many of us. And gaslighting ourselves into saying money is just “energy,” so we should just “get” it … that doesn’t seem helpful or self-honoring to me. 

Financial healing means acknowledging these complexities — the humanness of all this stuff — and coming to the conclusion that we deserve to live a life where we are well-resourced. Full stop. 

Ahhh! I really needed to hear you say that money is way more than just energy. I’ve been seeing so much in wellness circles about that concept that one should just let money flow through them, but you’re right, there is so much trauma around money. Whether it is inheriting debt, being under resourced etc. It is more than energy, it can be a tangibly paralyzing force.

Do you think that committing to building a business based on the principles of anti capitalism can only happen if we ourselves are doing the internal work to heal?

Right?? It dysregulates me so much to see that on the internet. I’m like nooooooooo please!!!!! There’s so much more! 

Here’s the thing — I think that capitalism doesn’t have to be evil and oppressive, but the current way we experience it IS. And it perpetuates oppression. But I prefer the term capitalism critical, because I’m not sure that the whole system is one that we need to absolutely throw away. TBD, I might change my mind on that. 

But yes, I think we’re inculcated in individualistic thinking that supports oppressive capitalistic behaviors, and we really need to check ourselves and do our own work to move towards a more circular economic model and system of support. 

For example, I’m a business owner who uses a sliding scale for everything I do. And when in the right hands, the sliding scale is AMAZING! It supports the community members who need a little help, it supports that person making the product or service, and it really bonds the community. But in the hands of someone who’s still prioritizing themselves at the cost of others, it becomes this thing of, “Well, if I can get this service for a cheaper price… why would I pay full price??” 

So for capitalism-critical businesses to exist, consumers need to be enrolled in a capitalism-critical perspective too. 

I like this term ‘capitalism critical’ because the reality is, none of us are truly absolved and it does offer a different entry point in reworking the system instead of completely disregarding it.

You speak of the importance of moving towards a circular economic model and system of support. What does that look like to you, day to day, at Holisticism? How did you arrive with the team you are working towards + how important is it to know that you are working with others who are spiritually invested?

I am so lucky to have an amazing team of collaborators. It’s really important that people who work with us at Holisticism are on the same page around self-knowledge. If you don’t have a “spiritual” practice, that’s totally cool and none of my business! But having a general leaning towards enthusiastic curiosity is pretty much a non negotiable. 

Moving towards a more circular, caring economy at our business means a couple of things. First, we start with our people. We do not treat people like productivity machines. We do mental health checks, we have a ton of flexibility in the way we work, and we try to put people in their zone of genius so they really love the work they do. We don’t believe in a sense of urgency or emergency, so we create a work environment that doesn’t have space for last minute mistakes or issues by really working in advance as often as we can. 

It also means that we don’t just want to grow for the sake of growth. Accumulation just because is like… literally the worst part of capitalism. Well maybe not the worst, but one of the worst aspects. So we’re not trying to acquire tons of new customers and students. Instead, we’d like to focus on retention, creating real relationships with our community, and creating a mutually supportive reciprocal relationship that provides value to all involved. 

I’m far from perfect at all this, but it’s what we’re working toward. I still make a ton of mistakes and have to shake off my old tech-world ideas about mega-growth sometimes. It also means that we sometimes let people down… they want us to be bigger than we are, have more capacity than we have. The truth is we’re just 4 people. 

Woah, I’m so inspired right now. Thank you for sharing with such transparency. There is so much intention that is put into, and is transmuted through your work. Knowing that you’re a team of four, is truly mind blowing. I am so curious to know how, when you began, you managed with funding. Is your model based on community reciprocity, have you had to compromise or negotiate with investors whose values don’t align with your own? What has that process been like?

I know! I think that people think we’re bigger than we are — we actually only have two full time people (me and Wallis) and my other two team members are part time! It’s awesome what you can get done when you use magic 🙂 

Ah, when I first got started I actually built software to help practitioners run the backends of their businesses virtually. It was a very techy play, and I ended up getting selected for a few tech accelerators who really pushed me to raise money from investors. I ended up going through the fundraising process, getting some checks, and realizing it really wasn’t for me. (it was also an absolute nightmare… more on that another day!) 

I was privileged enough to have money coming in from full-time freelancing work I did, so I was able to go back to the people who’d pledged money and give them their checks back. I gave myself like, 2 months to figure out how to make Holisticism revenue positive on my own. That was hard and scary… I was worried I wasn’t gonna be able to do it, that I’d have to fold the whole thing, that I’d spend my life working for people I didn’t respect who didn’t care about what I cared about. But obviously, I figured it out. I think that building the community for the 2 years prior to that really positioned me to be in a good place when it came to finally monetizing the work. 

What an empowering moment, to hand the checks back. I listened to a Twelfth House podcast a few months ago on using the Akasha to help make decisions in your business, and that inherent connection and reliance on spirit, as opposed to ‘investors’ was language that I needed. 

Can you speak a little about how your relationship with social media and the internet has changed over the years as a content creator? For me, beginning Studio Ananda as an IG account was daunting because of how much fragmentation I’ve experienced in online spaces. After engaging with your work, and the work of other cyber doulas and healers, I’ve figured out how to better navigate the space. What advice do you have for multi hyphenates who are still a little bit terrified of the internet as a portal to assist their ecosystems?

It was empowering NOW but back then I was like… Pellizzon, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!?!? It’s pretty well known in the startup world that your first biz is kind of like your “burner” business, where you make lots of connections and make mistakes and then your next project is what people really jump on for. I was very nervous to sort of “burn the boats” and turn my back on that world in a way. 

Yes! I sort of hate instagram. When I worked in tech I learned a lot about algorithms, and I think that has helped me take things from Facebook and Instagram less personally (for example, if my reach is down… that’s not like Facebook has a personal vendetta against me. Probably…) 

My primary goal is to be prolific. All of my favorite creators were prolific with their work. So for me, that means putting myself in the space to be a prolific creator — finding the platforms and the tools and the stories that excite me. The wonderful thing about 2021 is that we have SO MANY platforms to choose from. We don’t need to be married to just one. We can find the spaces that feel cozy and nurturing to us, and hang out there. In fact, we can create those spaces for ourselves. 

Something that I always have to work on is not taking the opinions and perceptions of others on the internet so personally. I find it very difficult to be seen. I’m really sensitive. My gut reaction is to either crumble or build a hard concrete shell when someone tells me they don’t like me, or they think I’m a bad person, or something else that hurts me. The way I’m working with that right now is by just trying to show up as a person. As a whole human, who has all of these archetypes and characters and feelings inside of her. I don’t want to be one thing. And I tell myself, if I show up with all of myself, and people still only one to see that one singular dimension of who I am or who they perceive me to be… I can’t control that. But at least I can remind myself that I’m more than just one thing. I hope we can all find more nuance and comfort in the grey spaces. It seems that we’re pushing further into distorted either-or thinking. 

Mm yes, that awareness that we all hold multitudes that cannot ever be concentrated into an online persona or business is something I am moving through myself right now. Thank you for such a hopeful response.

As we come to an end, I would love to know what grounding practices have been coming through for you over the past week? The full moon really blew me away this week, what practices do you come back to for restorative energy?

Dude, I felt that! I think I cried 3x a day last week. I couldn’t help it. 

I love setting up and cleaning my altars. Looooove it. I love lighting the incense, filling the bowls with water, adding new candles and flowers, and then honoring whoever the altar is for. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about death, tbh. I know! Not sexy or cool, but I feel like acknowledging mortality is necessary when things feel so … big. 

Last week I had this big break — I felt like, I feel so many things, I feel so much. How can I continue? There is so much I’ve yet to experience — how will I be able to get through it? How will I be able to be resilient? What if I can’t? And that was kind of the breakthrough… I am alive. I am alive to feel all of these feelings, to experience all of this. This is the why. And that made those intense feelings feel a little more palatable, almost like a gift. 

Also, chocolate helps.

Michelle Pellizzon is a business witch who loves systems and spells
You can typically find her at Holisticism or gabbing on the Twelfth House podcast, but she also teaches classes on Notion for creative, squiggly brained people.