My Top 10 Spiritual Growth Experiences

Charlie Hartwell
May 3, 2018 · 6 min read
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In my work as an investor focused on the mind-training space, I have the opportunity to experiment with many different tools, products, and services. As a human, I’m committed to transformation, to living authentically, and to expanding my own consciousness. There are many paths for the journey, and not one that’s right for everyone. As an investor, I look to find leaders who are open and committed to their own paths. I don’t need anyone to follow my way, but I look for a willingness for them to explore their own paths.

On my journey, I have created a top 10 list. They are in no particular order of importance. They are meant to open up a dialog about what works for others. There are many people I advise, such as Consciousness Hacking, Instittute of Noetic Sciences, the Transformative Technology Lab and others who are innovating new paths to support personal growth. And while many great new technologies are being created, there are many old technologies that have worked really well for me.

Here’s my top 10 list for spiritual awakening & transformation:

  1. Spiritual Reteats and Pilgrimages: One of the most transformative times of my life was a spiritual pilgrimage to Peru led by my friend, Maureen Pelton, whom years later would become my wife. The intention held for this experience was to support transformation. Facilitated by Maureen’s widsom, leadership, intuition, gifts, and also by the spiritual energies of Peru, the two week experience was profound, magical and powerful. I came back a different man, much more in tune with my own spiritual nature. It is not my intention to describe the experience here. If interested in hearing the music I wrote about my expereinces in Peru, you can purchase my album, Pilgrimage, in the iTunes Store. I encourage anyone who feels an urge to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to do so.
  2. Insight Timer: There is no other mindfulness app that I have used as long and consistently as Insight Timer. I first used the product years ago after briefly meeting the owners, Chriistopher and Nicho Plowman, at Wisdom 2.0 in San Francisco. Last year, Soren Gordhammer, founder of Wisdom 2.0 and Tim Chang of The Mayfield Fund recommended that I reconnect with the company, which was considering raising capital. I began to explore the app and now use it almost every day. Bridge Builders Collaborative recently invested in the company to help it grow. I love the timer, the music, and the breadth of teachers on the platform. As I got to know the company better, I began to understand the intentions behind the platform, which only made me want to engage further.
  3. Questions: Good questions are a huge service to mindful and conscious living. In my case, I appreciate and acknowledge my wife, Maureen, who asks the most penetrating and timely questions of anyone I’ve met. Her questions pierce through my resistance and bullshit. They are asked from a place of unconditional love — she will not accept me being less than I am. Sometimes, I don’t like her questions. After an initial reaction, I normally pause and reflect, allowing the question to penetrate to a deeper truth and an opportunity to shift by beliefs, stories, or conditioning. My hope is that everyone can find friends and loved ones who will ask penetrating questions in support of their personal growth.
  4. BodySound Technologies: In our house, we call this “The Chair.” BodySound was one of the first companies Bridge Builders considered seven years ago. The premise behind what the founder describes as a “spiritual technology” is simple. The product is a sleek reclined chair, which has both speakers and a “transducer” that infuses sound into your body. As you sit in the chair and close your eyes, you begin to shut down the visual cortex of your brain. After a few minutes of listening to “layered” music that the company produced, your brain can’t make sense of it and your auditory cortex begins to shut down. Finally, because of the transducer that is made of a pound of aluminum that vibrates to the music, your body’s tactile cortex begins to shut down. The vibrating aluminum acts to ground people in their bodies. The experience is driven by intention, and many who have tried the product have remarkable spiritual experiences. We didn’t end up investing in the company, but I still use the technology periodically. By the way, “The Chair” experience got even more interesting when I used Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s CDs of the recordings from NASA of the sounds of planets recorded by the Voyager Spacecraft. Dr. Thompson is a sound specialist and founder of the Center of Neuroacoustic Research
  5. Silent Retreat: Two years ago, I decided to take a nine day solo silent meditation retreat. While I had been to weekend retreats with hours of silence, and try to meditate 10 -20 minutes most days, I had never been on a silent (or a solo) retreat. Before starting, I experienced trepidation of being in silence for a week — with no phone, no internet, no screen time, no people, nothing. My fear went away within hours of the first day. I loved the silence, meditating daily for 6–7 hours. I loved the walks — appreciating with joy my dog’s experiences on walks — and also feeling gratitude for the trees, flowers, birds, and sky. In general, I loved this experience, which was one of profound joy. My goal is to make this an annual event.
  6. Smith Lowdown Focus mPowered by Muse: Last fall, Smith (the Optics company known for making sport performance sunglasses), launched the Lowdown Focus, mPowered by Muse. This was an interesting collaboration for the industry and I really like the sunglasses. Muse is Interaxon’s “brain sensing headband,” a consumer EEG that is used to help people track their meditation experience. The Muse was launched several years ago, and is now sold on Amazon, in places like Best Buy Canada, and online. The Muse is a great experience, with the drawback being that the headband was not wearable throughout the day. When Interaxon and Smith launched the Lowdown Focus glasses, it meant anyone could wear a pair of sunglasses all day, and just press a button to start an EEG session.
  7. Flotation Chambers: I recently tried a flotation chamber and loved it. As I entered a “pod” filled with water and 1,300 pounds of Epsom Salts, I began to float in utter darkness with no sound. I imagine the experience is akin to floating in the universe. It was easy to just stop thinking and just start being. After awhile, I realzed that I was still holding on with some of my muscles and didn’t need to — another opportunity to let go. The hour of no sound, light, and floating effortlessly went by in no time. I found it a profound way to relax.
  8. iTunes playlists. Sometimes, I open my iTunes playlist and ask the Universe a question. Or, I request a song for the day. Over the years, I’ve been blown away (sometimes to tears, sometimes to laughter), by the answers I receive through songs that are already on my playlist. The Universe is incredibly creative, and I have found it has multiple ways of communicating with us if we’re open to listening. I can be stubborn when it comes to listening. Sometimes, a higher power just needs to kick my ass.
  9. Nature: A few months ago, I wrote a blog called “Nature: My Mindfulness App.” That explains my love of nature. Nature has been a partner in many of my most profound spiritual experiences, and also has been a co-author of some of my music.
  10. Whale Song: One of the most intense spiritual experiences I have encountered was floating 20 feet above a singing Humpback Whale. My wife knew of an animal communicator, Theresa Wagner, who organizes a whale trip for a small group in the Domincan Republic. We spent several days on a boat, one of the few that is authorized by the DR government to operate out of Silver Bank — roughly 100 miles offshore. Every day, we would go out in small boats and respectuflly approach humpbacks or they would approach us. One day we were guided to a stationary whale who was singing. As we neared the whale, we got out of the boat with snorkels and began to slowly swim closer. The whale was massive and 20 feet below us as it began singing. The song instantly reverberated in my heart. It was so beautiful and penetrating that my eyes began to add more salt water to the ocean. The love that I experienced in that song isn’t something that words can communicate.

My intention in sharing these expereinces is to encourage others to pursue whatever growth in whatever way best suits them. I’m interested, what’s worked for you?

Learn more about Charlie at ShiftIt Institute and check out Bridge Builders Collaborative partners and portfolio. Follow Charlie on LinkedIn and Twitter @ShiftIt_Inst.

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