Meet Barbi: Q&A With Our Co-Founder
Our Co-Founder, Barbi Schulick, is the grounding force of For The Biome. She leads our team through daily meditation practice which serves as a soft reminder to pause, breathe, and look inward for 15 soul-soothing minutes. This practice is what binds us as a team, allowing us to intuitively work as one fluid entity while supplying us with lessons that carry into our personal lives—each day we flex our muscles for understanding, kindness, and acceptance. Just like any muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it becomes.
It is our belief that we can play a hand in strengthening these ‘muscles’ of not just ourselves, but our larger community. In such divisive times, a little bit of connection goes a long way. With that in mind, a calling surfaced in Barbi to do what she could to extend this inner-journey to any who seek it.
Barbi now leads our community meditation with recordings readily accessible on our website and live guided meditation once weekly on Wednesdays at 11:30am EST. We recently sat down with Barbi to understand what influences her practice, mission, and continuing journey today.
Q: What drew you to meditation and how and when did you get started?
Barbi: I began meditating in 1972, my freshman year in college. I was in Cambridge, Mass. and noticed a poster in a store in Harvard Square to learn TM, Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who was well-known as The Beatles guru. I was genuinely pulled by the idea of meditating, and had been for a while, but the fact that The Beatles and a few other rock stars had chosen this path did play a part in my young mind. I felt a change immediately upon learning the technique and effortlessly incorporated two daily sessions into my routine. Meditation helped my studies, steered me away from recreational drugs and instilled a sense of calm into my life in ways I hadn’t imagined. So much so that I longed to share the experience with others. Upon graduation, I traveled to Switzerland to become a teacher of TM in a 6 month long intensive training. Over the years I taught a few hundred people in that technique.
Q: After practicing TM for so many years, what influenced your shift to Mindfulness meditation?
B: I was pulled toward exploring a variety of different forms to broaden my understanding. TM draws more from Hindu roots and utilizes a mantra as the focus of meditation. I was attracted to learning more about the Buddha’s teachings and practices that involved more self-investigation. I’d always been one to explore my inner world and so forms that incorporated mindfulness intrigued me.
Q: Were there any specific instances or experiences that were turning points in your journey?
B: From the beginning I would have moments of insight and stillness that implanted a dedication to meditating daily. I knew it was the missing piece for me. As a child I’d always been inquisitive, prone to ask the big questions. I used to stare at the moon and wonder what everything was. Meditation began answering those questions, not so much with words, but with a quiet understanding and experience. I’ve long been interested in consciousness raising and am an avid reader on the subject, so I’ve gained from many great teachers in the field.
Q: Who are the instructors that helped shape your teaching style?
B: Certainly, Maharishi and my TM training in that I’m very comfortable in the teaching role from that experience and the basic principles of meditation were deeply instilled in me. I’ve learned extensively from teachers from the Insight tradition, also known as Vipassana and Mindfulness: Larry Rosenberg, who is a longtime friend, Joseph Goldstein and Tara Brach among them.
I’ve also deeply benefited from the non-dual and self-inquiry approaches of teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. The most influential teacher on my journey over the last fifteen years has been Adyashanti. Adya’s teaching draws from his Zen training and focuses largely on evoking an initial awakening in the aspirant and then helping that understanding to flower into an embodied and heart-led life. His meditations and exercises emphasize residing in open awareness as a way to touch into who we are as well as expose the shadows in ourselves that we may be reluctant to see. I’ve sat many retreats with Adya and those were instrumental in stirring some deep openings.
Q: Were you still teaching all this time?
B: I began teaching again about five years ago, drawing from all these approaches. It felt like time. I was leading leadership development and coaching leaders at New Chapter. Offering them guided meditation was a natural evolution of the ways I could help. From there I began holding weekly meditation sessions for staff and attendance was quite good. When Paul and I left New Chapter and started For The Biome we knew meditation would be core to our culture and vision and now I lead meditation daily for our team. We are excited to open this opportunity up on Wednesdays to any who are interested. I also offer a free phone meditation each Sunday to friends and friends of friends. It’s been wonderful to share with people this way.
Q: Do you network with other teachers like yourself?
B: I feel fortunate to be part of a two-year teacher certification program for Mindfulness with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. Over a thousand are enrolled world-wide: professional counselors, therapists, coaches, business and diversity leaders, climate activists and inspired meditators. who want to incorporate Mindfulness training into their work. There’s a rich exchange of information and support. Jack and Tara’s vision is grounded in healing in that through Mindfulness we access the power to heal ourselves, our relationships, communities and thereby address our ailing planet. This beautifully aligns with our aspirations at For The Biome.
Q: How has meditation influenced your business leadership?
B: More than anything it’s helped me pause, trusting in my own space of silence to inform my action. I’ve turned to it over and over during challenging periods to see through and calm my worries, gain insight, face flaws and regrets, inspire clarity and confidence. It’s never failed me. There is something that happens when we prioritize a daily practice over time. We begin culturing a relationship with silence, with our own innate stillness. We start to recognize that place as ourselves, a place of immense refuge, awareness and support.
Q: How does meditation influence your relationship with loved ones and your sense of self?
B: I incorporate a good deal of lovingkindness practice into my daily meditation and I continually marvel at how just holding the intention of kindness opens the heart and changes behavior. Mindfulness is equally concerned with heartfulness. They are one and the same. One wing inspires wisdom, the other compassion. Interestingly, my sense of self has become less static, more fluid. When I get caught up in my ego, in wanting to be right, get credit for something, or play the victim, I see it faster and it takes less time to unwind that hold. Paul and I have been married for forty-two years and all that time we’ve been not only work partners but spiritual partners. Through meditation we’ve made a shared commitment to work to live our best selves.
Q: What is your vision for the role meditation can play FTB?
B: I’ve found it thrilling at how our team has embraced and prioritized our daily meditation. From our different locations we stop everything and travel inward together for fifteen minutes. In that time, we learn not to mind our busy work minds, we allow our attention to fall into our breath, we get to know our sensation-filled bodies. We welcome whatever comes to come and we watch it as it goes. We contact our innate lovingkindness and offer ourselves and each other peace and happiness. How can this not improve our culture? How can it not lead to better decision making and teamwork? There is power in our collective silence, in knowing we are more than our separateness, in experiencing and connecting through our wholeness in and For The Biome.